“A Sin To Err” is Agent Carter’s turning point. The episode where the shit hits the fan for Peggy and her deception is exposed to the S.S.R., making her a public enemy on the run from the law. Everything falls apart very quickly, and while that means very bad things for Peggy’s immediate future, it does wonders for the thrill quotient of this series.
Last week’s episode added a shot of energy to the show with a trip overseas, and writer Lindsey Allen maintains that forward momentum this week as the heroine finds herself back at home with a new set of problems. As Peggy reteams with Jarvis to track down the female Leviathan agent (Dottie) that manipulated Howard Stark to gain access to his vault, Agent Sousa is putting the final pieces together to implicate his female colleague as the woman interfering with the S.S.R.’s manhunt for Stark. These two plots come crashing together halfway through the episode when Peggy becomes the new target of the manhunt and is ambushed during her usual diner meeting with Jarvis, setting off a spectacular fight sequence that dramatically accelerates the pace for the second half.
In terms of action, hand-to-hand combat is where this series excels, and this episode’s fight scenes pull the focus back in that direction after last week shifted toward shootouts, which are much more difficult to portray convincingly on a TV budget. As a regular director on Lost, Stephen Williams has experience with suspenseful, action-packed TV shows, and he brings a dynamic energy to this episode’s fight sequences by employing more rapid camera movement. The visuals change considerably when the action breaks out, and the hectic direction accentuates the chaos that comes with violence.
One minute, Peggy and Jarvis are calmly purchasing lunch and talking about their investigation, and the next, they’re in a brawl with S.S.R. agents. The direction and the jazzy music cue mark how the atmosphere completely changes once the action breaks out, and while the direction highlights the disorder of the event, the music brings a sense of fun to the fight. Peggy enjoys kicking ass, and based on the smile on Jarvis’ face after he smacks a man in the face with a lunch tray, he enjoys it too. After escaping the diner, Peggy and Jarvis run into Agent Thompson in the back alley, and Peggy gets to beat him up, too. She lays the smackdown on anyone that gets in her way, and ultimately it’s Peggy’s lipstick that spells her downfall.
Angie has been fine as Peggy’s friend outside of work, but the series didn’t lose anything when she didn’t appear in last week’s episode. She’s just not that interesting a character, the typical struggling actress trying to make it big in New York City while serving tables, and she hasn’t gained much definition beyond that description. While this episode doesn’t necessarily offer that much more development of her character, it does give Angie more to do when she covers for Peggy at The Griffith during an S.S.R. raid. Angie distracts the agents while Peggy bides her time on the ledge outside the window, tapping into her adequate acting skills to throw the men off her friend’s trail. The plan works, but Peggy’s escape is foiled by Dottie, who plants an unexpected kiss on Peggy’s lips that knocks her out just in time for the S.S.R. to bring her into custody.
At the end of this episode, Peggy gets what she’s wanted this entire series: to be treated by her male coworkers as an equal, albeit an equal that has just committed treason. “Don’t go easy on her just ‘cause she’s a girl,” Chief Dooley says as he leaves Peggy in the interrogation room with Sousa and Thompson, a statement that would speak to Peggy’s strength if she wasn’t currently cuffed and at the mercy of men. Peggy has been yearning for equal treatment, for her male colleagues to not “go easy on her just ‘cause she’s a girl,” but all she had to do to be treated like a man was become a criminal. It’s like once a woman breaks the law, she also breaks free from the societal constraints that require her to be handled with kid gloves. Peggy is treated like a secretary at work, but once her S.S.R. superiors discover her betrayal, they start seeing her for the threat she really is. She’s just not a threat to the S.S.R.
If it weren’t for the female lead, Agent Carter would be a very conventional spy story about a double agent at the dawn of the Cold War. There’s the lead hero that plays by her own rules, the old war buddy asking for a favor, and numerous undercover enemy agents waiting for the right time to strike. It all feels very familiar, but there’s comfort in the familiar, especially when it’s as well done as it is this week. Agent Carter isn’t especially challenging television, but it’s a lot of fun when it hits its stride, and “A Sin To Err” is a standout chapter that significantly raises the stakes for the final two chapters.
- Why does Dottie need a sniper rifle to contact Dr. Ivchenko? Couldn’t she have just used binoculars or a scope? What’s the purpose of the rifle part other than misdirecting the audience?
- Angie is fully aware of Peggy and Jarvis’ secret meetings because it’s really conspicuous when two people have an entire conversation sitting back to back. They’re better off just getting into the same booth.
- Coincidence: Stephen Williams directed the Lost episode “Not In Portland,” which also featured a character getting hit by a moving vehicle.
- Oh god, I hope no one ever has to sit through Angie in A Doll’s House. That sounds like torture.
- What is up with the aggressive dubstep in the preview for next week’s episode? It’s a very silly choice.
- “Prematurely evacuate?”
- “Just the usual stuff. Complained about her fathead male coworkers a lot.”
- “Actors wear their emotions close to the surface. I could no more stop her than I could Laurence Olivier.” The one and only time Angie and Laurence Olivier were ever mentioned in the same sentence.