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Peggy assembles a rag-tag team to steal and dismantle an atomic bomb before Whitney can get to it.

The Atomic Job

Dr. Jason gets to be solid for the first five minutes of this episode when he discovers that an ice sample from the body of episode one’s Lady in the Lake contains some zero matter. He absorbs it, and Peggy can actually grab his hand to celebrate. He can sense where the rest of the ice body is, so Peggy and Jarvis borrow Howard’s woody to steal the stiff from the morgue.

Meanwhile, Sousa breaks into his girlfriend Violet’s home and passes out on her couch while he waits to propose. He loses the ring in the couch cushions because he is as incompetent as ever, but he manages to eek out a proposal that she deems acceptable. Miracles do happen.

At Whitney’s house, she murmurs in her sleep. Chadwick gets up to look at shirts in his closet. Perhaps he hoped to recreate the closet scene from The Great Gatsby. But before he can toss his shirts and weep, Whitney sneaks up on him and demands he follow her to the morgue.

Any excitement about Dr. Jason becoming solid again is short-lived when Peggy and Jarvis realize that Whitney beat them there. She absorbs all the zero matter from the dead lady and declares aloud that she must have an atomic bomb. The Brits hear her in the vent. They reconnoiter at the lab, and Dr. Jason suggests that Whitney is probably going to try to recreate the isodyne experiments to make more zero matter. There are only two bombs left that match the ones from the initial experiment, and they are both stored in a Roxxon vault.

Jarvis uses intel from corporate espionage he’s conducted for Howard Stark to identify the Roxxon location where the zero-matter inducing atomic bombs are stored. Unfortunately, it’s in a nigh-impenetrable fortress. Luckily, the key they need – the one single key – is strapped to an old lecherous businessman. Peggy dons a pin-up wig and uses some sweet memory-wiping technology courtesy of Dr. Samberly to steal it. They are good to go! Well… sorta.

Whitney goes to Ken Marino, her delightfully psychotic gangster ex with the in-show name of Manfredi, who gives her a few tough, discreet dudes for her own heist. Although Manfredi is clearly out of his mind, it’s weird that she would end up with Chadwick. Sure, he’s going to be a congressman, but he’s an ineffectual puppet with someone else’s hand stuffed up his ass. She could do better. Ken Marino is better.

Before Peggy and the future agents of SHIELD can go full Ocean’s 11, Sousa decides that they need more bodies. Probably for human shields. That man’s incompetence is only matched by his ruthlessness. Just kidding. Peggy suggests Rose, the only person at the SSI offices they can trust. Rose is highly-trained, but she lacks field experience. Sousa is reluctant, but Peggy tells him to shut it. They are also joined by Dr. Samberly after they try to steal stuff from his lab. Sousa can’t even remember the man’s name, despite the fact that he handles some of the most confidential and highly dangerous materials in the SSI offices. He finally relents and lets Samberly join them when he has a moment of clarity and realizes that he’s the worst.

With everyone ready to go, the team heads toward Roxxon. Samberly and Rose get them through the gate. Peggy’s key gets them down into the nuclear vaults, but when the arrive, a guard has already been knocked out. Whitney is there. Samberly manages to unlock all the doors and pinpoint where in the facility the bombs are. Rose disarms Whitney’s guards.Jarvis enters the vault first, confirming that they’ve found the bombs. Just as Sousa is about to enter the vault, Samberly pulls the wrong wire and locks Jarvis behind the door, leaving him stuck alone with the nukes. Peggy hears Whitney approaching, so she goes to stop her. Sousa instructs Jarvis on how to dismantle the bomb while Samberly tries to sort out the door situation.

Peggy finds Whitney arguing with her husband on a catwalk. She approaches them and hears over her radio that Jarvis successfully completed Sousa’s mission for him. Chadwick goes after the uranium, and Peggy fights Whitney. She gets an armful of Zero Matter and falls from the catwalk. She’s just barely hanging on as Sousa rushes into the room. Whitney lunges for her, but Peggy does not want to get zapped with the zero matter again, so she lets go. She lands on some bricks, her stomach pierced by rebar. I am not sure Peggy has ever been in such danger, making for a truly shocking moment.

Sousa rushes Peggy to Violet’s house since Violet is a nurse and Peggy cannot go to the hospital. Samberly and Rose take the bomb back to SSI. Violet patches Peggy, but she catches Sousa as he offers Peggy some comfort. It’s clear he’s still in love with Peggy. Violet confronts him on it as soon as Jarvis and Peggy head home, which speaks highly of her character, even if this whole will-they-won’t-they with Peggy and Sousa has gotten quite tedious. We don’t see the fallout, but I’m sure it’s not good since any smart and reasonable non-Peggy woman gets unceremoniously dumped from the show.

Jarvis takes Peggy back to his place where she gets to talk to Dr. Jason, who, even as a zero matter ghost, is way better than Sousa. They have an incredibly interesting exchange when Peggy tells him how much the zero matter hurts. He tells her that the place where the zero matter is from is dark and painful, but does not elaborate how he knows, saying that conversation is for another time. Unfortunately, the first rule of zero matter club is that you don’t talk about zero matter club, and it pulls him away into thin air just as Peggy starts to play his favorite romantic song.

The back half of this episode was much stronger than the beginning. It was full of surprises and solid character work. But the beginning dragged. Chadwick is so boring that even Whitney’s powers cannot save that storyline. I hope he gets absorbed in short order. And along with all that, it’s getting incredibly difficult to care about Sousa when he continues to screw up and expect everyone to forget it because he’s a chief.

It’s also frustrating to see Jarvis reduced to a ridiculous caricature. Although he’s always been prim, the writers seem to forget that this is the man who has mastered judo and rescued the love of his life from Nazis. While James D’Arcy is capable of delivering the most ridiculous lines with a whimsical dignity, he and the character deserve much better than what they got this episode. This is the man who inspired the AI that would become The Vision. We should see at least a glimpse of that.

On the upside, we had two lady characters who killed it this week. Rose is a supremely capable agent who is great at keeping her head in any situation. I like her no-nonsense demeanor and hope they take the time to develop her into a regular character. Violet is also wonderful. She helps Peggy and places no blame on her when she confronts Sousa. Despite is many, many incompetencies, Sousa has great taste in women. Unfortunately, it looks like Violet won’t be long for this show. She, like Angie, will be unceremoniously written away despite being great accompaniment to Peggy.

Seriously, I love this show, and Hayley Attwell alone can cover a multitude of sins, but there’s nothing that pains me more than when a creative team seems to have no regard or consideration for why a show connected with fans in the first place. Yes, it’s fun to see one capable woman stand up and fight for what’s right and fair, but we spent the whole of last season watching Peggy learn to be a friend. It would be nice to see that continued evolution. We already know she can hold her own with the boys. Let’s see what happens when she has to not only fight another woman, but rely on women who stand on the equal ground she helped create for them. I really hope Rose and Violet stick around because they really brought a lot to this episode. And after losing Dr. Jason yet again, Peggy could really use some girlfriends.

 

Directed By: Craig Zisk

Produced By: Tara Butters, Louis D’Esposito, Chris Dingess, Michele Fazekas, Kevin Feige, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Quesada

Written By: Lindsay Allen

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Enver Gjokaj, Chad Michael Murray, Reggie Austin, Bridget Regan, Kurtwood Smith

Network: ABC

Release Date: February 9, 2016

Run time: 42 minutes

Rating: N/A

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