The Iron Ceiling
In this episode, we get to see Jack eat his words about Peggy. He freezes in a firefight, unable to shoot back, and Peggy saves his life. The great thing? She doesn't rub it in or lord it over him. "You were covered," she tells him. That's the most important thing. On the plane back, Jack tells her - the medal he won in the war was one he didn't deserve. He accidentally shot and killed surrendering Japanese soldiers, thinking they were the enemy. He covered it up and lied about it, and when he came home, he was awarded a medal. He's known he didn't deserve it, but as he tells Peggy, "It gets harder and harder to live with." He adds, "I've been trying to tell that story since I came home from the war." "You just did," she says softly.
Okay, now, with that scene, I didn't begin to like Thompson just because of a sob story. I became interested. For the first time, we visibly see a three-dimensional Jack, someone who unwittingly committed a horrible deed and is afraid that someone will find out. And yet, he's not afraid Peggy will find out. He tells her, explaining why he choked in Russia, and again, Peggy doesn't abuse him for it. She treats him with patience and kindness, and it's evident from both their faces that they've come to understand and respect the other a little more.
Then we see real character development with Jack. They get back home, and not only does Jack praise Peggy to Dooley - openly giving her credit for the information they collected. Peggy replies, "We," refusing to let his share of the credit drop. Then, as Thompson gathers his things to leave the office, he calls, "C'mon, Carter." When she looks up, startled, he adds, "I owe you a bourbon." With unabashed happiness at the recognition, she says, "I'll be right there."
That was the real kicker for me. Just episodes ago, Thompson told Peggy that no man would ever see or treat her as an equal. In this episode, we see him actually change the way he treats her. We see him do something unheard of - he treats her like he would treat a fellow male officer, and invites her out for a stiff drink. She accepts. She now knows his darkest secret, and he now knows that she's someone to be respected. It's the beginning of an actual relationship.
You Know What I'm Capable Of
Almost immediately, things for Peggy go downhill as her coworkers discover she's been doing things behind their backs, and they attempt to take her in for questioning. She and Jarvis almost escape out the back of a diner, but they run into Jack, waiting with a gun in the alley. "Those DC idiots didn't believe me when I said you'd be hard to grab," he says - again, acknowledging that he no longer views her as a silly secretary, but a formidable agent. He tells her of the evidence lined up against her, but again, he's not mocking her, nor does he look pleased. In fact, he looks upset - even disappointed.
As he tries to convince her to come into the office and talk to him, she says, "I'm so sorry, Jack" - and proceeds to flip him over her head and knock him out with a solid punch.
Peggy escapes and runs to the Griffith to rescue the vial of Steve's blood she's been hiding, but Jack, Sousa and the rest arrive right after. Angie helps cover up the fact that Peggy is hiding out on the window ledge by suddenly bursting into tears right in front of Sousa and Jack, distracting them away from the window. I felt like this was a telling moment, too (as well as a hilarious one) - Sousa chokes and looks to Jack for help, and Jack is the one steps forward and allows himself to be tear-tackled by Angie. Obviously uncomfortable, Jack does his awkward best to comfort the crying girl.
Soon after, thanks to the Russian assassin Dottie, they capture Peggy and take her back to the office, where they try the good cop/bad cop routine. I thought this was interesting, too - because Jack isn't the bad cop. Sousa is. Chained to the table in the interrogation room, Peggy says, "You know, if you want to hit me, now's your chance." Quietly, Jack responds, "I don't want to do that, Carter. Something's not right here. I saw what you did in Russia. What you did on that mission - what you did for me. You saved my life. This doesn't add up." He tries to coax information out of her, but she tells him that she had to conduct her own investigation because of the way she was treated.
She accuses Jack of seeing her only as 'the secretary turned damsel in distress' - but there she's wrong.
He saw her as the secretary, yes - up until Russia. He never saw her as the damsel in distress after that, if he ever did, and it's clear from his interaction with her. Realizing that she's not breaking, Jack leans forward and says, "Any minute Dooley's gonna pull me out of here and ask me to do something that I don't want to do. Peggy, you've watched me from the other side of that glass. You know what I am capable of."
"And you know what I'm capable of," she retorts. We've achieved an understanding between the two of them - they both know that the other one is lethal, and we both know that they also have a kind of frustrated respect. Neither of them want to see the other get hurt, but they do both want the truth.
When Jarvis shows up with a forged confession from Howard Stark, Jack looks at the paper on the desk and asks, "What's that?" Looking at Carter, Dooley says, "Your boyfriend's confession. He owns up to everything." He's out of focus, but behind Peggy, we see Jack look confused, and shake his head, as if to himself. He wouldn't disbelieve this unless he did believe Peggy when she said she was not involved romantically with Howard Stark. "Where's the man himself?" he asks.
This is another interesting moment. Jack has been so driven to get the truth from Peggy, and yet we haven't realized he's believed what she's telling him until now. He's incredulous - because this would mean that Peggy has been lying, and he knows she hasn't.
Later, Peggy comes clean when she realizes everyone is in danger from the seemingly-harmless Doctor Ivchanko. She realizes she has no choice but to tell the whole truth, and so she does. When she gives them the vial of Steve's blood, she says, "I suppose I just wanted a second chance at keeping him safe." Then we see reaction from Jack worth noticing - he isn't angry. If anything, he now suddenly understands Peggy's attachment to it, and her reluctance to give it up.
Soon after, Jack and Sousa enter the building across the street looking for Dottie. As they step into the elevator, Jack asks, "You believe Carter?" After a moment, Sousa says, "I do." "Yeah," says Jack. "Me too." When they find out that Peggy was telling the truth, Jack goes back and frees Peggy and Jarvis - and then they discover Chief Dooley. Ivchanko has put him in an explosive device, and they don't have much time - but we see how much everyone genuinely cares for Dooley. While Jack may appear to be a hard and belligerent man, we've seen very frequently that he's not - and he is, in fact, close to tears as Dooley asks him to tell his wife he's sorry.
The last two people Dooley speaks to are Jack and Peggy - before he flings himself out the window, saving their lives as the device around him explodes. Dooley's death causes an instant shift in dynamics - Peggy and Jack are now automatically a team, working together to unwind the plot that has built up around them. They're no longer throwing accusations or treating one another as at all inferior - they're partners.
After they discover the people dead in the theater, Jack and Peggy discuss what they think Ivchanko's plan might be. Again, they're talking on a level as equals, and it's refreshing to see. Howard gives himself up, and we see more Cartson action - they seem to trust each other implicitly now, as they're almost exclusively working with one another.
Up until the very end, the 'partner' dynamic is something Jack and Peggy strongly have. They work together, treat each other as equals, trust one another, and get along, working to save the people Ivchanko wants to kill. The last scene with Jack, however, was controversial for many people. They saw it as Jack stabbing everyone else in the back, and that only. I disagree. The last scene didn't bother me, because it was what I expected. Chad Michael Murray (Jack Thompson) has stated that Jack is a man who takes advantage of higher positions where he can have more say in what does and doesn't happen.
At the end, Peggy walks into the workplace and receives a standing ovation from her male coworkers - including Jack. He seems happy and comfortable - until the US senate walks in, seeking him out. They congratulate him personally - he seems confused at first, but he rolls with it as the senator tells him, "From what I hear, you saved thousands of lives."
But Jack doesn't just take the credit right away. Instead, he does something interesting - he looks back at Peggy.
And she smiles.
Jack looks back at the Senator, but even as the senator says, "We need more men like Jack Thompson," Jack doesn't look comfortable. "I just did what needed to be done," says Jack, accepting the credit but seeming almost resigned to something he's by now used to - misdirected praise. Peggy only continues to smile - she isn't surprised or necessarily disappointed. In that world, if Jack had given credit to a woman, there was a good chance that everyone's efforts would be questioned - or, more likely, the remark would simply have been overlooked. No matter what anyone said, chances are good that the outcome would have been the same.
So there we leave them – their relationship having gone from something annoyed and domineering to a mutual respect and acknowledgement that is very, very close to becoming a friendship. I’ll leave you with this quote from the Agent Carter Powers That Be.
“And there’s a smile from Peggy. It lets you know she is open to the idea of going on a date in the future, not necessarily with Sousa, but with someone. She’s moving forward.”