Goodbye Agent Carter, we’re missing you already! Last night was the season (possibly series) finale of Marvel’s “Agent Carter.” It was a proper finish to an entertaining first season and a nice way to spotlight a character much deserving of the Marvel spotlight. Hayley Atwell has been an excellent hero for not only fans of the comic books, but for audiences in general. Immediately from her first appearance in “Captain America: The First Avenger”, Peggy Carter was extraordinarily likable and was certain to find her way into the hearts of theater goers. Since then, she has been a constant and important figure to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and seen in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, along with this summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man.” More importantly, Agent Peggy Carter should be a constant and important figure for fans, not just because of the importance she has to the development of S.H.I.E.L.D. but that her own adventures express and honesty that could all make our lives a tad better!
“Valediction”, the season finale, managed to pull off a sometimes hard task of fulfilling the audience with enough answered questions, but teasing us with a few open-ended possibilities that will definitely keeps fans praying for a series pickup. The finale also managed to offer a few proper touches that bring closure to the Peggy/Steve story that began in The First Avenger. In a fitting way, the episode opens with the radio broadcast of the Captain America Adventure Program. This mirrors the events of the finale of The First Avenger and finds Cap saving the 25th Infantry before crashing his plane in the ocean. The names, events, and locations have been changed enough to be comical for listeners, but insufferable enough that Peggy won’t listen. This is the first and last time we watch the performers broadcast the Captain America Adventure Program and it actually sets the tone for the rest of the episode.
The SSR investigates the movie theater massacre that happened during the end of last week’s episode. Sousa finds the Stark Industries canister of gas that Dottie dispersed on the audience and accidentally sprays himself. It sends him into an uncontrollable rage and he attacks Agent Thompson and Agent Carter when they attempt to help him. He’s eventually subdued and brought back to the SSR where he is treated. They learn that Ivchenko, now known to be Fenhoff (or Faustus to comic fans) is in possession of 10 canisters and could turn half the city into a violent rage. Peggy believes the plan is larger and that’s when billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and genius Howard Stark makes his entrance. Stark turns himself into the SSR and they instantly blame him for the deaths of Agent Krzeminski and Chief Dooley, to which he feels responsible for. Stark informs them that the canisters contain a toxin he developed called “Midnight Oil.” It was originally intended to keep soldiers awake for extended periods of time, but instead had disastrous side effects and caused unspeakable violence. He wants to be used as bait to lure out Fenhoff and Dottie and even though Agent Carter believes it to be a terrible idea, they go along with it. It was always extra special when Dominic Cooper would appear as Howard Stark throughout this first season and “Valediction” was no different.
Cooper, a skilled actor outside of his work for Marvel, offers us a more humble and vulnerable Howard Stark in an episode that finds him feeling ashamed and guilt ridden over the chaos he has inadvertently created. The producers teased this side of Howard Stark and they weren’t lying. The audience gets to see a new side of Tony Stark’s father that we’ve never seen before and it works. However, in typical Stark fashion, Peggy brings the mad “hatter” and scientist to the SSR lab so he could find a bulletproof vest that he created. He takes it for himself to wear during the press conference they have set up, but while Peggy is not looking, he swipes back Steve Rogers’ blood.
At City Hall, the SSR drops their charges against Howard Stark. But during the press conference a shot is taken at Stark from a hotel. It sends the crowd into a panic and ultimately is a diversion to kidnap him by using a cop that Dottie and Fenhoff encountered earlier. Agent Carter realizes it’s V-E Day (Victory Day in Europe) and that Fenhoff is planning on dispersing “Midnight Oil” in Times Square. Agent Carter, along with Agents Sousa and Thompson, eventually track Howard to a secret location that he’s kept hidden. It’s a hangar that only Jarvis knows about, but apparently Stark brought Dottie (known as “Ida”) to it six months earlier. It is here that Fenhoff reveals Leviathan’s plan and that confirms exactly what Peggy thought – dispersing “Midnight Oil” on New York City. It’s not an entirely original plot as we’ve seen it happen in “Batman Begins”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, and last year’s “TMNT”, but we could overlook that as Fenhoff has a vendetta against Stark since his brother died from “Midnight Oil” at the Battle of Finnau (a plot established a few episodes back.)
Fenhoff successfully hypnotizes Stark before the SSR arrive and convinces him he needs to atone for his sins and that he could rescue Captain America. Truthfully, Fenhoff has him trapped in this fantasy as he really has Stark flying a plane to the city to disperse the chemical toxin. Agent Carter and the SSR arrive and while Agents Thompson and Sousa fend off the evil doctor, Carter fights with Dottie. The fight plays out like an Indiana Jones hero versus villain battle and it works. The fight scene is a good pay off for the growing anticipation of an Agent Carter vs. Dottie fight scene that we all expected as soon as it was revealed that Bridget Regan’s character was bad. They manage to show off how robotic, violent, and dangerous Dottie is as she has trained at the Red Room Academy (known for the Black Widow program), but ultimately Peggy prevails as she kicks her out a window.
The ending scene plays out like an alternate ending to Captain America: The First Avenger in that it finds Peggy in a similar situation she found herself in at the end of that film. It also perfectly ties into the Captain America Adventure Program that played during the opening of “Valediction.” Peggy, once again, finds herself by a radio, possibly about to lose someone she cares about. This time it’s Howard Stark and the difference is she is more in control of the situation. She has to talk Howard out of the fantasy Fenhoff put him in and she manages to do so before Jarvis has to shoot him out of the air. The scene is staged well and works as a proper conclusion to the raw emotion and unrequited feelings at the end of The First Avenger. In that movie, we get to see a conclusion of sorts to Steve Rogers’ story, but we never really do see how the events end for Peggy. This first season and mini-series of sorts provide a nice wrap up to everything that happened and sees our hero, Peggy Carter, finally say goodbye to the man she loved – Captain America. We also get to see how much Operation: Rebirth meant to Howard and just how much he loves Steve Rogers, which if you think about, in many ways would probably address the disconnect young Tony felt he had from his father, also explaining the tension he immediately had with Cap from their first scene in The Avengers.
The story of “Agent Carter” comes to an end with Peggy being welcomed back to the SSR, but ultimately being dissed by Agent Thompson as he accepts full credit for the success of saving New York from Leviathan from a state senator. Agent Thompson turns out to still be a weasel, despite what we may have thought in the past few episodes, while Agent Sousa remains the possible love interest and future husband of Peggy Carter. The big payoff is finding Peggy realize her worth and value, and no longer finding it necessary to have to prove herself to her colleagues. It’s an important lesson and satisfying for all those that have watched. We also get a sweet wrap for the Edwin Jarvis/Peggy Carter relationship/partnership as he gives her the remaining vile of Steve Rogers’ blood that Stark had swiped early on. He says that he took it back from Stark and let him believe that it was lost while under the hypnosis of Fenhoff. Peggy graciously accepts the gesture from Jarvis as he believes it rightfully belongs to Peggy while stating that Howard Stark “does not own my integrity.” The last scene finds Peggy say goodbye to Steve as she pours the blood out into the ocean (which made me wonder if that could lead to someone being a super-soldier from drinking contaminated water.) Surely, there could have been a better way to say goodbye, but I have no issue with how they wrote the ending. Captain America has had a major presence over this season so it was important to see that concluded in order for Peggy to continually grow and become an even more independent character. It was a nice conclusion that brought a sweet end to a fantastic season. We know that she’ll always love Steve Rogers, but that it’s time to move on.
Oh, let’s not forget that in typical Marvel fashion there was an after-credits scene of sorts that finds Fenhoff escorted to his American prison cell. We hear a familiar voice tell him that all is not as bleak as it would appear and that the perfect thing about being in an American prison is that ‘America is the land of opportunities.” The familiar voice is revealed to be none other than Arnim Zola (Toby Jones). Hail Hydra!
“Agent Carter” has enjoyed a terrific first season that has given us our first true idea for what a female Marvel hero could be within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While we have had Black Widow, she’s only shared screen time within Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s Hayley Atwell that has, and arguably, been the first actress to have a solo series within the MCU. She’s a great actress and I’ve repeatedly said in my previous recaps that she is magnificent in portraying a real woman. She’s not a sidekick; she’s a super hero! We’re all going to miss the likable Hayley Atwell on Tuesday nights, but we do only have three months until we see how she is utilized within Age of Ultron and five months until Ant-Man. We could all use a little more “Agent Carter” in our lives and here is to ABC giving us another round with Hayley Atwell!
“Valediction” gets four out of five stars. “Agent Carter” season one gets five out of five stars.