“Sometimes it is the people that no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine”. The simple fact is this (and this is written before watching), whatever happens in this finale of Agent Carter it deserves a standing ovation for everything it has accomplished. The little series labelled as filler and unnecessary has come out swinging to prove everybody wrong to the extent that some are even disappointed to see Agents of Shield returning next week. Whether or not this leading lady gets a second act has yet to be decided but one thing is for certain. She will take the curtain at this intermission to the sound of thunderous applause.
Valediction – Following their successful test in the theatre Dotti and Dr Ivchenko (now revealed as Faust) plan to drop the mother load of their gas supply (Midnight Oil) on the crowded Times Square VE Day celebrations. Yet things take a more personal turn when Howard Stark comes back into town as the Russian hypnotists bares a bitter grudge against said billionaire playboy philanthropist forcing Peggy to chose between her mission and her friend.
Now in truth, while it entertains on many fronts overall this does feel like an anti-climactic ending to the season. Despite the threat of mass death and devastation things feel way too on the small scale. Also it can’t escape the meta-MCU thinking that deflates the drama of its key set piece; by creating death dilemma for a character well known to survive. While the later would always be a difficult minefield to dodge, you can’t help but feel Agent Carter could have done a better job of this. In the end episode story we get feels quite rushed as especially through the opening act it has a lot of catch up work to do; quickly bringing the SSR up to speed on Faust’s plans. Yet pushing the main plot aside this episode does have a hell of a lot of good character work; both in new revelations and season long compounding. The most interesting is the exchanges between Faust and Howard Stark who actually display a similar relationship to that implied of Ultron and Tony Stark in the upcoming Avengers sequel. Howard unwillingly created Faust in his now evil form and the weapons he wields out of good intent (Midnight Oil was developed to be super army caffeine but developed horrible violent side effects) but now must live with the guilt and the consequences of Faust’s revenge vendetta upon him. These are by far Dominic Cooper’s best scenes of the series as Howard’s confident swagger falls to the floor leaving only his humanity to plead for his own death rather the vast innocent casualties of Faust’s plan. Faust is also on great form here as he speculates the morality limitations of success; that “being a bad man is the price of greatness” to which Stark is definitely feeling.
Our main fighting ladies of Peggy and Dotti both finally get their long awaiting smack down (which is awesome and made all the better by Dotti’s sickly sweet interjections “Isn’t this fun”). Dotti reveals some deeper insights into her Black Widow training in the resentment she feels towards regular women with normal lives “I used to be so jealous of girls like you. I would have given anything to walk like you, to talk like you but now I can be anybody I want”. Yet it’s our main gal herself, Peggy that gets the real moment of fulfillment. The single biggest theme of the series has been period sexism and Peggy fighting against it for equal status and fair approval from those around her. Yet here, at the close, the finale wonderfully flips this to the even greater payoff of Peggy realising she never needed it to begin with; “I don’t need a congressional honour, I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or The President’s. I know my value; anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter”. In one line she delivers a better message than half of Beyoncé’s back catalogue. The episode also concludes itself on the idea of Peggy finally letting go of Steve Rogers. This feels very in keeping with her character and despite all the super fish jokes that will follow makes for a rather touching ending. We were teased that we would meet Peggy’s future husband in the series.... we probably unknowingly have but now we understand why as by showing her series long process of confronting and ultimately moving on from her feelings, in the best Ted Mosby style, we see her becoming the person she needed to make things happen with her future fella. It terms of who that will be, it still looks like a tossup between Jack Thompson and Sousa. Sousa being the more obvious choice but Jack gifting the odd subtle clue he might take the prize. In terms of other un-kept promises we didn’t really see the beginnings on Shield. It’s implied Peggy may have left the SSR but far from confirmed and if/hopefully when she gets a second season it feels more likely she will return at least for a while. Then again the final scenes of Peggy and Angie being given the keys to a large Stark owned property could have officially been Shield day zero?
For all the drama it presents the episode does well to provide a solid regular splattering of lighter interjections thanks primarily to the crown prince himself Howard Stark. Though his security mocking entrance and attempts to bargain out of capture with celebrity phone numbers are good it’s his running gag with Dotti that gives the best laughs as he tries to remember her name following their conjugal weekend together. Despite Dotti’s stiff demeanor she’s clearly quite offended by being forgettable (I guess many of Stark’s ladies like to be handcuffed to the bed). Sousa also gets some good moments too following his encounters with gas and hypnotism; the best of which is the aftermath of his Midnight Oil exposure “How are you now?.... I still wanna kill Thompson but no more than usual”. Finally Dotti’s seamless switching between cold blooded killer and warm hearted floozy, never fail to raise a wry smile.
It may not be a payoff that matches it’s built up but Valediction is still an enjoyable episode by any standards with many small moments to love. The encore of the Captain America Adventure hour is a great treat and meaningful the way reflects back to events in The First Avenger and forwards Peggy’s later actions in the episode. The end coda gets full credit for its master plan implications as the series connects some dots towards The Winter Soldier. It leaves many good doors and possibilities open for a well deserved future season (the word is Marvel wants it but it’s still ABCs decision to make); going further into Leviathan, the forming of Shield, the birth of Hydra within Shield, an Ivan Vanko/Crimson Dynamo story or any number of period fitting story arcs from any comic series that nobody else will be able to cover. The two biggest criticisms anyone makes of the MCU (aside from the past tense lack of Spiderman) are repetition and its male dominance of key characters which maybe exactly why Agent Carter has gone down so smoothly, as it perfectly responds to both. Two birds with one classy lady.