February 24, 2015, 9pm (EST), ABC
Marvel’s Agent Carter had a quiet end to its first season, with Peggy finally willing to let go of Steve Rogers and receiving some much-deserved recognition from colleagues at the Strategic Scientific Reserve. It was a satisfying ending to Peggy’s arc over the past eight episodes, but the final scene teases connections that could have made the short series stand out more significantly – tying deeply to the rich mythology and characters in the larger Marvel universe
Ultimately, the most satisfying characters and episodes of this series were the ones with the deepest connections to the Captain America films. The episode featuring the Howling Commandos stood out as a particular highlight, while Howard Stark elevated every scene in which he appeared. It may be due to the short run of this series but, aside from Jarvis, most of the newly-introduced characters in this series were not fleshed out well. As a result, any significant time spent with them seemed like a waste, especially when they were clueless to Peggy’s identity or two steps behind her in early episodes.
“Valediction” focuses heavily on many elements of the first Captain America film, The First Avenger, even paralleling the climax of that film. Howard Stark returns to New York and visits the SSR after learning of the havoc his gas had caused at the movie theatre at the end of the last episode. In an effort to undo some of the damage his weapons have caused, Stark volunteers as bait to lure Dottie and Doctor Fenhoff (aka Ivchenko) into a trap.
While Fenhoff and Dottie take the bait, they also easily grab Stark. We learn that Fenhoff seeks revenge on Stark for the Battle of Finau, during which his brother was killed. Indeed, the gas released during the battle – the same as Dottie lets loose in the movie theatre, prompting patrons start violently lashing out at one another – was originally designed by Stark as a way to keep soldiers awake. However, it backfired and produced psychosis. Unfortunately, it was used in Finau without Stark’s permission, with tragic results.
As revenge for Stark’s role in his brother’s death, Fenhoff brainwashes Stark into flying a plane over New York City to release the same gas over Times Square during a VE-Day celebration. The doctor brainwashes Stark into believing that he has found Captain America and is flying to rescue him, instead of to do damage to New York City.
Peggy, Jarvis and the SSR track down Fenhoff and Dottie, but only after Stark is already in the air. Peggy goes one-on-one with Black Widow program graduate Dottie, eventually defeating her by gaining the upper hand while Dottie was busy gloating. Agents Thompson and Sousa search for Fenhoff while Peggy tries to talk Stark out of the brainwashing through a radio. It is a direct parallel to Captain America: The First Avenger – the scene that this series opened with – when Peggy tried to talk Steve out of crash landing a plane full of weapons into the ocean.
However, the outcome is very different in this case, as Peggy is able to talk some logic into Stark and bring him home safely. In that moment, they both come to terms with losing Steve and having to face the reality of letting him go. Meanwhile, Sousa cleverly captures Fenhoff by wearing earplugs in his presence to avoid falling victim to the doctor’s brainwashing techniques.
At episode’s end, the SSR erupts into cheers when Peggy arrives the next day. Though Agent Thompson takes the credit when a politician comes to visit, Peggy finally receives some recognition at the office – though she hasn’t yet decided whether she’ll return for good. Peggy also says a final goodbye to Steve by destroying the vial of his blood that Stark had stored, pouring it over the river while standing on the Brooklyn Bridge.
But the finale’s final scene provides another major connection to the Captain America films. After his capture by the SSR, we see Fenhoff placed in a cell with a familiar face – Arnim Zola. Zola, who was the villain’s right hand man in Captain America: The First Avenger and eventually would play a key role in growing the evil organization of Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D., tells Fenhoff that he looks forward to collaborating with him. Indeed, Zola expresses an interest in Fenhoff’s brainwashing abilities, which highly suggests that Fenhoff will play a role in the creation of the Winter Soldier – a character connected to Hydra who causes havoc in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Overall, Marvel’s Agent Carter was at its best when it leaned into its origins in the Captain America films, with moments like this one. Instead of eight episodes focused on a random revenge plot against Howard Stark, the series would have been much more satisfying if it incorporated more of the Hydra-related backstory that most fans are already aware is happening during this timeframe based on the films.
It’s understandable that the writers wanted to create a world for Peggy that stood on its own, but it is also clear that the series was willing to make consistent references to the films as well. Using these eight episodes to fill the rich backstory of Hydra growing within S.H.I.E.L.D., and even the creation of the Winter Soldier referenced in the final scene, would have provided a much more satisfying experience than the build-up of the unknown Leviathan, which ultimately didn’t go very far.
However, as a series that explores Peggy’s experiences immediately after the war, Marvel’s Agent Carter worked quite well. Despite some bumps in the road, Hayley Atwell’s performance as Peggy – and chemistry with characters like Howard Stark and Jarvis – ensured that every outing had its charm.
- “How’s that look?” “Like a nest of spiders with very short legs.”
- “You were going to shoot me out of the sky?” “Well I thought that’s what you would have wanted.” “No! No, it’s not!”
- “Goodbye, my darling.”
It was a satisfying ending to Peggy’s arc over the past eight episodes, but the final scene teases connections that could have made the short series stand out more significantly – tying deeply to the rich mythology and characters in the larger Marvel universe.