Agent Carter: A hero’s value

Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Kelsey McNeal/ABC

The first (and hopefully not last) season of Agent Carter came to a close Tuesday night in a thrilling and outstanding finale. While Peggy never got the recognition she truly deserved, she proved why Agent Carter is one of the most important shows on television right now by rightly saying that it never really mattered.

“Valediction” was a fantastic end to Peggy’s emotional journey of coping with the loss of Steve Rogers while finding her own validation. It also showed her finally working side-by-side with Sousa and Thompson to stop Dottie and Ivchenko, whose real identity was Johann Fennhoff, also known in the comics as Doctor Faustus.

We saw the brutal aftermath of the release of Item 17 onto the unsuspecting theatregoers, with gruesome details including people clawing each others eyes out. While investigating the scene, Sousa got a blast of the killer gas, prompting him to attack Thompson. After Sousa was subdued, they were able to identify the source and Sousa reverted to only slightly wanting to kill Thompson. We’ve all been there.

The death of Dooley and the theatre attack also ushered in the return of the fugitive himself, Howard Stark, who was finally able to fill in some missing holes in the story. In an attempt to create a way to keep soldiers awake longer, Stark invented the killer gas, called Midnight Oil. Someone got their hands on it during the war, which led to the massacre in Finow.

In order to draw out Dottie and Fennhoff, Stark called a press conference in front of city hall, despite Peggy urging him not to. He spent the vast majority of the series running away, trying to exempt himself from the death and destruction caused by his inventions, so it was high time he stopped (but not before swiping the vial of Steve’s blood). Of course, Leviathan wasn’t easily tricked and managed to kidnap Stark anyway using a decoy sniper.

Dottie and Fennhoff brought Stark to a secret hanger, where Fennhoff planned to manipulate Stark into spraying the gas over thousands of people in Times Square during the VE Day celebration. In his villain monologue, Fennhoff revealed that he was the lone survivor of Finow, where he watched his brother die. His motivation? He wanted Stark to take the blame for the deaths his inventions caused.

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During Stark’s hypnosis, Fennhoff discovered Stark’s greatest shame was the loss of Captain America, so he created the illusion that Stark had found him and needed to take a plane to bring him home. Jarvis brought Peggy, Sousa and Thompson to the hanger to stop them, only to just miss Stark taking off for Manhattan. In one of his noblest moments in the series, Jarvis agreed to fly after Stark, ready to shoot him down if Peggy and the others couldn’t find a way to stop Dottie and Fennhoff. Watching Peggy and Jarvis work together with Sousa and Thompson did a lot to ease the ill will for the SSR developed throughout the series as much as it teased how great the series could be moving forward.

The team eventually split up, with Peggy on her way to confront Dottie. This, of course, led to one of the best fight sequences in the series. It’s one of the great merits of the show that, up until this point, Peggy had yet to really meet her match. We’ve seen her take on half a dozen men without breaking a sweat. So to see these two women duke it out in a brutal, high stakes fashion was really great to watch. Seeing Dottie absolutely relish in the challenge was even better. Peggy eventually got the upper hand, of course, throwing Dottie out the window onto one of Stark’s planes.

Now here comes the waterworks. In a perfect parallel to the ending of Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy once again found herself on the radio, convincing a loved one to turn their plane around. Of course, this time it was Stark on the other end, with her desperately trying to convince him that Steve is gone and he’s never coming back. I really have to commend Hayley Atwell for her performance here–I was surprised by how gripped I was by the scene, considering I knew in the back of my mind that Stark would end up just fine. She really sold it though, turning it into more than empty stakes.

Peggy saved the day, of course, but an injured Dottie managed to slip away. Fennhoff wasn’t so lucky–he was subdued by Thompson and Sousa, who outsmarted him with earplugs. While I loved the series overall, I feel slightly underwhelmed by Leviathan. What I anticipated to be a Hydra-adjacent organization ended up becoming one man’s vendetta against Stark. Considering the addition of Dr. Zola in the final scene, it looks like Fennhoff is being recruited by Hydra now. Was that the end of Leviathan?

Now for the greatest moment of the episode. After receiving applause from the SSR for her work, Peggy was sidestepped by Thompson, who took the credit for the operation. It’s certainly a jerk move, but not surprising either; it’s still the 1940s and Thompson knew he’d look like a complete joke if he gave the credit to a crippled man and a woman. Regardless, it led to the best line of the night, when Sousa asked Peggy if it bothered her, she simply replied, “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Peggy spent so long trying to find a way to make her colleagues respect her, but what she realized was that you don’t need validation from others to feel important. Peggy Carter is such an impressive role model for girls to watch on television. She even rejected Sousa’s offer for a date, opting to move in with Angie instead (I can hear the Cartinelli shippers cheering from here). It’s a fantastic ending that completely challenged the way we wanted the story to go. Regardless, we know she eventually gets her due, going down in history as one of the greatest agents in SHIELD history.

On a side note, the costume department did a fantastic job keeping Peggy in her signature red, white and blue as an homage to Captain America. Seeing her change things up in the last moments of the show was a great visual indicator of the end of her mourning period.

The season ended with Peggy, taking the vial of blood given to her by Jarvis, and pouring it into the bay, in a truly Titanic-esque moment. Now that she has finally moved on from Steve and earned a respected place in the SSR, will we get a second season to see what Peggy does next? Fingers crossed!

The final Agent Carter scorecard:

  • Before the first episode of Agent Carter aired, I wrote a list of things I wanted to see from the series–so how did everything tally up?
  • No more sexist co-workers: I was definitely off on this one, but for the better. Seeing her undermine the SSR left and right was one of the purest delights of the series.
  • Lots of action: We had this in spades–Peggy was undoubtedly the hardest hitting fighter out of anyone in the SSR.
  • Kick-ass women: Dottie ended up becoming one of the biggest villains of the season. Kudos, Agent Carter writers.
  • Some Hydra backstory: Leviathan was the big-bad in this story but judging by Zola’s appearance, Hydra may have a large role in the potential second season.
  • No romances: While the Cartinelli shippers might disagree, there wasn’t a hint of romance in this season, with Peggy still mourning the loss of Steve. Which brings us to three out of five! Not bad.

Do you have any final thoughts on the end of Agent Carter? Sound off in the comments below. Before you get too teary-eyed, don’t forget that Agents of SHIELD (finally!) returns next Tuesday with a brand new episode, ushering in the age of Inhumans.