Agent Carter 'Valediction' Review
And so it ends. After 8 thrilling episodes, Season one of Marvel's Agent Carter drew to a close last night in a fittingly witty and heartfelt manner. In an episode, which at times felt a little rushed, we saw a more than satisfactory end to the Howard Stark manhunt, a few delightful references to Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and were generally given hope that Agent Carter would be returning for a second season, although that latter point remains frustratingly up in the air. As far as season finales go, this was a relatively quiet affair, but that's just how we like it over here in Agent Carter fandom. Unlike other comic book tv shows, Agent Carter doesn't need a constant stream of explosions and superpowers to be entertaining. No, the weapons in this show's arsenal are smart writing, top class acting and Marvel's golden age of storytelling as its source material.
After spending a great deal of the season taking on gender politics in a manner which was, admittedly, bordering on unsubtle at times, Agent Carter's final episode opted to focus more on a man who has been somewhat illusive throughout the season. Howard Stark, wanted by the S.S.R for unleashing his weapons on unsuspecting victims, has returned to New York City to help clear up the chaos his bad babies have created in the hands of Dr. Faustus and Dottie Underwood. But this dramatic shift towards redemption isn't just for the people of the New York Metropolitan area, it's also for his dear friend Peggy Carter. After Stark admits that it was his psychosis-inducing toxin (Midnight Oil) that caused the slaughter Ivchenko witnessed in Russia, it becomes clear that he is Leviathan's main target. Stark suggests that he place himself in the public eye in an attempt to draw out the Russian agents, but when Peggy tries to stop him, Stark replies "I've had to go through my life not caring what people think of me, but I do care what you think." Hats off to Dominic Cooper for showing us just how much Peggy means to his character with that line. Stark's absence often had you feeling that he was nothing more than an old war chum to Peggy, but throughout this episode we are reminded that their friendship is so much more than that.
Much of the first half of this episode sees Peggy playing a supporting role to Stark, and while that may anger some of her fans, it is more than made up for later on. Stark's press conference succeeds in luring out Dr. Faustus, but the Russians are ahead of the game. They never wanted to kill Stark, they wanted to ruin him, and to do so they use a brainwashed cop to whisk their mark away from the S.S.R to his secret bunker. It's right about now that things start to feel a wee bit rushed. Jarvis, Peggy and the S.S.R work out the details of Leviathan's plan to unleash the toxin on Times Square all too easily, and from this point to getting to the big showdown there probably elapsed no more than 5 or 6 minutes. But, that's the problem with using hypnosis or mind-control as a plot device. It allows writers to take shortcuts and do away with villainous plans that would normally seem far more villainous if we could witness their complexity. Considering these guys are some of the most dangerous villains of the time, their plan felt unsettlingly simple: Kidnap Howard Stark, brainwash him to fly one of his planes to Times Square during the VE day celebrations and watch as the whole world blames him for the ensuing destruction. It's no Hydra uprising is it, although we'll have more on that later.
The showdown in Stark's secret hangar delivers the long-awaited dust-up between Peggy and Dottie. True to form, this showdown was wonderfully choreographed and it didn't over-indulge by going taking up too much runtime. After surviving a few hefty blows from a baseball bat, Peggy unceremoniously hauls Dottie out of the radio control room and must turn her attentions to snapping Stark out of his hypnosis before he barrells down upon Times Square. In a scene reminiscent to the closing stages of Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy pours her heart out to a man flying an aircraft seemingly to his doom. Seriously, this girl is never going to want to see another radio control room for as long as she lives. In a desperate attempt to reach Stark, Peggy reveals just how much his friendship means to her, saying "You are the only person on this Earth that believes in me. I cannot lose you." With this line we finally see what a lonely existence Peggy has been dealing with. Sure, she has Angie and the companionship of Jarvis, but only Stark can come even close to sharing in her traumatic experiences during Captain America's final moments, because only Stark shares that love for the man they have both lost. Thankfully, this tear-jerking injection of emotion is enough to bring Stark out of his hypnosis and the risk to Manhattan's Times Square is abated.
Peggy returns to S.S.R headquarters a hero, receiving a standing ovation from her colleagues and plaudits from her new boss, Agent Thompson. But when a US Senator arrives to heap all the praise on Thompson, whose contribution to the mission totalled getting knocked on his ass (again), you would imagine Peggy would be more than a little bit rattled. Quite the contrary. When Sousa asks if Peggy was going to take this, Peggy sums up what has been her driving force throughout this entire show in just one line: "I don't need a Congressional Honor, I don't need Agent Thompson's approval, or the President's. I know my value, anyone else's opinion doesn't matter." This alone would have been a fitting end to the season, but Marvel being Marvel, there was just enough time left for an exciting link into the MCU.
With Faustus captured, he's taken to a high-security facility where he can't do any more harm to America's people. Unfortunately for America, we learn that he's sharing a cell the mastermind behind one of the MCU's biggest plots....
With Zola and Faustus in a cell together, there's so much potential for more hijinks with other Marvel Golden Age characters. Whether or not Agent Carter will get a second season with which to show said hijinks is yet to be confirmed by the bigwigs at Marvel. We know that Agent Carter's Showrunner has plans for a second season, but it is slightly disconcerting that there has been no news of one yet. Quite often, big shows receive a second season before their first season is even halfway through, and with Marvel's only other show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we received confirmation just before its season 1 finale. Indeed, it seems unlike Marvel to hesitate on such matters. The studio, who so often appear to have every detail of their projects mapped out years in advance is now, all of a sudden, making their fans wait.