Recap: ‘Agent Carter’ – It’s not ‘Valediction,’ it’s only so long for now

In the season finale of “Agent Carter,” old wounds were torn open and old friendships were healed. Long before Peggy is whispered “Good-bye, my darling,” the audience had already galvanizing on social media to #RenewAgentCarter to make sure “Valediction” was not a final farewell. Despite tepid rating for live watching, “Agent Carter”makes huge gains – sometimes up to 77% – once DVR and Hulu are factored in. I hope Season 2 sees the light of day because I can”t recall the last time a serialized drama got some many things right.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

The main through line of the episode hinges on discovering what Dr. Ivchenko and Dottie are up to and ultimately stopping them. Where a lesser show would”ve been content to paint both characters with broad villainous strokes, “Agent Carter” goes out of its way to establish that even bad guys have reasons for their actions. At one point Thompson suggest Russians are just evil, to which Peggy scoffs because there are few psychopathic mustache-twirling devils in reality.

The theme of “everyone”s the hero in their own story” comes up again once Ivchenko has Howard Stark in his clutches. The nerve gas Howard accidentally created instead of military-strength coffee was responsible for the slaughter at the Battle of Fennel, including Ivchenko”s brother. From where the Russian scientist is sitting, Stark is the villain. “I am not a bad person,” Howard declares, but in the wobbly voice of someone who doesn”t really believe that. What kind of good person creates destruction, even if only for high-minded scientific reasons? It”s the same moral quandary Tony Stark will face decades later.

Even Dottie sees herself as a hero through the prism of personal bias. Her final battle with Peggy is a visual delight for choreography, but it”s Dottie”s monologue, the simmering rage, that gives us a glimpse of the human underneath the well-trained assassin. More than the trip to the Red Room Academy, Dottie shows how damaged Black Widow and her sisters are, when she sneers at how unfair it all was, how jealous she was of girls like Peggy. That the writers don”t have Dottie elaborate leaves the audience to fill in the blanks with their own insecurities, to see Peggy from the perspective of jealousy and pain.

But even though people are convincing themselves they are justified in their actions – whether those are to kill 100k people in Times Square or take all the credit for stopping it – doesn”t make them the right choices. In this case, everything boils to a head when Ivchenko uses his powers of hypnosis to convince Howard he can still save Captain America. What follows is a bookend to “Captain America: The First Avenger” that is both poignant and heart-breaking. Peggy is once more on the radio with a man she cares about, trying to convince him not to leave her. Howard and Peggy grieve for the loss of their friend, and the audience grieves for the life Steve Rogers will never have with his best girl.

GIF via Tumblr

Odds & Ends

• So, are there going to be superhuman fish in the Hudson River now?
• Angie reacts to a “telephone in every room” like I”d react to finding out a place was wired with Google Fiber.
• Sousa”s great comedic timing strike again with the earplugs. Who needs high-tech spy gear when you can go to the dime store?
• Despite seeing a peek under her mask, I need to know more about Dottie”s motivations!
• I don”t think Dottie hitting Howard Stark with a riding crop was going to elicit the reaction she was wanting.
• Rule #1, Howard: Never guess your one-night stand”s name while she”s pointing a gun at you unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure.
• Sousa getting a face full of nerve gas because he was concerned for the safety of a baby was an ovary-exploding moment. I still think he”s the man Peggy ends up marrying.
• Jarvis offering to drop everything at a moment”s notice if Peggy should need him makes me think Stark”s butler will have a hard time going back to boring old normality.