Agent Carter: 1.08 Valediction
From the shocking fallout of last week's attack in the movie theatre, to Howard Stark's triumphant return and a brilliant homage to the final scene in Captain America: The First Avenger, the final episode of Agent Carter delivered a dramatic and satisfying conclusion to what has been an excellent eight weeks of television.
By the time the threat was over, it felt as if every character, every plotline had been given decent screentime, so much so that has the show not been picked up for a second season - and that would have been a travesty - there wouldn't have been any nagging loose ends.
The episode delved straight into the fallout of Dottie's horrific attack on the movie theatre. The scene with the dead bodies was striking, proving the show could balance drama and horror with the humour and action it does so well. I was genuinely worried for Sousa too for the second time in two episodes when he became infected with the gas - it would have been a double blow to the SSR after Dooley's death last week - but thankfully he lived to fight another day. I just hope Enver Gjokaj gets something meaty in season two to show to audiences the acting chops he demonstrated in Dollhouse.
After that initial drama, and with Peggy cleared of her crimes and back on the team, Valediction rocketed towards the dramatic scene in Stark's hanger. As for Howard himself, he made a bold, breezy return the moment the SSR realised he had been set up, with Dominic Cooper threatening to steal the show with his suave, effortless performance. Fortunately everyone held their own this episode, from Bridget Regan's evil Dottie to Ralph Brown's Dr Ivchenko aka Fenhoff a ruthless figure, putting Howard under his spell. All the while James D'Arcy's Jarvis and Hayley Atwell's Peggy continued to remain one of the finest double acts currently on television.
I still doubt Stark's reasons for creating the deadly gas that caused the movie theatre massacre; he claimed that it was designed to keep soldiers awake for days at a time but that was obviously never going to turn out well. There was a whole episode of The X Files where a similar experiment turned a experimentee into a killer that could project visions on his victims. At least he demonstrated some measure of guilt though, setting himself up as bait for Leviathan. The press conference was a great little scene, particularly Stark feeding Thompson his lines to make all of New York aware of how magnificent a hero he was. But it was turned on its head with dramatic fashion with Jarvis shoving Stark into a police car under a hail of gunfire, only for that cop to be a hypnotised lackey for Fenhoff, putting Stark right in his hands.
The second half of the finale ticked all the boxes. The plan to blow up the VE celebrations in Time Square was suitably dastardly and reminded us of this fragile world in the immediate years after the Second World War. The idea of hypnotising Stark into flying his own bomb into New York was ingenious and provided plenty of drama when Peggy was forced to bring him down safely over the radio.
It was a great recreation of the final tragic moments of Captain America: The First Avenger and brought closure for both Howard and Peggy. His desperation to find Steve Rogers' downed plane and her final decision pour his blood into the waters below the Brooklyn Bridge - essentially saying goodbye in a way she had not been able to do before - demonstrated how much emotional baggage they were both carrying and allow them to move on from those events.
As for the villains, we finally got the long-awaited bitch fight between Peggy and Dottie, with the latter seemingly falling to her death. Her body was missing at the end, suggesting she would be back and I for one can't wait to see what nefarious plan she has next. As for Fenhoff, we last saw him carted into his prison cell with a Hannibal Lecter mask, to be greeted by the surprise cameo of Toby Jones's Dr. Arnim Zola. It was a fantastic final icing on cake to this first season and reminded us that while we might be seeing the origins of SHIELD, Zola was already there to see its undoing.
There was a lot of change come the end of Agent Carter season one. Peggy was recognised as a valuable asset to the SSR (the scene where they applauded her actions was very bittersweet) and she was rewarded with one of Stark's six bedroom, eight bath residencies along with new housemate Angie. I wonder if this will remain home, considering the LA setting for season two, but given that there was no guarantee of more stories when the finale aired, it serves as a satisfying coda.
And of course, some things never changed, as Sousa noted with frustration when Senator Cooper congratulated Thompson for his heroic actions while completely ignoring Peggy. Sousa finally plucked up the courage to ask Peggy for a drink and while not completely a brush off, she didn't seem quite so eager to take him up on it. I'm not sure if I see him as a potential love interest or just a friend and ally but I guess that might be revisited too in season two.
Agent Carter delivered a satisfying, definitive finale that paid off eight-weeks of dramatic, action-packed, humourous, tragic and altogether riveting television that may be the finest piece of television work Marvel has done yet - and I say that appreciating the brilliance of Netflix's Daredevil. An argument of quality over quantity, it was able to keep up the pace with minimal slippage in its storytelling, it certainly proved that we don't need vast 22-episode seasons to tell great stories from beginning to end. A thoroughly entertaining show with a great lead in Hayley Atwell, I can't wait to see what season two of the show has in store for us!