Previously on Agent Carter, ‘Snafu’
Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Dominic Cooper, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Bridget Regan, Ralph Brown, Lyndsy Fonseca | Director: Christopher Misiano
After its rousing premiere, engaging middle episodes, and sputtering second half, the season finale to the second Marvel television series experiment has come to its anticlimactic conclusion. Leviathan – more like two of its operatives – has engaged in open conflict with the SSR, crippling their base and eliminating their leadership. While Agents Carter, Thompson, and Sousa pick up the pieces and conduct a manhunt for Dr. Ivchenko and Dottie, that nefarious duo tested Item 17 with frightening success. With zero hour approaching, the team prepares for a final battle with help from their original target, Howard Stark.
First off, it was nice to have Dominic Cooper back on Agent Carter as no doubt he’d appear for the finale. The childish affability and brashness of Howard Stark was just the foil the entire cast needed as most of had been stuck in this sullen, morose rut the last handful of episodes. Like everything in his life, Howard doesn’t (appear to) take things seriously, much to the chagrin of well, everyone. Yet his guilt for making Peggy go against her better nature, the unintentional losses of key SSR agents, and the theft of his lethal weapons weighs on his conscience. Stark may love the life and reputation of a free-wheeling playboy, but he does have a backbone as well as a heart.
Early in the finale, Stark reveals Item 17 is a chemical codenamed Midnight Oil that was obtained and used by an American general at Finow. The true identity of Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown) was also discovered to be Dr. Johann Fennhoff, who was one of the very few – if not the only one – who survived Finow. The Agents and Stark believe Fennhoff and Dottie will target Times Square during the V-E celebration so Howard has the ingenious idea to fix their sights on him… at a SSR press conference clearing him of all charges. And calling him a true American hero. And a genius. One of the few highlights in the episode was watching Thompson squirm each time Stark demanded he spout off more compliments.
Thanks to some craftiness and Fennhoff’s twisty ring magic hypnotism that’s never fully explained, Dottie is able to kidnap Stark quite easily. Again, Stark’s daffy charisma in the face of danger works really well and would have been appreciated in more scenes throughout the season. Granted, it likely would steadily lose its effectiveness the more Cooper was seen. Fennhoff successfully taps into Howard’s mind and compels him to fly over New York City and disperse Midnight Oil, under the illusion that he’s saving Captain America from his icy tomb.
It isn’t until the second half of the finale that Peggy is finally presented front and center. No matter their current history, Stark remains Carter’s closest friend and few ties to her time with Steve Rogers. Howard’s grief in not finding his friend is just as strong as Peggy’s loss and both come to terms with it in the best written scene of the night. Regrettably, many of the scenes that have been staged from the start of the series were written with such urgency, one is barely capable to even have time to relish the moment.
Dottie, Dottie, Dottie… for what brief time she was in full blown assassin mode, if only they utilized that psychopath as they did in ‘Valediction’ in earlier episodes! Peggy was definitely outmatched for most of their scuffle, unfortunately it concluded quite hastily despite the massive hype for their inevitable clash. The Peggy/Dottie bosom-buddies-turned-war-machines plot device was sadly overlooked; if there was but a scrap of emotional connection built between the two from their time at The Griffin or the Automat, it would have made the brawl all the more heated. The sentiment is similar to Peggy and Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca), who was missing in action for a number of episodes. Perhaps she was auditioning for musicals all this time?
The apprehension of Fennhoff, Dottie’s whereabouts, Peggy’s status at the SSR… the final minutes of ‘Valediction’ left many storylines open for a potential second season, but Marvel placed an intriguing cherry on top with a quick epilogue that all but assured the audience Agent Carter will return. The appearance of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) for only two minutes gives the series more credibility and a stronger connection to the MCU, which one would assume won’t go to waste given ABC’s determination to catch some of Marvel’s silver screen success in acquiring larger demographics.
For its inaugural season, Agent Carter proved the character can certainly hold her own in a gunfight and helming a series. It’ll grow and hopefully gain more depth and complexity in its future storylines. Given the derisive nature of the era, the inclusion of more diverse characters could automatically create a greater dynamic within the SSR (if that’s where Peggy will be) and the States in general. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and hopefully, like Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter will return with a stronger narrative and greater focus.