Agent Carter / Screen

Agent Carter: “Valediction”

Agent Carter‘s finale opens with the Betty Carver/Captain America radio show, revisiting Captain America’s plunge to his icy death. Peggy can’t listen to it and comment on its inaccuracy because she’s at the move theater where item 17 killed a bunch of movie goers. The opening makes you think “Valediction” is going to end up focusing on Peggy and Peggy’s relationship with Steve, but instead the finale is painfully short on Peggy Carter especially when Howard Stark returns to the fold.Dominic Cooper is fun and all, but the show is called Agent Carter, and his return undercuts itself by zeroing in on Howard instead of its leading lady. Howard feeling guilty about what he’s done and his misguided attempts at helping by building his inventions is a natural beat for the show, but that doesn’t make it any better. Long scenes are spent tracing Howard’s own guilt regarding Steve’s “death” and his attempts at making ends, which is what leads him back to the SSR in the first place as he puts himself in the spotlight so Ivchenko and Dottie will expose themselves coming after him.

Peggy’s in the background of the episode for most of the first half, only resuming her leading lady position when Howard’s been hypnotized by Ivchenko. It’s a poor ending for a season that’s been so good about really showing Peggy as her own person and the focus of the show’s interest. Peggy comes back to the forefront when it comes to saving Howard’s butt and all the civilians in Times Square who are about to be gassed and turned into rage monsters. Peggy’s there to help Howard work through his still present guilt over Steve’s death, as Ivchenko manages to hypnotize him into believing that he’s flying the plane to the site of Steve’s downed plane, where he’s still alive. But Peggy’s got her own issues she has to work with, and though Cooper’s talented and charming, I’m not trying to watch an episode devoted to him. I’d rather watch Peggy unravel her remaining feelings for Steve.

Hayley Atwell’s been the centerpiece of the flawed first season. If there’s any reason Agent Carter should return for another season it’s because Atwell knows Peggy so well and immerses herself in the character. Her tearful conversation with Howard over the radio is Atwell at her best, only matched by her scene on the bridge as she dumps Steve’s blood into the river. It’s the safest resolution for Steve’s blood, out of the hands of Leviathan, the SSR or anyone else, but it breaks Peggy’s heart to part with all that’s left of him. But it’s her way of finally letting Steve go, which has been something the show’s been leading up to for a while.

But now that the season’s over, Agent Carter‘s missteps all seem glaringly obvious and part of a list that’s going to keep it from getting renewed. The season’s been okay but not as good as it could have been. The lack of other women in the show is one thing, not to mention that non-white people are practically nonexistent in the universe. Angie has to fall to the wayside in favor of the SSR plots, and though Dottie has potential as a character, it hardly feels well utilized. She disappears when Ivcehnko is around, another white male for the show to zero in on,  so Dottie being alive and somewhat well after hers and Peggy’s brawl is satisfying if only because it means a second season won’t be lacking in a promising adversary for Peggy.

And perhaps a partner? Jarvis says he’ll be around if Peggy needs her, so that’s always an avenue the show can go. Their partnership has made for some solid viewing, and their final moment this episode, Jarvis returning Steve’s blood to Peggy after Howard’s taken it, is a nice way for the two to go out.  They’ve developed a bond both entertaining and heartfelt, and for Peggy to have someone else in her corner is welcome considering how things end up for her at the SSR. Their final exchange allows Jarvis to exist in the show without his link to Howard, which may be necessary if the show doesn’t bring back Dominic Cooper (which it probably shouldn’t considering how quickly it let him and Howard siphon screentime from Peggy). But it’s also tempting for Jarvis to be replaced by someone else, perhaps someone female and of color?

This season’s been all about Agent Carter, and there’s nothing wrong with it being all about her. I prefer it actually, but the show’s done little to prove that the problem with all this sexism is that it’s wrong in general only that it’s wrong when it’s directed toward Peggy Carter. She’s the only woman who can do what she does, because no other women of her caliber seem to exist. Expandng the world of Agent Carter to include other people who are victims of the prejudiced society Peggy lives in would do great things for the show.

Especially when “Valediction” proves that nothing can really be changed even when Peggy’s proven herself multiple times. She has the respect of her colleagues at least, who welcome her back to the office with applause, but Thompson’s given the credit for her all her hard work and accepts it readily. Peggy’s spent the last two episodes saving lives, and she gets nothing for it. She doesn’t need it either, since she’s fine knowing her own worth, and that’s really nice and all, but Peggy deserves a lot more.

Stray Observations

  • Thompson’s horror at calling Howard a “hero”.
  • Sousa spraying himself in the face with item 17 was sort of embarrassing right?
  • Angie and Peggy get to move into Howard’s mansion which is very cute.
  • Peggy: “I appreciate the finer things I just don’t want to know what’s happened in and on the fine things.”

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