God bless Marvel and all the beautiful people who made “Agent Carter” possible. In eight episodes, “Agent Carter” told a tight, fun and highly engrossing spy story that tied cleverly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe without pandering to its audience.
Season 1 Finale
If anything, “Agent Carter” ’s first season finale, “Valediction,” is about moving beyond the memory of Captain America (Chris Evans, “Snowpiercer”) and the reductive version of the World War II era he represents. No scene embodies this more than when Peggy (Hayley Atwell, “Black Mirror”) prevents a hypnotized Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) from releasing the deadly insanity gas, Midnight Oil, onto Time Square.
As Stark believes he’s flying a plane into Antarctica to save Cap, Carter must convince him that Rogers is dead and he’s never coming back. Atwell really sells the devastation and loss felt not only by her character, but all of the characters. It also reminds the viewer that, although we know Cap is just taking an icy nap, Peggy and company need to believe wholeheartedly that he is dead and that they must move on with their own lives.
It is also nice seeing “One Tree Hill” star Chad Michael Murray as Agent Thompson, still a sleazebag at the end of the episode. Even if the male Agents came off as clichéd misogynists in the pilot, the actors and writers delivered increasingly poignant moments which made us care about them despite their flaws — especially in the previous episode where Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”) delivered an outstanding final performance as Chief Dooley, a character who developed from one-dimensional to tragic hero. We begin with the Agent recovering from his sacrifice and the gruesome attack at the theater. Viewers might have been a little unsure about how daring a show like “Agent Carter” could be on network television, but while it’s far away from “Hannibal,” it still provides much of the grit necessary to tell the story of the MCU’s forgotten past.
But, in classic Marvel tradition, “Agent Carter” magically balances its tone between dark and hysterical. Howard Stark is particularly amusing during the press-conference with Agent Thompson. Let’s hope Cooper becomes a series regular moving forward. Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy, “Jupiter Ascending”) continues to prove a most loyal and charming companion for Carter, though it’s unclear how often his surprisingly eventful past will pop up in convenient ways, such as it does when he flies a plane at the end.
There are a few loose ends that might disappoint fans who expect this to be the final episode of the series. To wit, we still don’t know everything about Leviathan, the supposed main threat of the series. Its members, Fennhoff and Dottie (Bridget Regan, “Jane the Virgin”), prove to be interesting enough characters. Yet, their motivation is still quite cloudy. Their final confrontation with Carter and company come off too much like a Bond villain’s — and not in a positive way, as Dottie’s escape is too predictable. That being said, she is excellent when she interrogates Howard, whom she forced to recollect names she gave him in the past.
The appearance of Toby Jones (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) at the end, reprising his role as Dr. Arnim Zola, will also please fans of “The Winter Soldier.” However, Fennhoff — wearing an awesome Hannibal Lecter-esque mask in the final scene — proves to be far more than just a one-note super-villain. We just really hope he doesn’t become HYDRA henchman number 37.
Nevertheless, all of these minor gripes don’t get in the way of “Agent Carter” pulling off a great season finale to an engrossing series. Here’s hoping the hard work of “Agent Carter” ’s cast and crew does not go unnoticed.