Agent Carter: “Valediction” Review

agent carter official concept artI’m trying to collect myself enough to review Agent Carter’s finale, but that’s a really hard endeavor. Never before have I loved a show as much as I love Agent Carter. Since the very first episode, it has been consistently well written and progressive. Its only real downside is that it lacks representation for people of color and LGBTQ+ people. Nevertheless, Agent Carter has been phenomenal with the issues it does cover—misogyny, physical and mental disabilities—all the while telling a damn good story with some great compelling characters.

Spoilers up ahead.

“Valediction” sees the conclusion of Agent Carter’s (hopefully) first season. All the pieces fall into place and we learn Dr. Ivchenko and Dottie’s master plan. Ivchenko blames Howard Stark for the atrocities his inventions caused during WWII, and wants to make him suffer. The poisonous gas Dottie released in the movie theater last episode was simply a test for a greater scheme. It’s May 8th, Victory in Europe Day, so over a hundred thousand people are gathering in Times Square, and with that many, there’s no hope for evacuation. Ivchenko and Dottie plan on flying a plane filled with the gas over Times Square to tear New York City—which Ivchenko refers to as a sign of American power—down.

Howard Stark and Agent Thompson ValedictionBut when Howard Stark returns to New York and turns himself over to the S.S.R., Ivchenko and Dottie seize the opportunity to kidnap him during a press conference and hypnotize him into flying the plane. Working together, Peggy, Jarvis, Sousa, and Thompson manage to save the day. Peggy takes out Dottie, then attempts to break Howard out of his hypnosis, while Jarvis flies after him with the intention of shooting him down should Peggy fail. Thankfully, Peggy succeeds in what is a rather touching scene reminiscent of her last conversation with Captain America, and Jarvis does not have to kill his boss. While that’s going on, Thompson and Sousa track down Ivchenko, and due to some clever thinking on Sousa’s part, take him down.

At the end of the episode, an injured Dottie escapes, Peggy receives the recognition she’s always wanted from the S.S.R., she and Angie move in together, and Ivchenko ends up sharing a cell with Dr. Arnim Zola, presumably so they can plot evil things for a second season.

This episode was awesome.

First of all, Angie remade an appearance, and now she and Peggy are living together in one of Howard Stark’s mansions. Sadly, they did not kiss, but there’s hope for that in the future. Personally, I’m not sure who I ship more: Peggy/Angie, or Peggy/Sousa. At the end of the episode, the show implies that Peggy/Sousa could be a thing, and I am totally for Peggy and her disabled coworker hooking up. That would make me really happy. However, Peggy and Angie would also be amazing, and it would bring some awesome and much needed LGBTQ+ representation to the show. If Agent Carter gets a second season—which it totally deserves—I will be more than disappointed if Peggy and Angie don’t get together.

Jarvis and Sousa ValedictionBut shipping dreams aside, this episode was all around fantastic. I loved watching Peggy, Jarvis, Sousa, and Thompson all work together and respect each other in the process. All four of these characters have been pushed down by society and each other since the start of the season—Peggy for being a woman, Jarvis for working for Stark and being tried for treason, Sousa for his physical disability, and Thompson for his PTSD. Thompson especially spent the season deriding the other characters, and it was fun to watch him and the others all grow over the course of the show. Agent Carter also made a point of showing that Sousa is not worthless or more broken than other people because of his leg. Time and time again, he manages to figure things out that other people can’t, and it’s only through his clever thinking that he takes down Ivchenko, who underestimated him because of his leg.

The best part of the episode, however, was the next day when Peggy walks into the S.S.R. to pick up her paycheck and is greeted with a round of applause. Sousa and Thompson welcome her back to work for the S.S.R. should she want to, and she finally receives the recognition that she deserves. Everyone knows that without her, Ivchenko would have succeeded, and all I can say is that it’s about fucking time they show her some respect. Unfortunately, though the people at the S.S.R. have learned to check themselves and recognize her, we are reminded that the same is not true of the rest of the country. A senator stops by the S.S.R. to congratulate Thompson for his hard work, not Peggy, and tells the S.S.R. that they’re lucky to serve under a man like him.

Peggy Carter ValedictionThough Thompson accepts the praise, he does so grudgingly, and I was honestly left with the impression that he wanted to tell the senator that it was really Peggy who saved the day. Not telling was a bit of dick move on his part, and Sousa once again wants to run to Peggy’s defense. But then Peggy tells him to let it go, and when Sousa asks how she can do that, she says that it’s because she understands her own worth. She doesn’t need someone else’s validation. This also goes to show Peggy’s growth as a character. When the series started, she lacked any kind of respect and desperately wanted her male coworkers to treat her as an equal. She wanted their validation, almost to the point of making some poor decisions, such as when she found Stark’s stolen weapons and wanted to turn them in herself. If she had, that act would have incriminated her, and Jarvis was thankfully there to talk her out of it.

But by the time the season finale comes around, Peggy realizes that she doesn’t need everyone else’s validation. Sure, it’s nice to have, but she’s her own person, and she’s not defined by how other people see her. It’s a really good message that the show brings us, and we need more like it. At the same time, though it’s something she doesn’t need, that doesn’t excuse her coworkers’ refusal to give it to her. They should have been treating her with respect from the beginning, which they eventually learn to do. Every character improved. Peggy learned to trust herself, and her coworkers learned to treat people better.

Agent Carter also proves the rather obvious fact that superhero stories starring women can be just as good as those starring men. This show was thoughtful, informative, and it gave us a bunch of minority characters that we don’t always get to see. It fills a much needed niche in the superhero genre, particularly in the MCU.

Dottie Underwood ValedictionAs Agent Carter takes place so many years before most of the other MCU installments, I’m not sure what this show means for the rest of the universe. Dottie’s introduction could certainly serve as a back door of sorts for what we’re going to learn about Black Widow in the next Avengers movie, which will hopefully lead into Black Widow getting a movie of her own. Like Black Widow, Dottie’s profession has left her with some horrible identity issues. She tells Peggy that she used to be jealous of other girls, but that now she can be whoever she wants to be. But that’s a lie. Dottie can only pretend to be other people—and the one person she can’t be is herself. She hates the way she has to talk, dress, and act, which is similar to what Black Widow implies about herself in The Winter Solider.

Through all three of these characters—Peggie, Dottie, Natasha—we can see that women can be just as complicated and compelling as men, and it’s about time we get some more stories about that. I don’t think I will ever recover from how amazing Agent Carter is, and hopefully the rest of the MCU will learn from its example.

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5 thoughts on “Agent Carter: “Valediction” Review

  1. Aaaaaaah, this show was SO good! They’d *better* keep it going!

    I agree that it was awesome that Peggy showed really positive growth and learned to respect herself without the need for others’ validation. However… that scene still didn’t quite sit right with me. It reminds me too much of stories about women who don’t draw attention to their own accomplishments and don’t ask for raises, while their male colleagues do, thus contributing to the wage gap. There’s this double standard that it’s more acceptable for men to brag, while women should remain humbly silent about their accomplishments. I wish we could see more women in our media proudly standing up for themselves and their achievements. But in this case, I’m not quite sure how Peggy both could have done that, and still could have shown character growth. Any ideas?

    • I’m not sure either. At the very least, the impression I got when I saw that scene was that Thompson didn’t want the praise and was just resigned to take it–that he wanted to be like, “actually, it was Peggy”, but just assumed it would be a losing battle, because the rest of the world is still misogynist. But he still could have said something, and he definitely would have had the backing of everyone there. Then it would probably seem less pushy on Peggy’s part. In some ways, though, I’m glad it happened the way it did, because it can potentially leave room for a second season. We know that Peggy’s going to end up in charge eventually. And at the very least, we saw Peggy standing up for herself numerous times throughout the show before that scene. But no matter how I look at it, it might have been problematic no matter how it played out.

  2. Zola and Ivchenko getting together at the end? Zola asking about mind-control? That just screamed WINTER SOLDIER to me. I didn’t need another reason to want season 2 with all my soul, but now I want it so bad I might actually self-combust.

    Also, Peggy and Angie moving in, while not being the kiss we’re all waiting for, was a surprisingly shippy move. It almost gives me hope that something might actually happen between them – when usually queerbaiting remains baiting and nothing ever comes out of it. And season 2 could give us much better racial representation indeed. This season was great, but it was not perfect, and that’s yet another reason to clamor for season 2. God, I hope we get it!!!

    About a line I really want to discuss: Peggy telling Howard “I know you loved him. I loved him, too,” while talking about Steve. That’s… I mean, she’s equivocating her (canonically romantic) feeling for him to Howard’s. She’s putting both their loves side by side and saying they’re the same kind of love.
    Now, I’m wracking my brain, but I can’t remember many scenes Steve and Howard had in common in CA:TFA. I mean, sure, they were friendly with each other, but the movie didn’t put a great emphasis on their relationship. It must be the shipper in me (it probably is) but all I can read now is that the show is adding a new dimension to Howard’s character, by saying he was secretly and madly in love with Steve all along (an adoration amplified by the fact that he was “the only good thing” he ever did) and Peggy being keen enough to see it, but sitting on it because that’s none of her business. (Goes very well with Howard’s womanizing tendencies, classic overcompensating – although I’d headcanon him as genuinely into women; but into men as well – whether he’s bi, pan, or demihomoromantic aka Steve-sexual in this case.)
    So it’d be this whole unspoken thing between them during the whole season, coloring each of their interactions, that Howard was in love in Steve, that Peggy knows it, and that Howard comes to realize she knows. Maybe he was ashamed of it, or in denial, and only really acknowledges it to himself when he blurts at Peggy, “I know what he meant to you because I know what he meant to me,” confirming her suspicions.
    It probably really is the shipping goggles twisting my thoughts, I know. But this seems like a very real subtext since the show insisted a lot on it, explicitly putting Peggy’s love and Howard’s love for Steve side by side not once, but twice. Am I crazy?

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