Less than 5 – Skip it, 6 – OK, 7 – Good, 8 – Great, 9 – Phenomenal, 10 – You owe it to yourself to watch this episode!
The finale to Agent Carter’s inaugural season is finally upon us and it doesn’t disappoint. Howard Stark makes his triumphant return, Peggy proves her worth once and for all and a not-so-friendly face stops by to hint at things to come. Valediction covers almost all of its bases providing a very satisfying ending to a great first season.
Last episode saw Dr. Ivchenko (who is actually named Dr. Fenhoff, or Faustus for the comic fans… I don’t know how that got by me last week) and Dottie release some crazy gas in a theatre that forced everyone to kill each other. Valediction picks up directly after the massacre. Upon Howard Starks return we get a nice explanation of what the gas, or “Midnight Oil” truly was and how it tied in to the Battle of Finnow. It was a relief to learn that Stark hadn’t designed the gas to render everyone insane, but that governments had gotten their hands on a defective version and used it as a weapon.
We all knew that Stark was never the real culprit but the fact that he still felt some responsibility for everything was a nice sentiment. Even if he didn’t mean for his inventions to cause such destruction, he did create them and they are his to deal with. Having only appeared in three episodes, Dominic Cooper does a stand up job of endearing this ego-centric genius to us and provides some stellar character work along the way. His interactions with Peggy, especially nearing the end, are some of the best moments of the season and do a fantastic job of mirroring the events at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.
Before we get to how the series ends, Peggy must fight her way through Dottie and Faustus to save Times Square from becoming a battle royale. Agent Carter, along with Sousa and Thompson, opt to use Howard as bait to lure Faustus and Dottie back in to New York. Their plan backfires and Stark is taken captive and then brainwashed in to committing the heinous act of murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents.
The buildup to the fight between Peggy and Dottie was impeccable and the resulting throw-down was pretty much everything we could have asked for. Being a Black Widow, Dottie had Carter outclassed from the get go. But through her will and tenacity, Peggy turns the tides and round-house kicks Dottie through a window. The fight was fast paced and brutal, the only thing that could have made it better would be if it were longer. We see Dottie bleeding out on the wings of a parked plane only to have her body completely vanish when Peggy comes to pick up the body. It’s a classic case of “I’ll be back”, had Dottie not been such a badass I would have balked at the cheesy way they set up her return. But since she is the original Scarlett Johansson, I’ll let it slide.
Sousa and Thompson’s fight with Faustus wasn’t nearly as action packed but was still satisfying. Getting to see Sousa let loose on someone after so long was great and hilarious. The only real negative to come out of the Leviathan plot was that it seemed incomplete. Aside from the voiceless thugs from the early episodes, Leviathan is still faceless. Someone is obviously running the Black Widow Program. It would have been nice to get more background on the shady organisation but I’m assuming they are saving it for a second season.
Once Dottie and Faustus were dealt with, Peggy is tasked with talking down a brainwashed Stark. The scene is taken straight from the end of the first Cap film, making it all the more emotional for Peggy. Speaking to the love of her life as he flew to his death must have been heartbreaking, now having to live through that again with one of the only people capable of understanding those emotions must be even harder. It was a phenomenal scene played to perfection by Hayley Atwell. She conveys every bit of pain through her eyes, it hurts just watching. Having Jarvis chase him down and willing to kill him was also a great touch. It added emotional stakes on all fronts and had me truly hoping that everything would come out OK.
Peggy’s love for Steve was brought up on a number of occasions and it was really interesting how her ties to Captain America really brought the story together. Agent Carter’s first season was a story of Peggy moving on with her life in the absence of Steve. Seeing her physically remove the last link she had to him was a powerful moment and a great way to end her personal arc of the season. Her feelings toward Cap were never overplayed making it the perfect way to tie things together.
After all is said and done, Peggy gets a standing ovation from the entirety of the SSR. She is finally acknowledged by everyone for her efforts and it is a profound moment for Peggy as well. Just when you think everything will end with a happy ending, Thompson gets congratulated and promoted for the events that just transpired. His refusal to clue the senator in on the actual happenings was a telling moment for him and further emphasized the fact that, even though people know how competent she is, the world is still unfair. How this plays into future story lines will be interesting if we get a second season.
And lastly, Arnim Zola! Just before the final credits roll, Faustus is brought into a cell with his mouth clamped in some overly complex lock. He sits on his crappy prison bed, resigning to his fate, when out of the shadows comes a familiar voice. Having Zola appear at the end to cap the season was a great way to set things up for a potential future and add some context to the history we already have of SHIELD. Employing the help of someone who can control minds would be useful when trying to seize control of an intelligence agency from the inside. It offered some great connective tissue to the present MCU and left fans wanting more Agent Carter more than ever.
Valediction was a fantastic way to end the season. Intense action, a plethora of Marvel nods and satisfying ends to a majority of the seasons mysteries. With the exception of Dottie’s current whereabouts and the true identity of Leviathan, everything was wrapped up nicely. If this is our only look at the time between the first Captain America and the present timeline, there are no real complaints to be had.
That being said, renew Agent Carter now please!
Overall I give this episode 9/10.