This Agent Carter review contains spoilers.
I’m a pretty big fan of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, particularly this year, a season that finally has found differentiated voices for its character as well as a sense of purpose in the rest of the Marvel Universe. That being said, while I’m rather intrigued to see how SHIELD will synch up with The Inhumans and other future Marvel films, I am almost loathe to see Marvel’s inaugural series return. That’s how much I loved Agent Carter.
It’s been one hell of an eight episode ride with the series filling in some gaps between Captain America: The First Avenger and the current crop of Marvel films. In fact, the post-War era in which Agent Carter takes place is an era that has gone relatively unexplored even in the comics. Yeah, we’ve had a few replacement Captain America yarns over the years and a few other pre-Cold war adventures starring Nick Fury, Wolverine, and the like, but mostly, the years between World War II and the start of the Marvel Universe are pretty much virgin territory, which is just one of the reasons this series was so special.
Agent Carter was a way to world build, a way to enrich the back matter of the sagas of not only Captain America and SHIELD but of Iron Man and Black Widow as well. It made the Marvel Universe bigger which is a rather impressive thing to say particularly for a series that, at its heart, is the story of one lonely but capable woman, and that’s who made me fall in love with the world of Marvel’s first event series, one woman named Peggy.
This week saw Peggy’s first TV adventure come to a close. It saw the arc of Peggy’s quest to prove herself to her male coworkers come to a conclusion, and it also saw Peggy come to a point in her life where she no longer cared for acceptance. Like Steve Rogers, she now lives a life where it is the mission that comes first.
So how did it all go down? Well, things looked pretty darn bleak at first with the SSR still mourning the loss of Agent Dooley at the hands of Dottie and Dr. Ivchenko, who were now on the loose. At least the SSR now knew Howard Stark was framed and Howard came forward to offer himself up as bait. That was one of the neat little bits of plot aerobics the series pulled off as Howard’s character journey mirrored that of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film.
Last week we saw a gas created by Howard Stark cause a theatre full of people to go all feral on each other. Now, Stark saw the consequence of his invention, and even though its intended purpose wasn’t to cause people to go all werewolf on each other, Stark still had that same Oppenheimer sting of responsibility that Tony had when he saw terrorists use his Jericho missile system.
Stark knew that he was Ivchenko’s target all along so he offered himself up as bait. Dottie and Ivchenko totally played the SSR and snatched Stark rather easily after a faux assassination attempt. We learned Ivchenko’s secret origin, that Stark’s rage gas was used on his people and he blamed Stark for the results. It was a rather typical villainous origin with the hero being directly responsible for the creation of a nemesis, but it worked, creating one of many villains whose motivation was to kill a man named Stark. Ivchenko hypnotized Stark into trying to fix his one regret: his inability to save Steve Rogers. It showed how deeply Captain America inspired all those he came in contact with.
The hypnotized Stark flew a plane laden with the crazy gas over Manhattan. All seemed lost until Peggy and Jarvis, our modern Steed and Peel, sprung into action with Jarvis flying a plane to shoot down Stark if Peggy couldn’t talk him down. Peggy had her hands full fending off Dottie and a signature Marvel TV fight ensued. This was the only part of the finale that had me a little disappointed as I was expecting a bit more from the first real clash between these two. The May versus May fight from Agents of SHIELD set the standard and this one filled with so much consequence and dramatic potential fell a bit short with Peggy dispatching Dottie rather easily.
Ivchenko wasn’t so easy and Thompson and Sousa had to work to bring him down with Sousa almost falling for the hypnotism trick. Or he would have fallen for it if he didn’t have the foresight to put in earplugs before confronting the evil Russian. Awesome.
So with Dottie and Ivchenko defeated, all that was left was for Peggy to talk Stark down before poor Jarvis had to shoot down his employer’s plane. Peggy used her greatest weapon to break through Ivchenko’s spell, the legacy of Steve Rogers. Captain America was the one thing Peggy and Howard had in common and their fondness for what Cap stood for won the day. Knowing how deeply Howard Stark cared for Rogers will make the coming events and conflict between Cap and Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War much more tragic, won’t it?
With villainy defeated, Peggy was treated to her reward, a standing ovation by her peers in the SSR. Sadly, the political credit went to Agent Thompson who did not publically admit that it was Carter that won the day, keeping the glory and promotion for himself. But Peggy didn’t care, she had won and she had her reward, a vial of Steve Rogers’ blood given to her by Jarvis which would now never be used as a weapon. The legacy of Captain America was safe and in the end, that was all Peggy Carter wanted.
So we bid farewell to Cap’s best girl and the SSR, to Howard Stark and Jarvis, to Dottie (who disappeared and is still out there) and the Red Room, to the Howling Commandos and Leviathan. Agent Carter was an event to remember and let us hope we get to revisit Peggy and her world once again next year as the Marvel Universe heads towards a Civil War. To all the folks behind Agent Carter, we salute your fine efforts to tell a story starring one of the coolest and most dignified women in modern television.
Retro Marvel Moments
Ah, we found out that Ivchenko’s real name was Johann Fennhoff, who went by the name Dr. Faustus in the comics, so I was totally on the ball with that prediction after Ivchenko’s first appearance. Faustus invented the Faustus Device, the machine HYDRA used to turn SHIELD agents in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, including the agent currently wearing a false, burnt out version of Melinda May’s face. In the comics, Faustus is a long time ally of the Red Skull and also an ally to the man who was revealed to be Fenhoff’s cell mate at the end of the finale, Arnim Zola.