Agent Carter 1×08 “Valediction” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

As always and unsurprisingly at this point, I’m left speechless over the beauty and grace of this series.

Episode Summary: After hearing about all the chaos that has erupted because of his doings, Howard Stark returns to come clean about everything. SSR agents accompanied by Howard and Jarvis attempt to put an end to Ivchenko’s and Dottie’s schemes.

Review | Analysis: I could not have been more pleased with the end of the first season.It did a great job of wrapping everything up in an elegantly scrambled bow andthat’s exactly what was necessary. When (hopefully) the series resumes for its second season, I’m looking forward to exploring both new and old elements because if there’s one thing we know about the Marvel universe, it’s that things aren’t always what they seem. Topped with wonderful performances by each cast member and exceptional cinematography – the episode receives a solid A+ from us.

Additionally, because there won’t be any performance reviews this week due to the amount of excellent television I’ve watched, this will be a bit longer than usual so I ask that you bear with me.

Before we begin discussing the actual episode, I feel it’s obligatory to mention that Peggy Carter is an indisputable icon. Television today has been doing a great job with well written female characters and each of them in their own inimitable ways deserve a spot on our screens. However, there’s something indescribably different about Peggy Carter – she’s a woman who’s learning to master the art of self-confidence while maintaining her endlessly compassionate nature. She is a woman who can fight 100x better than the men she’s surrounded by, and yet she isn’t afraid to let herself feel vulnerable. Peggy Carter is the paradigm of an effortlessly strong and brilliantly complex character and she deserves the chance to remain on air for as long as it takes to tell her entire story. A beautiful and endearing story that I know for certain will inspire every female (and hopefully male) no matter the age. Plus, Hayley Atwell is a legitimately a gift to the world of television – an absolute marvel whose work is always captivating. Do everything in your power to let ABC know you’d like the show renewed. Tweet them, use the #AgentCarter hashtag. Watch the episodes legally. Email, snail mail, pigeon mail, etc.

And now back to our regularly scheduled episode review: “Valediction”highlights the importance of courage and it’s necessity in order to achieve redemption, let go, and move forward.

“Valediction” opens up with the team receiving insight on the brutal murders that took place at the local theatre. The agents come to the conclusion that the people inside the theatre have killed each other, but it’s not until Agent Sousa’s a victim of “Moonlight Oil” where they learn what actually caused the rage. There was a lot to love about this scene other than Thompson getting beat up, and the primary reason is that it’s genuinely nice to see a man feel remorse for unintentionally harming Peggy. A conversation with a friend a while back forced us to ponder on an idea – it’s always the people who don’t need to apologize that do it anyway. They do it because their hearts cannot stand the notion that they may have hurt someone. And in a world where Peggy Carter is unappreciated, it’s lovely that there’s someone other than Jarvis, Howard, and Angie who sincerely cares about her well being. Plus, a man should never raise his hand at a woman and I’m glad that when he was more himself, Daniel apologized for doing so while in his ‘poisoned’ state. Henceforth, fully redeeming himself from all the judgmental, anger driven accusations from last week.

However, as far as redemption goes, this episode did the best job of exposing Howard’s heart. Back at the SSR office the team’s discussing “Midnight Oil” when Edwin Jarvis appears accompanied by Howard Stark ready to make matters right. Atwell, D’Arcy, and Cooper make such exquisite scene partners – there’s never a dull moment with the three and in “Valediction” especially, speechlessness was a common state of mind for me. One of the reasons Howard Stark is so well written is because he’s fully aware of how immensely flawed he is. Stark doesn’t put on a ‘great man’ façade. He knows he’s reckless, careless, and selfish, but behind all that, when it comes to the people he cares for, his heart’s always in the right place even if his mind’s not following. From the moment their confrontation in “The Blitzrieg Button” began to where it ended, it was always evident that Howard was aware of how badly he’d screwed up. As stated in my review then, Cooper did a great job of manifesting Howard’s simultaneous grief and frustration – balancing the character’s moments of defensive anger and heartfelt sorrow perfectly. And I was thoroughly pleased with the way his apology was handled this time. “I’ve had to go through my life not caring what people think of me, but I do care what you think.” It openly warms my heart that someone as cavalier as Howard Stark sincerely cares about Peggy Carter’s opinion of him. It validates her irreplaceable presence as a woman and an agent because if you’re wise enough, you realize she’s a gift in your life. Here’s the thing with Howard Stark, one minute I’m so proud of him I want to give him cookies, and the next I want to slap him – literally this happens about 93282 times an episode. It’s often when I remember the way he treats Tony in the future that frustrates me beyond words. Howard’s someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue how to find a common ground between his head and his heart. Seeing this side of Howard along with the glimpses we get of how selfish he could be, it’s intriguing to see where this character goes once he meets Maria and the two later have Tony. It’s no surprise (spoiler alert for some) that he spirals and eventually loses himself, but there’s no denying that Howard Stark’s greatest creation is Tony Stark. I feel as though he’s well aware that his son’s legacy will always be greater than his. On a lighter note: the press conference was one heck of an entertaining scene, for it was hilarious to watch Thompson praise Howard even though he clearly didn’t want to. It was also hilarious to watch Howard desperately try to bribe the hypnotized driver into freeing him. For the most part, the man’s an idiotic Casanova and while he won’t be abandoning his ways anytime soon, viewers were able to see that the death/disappearance of Steve Rogers undoubtedly had an awful effect on him. “Midnight Oil” was an invention gone wrong, much like a bountiful of his inventions, but he makes it clear that at this moment in his life, Project Rebirth is the only thing he’s done which has brought good into the world. And while he’s under Dr. Ivchenko’s hypnosis, it doesn’t change the fact that he knows at some point in his life, assisting in Project Rebirth is the wisest choice he had made in his career. Befriending and caring about someone as great as Steve Rogers were times that meant a great deal to him. When it comes to his friendship with Steve Rogers, he too loved the kid from Brooklyn. And in order to fully redeem himself from the disruption he’s caused, as Dr. Crazy admits he must give in to the guilt that haunts him. His entire arc this season was about choices – making ones that’ll truly benefit everyone. His choice to return and do everything he in his power to show Peggy how sorry he genuinely is are what helped his character grow this season.

There’s a lot that went into this scene which I presume I wasn’t the only one it left with an aching heart, but the performances and obvious parallel to Captain America: The First Avenger were enough to bring on the waterworks. There’s probably nothing in the world more difficult than having to let go of someone. Whoever they may be, as long as they hold a piece of the heart, there’s a part of it that’ll perpetually beat the same way. It’s been a year, but who could ever forget the love of their life that quickly? Who could ever forget a man like Steve Rogers? However, there comes a time in everyone’s lives, where they must pack up the courage to let go because they deserve to. And someone like Steve Rogers would never want Peggy to be unhappy – he’d want her to live, fight, love, and rise. He’d want her to do exactly as she pleases because when you love someone, their happiness is always more significant than your own. It appears as though both Peggy and Howard continuously wonder what if – regrets and desires to save Steve Rogers have a way of engulfing them both and this very scene was their moment to change the future. Hayley Atwell’s sentient choices as an actress genuinely do a sublime job of showcasing every nuance of Peggy’s feelings. In the same way Peggy lost the one man who believed in her more than anything, she was about to lose a good friend as well. And the desperation in her voice to hold onto Howard was heartrending. Peggy and Howard couldn’t be more different, but there’s an understanding between them no two people can achieve. Whatever the future holds is uncertain, but for the time being, everyone’s safe and the important thing is that it’s been established that for Steve Rogers’ sake, for the goodness of who he was before becoming Captain America, the two of them should let go in order to fully live their lives.

Additionally, Atwell’s delivery of the entire scene – the tearful pauses and shattering voice did a remarkable job of conveying how haunting the moment really is. It’s frightening that it seems history’s repeating itself, but it’s even more frightening that like last week, it’s as though we’re transported back in time. A time where she tried to do everything in her power to save Steve Rogers though miles away from him. It took a great amount of courage for Steve to make his choice, but that’s exactly who he is a person – a genuinely good man who wanted to save people. And in this scene, as Peggy’s reliving a nightmare, it took a prodigious amount of courage for her to pull through the moment, to come to the conclusion that no matter how impossible it may feel, letting go of Steve Rogers needs to be done.

Lastly on the redemption front, Jack Thompson clearly didn’t get the memo of the finale’s theme. As much as he was aggravating beyond words and watching get him knocked down was a thrill, I was beginning to tolerate him just a little bit more. The fact that he’d grown to see the kind of agent Peggy Carter is had left me believing that perhaps he could at some point alter his thoughts on women. However, in an episode that exemplified the importance of choices, his was the most displeasing. As government officials barged into SSR with the misconception that he’s responsible for saving the entire town, without hesitation, he takes their praise and uses it to his future advantage. That’s the thing with Jack Thompson, it seems that no matter how much he appears to have changed, the one thing he values more than anything is his own personal status. In some ways, he and Howard Stark are very much alike, but the vast difference between the two men is that although Stark clearly doesn’t understand women, he knows Peggy Carter’s value as both a lady and an agent. He knows who to trust and he understands that in order to climb the ladder of success, man cannot stand alone – he shouldn’t step on his friends to do so.

And now the beginning of letting go, but not exactly the heartbreaking part.

Peggy Carter’s arc this season was heavily focused on her invisibility, the frustrating lack of respect from her colleagues that continuously left her wanting to prove them wrong. And it was right of her. A woman and an agent like Peggy Carter deserves an outpouring of ceaseless respect and while she’s effortlessly proven that she’s worthy of it, it’s no longer something that bothers her. Before we get into the moment she lets go of Steve, we need to discuss the superlative message the show’s revolutionizing as Peggy states: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” The quote represents the faultless valuable message that for each and every individual, there’s nothing more profound than our own perceptions of who we are. Just as she did last week, Peggy reminded viewers that no matter how many people form their own visions of who we are, nothing can taint our own views if we are confident with the truth. For young women everywhere who suffer with the agonizing and belittling fact that the world is continuously judging their actions, Peggy Carter is an icon whose actions should be analyzed and thoroughly understood in order to find self-love. Feminism is necessary because the world still has a difficult time understanding that equality is something we desperately need in order to create a safer, healthier environment for the younger generations. Instead of being taught that there’s a norm which everyone should strive to achieve, younger generations need the encouragement to recognize that the choices they make in order to live a happy life are all that matter. Agent Carter teaches its viewers that regardless of how superior someone’s place in society is, the only opinion that matters is one’s own – there is no right or wrong path everyone must robotically follow, for self respect is the key to success. At the end of the day, each and every human being needs to be taught how to properly love themselves and how vital it is that they follow their dreams.

That said, Peggy Carter’s character has evolved marvelously, and her choices in “Valediction” did a prestigious job of exhibiting just how much she’s grown into being okay with who she really is. Showcasing that at the end of the day, there’s nothing more treasurable than the knowledge of self-worth.

We’ve reached the part in the review I’ve avoided long enough – the theme of letting go. Side note: if you are familiar with any of my other reviews, then you know I’m unapologetically passionate about breathtakingly symbolic representations for life changing moments. And parallels, I love me some profound parallels. That said, Peggy Carter may have made her peace, but I still haven’t so I shall attempt to form coherent sentences without reducing into a puddle of tears.

Surely everyone’s caught the importance of the Brooklyn Bridge – the symbolic art of Peggy Carter bringing Steve Rogers home. When it comes to describing the insignias of rivers, in this scene especially, treasuring is the only word that comes close – there are endless promises hidden beyond the depths of crystal water. With “The Way You Look Tonight” playing in the background and Peggy whispering “Bye, my darling” fans of the duo can experience a sense of serenity with her. Letting go of someone who was deeply beloved is without a doubt the most difficult task anyone can partially complete – and yes, only partially because it’s the one thing that cannot be done entirely. Somewhere in time and perhaps in the depths of the East River, some elemental parts of their being could move on together. The symbolic meaning of rivers is one of the more ambiguous ones in the world of literature, but this scene represents the reflective intimacy in a quiet moment of closure where stillness equates to eternity – where Steve Rogers’ prominence is treasured most delicately and honorably.

The beauty in this scene lies in the everlasting presence of true love – the detail, in which Peggy Carter chooses to set Steve Rogers free in a place that’s truly immaculate. A place where science, money, malevolent eyes, and impure hands cannot get ahold of what’s left of him. To the world, he may have been a soldier, the legendary Captain America, but to Peggy Carter, he was just Steve Rogers – the kid from Brooklyn who’d captivated her heart through interminable kindness and pure adoration. To quote INXS’ breathtaking lyrics –“he’s on God’s top ten where heaven never ends.” 

Once again, it’s essential to commend Hayley Atwell because while I was moved to tears during her conversation with Howard, she broke me in this final scene. The poignancy Atwell exhibits in this entire moment is unlike anything I’ve seen before – brilliantly evocative and profoundly moving leaving me and undoubtedly every other viewer awestruck.

And finally, we’ve reached the end – the theme of moving forward. When the series resumes for its second then hopefully ninth season (dream big, kids), I want to see more of the friendship between Jarvis and Peggy. They’re the heart of this little show and the greatest politely sarcastic British partners in crime inhistory. Not to mention D’Arcy and Atwell are the perfect partners, and every scene they share, whether hilarious or emotional is sprinkled with a heck of a lot of class. Jarvis making the honorable choice by giving Peggy the blood was the perfect end to their journey this season. He started out with very little knowledge of who she was, but along the way learned to understand her outside of what he’d been told, discovered what a beautiful hearted wise being she is and made the amazing choice only a true friend would. All I know is they’ve instantly climbed the chart on my list of friendships and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for them. Peggy and Jarvis have clicked wonderfully and it’s evident that the two of them really enjoy each other’s company. It’s no longer a partnership, but a real, heartfelt friendship that’s undoubtedly going to last a lifetime.

Similarly with Angie, I’m so proud of Peggy for opening her heart to a friend who definitely looks as though she’s sticking around for the long haul. The best thing about their friendship so far is that Angie’s believed in Peggy without hesitation. She stood up for her, covered for her, and showcased genuine compassion. Having them step away from the Griffith and becoming roommates was a fantastic touch. Like Peggy and Jarvis, I hope that as the series progresses we get to see the two of them form of a strong, inseparable friendship because there can never be enough lady friendships in the world. Their excitement over living together was a fun element in an otherwise heavy episode, and another great thing, even though I’m incredibly fond of Daniel Sousa, I’m thrilled that Peggy chose to meet with Angie. I’m thrilled she’s doing all that she can to thank her because at the end of the day, in order to build a solid friendship, gratitude must always be shown.

And finally on the topic of moving forward – there’s a lot to love about Daniel Sousa packing up the courage to ask Peggy out for a drink. Before we say anything else, I need to mention that I’m thrilled he’s the one who knocked Ivchenko out. He’s always stood out as the man who wasn’t afraid to fight. And it’s great that he continues to want the best for Peggy – it’s admirable how after everything that’s occurred, he wants the men at SSR to respect her. I love that he focuses on remaining good and getting his job done without worrying about trivial matters as the others do. Peggy Carter needs someone who’d take chances on her, fight for her, and cherish her. All that can be said is that it in episode where choices played a profound role in shaping the future, his courageous choice to step up and let Peggy know he values her was noteworthy. And what stood out just as boldly as his sincere gestures throughout the entire season was the hopeful smile Peggy wore once he turned around. Moving forward means being open to welcoming people in her life, and if that smile said one thing, it’s that in the near future, she’s most certainly open to drinks.

Also, as we all know, Peggy will probably stick around at SSR for a little bit longer until co-creating S.H.I.E.L.D. later.

With Dottie Underwood escaping after a fantastic showdown between her and Peggy, it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing her again. Not entirely sure who’s wise decision it was to put Dr. Ivchenko in the same cell as Dr. Zola because hello Winter Soldier planning. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot.

That’s all I’ve got for now, the series blew me away in ways I had never expected it to – and I sincerely hope I’ve done such an exquisite episode justice. If there’s anything you’d like us to discuss that we haven’t, let us know and we shall get to it. There’s only so much you can say without reaching a 20-page review of incoherent blabber because you’ve been emotionally compromised.

@GissaneSophia

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