Written by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby
Directed by Christopher Misiano
Everything this season has been building to this. We’ve arrived at the finale for season one. Dominic Cooper returns as Howard Stark, who becomes the focus of most of the episode. In a sense, the season already centered around him, but he wasn’t present for most of it. Instead, it was Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and Jarvis (James D’Arcy) who were working covertly to clear his name.
At the end of Snafu, viewers saw Dottie (Bridget Regan) released a gas which was one of Stark’s invention in a movie theater. The SSR agents arrive at the theater and learn there are 47 dead people inside, no survivors. Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) finds the canister and accidentally sprays himself with the remnants, causing a visceral reaction.
Howard Stark arrives at SSR Headquarters. He says the gas was a project that was supposed to keep soldiers awake, but instead it gave them the same symptoms as severe sleep deprivation. This invention was stolen by General McGuiness who dropped it on the Soviets.
Peggy knows now that Ivchenko (Ralph Brown) had a purpose in tricking them into bringing him into the country. His real name is Johann Fennhoff, a psychiatrist specializing in hypnosis. Howard and the SSR hold a public press conference to try to draw Fennhoff and Dottie out. When it looks like someone is trying to shoot Howard, he is taken away from the location by the police, only it’s not really the police. It was a diversion so Fennhoff and Dottie could grab him.
There are 100,000 people in Times Square celebrating VE Day. In retribution for the attack in Russia where General McGuiness dropped the gas on the Soviets, Fennhoff hypnotizes Stark to think he’s going to bring home Steve Rogers in a plane, when he’s actually about to drop the gas on the Times Square celebration. Peggy tries to talk him down, while Jarvis goes up in another plane, ready to shoot him down.
It’s no surprise that Howard survives. After all, he hasn’t fathered Tony yet. We get a good catfight between Peggy and Dottie, and Fennhoff tries to hypnotize Sousa, but Sousa is one step ahead of him.
This season was all about Peggy proving herself in a world surrounded by men who don’t see her. She made that impassioned speech about it in the previous episode, but here she’s saving New York City – and getting no credit for it. And that’s okay, because that’s not what Peggy wants. She could have stepped in and demanded the accolades, but she knew then she would be just like Steve Rogers was once he was being trotted out to sell war bonds and not allowed to do much else. He didn’t go into the experiment to be a hero; he believed in a cause. It’s the same with Peggy; she didn’t become an SSR agent and do all of this to get accolades, she did it because that’s what she wants to do. If she’s a celebrity being trotted out all over, she can’t do that very well. The background of the radio show which represents everything she’s bristling against is a good contrast as everything seems to be building to her finally getting her credit, and then walks away from it because it’s not what she wants.
The relationship between Jarvis and Peggy is one of deep friendship and mutual respect. Actors D’Arcy and Atwell are terrific with this. They share a chemistry that isn’t passionate love – it’s one of mutual respect that really makes them a solid team. That Jarvis does sort-of betray Howard in the gift he gives Peggy at the end of the episode is an excellent way to show how much he’s grown out from Howard’s shadow as well. Their friendship is one of the gems of the series and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next season.
The story is not wrapped up since Dottie is still out there. It’s pretty apparent now that the treatment she received is related to the development of Black Widow and other adversaries from behind the Iron Curtain back in the day. Watching the series in chronological order as opposed to the order the films and shows came out gives a different perspective and ties it together in a very different way. It’s not surprising to come across throw-away lines that I missed that have taken on a different meaning.
I thoroughly enjoy Hayley Atwell in this role. The strong women of the MCU universe continue to shine and Atwell does a great job. She’s believably feminine and tough within seconds of each other. In this time period, if she wasn’t in heels and a skirt it would have caused more of a stir, so she must have both qualities to even get into the office with the men. She holds her own well opposite Dominic Cooper and is the one women Howard seems to respect.
All in all, this series was great to watch again and appreciate. I thoroughly enjoy the character and the story. The director and producers were true to the time period, instead of having Peggy act in a way a woman wouldn’t have in this era.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
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