Well I guess it had to finally happen. The little “filler” show in between seasons of Agents of Shield had to finally end and I’ll be honest I’m somewhat mixed up in my feelings. While I’ll be really happy to have Agents of Shield back & more specifically of course, find out what the heck happened to Raina and Skye, I’m going to be quite sad to see Peggy go as I’ve gotten quite fond of her and the rest of the gang – Jarvis, Sousa in particular and even Thompson (although he’s still a bit of a snake also). The cinematography and costumes that they utilized to bring that world to life … well, lets just say that its extremely lifelike and believable and while I realize they are somewhat restricted to the stories they can tell, I hope that Marvel finds a way to bring back Peggy in her own show again in some way or form.
Valediction picks up right after last weeks excellent episode – Snafu – with the SSR agents investigating the horrific scene from the movie theater. If you don’t remember what happened, let me give you a quick reminder – Dottie placed a baby carriage in the theater loaded with some sort of poisonous mind-control gas that transforms everyone in the theater into raging maniacs. They end up killing each other—all of them. Not a single person is alive when an unsuspecting theater attendant finds them. It’s gruesome and bold and when the credits roll, you’re left with the image of brutalized corpses littering the theater. When Sousa inadvertently takes a wiff of this gas, he immediately tries to kill Thompson and knocks away Peggy with manic strength giving you a real insight into the potency of this gas.
Following the incident at the cinema, Howard Stark arrives at the SSR and we learn that the chemical in question is something called Midnight Oil and it was meant to give US soldiers the ability to stay awake forextended periods of time.
By the way (and this is an aside) … have you noticed that Howard is a bit of a nutjob with his inventions? He definitely does not have Tony’s skills as it seems that his inventions more often than not, not only DO NOT WORK, but they tend to leave the user in something of a less than healthy state! To paraphrase the comic book guy from the Simpsons … “Worst-Inventor-Ever” … really makes you question where he got his incredible wealth from?!
Well it seems that the US Government in their infinite wisdom decided to “help” the Russians in their attack and it was this gas and its effects that actually caused all the horrible deaths and mutilations that we found out about during the course of this series. Johann Fennhoff (Dr. Ivchenko’s real name) was the one of the only survivors of this massacre and he’s made it his life’s work to revenge himself on the inventor of Midnight Oil – Howard Stark (I’m not sure if you recall from my post last week, I did mention that he doesn’t seem all bad when he was helping the wounded soldier, however what he did to Dooley was just mean, but I guess to some extent this does explain his motivations).
In an attempt to trap Ivchenko and Dottie, Thompson and team agree to hold a press conference hoping that it will lure them back to town where they can trap them. During the press conference where they basically exonerate Howard Stark for all wrong doing, shots go off and a shooter is seen in a window across the street. While Peggy and Thompson rush to investigate, Jarvis hustles Stark to a waiting police car, but before he can jump into the passenger side it rushes off leaving Jarvis to stare in horror at the dead bodies of two police officers slumped on the ground nearby.
When Peggy and Thompson break into the room that the shots are coming from they find a gun has been rigged to automatically shoot, but its been rigged to miss! Wondering why Dottie would do this, they come to the horrifying realization that they must want Stark alive for some nefarious and unknown purpose when Jarvis informs them of his kidnapping.
With Jarvis’ help they track them down to an airfield outside the city where Stark had squirreled away some planes and classic automobiles (turns out this is another vault he’d shown Dottie when she was seducing him), but unfortunately they are minutes too late as Ivchenko has managed to hypnotize Stark into flying a plane over New York city loaded with Midnight Oil. As Jarvis takes off in another plane with the intent of shooting Stark down if necessary, Peggy, Thompson and Sousa enter the airfield hanger in an attempt to stop Ivchenko and Dottie.
Peggy tracks them down in the control room and battles Dottie while Ivchenko makes his escape but is stopped by Sousa and Thompson. Peggy’s battle with Dottie while cool, unfortunately doesn’t match the epic May vs. May fight from Agents of Shield and to some extent is a bit of a cop out as Peggy shouldn’t have really won, but regardless, Peggy eventually manages to “de-hypnotize” Howard and gets him to bring his plane back to the airfield.
By the time it’s all over, Senator Walt Cooper personally congratulates Agent Thompson – who was put in charge of the New York SSR branch now that Dooley’s dead – and Thompson accepts the accolades despite the fact Peggy did all the work. Considering his unearned medal from WWII, clearly Thompson is used to accepting praise for things he didn’t do. A now restrained Ivchenko appears in Prison with Dr. Zola (infamous from both Captain America movies off course) while Peggy destroys the last remaining vial of Captain America’s blood as she says a final, tearful goodbye to the man she loves.
Well I think I’ve already mentioned it … I’m not really happy that Peggy is no longer on the screen as while some of the episodes have been weaker than others, the fact that it was in such a compressed period of time meant that they didn’t drag things out, and we weren’t forced to endure filler episodes which I personally abhor!
Most importantly, the opening of the season was stronger than the close. As exciting as the last two episodes were, they lacked the charm of the earlier segments. When Carter was more the sleuth, and she and Jarvis were out trying to unravel the mystery of Howard Stark’s lost inventions, the show was far and away at its strongest point. Even when the SSR thought Peggy was working against them, it felt less like a personal struggle for Carter than what she faced in the earlier episodes. Carter as the odd-woman-out was more interesting than Carter-on-the-lamb.
I liked the little smile/conversation between Carter and Sousa at the end as it very much did imply that perhaps there is a future for both of them and Peggy won’t have to live her life as a war widow, but I personally didn’t think that Carter should have been able to defeat Dottie as I really believed a graduate of the infamous Black Widow program far superior to a regular US Agent – regardless of how talented he/she might be. I was actually hoping/expecting that Sousa or even Thompson would have been required to help subdue Dottie and felt that this was somewhat rushed and in some ways they didn’t really give her the exit that she so richly deserved (I mean that in the best possible way!).
Conversely however, Dr. Zola’s surprise appearance was truly a surprise and a very welcome one. While it obviously hints at the Winter Soldier and mind control it perhaps also implies a more involved future for Peggy and the agents at the SSR in the overall MCU.