Summary of 1×08: With New York in danger, Howard Stark returns to help the SSR catch Ivchenko and Dottie once and for all. Peggy gets closure. Everything hurts and I’m dying.
Oh just bury me in the ground. Everything is awful. I don’t know if I can recover from this.
Picking up where the last episode left off, Peggy, Sousa and Thompson ride up on the movie theater to investigate the attack. Peggy determines that they attacked each other, but why? No one knows. Of course, with good timing, Sousa discovers the canister and accidentally sprays himself in the face with it. He tries to kill Thompson and attacks Peggy, but he’s quickly knocked out by an NYPD officer. When Sousa comes to, he immediately apologizes to Peggy, but that’s not her concern. She’s more concerned with catching Ivchenko and Dottie, who are currently kidnapping a police officer.
The SSR remains stumped about what to do next when they get the surprise of their lives: Howard Stark walks right into the office. Naturally, they’re all ready to arrest him, but he assures them that he came back to help. He informs them about the canister, which was an invention called Midnight Oil. It was meant to keep soldiers awake for days at a time, but the side effects were deadly, causing asphyxiation and psychosis, among others. Howard discouraged its use, but General McGinnis still used it at The Battle of Finnow, where the two silent men from earlier in the season were “killed” and where “Ivchenko,” under his real name of Dr. Fennoff, had served. Wanting to do right, Howard agrees to be the bait in an SSR trap to catch Fennoff and keeping him from killing more people.
As Howard fusses over his inventions, Peggy tells him that he doesn’t have to do this, but Howard is insistent. In fact, the last time he and Peggy spoke still sticks out in his head. She tries to tell him that she was angry and oh my god, don’t be an idiot, but Howard still plans to go forward with it because he cares what Peggy thinks of him. Don’t mind me, this was the first part of the episode that made me cry. It’s also one of many parts that made me realize just how much Howard and Tony are alike in more ways than one.
But then he steals Steve’s blood. Oh Howard.
At the press conference, Howard goads Thompson into bragging about how great he is before Howard begins talking. Once he does, however, is when the gunshots start. Peggy and Thompson find the hotel room the shots are coming from and Jarvis runs to get Howard to safety. They realize rather quickly that it’s all a diversion when Peggy finds a gun meant to repeat shots automatically in the hotel room and the police officer from earlier absconds with Howard. What makes it worse is when you realize what day it is and where Fennoff plans to attack: it’s V-E Day, and there’s a celebration in Times Square. Of course, no one wants to cancel THAT. As they try to figure out where Howard has been taken, Jarvis reveals that Howard does have one more vault with planes in it because of course he does. That also happens to be where he took Dottie, whose name he can’t remember for the life of him.
At the vault, Fennoff guilts Howard about Finnow, which killed his brother and the rest of his squadron that didn’t have gas masks. Howard apologizes profusely for it and tells him just to kill him instead of all the innocent people. Fennoff doesn’t want that though. He wants Howard to suffer. Using his hypnosis skills, he tells Howard that he isn’t a good person and takes him back to the moment he feels the most shame and asks him what he could do to make it right. This, of course, turns out to be the fact he was never able to bring Steve home. In his delusions, he’s told that Steve’s signal has been found and Peggy asks him to bring him home. He flies off, just as the SSR arrives.
Running out of options, the group realizes that they need someone who can fly to catch Howard and potentially take him out. The only person who can do that is Jarvis, who has never shot a man down before, let alone a friend. Thompson assures him that he won’t have to start tonight if he gets to Howard in time.
Peggy finds the control room Fennoff and Dottie are in and holds them up by shotgun. A rather intense fight breaks out between Dottie and Peggy, where Dottie screams that she always wanted to be a girl like Peggy and since she can be whoever she wants now, maybe she’ll be an SSR agent next. Peggy knocks her out a window and onto one of Howard’s planes, where she presumably dies.
Fennoff escapes the room and knocks Thompson out with a baseball bat. Sousa holds him at gunpoint, but Fennoff tries to pull his hypnotic juju on him, saying that Peggy pities him and that he can make people respect him if he focuses on his pain and shoots Thompson. When it seems like that’s about to happen though, Sousa punches Fennoff and pulls the stuffing out of his ears. That boy is so clever and adorable. If Peggy doesn’t marry him, I will.
In the control room, Peggy gets a hold of Howard and tries to talk him down. If you’re getting violent sobbing flashbacks to The First Avenger, don’t worry. I was right there with you. Howard honestly does think that he is getting Steve’s signal and that he can bring him home. Peggy tells him it isn’t real and that she can’t lose the one person who believes in her. As Jarvis gets on his tail, Peggy tells him to stand down and Howard admits that he’s done a lot of terrible things, but Steve Rogers and Project Rebirth was the one thing of good he’s brought into the world. If that brought you a violent sobbing flashback to Iron Man 2 when he basically said the same thing about Tony, don’t worry. I was right there with you. Through her tears, Peggy tells Howard that even though it may seem impossible, they need to let Steve go. Right as you think you’re at your crying climax, Howard snaps out of it, asking if Steve was good even before Project Rebirth. Peggy agrees and Howard asks Peggy to give him the details of why he’s flying a plane later. Jarvis flies him back home and with an awkward hug, it seems as if the day is won…
…Except that Dottie (or as Howard knew her, “Ida”) has escaped to who knows where. Still, they can’t focus on that now. Howard tells Peggy he owes her one, but she claims she’s stopped counting.
The next day, Peggy arrives at the SSR to applause from her fellow agents, congratulating her on her work and asking her if she’s going to stay at the SSR. She admits that she’s thinking about it. Shortly after that though, a senator comes in and says he’s looking for Thompson, congratulating him on saving the city. Instead of giving Sousa and Peggy credit, he soaks it all in, proving to still be the dick we all know him to be. Sousa gets huffy, but Peggy tells him that she doesn’t need a medal of honor or commendation from the President. She knows her worth. Sousa asks her out for a drink, but she declines since she’s meeting a friend. The smile on her face though says that she’s not disinclined to the idea. Yessss.
It turns out that the friend she was meeting is Angie and Jarvis and what’s going on is that Howard is offering to let Angie and Peggy stay at one of his places for free as long as they would like. Yes, the girls are moving in together. FINALLY. As Angie runs off to call her mom, Peggy asks Jarvis if he’s ready to catch up on what he missed. He says that he’s redoing the kitchen spices, but he does inform Peggy that he will be ready to assist her if she ever needs it again. She asks where Howard is currently and he informs her that he’s with the SSR to get his inventions back to destroy them.
Well… all but one.
Jarvis then produces the vial of Steve’s blood from his pocket and hands it to Peggy, claiming that he couldn’t think of a better person who would know what to do with. Because Howard Stark may be his employer, but he does not own the integrity of Edwin Jarvis. MY HEAAART.
In the final scene of the episode proper, we see Peggy at the Brooklyn Bridge as we hear Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ plays in the background. With tears in her eyes, Peggy pours Steve’s blood into the East River and whispers, “Bye, My Darling.” Oh god, Peggy Carter brought Steve Rogers home. I’m going to die crying now because nothing is ever going to be good again. Everything hurts.
Of course, if you thought that was awful, that’s when the stinger comes. Fennoff is put into jail with his jaw clamped shut, but his new cellmate exposits about how this is a new opportunity for them to collaborate. This new cellmate? Dr. Armin Zola.
If you heard a distant scream of several expletives, that was probably me.
I would say that this is a great season finale that brings a satisfying end to the story and the series if this does happen to be the end. Which is true, but this episode also proved WHY Agent Carter needs a second season. There is so much richness in the MCU’s history to be explored and we’ve only gotten the tip of the iceberg. Who’s Peggy’s husband? How does Leviathan feed into the Red Room? What happened to Dottie? What do Fennoff and Zola do together? THERE’S SO MUCH HERE AND IF THIS SERIES DOESN’T GET RENEWED, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO WITH MYSELF.