And so it’s come to this: the second season finale of Agent Carter. What could end up being both a season and series finale didn’t deliver on everything, but as is always the case, it was a fun ride. Let’s jump into the Season Two finale: “Hollywood Ending.”
The episode begins one minute ago with Thompson ordering Samberly to activate the remote so he can detonate the bomb. Jack thinks that Peggy doesn’t have it in her to shoot him, but she still will if he doesn’t lower the detonator. However, before he can push it, there’s an explosion.
They check inside and find the gamma cannon still in good shape and Zero Matter on the floor. Peggy finds Jason, who finds the Zero Matter is now expelled from his body. However, the Zero Matter on the ground worms its way back towards Whitney Frost, who absorbs it back into her body. Now everything is where it belongs.
Bullets won’t stop Whitney, so Peggy orders everyone to fall back. Whitney knows where they’re going and it’s a matter of time before she finds them. Her evil speech is interrupted when Jarvis hits her with Howard’s car. On purpose, probably. Howard’s not too pleased with that. Samberly got turned around, as he shows up late. Ah, well. Time to go.
At SSR West, Jason tells Peggy and Howard about the effects of Zero Matter. The crack in the sky will move to their world if Whitney Frost isn’t stopped. Jason describes Zero Matter as a disease, with he and Whitney as the carriers, that needs a new place to infect. Howard declares Jason free of Zero Matter.
However, Jason doesn’t feel he’ll ever be back to his old self because of his actions. Howard isn’t worried, since Peggy’s life has been threatened before. Just saying.
Whitney goes over designs and tells Manfredi that she’ll need more paper. She’s too busy to eat and wants to open a new door that will remain open. Oh, and don’t touch Whitney when she’s working. Noted.
Manfredi tells Nonna that he’s not as happy to be with Whitney anymore. What started off as sunshine is now garbage. Nonna is a bit more violent. She’d take Whitney’s tongue, but Joseph believes that something has a hold of Whitney. He loves her with all his heart and soul, so Nonna tells him that he must make a deal with the devil.
Jason dines with Peggy and Howard. Stark will need help making a new gamma cannon to separate Whitney from the Zero Matter. Problem is that the Zero Matter is still in the world. Howard wants a new containment chamber built so he can study the Zero Matter in Stark Labs, though Peggy believes that he’ll use Zero Matter to turn a profit for himself.
Jarvis comes out with Manfredi at his side and gun at the ready, but Jarvis is at least allowed to deliver the mustard. No problem here, though, as it turns out that Howard and Joseph are old pals. Joseph believes they all have something in common: they’re worried about Whitney.
Indeed, Manfredi notes that Whitney isn’t herself anymore and hopes that everyone can save her. Zero Matter changes people, but Jason feels that Whitney is a willing accomplice to it. Joseph brings up the formulas that Whitney is writing about opening up a rift, which she could do figure out how to do without an atomic explosion. Peggy wants to beat Whitney to the punch by knocking the Zero Matter out of Whitney and knocking it into the rift.
That involves understanding how the rift works, but Howard sees the answer in front of him: get a smarter person to do research and then steal it, so he elects to steal Whitney’s work. Problem is that she never leaves that room, so Joseph will have to give her a reason.
Later that evening, Whitney is still hard at work when Joseph enters, saying he wouldn’t bother her if it wasn’t important. He needs her to help him get some information from one of his men that isn’t afraid of him, but might fear Whitney. She offers to help, but only after she finishes this last equation. Manfred thanks her and leaves.
So Manfredi brings in the unlucky henchman, Hank, played by Chris Coppola, when Whitney enters. The faux interrogation begins as Joseph questions how long the man has been working for Little Tommy Fontana. Hank denies working for him, so Joseph slugs him for that. This can be done the easy or hard way.
Hank swears on his mother’s soul, even though he hates her. Whitney walks off, but Joseph wants her to scare him a bit. Before Whitney can show her moves, Hank admits that the Feds came to him and made him cooperate. Well, that’s a revelation.
Sousa and Peggy take photos of the formulas for Howard to later decipher. Sousa takes a photo of Peggy as a memento of her trip to California, as he’s glad to have worked with her. Peggy has no response. She just keeps snapping pictures. After Sousa makes one minor change to an equation, he and Peggy leave conveniently as Whitney enters.
Back at SSR, the team goes over Whitney’s work: a machine that cuts a fissure between our world and the Zero Matter dimension. It’s complex, but could work. Issues include bringing more Zero Matter into the world and losing control of the machine which, in turn, would only help Whitney’s agenda.
Peggy hopes the men can overcome their differences to find a solution. They come up with a plan, but can’t risk opening the rift in a public location, so they elect to use the studio lot at Stark Pictures.
Rose is brought in to help as well, as Howard makes sweet on her. Such is the Stark charm. Sousa and Jason work on the regulator, with Sousa asking Jason why he had the gun on Peggy instead of him. The answer? Deductive reasoning, as Jason knew that Daniel would fold. Peggy learns that Ana is doing well and can come home in a day or two. Ana and Edwin had a good cry over what can never be, but Ana remains optimistic.
Thompson enters to help, so Peggy instructs him to get dinner orders. He does just that, but he then looks through the classified file in Vernon Masters’ bag. He also finds the lapel pin that, when you twist it, also becomes a key.
The plan is set to go into action on the Stark lot. Jason goes over safety precautions, saying that moments before the rift closes, anything within a certain radius will levitate and instantly be drawn into it. The no-go zone is 20 feet from the generator. Howard turns on the juice and the rift appears once more.
At the same time, Whitney feels the Zero Matter calling her. Howard actually tries to golf a ball into the rift and misses. Jarvis reminds Howard that they’re standing before an incomprehensible rift in the fabric of their world, so Howard should use the 7-iron. Okay, that was funny.
Thompson asks Peggy if she’ll turn him in for siding with Vernon and basically riding her ass all season. My words, not his. But she won’t. For one, she threatened to shoot him, but Peggy knows that, despite his ego and boundless ambition, Jack is a good man. Jack gives her the lapel pin and shows how it’s also a key. To what? No one knows.
Samberly doesn’t notice Whitney right behind him and no one has eyes on him, but Sousa spots Whitney heading for the rift with wonder and amazement in her eyes. She’s so mesmerized that she apparently doesn’t notice the others a few feet away. Howard and Jarvis fire the gamma cannon and the Zero Matter is expelled from Whitney’s body. The agents place Whitney under arrest as she pleads for the Zero Matter to return to her.
As the gamma cannon recharges, the radio controller stops responding and the rift becomes unstable, leaving one option: the manual override. It’s on the right hand side of the crank, meaning whoever makes the move will be under the danger zone and in risk of being sucked into the rift. Everyone volunteers to be a hero and until Howard sees Sousa doing the job himself.
As he gets closer to the control panel, he’s able to pull the lever and activate the manual override. There’s not enough energy to fire the gamma cannon yet, though. Sousa’s rope loosens as he’s lifted into the air. Everyone holds for dear life onto the rope until Jarvis arrives with Samberly. They can still blow up the rift with the help of Stark’s hover car, so they remove the gamma cannon’s core and send it right into the rift.
The core detonates and the rift vanishes. Sousa is still in the world of the living.
Later, Howard and Peggy talk. Zero Matter, he feels, would be of great use in the right hands. Jason will be working at Howard’s new facility in Malibu. He has a new project that he started in Peru that could be big.
When Howard goes off for a swim, Peggy tells Jason that she’s headed back to New York. He wonders how things would have been, had they met under different circumstances, but Peggy has learned that dwelling on what might have been is no way to live. She’s glad to have known Jason, even though the two never did get their dinner and full dance. Half a dance is better than nothing, though.
Jarvis arrives with Ana in tow to pick up Peggy. Though Carter apologizes, Ana gives her a hug, happy that she’s home and that the man she loves in one piece. Peggy has already rung for a taxi, but Edwin doesn’t like that, so Peggy changes her mind and suddenly, happy Jarvis.
Whitney laments the loss of her Zero Matter. She asks Calvin what she should do, but he assures her that she’ll find it. They both will, together, like they always do.
Of course, it’s just a dream, as Whitney Frost is locked up in a mental institution and speaking to herself. Joseph Manfredi comes to visit, but can’t deliver her flowers because she might use them on herself.
So Jarvis drops off Peggy. He warns her about the weather, but summer is around the bend. Edwin tries to convince Carter to stay, but her whole life is in New York. Plus, she’s already booked her plane ticket. But maybe she has one compelling reason to stay.
We cut to Sousa, who officially closes the book on the Isodyne case before telling Peggy that she messed up due to her ill-advised and reckless actions. By her rules, she should have allowed him to be sucked into the rift. She talks a big game when it’s her life on the line, but when it’s someone else? Peggy is a big hypocrite. For that, Peggy has no comeback.
Just a kiss. Good point.
Meanwhile, in another sting, Jack Thompson learns that Peggy is taking more vacation, so he’ll be returning alone. He receives a knock at the door and is shot by a mystery man who takes Peggy’s classified file.
So here we are at the end of Agent Carter’s second season. While “Hollywood Ending” doesn’t answer everything and leaves a few unresolved threads, I wouldn’t call it unsatisfying. There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode, but it remains to be seen how, if at all, the story will progress from here, given Agent Carter’s ratings.
But we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the tone. While the first season’s feel continued the grounded nature of Captain America: The First Avenger, it still had some elements of magic and mysticism, as seen with Ivchenko’s hypnotism.
This season, by comparison, embraces some of the more interdimensional and fantastical that we’ve seen in Marvel Cinematic Universe films like Thor and soon to see later in 2016 with Doctor Strange. Exploring Zero Matter was a fun way to bring elements of the mysterious into a show that’s mostly grounded in realism.
Season Two gave us a somewhat relatable villain in the sense that she faces some form of opposition from people more powerful than her, but went down the path of becoming a crazed villain.
While I’ve liked Wynn Everett in the role as Whitney Frost, one of my issues with Frost in the finale is that, like Dottie last year, the final confrontation with Peggy was underwhelming. Now granted, Whitney could have killed them all had she not become obsessed with Zero Matter, but that’s part of my problem. The stakes didn’t feel as big as they could have been, given how she was on the verge of bringing more Zero Matter into the world.
And even then, what was her master plan? World domination? Take in as much Zero Matter as her body could take? She already had the Council in her pocket, so she has all the influence she needs and people already fear her powers. But, like Jason pointed out, Whitney gave into Zero Matter’s influence. I doubt she put a lot of thought into her end game or what she would do after she opened the rift.
Plus, for as much buildup we’ve had on Zero Matter and setting up Whitney Frost as the central protagonist, she felt like an afterthought in this finale.
Instead, we switch gears and spend more time with Joseph Manfredi in his desperate attempt to save Frost. His association with Stark came out of nowhere, but it didn’t feel irritating to me. I buy that Joseph would go to Peggy and company for help. Since his introduction, we’ve seen that Manfredi still has feelings for Whitney. She’s consumed with power and seeming less and less like herself.
But Frost was too far gone and Manfredi could only watch as his beloved now spends her days locked in an insane asylum. I’ll admit, it is a bit of a tragic ending for both of them. All Whitney wanted was for people to take her seriously and not deride her based on gender and appearance. She came in possession of great power, but instead of learning to tame it, she allowed it consume her as her quest for power became her very downfall.
So while we again didn’t have any showoff between Whitney and Peggy, the finale still managed to be enjoyable and funny. The second season as a whole has expanded this from being more than just Peggy’s quest to make it in a post-World War II environment. She’s not pining over Steve anymore- though an appearance in the dance sequence would have been nice- and she no longer acts as if she can solve all of the world’s problems on her own.
While Peggy is confident and smart, this season helped expose her flaws and show how much she benefits from the help of people around her. She can still kick ass and take names, but she’s not a scientist or expert on Zero Matter. Like Dooley and the other SSR agents from Season One, Agent Carter took care to define Peggy’s support team to make them feel three-dimensional and not just backup for Carter.
Starting with the ones we know, Thompson’s character arc didn’t take him far except reaffirm what we knew about him by the end of the first season. Despite his behavior, his willingness to challenge Peggy, and allowing Vernon Masters to manipulate his ego, he is still, at the end of the day, a good man. Just when it felt like he could still hold onto something so he could hog the glory, Thompson turned over the lapel pin key.
It shows that he’s still willing to be Peggy’s ally and friend. And Thompson even admits that he’d been crappy to her, so at least he acknowledges his own faults. I’d still blame that on questionable writing, particularly when we don’t learn much new about him. Like last year, he learned to trust Peggy’s instincts and believe her when she had a hunch. It took him awhile to remember that this year, but I’m glad he didn’t turn on his partners.
And then he gets shot. I assume this was part of the show’s effort at a cliffhanger to tease us for a potential third season, but let’s step back for a second. If the file is forged, as Peggy believes, why would Thompson hold onto it? I doubt he’d still try to double-cross Peggy. Now it’s possible that the “M” on the folder means Michael Carter, but what good would that serve our mystery assailant?
If it’s not about Michael and still is a forged document about Peggy, why would this person want it? The shot went towards Thompson’s shoulder blade, so I doubt it was a fatal blow.
It’s just one of the loose threads left hanging at the end of the season, the second one being Dottie’s disappearance. Now that Peggy decided to free her, she’s out and on the run yet again. Where to? Will we ever see her again in some capacity? Who knows?
Again, while an underwhelming showdown plagued this finale, we had some good character moments throughout. Dominic Cooper is always great as Howard Stark and this time was no exception. He’s fun to watch with his one-liners and womanizing, but Stark is still a talented scientist who takes great value in his friends. He might throw Peggy a jab here or there, but he respects her abilities.
Unlike many people of the time, including many members of the Arena Club, Howard looks beneath the surface and admires people for their capabilities, not their appearance. He could have left Jason to his own devices, but that’s not who Howard is.
Now let’s talk about our leading lady. At one point, Peggy told Jason that dwelling on what might have been is no way to live. I feel this is her coming to terms with the fact that Steve Rogers is no longer in her life. You know, until Captain America: The Winter Soldier, anyway, but for right now, she’s moved past him and onto the next chapter. That means coming to terms with her new environment in Los Angeles, new challenges, and new relationships.
Though Agent Carter didn’t handle the love triangle stuff all that well, at least Peggy made a definitive choice by kissing Sousa, even if this relationship came at Violet’s expense. A year ago, I’d say that Peggy Carter isn’t the type of woman who would be interested in a romantic relationship because of how independent she is, but having learned how Sousa feels and how the two left things last season, this feels like a natural progression of her character arc.
It’s not where I personally would have taken Peggy, but from a narrative perspective, this is something the show has been building toward since the pilot, as Sousa was that one man in the SSR who admired Peggy for who she is and didn’t look down on her based on gender. We still don’t know everything that happened to him right after arriving in Los Angeles, but I guess that’s up to interpretation. For now, Peggy and Sousa get that easy fairy-tale ending.
While Ana and Edwin, though dealt a tragic blow, make the most of what they have. I liked when Peggy told Jarvis that he might be the strongest of them all. During their argument, Peggy told Jarvis that he knew nothing of loss, only to learn that he did. It’s unfortunate, because Ana was just caught in the middle of a messy situation.
But she refused to let that get the better of her and still encouraged Peggy and Jarvis to have one final moment together, which was nice. Again, very familiar beats from the last season, but the chemistry between James D’Arcy and Hayley Atwell is still so strong that it’s not a major issue.
Like last year, the fate of Agent Carter and Peggy Carter’s adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe remain unseen. Quality-wise, I think the season is a solid follow-up to Season One, but a bit more routine. But then, the show was in a transition. We didn’t even know we’d get a second season, so a different feel isn’t too out of left field.
But while I might have loved the show, that’s not always the determining factor in whether it remains on the air. And the unfortunate news is that this season of Agent Carter, from the start, has had dreadful ratings. Not even like it started on a high note and got lower. But there was a drop-off in viewership since the premiere and the future does not look bright.
I could be wrong since, hey, we got a second season, but will Peggy Carter and company appear again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward? I’m pessimistic, but we shall see.