WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
Agent Carter Season Two, “Hollywood Ending”
The ratings for Agent Carter have been less than stellar in its second season. The likelihood of a third outing is very much up in the air, with this season being the show’s last a distinct possibility. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the season finale concentrates less on action and more on solidifying the relationships between our heroes, giving satisfying character endnotes over perfectly tied off plot points.
The world is in danger. Zero Matter has consumed everything in the dimension of its origin and is now out to consume Earth. Whitney Frost is its vessel, its means of crossing over in more than just a small amount. Team Peggy takes action to stop Whitney and send Zero Matter back to where it came from for good.
It’s a dramatic, whole-world-on-the-line set up for what is ultimately the least interesting aspect of the episode.
Yes, it’s a high stakes situation, but it’s a lot for one episode to tackle, especially when it has so many other notes it has to hit within the runtime. As a result, “Hollywood Ending” features a lot of vague science speech from Howard Stark, Jason Wilkes and Aloysius Samberly, a quickly covered preparation period and an equally swift run-through of execution, obstacle and resolution of the plan. The final confrontation with Whitney is lackluster at best, with our ostensible Madame Masque walking straight into the trap. She’s taken down easily and the actual drama comes from closing the rift. Whitney started out the season as a layered and interesting antagonist but became increasingly one-note as episodes continued. It’s disappointing to see her end in such an anti-climactic way but she was the least interesting part of the finale (despite Wynn Everett putting in a great performance from start to finish) and the show’s decision to focus on other aspects is a good choice, providing the episode’s strongest material.
While the main plot of the rift is rushed, it does provide plentiful opportunity for the characters to interact in rewarding ways. One scene in particular, when Team Peggy has gathered to build the equipment needed to open the rift, provides several distinct moments. Peggy and Jarvis have a heart to heart. Howard Stark flirts with Rose who isn’t melting into a puddle but is certainly enjoying the attention. Sousa and Wilkes chat, acknowledging their mutual feelings for Peggy. After a comment from Peggy, Jack takes the dinner orders. They are all small moments, but they are precise, well executed small moments, several of which pay off in a big way later in the episode.
As they wait for Whitney to arrive, Jack and Peggy cement their growing mutual respect and burgeoning friendship. Earlier in the episode Jack found Vernon Masters’ Arena Club pin, actually a mysterious key. He has the opportunity to be underhanded and self-serving but chooses not to go that route, instead handing the key to Peggy. It’s a significant acknowledgment on Jack’s part that the two of them are on equal ground. The show had many opportunities this season to take Jack into outright villain territory and that would have been the easy choice. It’s gratifying another direction was chosen, allowing Jack to grow in his own respect this season. He’s still an asshole, to be sure. But he’s a charming asshole and one who finally is giving credit where credit is due and judging Peggy, not by her gender, but by her capability.
After the rift is closed, Peggy, Howard and Jason have breakfast. Peggy is heading back to New York. Howard has offered Wilkes a job in Florida and bemoans the loss of Zero Matter and all its potential. Then he goes to skinny-dip in his pool, leaving Peggy and Jason to talk. They both know that whatever romance or attraction existed between them is now gone. It’s a short scene, but it’s powerful in a simple kind of way: two adults sit at a table and discuss, briefly, in a calm and mature manner, the status of their relationship. Jason has been largely underused this season, mostly being a secondary love interest for Peggy, but it’s a strong endnote for him. He’s a smart man and a good man, he recognizes his opportunity has passed and he respects Peggy’s clear decision.
Peggy walks out the front door of the mansion with her bags just as Jarvis and Ana arrive home from the hospital. Ana admonishes Peggy for even thinking of leaving without saying goodbye. Peggy states she was not sure if Ana would even want to see her, and apologizes. Without a word, Ana embraces her. The scene bookends their relationship within the context of the season. They met in the premiere and developed a quick friendship. Since then, Ana has been little used (unfortunate, since Lotte Verbeek is wonderful) but this small moment in the finale cements the relationship between the two women, giving them a small, but satisfying arc.
And then there’s Jarvis. He drives Peggy to the SSR headquarters (she has paperwork to fill out before she heads to the airport). He points out to her that the west coast seems to have agreed with her. She brushes it off. Her life is in New York. There are too many reasons to go back. Jarvis points out that, just perhaps, there is one significant reason she should stay. Like all of these conversations, it’s a short one, but it says a lot. At the end of the day, no one quite knows Peggy Carter as well as Edwin Jarvis, not even Peggy herself. They are the show’s strongest relationship and the chemistry of Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy makes it even stronger. Occasionally the second season drifted from their dynamic but it found its way back by the end and, should this be Agent Carter’s final season, it’s a strong note to end these two on, reinforcing their bond with a deep-seated understanding of one another.
And then there’s that possible one significant reason to stay.
It’s Daniel Sousa of course.
In simple terms: the girl gets her guy. It starts as they finish the case paperwork. Sousa calls Peggy out on her hypocrisy. When he was in danger of being sucked into the rift she put everything on the line to save him, despite the fact she admonished him for doing the exact same thing when Jason held a gun to her head. “Nothing to say?” he says. “No quick comeback?” And then she kisses him. And it’s a full body, shoving him back down into his chair kind of kiss as Margaret Whiting’s “Oh, But I Do” begins to play in the background. It’s a great moment, and one the show has been building to since season one where the unspoken mutual respect and attraction between the two was first made clear. And Hayley Atwell and Enver Gjokaj nail it right on the head. The chemistry between these two actors is phenomenal and they play off each other beautifully in this scene. Once again, if this is all we get it’s a satisfying enough endnote for their relationship in the context of the show.
But, as with everything else, I want more.
The second season of Agent Carter is not without its problems, but it remains a boldly colored, fast paced, entertaining, humorous show with a fantastic female lead. It occupies a space not filled by any other Marvel property. I mean, where else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe can you throw in an Old Hollywood song and dance dream sequence that makes perfect sense both in terms of plot and tone? The finale does a great job of tying off enough bows to make it a satisfying ending if the show is not renewed. But plenty is left unanswered and the final scene in particular is a clear path into the next season.
Let’s hope we get it.
And that’s all, folks! Thus ends my weekly reviews of Agent Carter Season Two! But before I properly sign off on this wonderful season of television, some final thoughts…
Hover car! The inclusion of the hover car is ridiculous and silly and I love that it plays such a key role in the victory of Team Peggy. It’s a perfect old-fashioned comic book note for the episode to have. Also, I like to think this has to the precursor to Lola in Agents of SHIELD.
The look of absolute indignation on Jarvis’ face when he realizes Peggy has called a taxi over having him drive her to the SSR headquarters is simply wonderful. The subsequent leap down the stairs and joyful “Splendid!” when she changes her mind is, however, priceless.
I’m pretty sure I’ve made it abundantly clear throughout my reviews that I cannot stand love triangles. However, I will give credit to the writers this season for crafting a love triangle situation that, while it bugged me, did not make me want to throw something through a window. The fact that it never took center stage along with the utter non-drama of its conclusion with Peggy and Jason being adults about the whole thing and Jason clearly recognizing the connection between Peggy and Sousa, helped save it.
Further to the above: I would still have much rather had Peggy and Sousa as a badass secret agent couple throughout the season. It’s a big reason why I desperately want a third season.
Even further the above: PLEASE.
Calling back once more to the song and dance number of “A Little Song and Dance”: if (please no) this is the last season, I am perfectly okay with the last time we see Dottie Underwood being her smiling and telling Peggy she would always be in her head.
Howard: “Jarvis, you just hit a woman with my car!” Jarvis: “I know, sir.” Howard: “She’s a two time Oscar nominee.” Jarvis: “Ms. Frost is quite resilient. She fine. Trust me.”
Jarvis: “I believe I can actually hear the sound of their egos growing.” Peggy: “Mmmhmmm.”
“I’ve learned that dwelling on what might have been…it’s no way to live.”