“It’s like some kind of monster got in.”
The episode opens with the Captain America Adventure Programme , in an episode where Captain America’s plane is going down. It’s of course reminiscent of the final scenes between Peggy and Cap in Captain America: The First Avenger, which the series opened with.
At the cinema Thompson, Sousa and Peggy turn up to be told there are 47 people dead, all with violent injuries. The bodies are pretty gruesome, covered in teeth marks and nail gouges. Sousa heads into the room where the massacre happened and finds the pram. He’s relieved to see it’s empty, and soon spots the canister that was in it, and accidentally sprays himself. Oh no.
Thompson heads over to ask Sousa if he’s okay, and Sousa attacks. Peggy tries to help but it’s only when a policeman knocks Sousa out with his baton that the attack stops.
“It is a beacon for all the world to envy.”
Dottie and Dr Ivchenko are in a car. Their master plan isn’t clear yet, but they’re certainly not going to leave New York unscathed. The pair are flagged down by the police (a black police officer, about the second bit of diversity we’ve seen this whole series). Dottie is tempted to just kill the guy, but after Dr Ivchenko points out it’s not wise to draw attention to themselves she turns on her fake Southern belle routine. They almost get away, but a call comes over the policeman’s radio – for Dottie, Dr Ivchenko and their car. When the officer turns around, Dottie is there with her gun.
Sousa wakes up belted to a hospital bed, unable at first to remember what happened after he found the gas canister. And then he remembers that he wanted to kill everyone at that moment.
Thompson is briefing the SSR guys – the gas seems to induce psychosis of some sort. And Dr Ivchenko has enough gas to send half the city into a murderous rage. But what is Dr Ivchenko’s plan? Who is he targeting?
“The target is me.”
In comes Howard Stark, accompanied by Jarvis. The SSR agents immediately turn their guns on him. I like Howard, but it’s easy to see why they wouldn’t trust him. To recap, all Howard’s inventions were stolen, a number of people including Krzeminski and Chief have died because of them, and a homicidal Russian and his assassin sidekick want to use another of Howard’s inventions to destroy the city. The case against disliking Howard is pretty solid.
Thompson arrests Howard, who has brought a file of papers about the Battle of Finow with him. The gas he invented is called Midnight Oil, and it wasn’t meant to be poisonous. It was meant to keep soldiers awake for days at a time, but failed, instead inducing anger and psychosis. Howard’s lab was raided by the army, who took his samples of Midnight Oil and his research, and used it for the Battle of Finow.
Howard’s files reveal that Dr Ivchenko’s real name is Johann Fenhoff, and Howard decides since Dr Ivchenko is after him, the only thing to do is let himself be caught. Howard will be the bait for the SSR’s trap.
Dottie and Dr Ivchenko arrive at an airfield. While Dottie leaves to take care of (read: kill) the airfield guy, Dr Ivchenko hears on the radio that Howard is back and will be holding a press conference. So they head back to the city.
“You’re punishing yourself.”
Howard is distraught at the way the SSR have treated his inventions, but Peggy is more concerned about what Howard thinks he’ll achieve by playing bait for Dr Ivchenko. Howard is still feeling guilty about what Peggy said to him during their fight, and while he doesn’t care what most people think of him, he does care about Peggy’s opinion, and wants to make things right. He’s still sneaky though, taking that vial of Steve’s blood with him when he and Peggy leave the lab.
At an outdoor press conference, Thompson is telling everyone that Howard is innocent while the other SSR agents are trying to find Dr Ivchenko and Dottie. There’s no sign of them, but then a shot rings out, landing just above Howard’s head. Jarvis and Howard run to a police car round the back, but as soon as Howard gets in the police officer drives off. Jarvis sees the real cops lying dead in the alley, and when we return to the car it’s to see the officer who stopped Dottie’s car the night before. I guess Dottie didn’t kill him but his is a fate worse than death – being hypnotised to do Dr Ivchenko’s bidding.
“They’re trying to leave the city, why?”
Peggy and Thompson work out that Dr Ivchenko is planning to hit Times Square – it’s May 8 and there will be a V.E. Day parade there.
Howard is now in Dottie’s possession, and she’s annoyed that he doesn’t remember her from their dalliance a while back (in addition to being an assassin, she’s also a woman scorned).
Thompson, Sousa and Peggy can’t work out how Dr Ivchenko plans to attack, as Midnight Oil needs to be deployed by air and they’ve shut all the airports. But Jarvis soon realises what’s going on, that Dr Ivchenko is planning to use one of Howard’s own planes so that the blame will fall squarely on him. Thompson is confused, since the SSR confiscated all of Howard’s planes. Only they didn’t, there’s a bigger stash.
“I am not a bad person.”
We get a flashback to six months previous, where a very glammed up Dottie is in Howard’s hanger, as he shows off his many planes. So I guess we know how Dottie knows about Howard’s flying abilities (and other things).
Back in the present, Howard is not having as much fun with Dottie in his hanger as the pair did they last time they visited. She’s got him tied to a chair and is hitting him, but he’s still not lost his sarcasm. And then Dr Ivchenko turns up, and we see Howard become apologetic for the damage Midnight Oil caused in Finow. Howard seems genuinely affected by Dr Ivchenko’s story of how he survived Finow, but his brother didn’t. Apologies and guilt from Howard aren’t enough, and although he offers to sacrifice himself to save others, Dr Ivchenko wants to see Howard suffer. And so he hypnotises him. What is he going to make him do?
Dr Ivchenko tells Howard to go back to a place and time that holds his greatest shame, and Howard thinks of a snowy tundra, in which stands a small plane. In his vision, Howard sees himself finding Steve, and then Peggy appears to hand Howard Steve’s shield.
“Bring him home.”
The vision bleeds back into reality, and Howard is in one of his planes, taking off into the night. As he taxis down the runway the SSR appear, but it’s too late to stop him. They have 12 minutes until Howard reaches New York. Peggy’s plan is to try and talk Howard down, but if that doesn’t work she wants someone else in a plane following Howard, to shoot him out of the sky if necessary. Neither Sousa or Thompson can fly, but Jarvis can. It will break Jarvis, but he’ll do the right thing.
Peggy heads to the control tower, where Dottie and Dr Ivchenko are based so that Dr Ivchenko can keep Howard under control. Peggy surprises the pair, but although she’s got a gun pointing at them, she doesn’t shoot immediately, which, given Dottie’s history, I would have done. Of course, Dottie takes advantage and attacks Peggy, and the two women go at it no holds barred.
Dottie tells Dr Ivchenko to leave, and then it’s just Peggy and Dottie in the room. Dottie is letting all her pent up anger out, and takes a moment to gloat, telling Peggy she thought she’d be better. It’s too soon though, and Peggy leaps and kicks, throwing Dottie out of the window and onto the ground of the airfield. When she looks through the window, Dottie is lying in a pool of blood. It’s now up to Thompson and Sousa to find Dr Ivchenko, while Peggy talks to Howard.
“I found his signal.”
And then we’re back to Captain America: The First Avenger, as Peggy sits in a room talking into a mic. Only this time, it’s not Steve in a plane, it’s Howard. The parallels are heartbreaking, and it’s like Peggy has a second chance to save a man she cares about. I hope this time she succeeds.
Dr Ivchenko knocks Thompson out, but Sousa soon approaches, and makes the mistake of letting Dr Ivchenko talk. Just shoot him Sousa! Dr Ivchenko tells Sousa to shoot Thompson, and thinks he’s succeeded, only Sousa knocks Dr Ivchenko out. Turns out Sousa had earplugs in.
After a season of action, it’s strange to see Peggy now having to rely on her connection to another human being to try and save the day. No fighting, no tricks, no battle of wits, she just has to talk Howard down. It’s clear Peggy is almost overcome with emotion, and remembering the last time she was in a similar situation. Peggy is hesitant and unsure of herself, and the confident agent we’ve known all season disappears as Jarvis radios her to ask if he should shoot Howard’s plane.
“You don’t have to fix anything.”
The only way Peggy can connect to Howard is to talk about Steve, and to talk about how much she and Howard need each other, and have to let Steve go. It’s a brilliant, brilliant speech, and I can’t do justice to it, so will just repeat it here for you:
“Steve is gone, he died over a year ago… You don’t have to fix anything… Howard, I know you loved him. I loved him too. But this won’t bring him back. Howard, you are the one person on this earth who believes in me, I cannot lose you. Steve is gone, we have to move on, all of us. As impossible as that may sound, we have to let him go.”
Peggy gets through to Howard, who snaps out of it and wakes up from his hypnotised state, and he and Jarvis make the journey back. At the airfield, Peggy heads downstairs to find Dottie has disappeared. That woman is tough. Still, they have Dr Ivchenko in custody.
“I know my value.”
Peggy walks in to the SSR office, where she’s given a round of applause by her colleagues and patted on the back. A senator turns up to the office and asks for Thompson, congratulating him for saving thousands of lives. Thompson has grown this season, but not enough that he’s willing to share the credit with anyone else.
And while Sousa is annoyed on Peggy’s behalf, she’s finally come to the realisation that she doesn’t need the men of the SSR to say she’s good at her job to know she’s good at her job. Once Sousa calms down, he asks Peggy out. She turns him down on this occasion (ahh).
Peggy and Angie are moving – to one of Howard’s mega flats, which makes Angie very happy. Jarvis is less happy, now that he’s had some excitement he’s finding it difficult to find joy in rearranging spice racks. Howard is busy negotiating for the return of his inventions, so he can destroy them. One invention though, Steve’s blood, is not in Howard or the SSR’s possession, with both under the impression it was destroyed during the kerfuffle with Dr Ivchenko. Jarvis has it, and he’s gifting it to Peggy, knowing it means more to her than to anyone else, and that she’ll know what to do with it.
We see Peggy on Brooklyn Bridge, looking out at the water. She takes out the vial of Steve’s blood, undoes the stopper, and pours it out. “Bye my darling.” Oh, that hurts, but it’s the right thing to do. If you didn’t at least tear up here, you have no heart.
“And America is the land of opportunity.”
In a prison somewhere Dr Ivchenko, wearing a wire contraption over his face, walks into his cell. His roommate speaks up, and when he appears out of the darkness, we see it’s Armin Zola. Oh, putting these two in a cell together is a bloody terrible idea.
-“He was good before I got hold of him, huh?” – there were plenty of moments that really hurt during this episode, and Howard’s insight into Steve Rogers was definitely one of them.
-some absolutely stellar writing in Valediction. *applause*
-this season has, of course, been about Peggy’s battle to be treated as an equal, and she’s finally succeeded there. More than that, it’s been a season in which Peggy, and Howard, have been seeking forgiveness and absolution for the loss of Steve. Both Peggy and Howard have been carrying a lot of guilt with them, although neither were at fault. Their love for Steve, though, made them feel guilty, and it seems they’ve both finally found peace at last, and been able to let go.
-so what’s next? Now that Peggy has let Steve go, where do we go from here? I guess it means there’s a lot more freedom for the second series, and while I’ll miss the references to Cap, I think it’ll be good for Peggy.