After weeks of working undercover to clear Howard Stark’s name, Peggy Carter finally got the recognition from the SSR she so rightfully deserved—sort of.
During the Agent Carter finale, Johann Fennhoff, aka Dr. Faustus (Ralph Brown), intended to make Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) pay for his sins of creating Midnight Oil—the gas that essentially causes people to rage out and kill each other—by tricking Stark into believing he had found Captain America’s (Chris Evans) body. Instead of flying a plane to the Arctic, however, under Fennhoff’s mind control, Stark was inadvertently flying towards Times Square in a plane loaded with the toxic gas.
In a scene recalling the heartbreaking final act of Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy (Hayley Atwell) was able to talk Stark down moments after facing off against Black Widow Dottie (Bridget Regan), who ended up escaping in the ensuing chaos. Dr. Faustus, meanwhile, was finally locked up with his new cellmate, Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones)—more on that surprise Captain America cameo here.
All was right in the world as Peggy was lauded at the SSR… until Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) claimed the victory for himself. You win some, you lose some. But Peggy did get to say goodbye to Steve Rogers one final time after Jarvis (James D’Arcy) handed over the only remaining vial of his blood, which she fittingly poured out over the Brooklyn Bridge. What does this ending mean for Agent Carter’s future? EW caught up with showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why was it important for Peggy to finally get the recognition she deserves at the SSR?
MICHELE FAZEKAS: It’s satisfying as a viewer to see that she’s finally being recognized for what she does in part because the truth has now all come out. In a weird way, when she’s hiding her true intent, she’s also preventing herself from getting recognized for being really damn good at what she does. Even though she gets the recognition, by the end of it, she finds she doesn’t need it.
TARA BUTTERS: She’s had real growth. At the end of the day, what she needed that recognition for, that thing that she was lacking, it’s resolved.
FAZEKAS: As she says at the end, she doesn’t need other people’s approval. She knows what her value is. It’s nice that she gets it. Part of why she gets it is that everybody now knows exactly what she’s been doing.
Why does Thompson basically steal Peggy’s thunder?
BUTTERS: He respects her, but the fact is that was his moment in time to decide which path he was going on. For Thompson, he chooses his own self-interest over doing the right thing in the moment.
FAZEKAS: I also think it’s for a different reason. His treatment of Peggy has evolved over these eight episodes. Initially it was, “Oh, you’re another girl in the office and I can treat you badly and lightly hit on you.” But now she’s somewhat of a threat to him. How confident she is and how good she is, what he does is for a different reason now. It’s not that he thinks she doesn’t deserve credit. He thinks she does deserve credit, but he’s acting in his own self-interest. We talked about this being his character-defining moment. He decides from here on out how the rest of his life can go. He can do the right thing or the selfish thing. The difference here is it’s growth in a way, even though it’s not very nice growth. He’s actively choosing to be that guy.
When you were piecing together Stark’s finale storyline, what came first: Getting him redemption or wanting a really awesome way to tie into Captain America?
FAZEKAS: The Captain America thing was a very late idea. [Writer] Lindsey Allen came up with it. We knew that we had wanted an airplane very early on. We knew we wanted him to be in an airplane.
BUTTERS: And Peggy was trying to talk him down.
FAZEKAS: We knew that we wanted Fennhoff to put the whammy on him, but we didn’t how how Fennhoff got in. We didn’t just want zombie-Howard flying a plane.
BUTTERS: He needs to have a mission. This was something we were stuck on. I remember Michele and I had been in post and Lindsay had been really excited because she had been working with the room and pitched, “What if he’s looking for Captain America?”
FAZEKAS: She even pitched us the shield part, too, and then Peggy shows up and she’s holding Captain America’s shield. That almost ended up getting cut from the episode, but I’m so glad it didn’t. Obviously anyone who watches Marvel stuff knows that Captain America’s shield is with Captain America. That went down with the Valkyrie, but it doesn’t matter. It was such an iconic thing for this fantasy that Howard had created in his head because of Fennhoff. It’s a really good example of how a good writers’ room can altogether come up with these amazing ideas. It fit so perfectly into everything else we were trying to do.
BUTTERS: We had great tentpoles we started with, but it needed those special touches and needed to be fleshed out in a way that we were really lucky to have such an amazing group of writers that came in and added so much to this episode.
Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) finally got up the nerve to ask Peggy out on a date, but at the same time, was it hard for you guys to leave these moments up in the air since you don’t know if there will be a second season?
BUTTERS: It’s satisfying in a lot of the arcs. Peggy’s arc is very satisfying that where she starts off in the pilot and where she ends up, you feel like she had a nice arc. She’s in a very different place by the end of the season. And I think that most of the characters are. You need to tease certain things.
FAZEKAS: Just from a creative standpoint, I always have to write as if there’s going to be an infinite amount of upcoming episodes. You have to put yourself in the headspace that you’ll leave these things open. We did the same thing with Reaper. We wrote the last episode of Reaper not necessarily thinking we’d have a third season, but writing it as if we would. I like to write from that otherwise you’re guarded and not going all the places you can go.
BUTTERS: I love the idea that Dottie is out there.
FAZEKAS: Did you notice that in the scene where Sousa asks her out, he put his crutch down before he does it? I love that little touch. I don’t know if it was Enver or the director, but it wasn’t written. He leans the crutch against the desk and he turns around and takes a couple of steps toward her before he speaks. I love that little moment where it’s like, “I’m not going to be that guy, I’m going to be this guy.”
BUTTERS: We’ve talked about the smile that comes across her face afterwards. It’s her realizing that maybe there is something there.
FAZEKAS: She’s open to the possibility with him or someone else. That’s maybe the first time she’s considering, “Maybe I can have this other side of my life now.”
Talk about Peggy’s decision to destroy Steve Rogers’ blood. Was that her way of moving on?
BUTTERS: It’s protecting him and moving on at the same time.
FAZEKAS: She could’ve kept it, but there’s too much risk. It was more important for her to protect him than to keep him.
BUTTERS: And taking him back to Brooklyn. Also, the last scene between Jarvis and Peggy we’re really proud of. It’s really lovely where you see a scene realized even better than what you had in your head.
Was it always your intention to let Dottie get away or did you have any alternate endings where we’d get more finality with that character?
FAZEKAS: I don’t know if there was ever an alternate version where she kills her, especially once we cast the role and saw Dottie in action and how much we like Bridget and what a great foil she was for Peggy. We never really considered any other version of that story ending. You can’t kill Dottie, come on. I like that she’s out there and maybe we’ll stumble upon her again some time in the future.
Do you have a sense of what season 2 could be if ABC renews the series?
FAZEKAS: We’ve been talking about a lot of ideas, actually. We have what I think are good, fun notions of what to do in the second season that we can’t say, but they’re good.
BUTTERS: I just think there are so many more stories to tell with Peggy. It’s been such a pleasure working with the talented Hayley, James, Dominic, Chad. I mean, they’re all so wonderful.
FAZEKAS: We miss Shea [Whigham].
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely said their idea of a second season would be diving into what makes Peggy who she is. Is that something you’re interested in doing?
FAZEKAS:They have talked about—and it never really ended up in the show very much—her backstory.
BUTTERS: It was all stuff that there wasn’t room for it.
FAZEKAS: There’s a lot of fun to be had there. The nice thing about a show like this is there are so many different avenues you can go down, so many different things you can pursue and so many different places where it can happen, so I like having lots of choices.
Can you talk about ending the season with the surprise cameo from Toby Jones as Arnim Zola?
BUTTERS: When we pitched the eight-episode arc to Marvel, it was off of a very off-handed comment that Kevin [Feige] made where he was saying, “You know what? If this all works out, you could tie into the Winter Soldier program.”
FAZEKAS: Markus and McFeely came with an idea that the bad guy could be Fennhoff, but they weren’t sure that would work until we all worked on a version of the story. Kevin Feige was like, “Oh, we can say that’s the basis for the Winter Soldier program.” So it was them being quite generous with connecting this to their universe.
BUTTERS: Once they opened that up, it made sense to talk about Toby Jones’ character and whether or not we could find a way to bring him in.
FAZEKAS: We always talked about it as, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if Toby Jones could show up?” I don’t think it was always about it being a tag for the end of the episode, but when we broke the episode, that’s where it fit in. I actually never thought it would happen, that we would probably have to come up with something else. Then it was like, “Oh no, he’s available and interested.” And then he was on a plane to Burbank.
Was there anything you didn’t get a chance to do in the first season?
FAZEKAS: We had always talked about seeing Peggy out on a regular night out. In episode 6, we had pitched that maybe she was on a night out with the girls—Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Dottie before we know who Dottie is. We realized that by that time, the stakes are so high and the situation is so dire that she’s not going to go out for a night out on the town. She has too many important things to deal with. It would be interesting to see what Peggy is like in her personal life. I think she’s probably really awkward and weird, which would be interesting to me. She hasn’t been that person in so long. She would be somewhat of a fish out of water. “OK, you have to be a girl and you have to doll yourself up.” I think it would be really weird for her.
BUTTERS: I think it would be easier in the second season because she’s just in such a different place.
FAZEKAS: That being said, I don’t miss it from the show because there was no room for it. At a certain point, you’re on the train and the train is going and you cannot stop for frivolity.
Do you feel the same way about some of the lesser-seen characters, like Angie?
BUTTERS: That goes hand and hand with it. We had originally thought that Angie was going to be Peggy’s window what a normal life is and would be able to be pulling Peggy out and doing things like a normal person. Again, it didn’t fit into the storytelling, but in the future, I think there would be room for that.
What is your point of pride for the season?
BUTTERS: It’s not one moment. I would have to say—and this is more from the actors than the writing—but the relationship between Jarvis and Peggy, I find it so utterly delightful and such a joy to watch. It was really nice to see how they took the scripts and really brought those moments to life for me.
FAZEKAS: When you ask that question, the thing that jumped into my head was all along we had been talking to people about the feminist bent to the show and the fact that it’s a Marvel property with a female lead, and what that means within the superhero world and the television world. And yet I watch the show with my 6-year-old son and it doesn’t even register with him that’s an unusual thing—to watch a woman kicking a bunch of ass and being a superhero. For him, that’s just what happens in the world. I like that for somebody of that generation, hopefully with characters like this, it’s not even going to be an issue anymore. For him, it’s not. He puts her on the same level as Captain America.
What do you want audiences to take away from this season?
BUTTERS: You don’t need special powers to be a hero.
FAZEKAS: I also think you can have a female lead in a show and it can be fun and it doesn’t have to be about the politics of it or the greater meaning of it, it can just be fun. We’re not sitting in the writers’ room day after day saying, “What does this mean for the greater feminism archetypes?” No, we’re just like, “What’s fun to watch? What’s cool?” That you can put aside all of the politics and the gender whatever. It’s a fun show and I hope that’s what people take away from it.
Now that Agent Carter has come to a close, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.