Synopsis: After the war and the loss of Captain America, Peggy Carter comes home to a job at the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) where her co-workers treat her like a secretary. Then her former colleague Howard Stark is framed for selling the weapons he invented to enemies of the United States. With the SSR determined to catch him, Peggy has to tackle the case on her off-hours to clear Stark’s name and find those weapons before they fall into the wrong hands.
Series: Season 1
I’ve Watched: All of it.
Spoilers for season one.
In the first half of the season, Peggy has been living a double life–she’s an SSR agent who doesn’t get to do anything productive on the job, and so undertakes her own off-the-books investigation. Worse, she’s working with the SSR’s primary suspect because she knows he’s innocent. But all charades must come to an end, and this one has a satisfying one.
Peggy’s found out, taken in, and questioned. I really love the scene where Daniel, Jack, and the SSR chief are interrogating her and she finally snaps and calls them all out on their bullshit–by telling them that they’ve only ever seen the image they’ve constructed about her in their heads. Even Daniel, the most progressive of the bunch (“The girl on the pedestal, transformed into some daft whore.“)
Everyone vents their emotions, then things go crazy again, and there is a smooth transition to proving Peggy’s side of the story. Peggy vacillates on how much to trust her co-workers, and Jack and Daniel put together the pieces of what they know about her versus the story she’s telling them. They all deal with it in an awesome showcase of their characters, and move on. Thus putting everyone in the SSR on the same page for the first time in, well, ever. And setting things up for the conclusion.
Peggy develops some truly sweet friendships over the course of the series. Especially with Jarvis. His respect for her and his loyalty to Howard Stark sometimes puts him in an odd position–Peggy and Howard are friends, but with very different mentalities and priorities–and Jarvis frequently ends up in the middle. Poor Jarvis, but it makes for some great scenes.
Two of the four friendships Peggy develops with men contain not even a hint of potential romance, which is refreshing–it’s odd how unusual it is in media. In any case, Jarvis is happily married. And while Howard might be a consummate womanizer, his relationship with Peggy is strictly platonic (though other people might not always believe that).
As for the other two, Peggy isn’t looking at anyone this season–she’s still grieving for the loss of Steve Rogers. The men in question have crushes, one more obviously than the other. Men or women flocking to the protagonist on whatever show/movie usually bothers me, but here I consider it more plausible seeing as Peggy is literally the only woman in the office.
Which means that it’s really nice to have a season of a female action lead carrying the show with no love interest in sight (and right after season two of Psycho-Pass did the same thing–I’m in some kind of representation euphoria right now).
While there aren’t any other women in the office, there are women immediately outside the office working for the telephone company that serves as a front for SSR headquarters. That’s right, there’s an entire room of under-appreciated women who are all quite aware of what’s what in the SSR. We might barely get to see them, but that much is clear. This, of course, goes right over the heads of most of the agents.
And the woman primarily responsible for discreetly guarding the door (Rose) has a hidden gun she’s ready to draw on unwelcome intruders. She’s also middle-aged, doesn’t have the traditional Hollywood body-type, and in general doesn’t look like someone who’d do covert work of any kind (naturally, that makes her a better choice for covert work). She’s sweet and competent enough to handle unexpected visitors. Seriously, I really want to see more of Rose specifically, and the women operating the agency’s cover story in general.
And the finale did something kinda cool. We’ve been watching Peggy kick ass and take names all season long–she’s pretty much carried the plot to this point on her back. Every step that was a win for her team, she made it happen. There isn’t any need to prove that Peggy can be the action hero anymore, because she’s been doing it episode after episode, for the whole season. And so the finale changed it up a bit, and made the final heroic moment that saves the day a climax of her emotional journey.
Howard Stark is the time-bomb that the villains have set up via hypnosis. Peggy needs to diffuse him by getting past the loss that she and Howard share, and dragging Howard along with her. Sometimes, you don’t win the day by punching the bad guy (though Peggy does that in the episode, too). Sometimes, you do it by talking. And not only can Peggy do both, the series let her. This was the make-it-or-break-it moment of the episode, where Peggy either saves Howard or takes him out to save countless others. And the show let her be a hero and progressed her character while doing it.
“You think you know me, but I’ve never been more than each of you has created. To you, I’m the stray kitten, left on your doorstep to be protected. The secretary turned damsel in distress. The girl on the pedestal, transformed into some daft whore. You’re behaving like children.”