For anyone new to the show or the show’s fandom, here is the quick rundown of what you need to know. Agent Carter takes place in 1946, shortly after the end of WWII. It follows the adventures of Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell), who graduated from supporting character in Marvel’s Captain America: The First Adventure to leading this miniseries (or “television event,” whatever) due to the fanbase’s unbridled love for her. She may have loved and lost Steve Rogers, but she is far more than a love interest: she’s a kick ass fighter, an intrepid adventuress, and an increasingly expert spy who will go on to found SHIELD, the aggressively mysterious secret agency that connects much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show has followed her progress working in a Scientific Strategic Reserve office in New York, trying to prove herself to her sexist male colleagues and simultaneously conduct a secret mission on behalf of her friend Howard Stark (father, if you’re a total Marvel novice, to Iron Man Tony Stark and future SHIELD co-founder).
You also need to know that the fandom has been waiting for her to kiss her friend Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca) since the premiere.
Naturally, when I heard there had been a girl-on-girl kiss on this show, I was hoping desperately it was a sincere one between Peggy and Angie, even as I knew that was hugely unlikely—the show has completely avoided romance for Peggy so far. So I can’t say I’m shocked that the kiss ended up being Russian spy Dottie’s way of taking Peggy down, but my Peggy/Angie dreams were beautiful while they lasted. (The portmanteau is Cartinelli, if you were wondering.)
Let me back up a second. You can’t just drop “Russian spy” into a sentence without any explanation at all. About halfway through the season, we were introduced to a new neighbor of Peggy’s, an eerily cheery aspiring dancer from Iowa named Dottie (Bridget Regan).
Dottie, we now know, is an undercover agent for Leviathan, a covert Russian agency bent—but of course—on world domination. This is the world of comic books, after all. We learned Dottie was a Leviathan agent when she killed a man for his automatic revolver and stashed his body under her bed, as you do.
This all came together as a number of plot threads that have been building for the past five episodes finally collided. Peggy figured out that Leviathan had to be running a female agent in New York; her colleagues finally trusted her to investigate in the field on her own; her friend Agent Sousa realized that she was the mysterious woman behind the scenes of many previous incidents; Leviathan infiltrated the SSR; Howard Stark’s name got on its way to being cleared; and Dottie finally got orders to kill Peggy. Oh, and Peggy finally admitted to Angie that she doesn’t really work at the phone company. (You could say she…came…out…as a secret agent…SORRY.)
This show has always had an element of Team Misandry—one of its many charms—and so I appreciated that the episode’s climax came about almost entirely at the hands of its female characters. Many of us feared, before Agent Carter started airing, that the show would put Peggy in the lead but fail to populate her world with women. Happily, it gave her a good friend in Angie off the bat and added a worthy opponent with Dottie and even a fun mini-antagonist in the prudish and controlling landlady/housemother, Miriam Fry. These have always been fun characters, but it was immensely satisfying to see them all at the center of Peggy’s escape and capture.
To wit: Peggy, seeing herself being surrounded by SSR agents, immediately realizes her extracurricular activities have been found out and proceeds to kick the crap out of them all. (Jarvis—her trusty sidekick from the start, more or less—also got a few good hits in with various automat implements, which was fun. Love Jarvis.) She then punches Chad Michael Murray in the face—something I have been waiting for all season!—and rushes off home to grab the one essential item she must be sure to protect: a vial of Captain America’s blood.
Ms. Fry unwittingly buys Peggy time to grab the vial by slowing down the SSR agents with the sheer force of propriety and indignation that gets her through each day of guarding godless young women from their own urges. (That’s just me paraphrasing her, I swear. I am not making this up.) No men above the lobby! Come back here!!! Nonetheless, Peggy finds herself trapped in a precarious perch outside her own window while her colleagues search her apartment. Naturally, Angie comes to her rescue from the next window over. (SHE IS LITERALLY THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, I AM JUST SAYING.)
The SSR agents try to interrogate her about Peggy, as they’re known to be friends; Angie expertly taps into her aspiring actress powers to play off their Manly Stoicism by first lying, then bursting into tears. (Women flying under the radar by playing off sexist perceptions of them is an ongoing motif in the show, which is also a delight to me.) They are utterly baffled and it is beautiful. (I mean, terrible, because The Patriarchy Is Bad, but it is also hilarious.)
Angie then gets Peggy off the window ledge, wastes no time with being shocked at Peggy being a superspy, never once questions her motives or actions, and sets about finding her a getaway car. Because they are in love, OK? Then comes their goodbye, during which I was literally holding my breath:
After that, of course, it had to be Dottie; not even I could come up with a reason why Peggy would suddenly plant one on the easily scandalized Mrs. Fry. (“I knew she was no good the moment I laid eyes on her. Those girls from the phone company are all the same!” Incredible.) Dottie spent the episode doing Russian spy things with Morse code and rifles and dentist drills, so when she popped out of nowhere to surprise Peggy in the stairwell I was mostly just terrified. Peggy is a hell of a fighter, but Dottie has Black Widow style thigh moves and Peggy wasn’t expecting anything from her! Steve’s blood was right there in her bag! AW JEEZ.
And then in a perfect inversion of how Peggy (and just now, Angie too) has so frequently succeeded brilliantly because nobody saw her coming, Dottie kissed Peggy and knocked her out with her own “Sweet Dreams 102” lipstick.
Peggy honey-trapped a guy much earlier in the show with this formula, and to her credit she recognizes it on Dottie immediately. She even manages to find the scar on Dottie’s wrist that marks her as a Leviathan spy before passing out. The SSR men come along, find her unconscious in the hall, and of course totally buy Dottie’s wide-eyed innocent act before hauling Peggy back to the office, because these men just can’t sleep at night if they haven’t underestimated a woman at least twice that day. (I know some people complain that they find the show’s approach to sexism overblown and preachy, but I honestly revel in it. I would roll around in it if I could.) On the upside, they intervened in the nick of time to stop Dottie from killing Peggy, so good unintentional work there, boys.
Obviously, this was not an instance of romance; the kiss was purely functional. (Peggy closed her eyes and all she had to say about it was “You’re wearing my formula,” though, which we are free to run into the sunset with as being Open To Kissing Girls.) But it was part of an episode that gave almost all of the meaningful action to the show’s female characters while the men ran around playing catch-up and messing around with a hypnotism subplot, and I loved that. More like this, please. And more girls for Peggy to kiss! (Angie. I mean Angie. She should kiss Angie.)
A couple quick bullets to play us out: