Agent Carter showrunner Tara Butters spoke with Hypable about that crazy stinger, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-ins, and what may be next for Peggy Carter.
Peggy takes a very subtle emotional journey through the season. Can you talk about how that culminated in the finale?
[That journey] was very intentional. We knew that the course of the episode was to get her to a place where she could move on. And, you know, I feel like most people, you live with grief and you don’t even realize you’re living with it.
And it was really important to us that we show her character coping – and that’s one reason why [Peggy] puts so much emphasis on her work and her acceptance. And when she ultimately let go, she even realized she needed to move on, it also helped her in her personal life, because she realized she didn’t really need their recognition.
How did that amazing final scene with Doctor Zola come about?
When we pitched the eight-episode arc to Marvel prior to production, we had the story of Doctor Fenhoff and were trying to get approval for the direction. It was Kevin Feige and Marvel who actually said, “Oh you know what, this could actually play in really well to the Winter Soldier program.”
And when… we talked about the idea of it being the basis for the mind-control work that Zola was working on, it made us start to think of how could we incorporate that into our world, so that you see that this is the first kernel of Hydra infiltrating the United States. And so it was a really fun way to kind of play with it.
Speaking of Hydra, the “Faustus Method” of brainwashing has been a significant part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s storyline this season. How did that synchronicity come about?
Doctor Fenhoff, who is Doctor Faustus, came from a great run of the Captain America comic books – in the comic books, he’s a more modern-day villain. But we were very thankful that they let us reinterpret him as a villain who is still playing in the Captain America world, but happening in the 40’s.
And so… we let S.H.I.E.L.D. know what were doing, and that allowed them to work it into their storyline.
Dottie has been understandably mysterious through the series, but we saw a glimpse of her inner life in the finale. How did you approach this new side of the character?
I think of [Dottie] as this incredibly damaged young woman, who has spent her life being made into a killer. But you know, it’s almost that weird thing where she can see the relationships Peggy has in her life, and be at the exact same time jealous of them, and also look at it almost like an alien looks at something that is completely outside of their worldview.
So I think it’s really interesting to kind of balance that with her, where she doesn’t… it’s not something that she grew up with, or knows, or understands one-hundred percent. Yet she can’t help wondering what it must be like.
In addition to Dottie, we also saw an unexpectedly innocent side of Howard Stark this week.
That’s one of the wonderful things about television. We get to explore characters in a way that you can’t really do in a two and a half hour film, for sure a film that has a lot of action and plot. So this was an opportunity to kind of show other shades of Howard.
And I think that – like, I’ll use the example of him in the lab. Him and Peggy are having an incredibly tense conversation over her feeling like he’s putting himself at risk, and him turning it on her like, you know, “You’re the one who said I was selfish and all these things, and you’re right! And I am gonna man up and take responsibility.”
And he is absolutely genuine in that moment, and he is just as genuine about being who he is when he steals the Blitzkrieg Button. He can do both of those things, he is able to split sort of his wants and desires… because in that moment, [Howard] realizes an opportunity has come up, and at the same time he desperately wants Peggy to – to basically, respect him.
So he’s complicated, which I like. I think that he truly does respect her and value, her, but he has his own wants and desires, and he also isn’t above using her.
Did you have a favorite character to write for in Agent Carter?
It’s really fun to write Jarvis and Peggy together. They have such a wonderful dynamic, and it’s so different for a lot of TV viewers because it isn’t romantic, though they have a wonderful chemistry. It kind of does harken back to like, the ’40’s, movies like The Thin Man, where so much is played in subtext and not necessarily hit[ting] you over the head.
Speaking of the ’40’s, do you imagine a future season of Agent Carter staying in the same time period? Or would you like to hop forward?
We’ve talked about all of that. The fact is, we’ve talked about – and there’s no definitive answer to that yet – but the fact is, we’ve talked about, do you time jump? Do you send her on a mission to London, do you send her on a mission to Hollywood?
I mean, I still think there’s some story to be told in the time period that we’re at, but maybe we have the ability to, like I said, bring her to Los Angeles, bring her to London. The nice thing about being a spy is that she can pretty much go anywhere.
And are there any stories or themes you’d like to tackle in the much-hoped-for second season?
I can’t go into any detail about specific characters I necessarily want to see, but I will say this. For Peggy, I think that we spent the first eight episodes allowing her to put Captain America behind her, to a degree. Not that he won’t always have a presence in her life, but I think she’s now in a better place and is able to move on.
I think that the next step emotionally for Peggy is, she has made her professional life her only life, and I think that she needs to expand her universe. I think that you do want to see what it is like for Peggy to go on a date, and be more open to having more in her life.
And just as much as she can always handle the professional stuff, I think it would actually be harder for her to handle the personal stuff.