**The following contains spoilers from Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War**
“I had a date.” – Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)
The last four words in Captain America: The First Avenger could have been the last reference at all to Peggy Carter of the Strategic Scientific Reserve. She was Steve Rogers’ first love, but may very well have passed away in the 70 years since an ice cold coma caused Steve to miss their first real date. By that time, however, actress Hayley Atwell had made Peggy so much more than a love interest, creating a character many fans would demand to see again. That groundswell of support grew so large that a supporting character in Marvel Studios’ second lowest grossing movie became the star of her own show.
Hayley Atwell stole the show in The First Avenger. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely put something great down on the page and then Atwell made Peggy Carter truly special. She actually punched misogyny in the face the first time we saw her. She was strong, fierce, and kind. She was every bit the soldier and human being that Captain America was. Their romance, while ultimately doomed, worked so well in the time it had because they were the only two people on Earth good enough for each other.
Peggy returned to the screen in the Marvel One-Shot short film, Agent Carter, written by Eric Pearson and directed by Marvel Studios Co-President Louis D’Esposito. Attached to the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray, Agent Carter saw Peggy fighting for equal footing in an office full of men before taking a mission on her own, dispatching a small army of armed thugs, and earning herself an important position in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. It could have just been a fun little way to button up the character’s story, but it was so well received by fans that it ultimately became a pilot episode for a television series of the same name.
D’Esposito returned to direct the first episode of Agent Carter for ABC, which was written by Markus and McFeely. Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas came aboard as showrunners and with Atwell, put together a series that ran on heroism and charm while routinely delivering on its strong themes of equality and friendship. The platonic relationship between Carter and Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), butler to Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), was one of the most enjoyable and heartfelt friendships on television in recent memory.
The first season of Agent Carter showed Peggy’s continued fight for nothing more than equal footing with her male peers at the Strategic Scientific Reserve, all while grieving for what she believed to be the death of Steve Rogers. Atwell never allowed Peggy to waver, though, remaining strong and always optimistic. Even when a male counterpart stole her glory at season’s end, Peggy carried on unfazed, saying the instantly iconic line, “I know my value.”
The second season was even better. Having dealt with the loss of Steve in season one, Carter was in a much better place and her adventures with Jarvis took on a more whimsical tone that only added to the series’ charm. Romance was back on Peggy’s agenda, but never at the top of her priority list as there was a new villain to fight. Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) brought a more supernatural threat to Peggy’s world and set up the kinds of adventures for which the MCU has become so well known.
While carving her own path on the small screen, Peggy has remained a fixture of the Marvel movies. She made a surprise return in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where Peggy and Steve were finally reunited. It was a genuinely happy moment that became heart-wrenching when we saw the effects of Peggy’s Alzheimer’s disease robbing her of the chance to create new memories with Steve.
Last year, Atwell reprised her role during a flashback sequence in Ant-Man. To date, it’s our only opportunity to see Agent Carter at work as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. It may have been brief, but at least we got to see Peggy right in the mix not only with S.H.I.E.L.D., but in the middle of actual superhero missions with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man.
In Captain America: Civil War, now in theaters, we see how the story ends. Steve reads the text, “She’s gone. In her sleep,” and before we know it, we’re saying goodbye to our friend and hero, Peggy Carter. Sad as it may be, it’s fitting that Marvel fans actually get the chance to attend Peggy’s memorial and pay their respects. She is a character that lived far beyond what anyone could have initially imagined for the character simply because Hayley Atwell earned the devotion of her fans.
There will not be a third season for Agent Carter and that is very disappointing. It’s a shame that more people did not see the value that Peggy knew she had, but hopefully they will as the series and character is found by more viewers on Netflix and any other streaming service where the show ends up. Perhaps the same fans that helped will the series into existence will be able to bring it back in some form in the future. As long as the Marvel Cinematic Universe exists, the door is open for Peggy Carter to return in flashbacks.
We do not know if this is the end for Peggy Carter. We can always ask for more Peggy, but it’s important to not lose sight of just how incredible the run for this character has been. While she was no stranger to tragedy, Peggy Carter was a vital member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe who filled her days with heroic adventures and even found love again and had a family. She lived a life we, and her writers, can only dream of.
Hayley Atwell and all the people who helped give life to Peggy Carter the character and Agent Carter the series have done something remarkable and unprecedented. It has been a genuine pleasure to witness the creation and evolution of such a special character, one that will forever have a place in the hearts of Marvel fans.