Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the “Agent Carter” season one finale, titled “Valediction”

“Agent Carter” ended its first season with an emotional gut-punch and then — in true Marvel fashion — with a tantalizing tease, all but guaranteed to leave viewers wanting more and further illustrating the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s central motto — “everything is connected.” The hour saw Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and her allies, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) and Agents Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) succeed in defeating the manipulative Dr. Faustus/Fennhoff (Ralph Brown) and saving the city. But in the episode’s final moments, the newly incarcerated hypnotist met his equally terrifying cellmate, Dr. Zola (Toby Jones), the HYDRA scientist who became the architect of the Winter Solider program that turned Captain America’s (Chris Evans) former ally, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), into a human weapon for the terrorist organization.

The episode also offered some closure for Peggy, who poignantly chose to destroy the last remaining vial of Steve Rodgers’ blood to prevent it from once again falling into the wrong hands. Although our heroine closed one chapter of her life by saying goodbye to her lost love, she opened another by moving into one of Howard Stark’s residences with her friend Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca), after finally earning the trust and respect of her colleagues at the SSR. More importantly — despite numerous accusations of treason along the way — Peggy maintained her integrity and sense of self-worth, ensuring that even when Agent Thompson reverted to his caddish ways and took all the credit for saving the day, our heroine was secure enough in her own abilities to recognize that she didn’t require anyone else’s approval (even the President’s) to validate her.

Variety spoke to “Agent Carter” showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters to discuss the surprising events of the finale and gather some intel on a potential season two, should the series receive a renewal from ABC. Below, they elaborate on the finale’s “Winter Soldier” connection, discuss the possibility of future romance for Peggy, and share what they’re most proud of from working on the show.

I love that you chose to end the episode — not counting the stinger — with Peggy saying goodbye to Steve. It was such a poignant place to end Peggy’s arc when we’ve been conditioned to expect big twists and high drama in an episode’s final moments. Did you always know you wanted to go out on a more grounded, emotional note when you were breaking the season?
Fazekas: I think that was a very early idea, that that would be the conclusion of her personal arc for the season — that in order to move on with her life, she had to let Cap go. So when she’s talking Howard down out of the plane, she’s talking to him, but she’s also talking to herself. And I think even [executive producers Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely had always said, “she destroys the last bottle of blood,” which makes perfect sense to me, because she could keep it, hole it up, hide it in another wall somewhere — and I think part of her wants to — but it’s more important for her to protect him than hold on to him.

Does that farewell scene represent a true sense of closure for Peggy, as far as Cap’s concerned? Would we see less of an emphasis on him in a potential season two, despite how much she’s clearly always going to love him?
Butters: I think he’s there to complicate her life when we need him.
Fazekas: But yeah, it does naturally follow that if she’s letting him go, she does have to let him go. But it also opens up all these other avenues — we even see it when Sousa asks her out.
Butters: Did you notice what he did with the crutch?
Fazekas: It wasn’t even written this way — he leans the crutch against his desk and takes a couple of steps away from it so he’s just standing in front of her without the crutch before he asks her out. It’s such a little thing but it speaks volumes. So he asks her out, she’s clearly touched by it — Hayley was lovely in that scene — but she says “I have other plans,” which she does. But she gives him — and he doesn’t see it; he’s heartbroken — but she gives him that little smile at the end of the scene, which to me says she’s open to this; either with Sousa or with someone else. For the first time, she’s open to considering, “maybe I need to have that part of my life happen also.”

The episode closed with the return of Dr. Zola, which was a delightful surprise. Firstly, who on earth would be crazy enough to put one evil criminal mastermind in a cell with another evil criminal mastermind — are they that cramped for space?
Fazekas: Space is very limited in this prison. [Laughs.] Here’s how this idea came about: Markus and McFeely, I think when we came on to the pilot, had half of a notion, “oh, maybe the bad guy is Dr. Faustus/Fennhoff.” So we developed that idea and when we pitched it to Marvel, Marvel were the ones who said, “oh, we can tie it in and say that this is the basis for the Winter Soldier program.” It really feels very organic in that way.
Butters: I love that it makes “Agent Carter” speak to the larger MCU. We’re really connected and everything that happens, even though we’re happening in the past, we can tie into things that are going to happen in future movies or movies that have already existed. It makes it feel more real. It feels like you’re learning the secrets that you didn’t know before.

Exactly — you can see from that single scene how the seeds for HYDRA’s future SHIELD takeover are sown. Do you have an entire gameplan worked out for a potential second season and beyond, or are you taking it season by season as it comes?
Fazekas: We’ve certainly been talking about what a second season would look like, and there’s a lot of different ideas, but I don’t think just because you see Toby Jones at the end of this season that, “oh, next season’s going to be about Toby Jones.” That was really just to tie it into the Winter Soldier program. That being said, the best ideas will win the day, so I think once we really get into talking about a second season… we have a lot of ideas, and what’s great about the structure of this show is, you can tell so many different stories and go so many different directions.

Angie now knows the truth about Peggy — would you foresee her trying to get more involved in Peggy’s world going forward, or would you hope for her to remain the more grounded point in Peggy’s life? Despite Lyndsy Fonseca’s ass-kicking credentials, I kind of love seeing Angie as this tether for Peggy, to keep her connected to the real world and a few more mundane problems.
Butters: I agree, I don’t think Angie’s ever going to become a super-spy. I’d rather her be the person who’s encouraging Peggy to go on a date.
Fazekas: The person that Peggy can confide in. And now on a much more authentic level. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t fun to be had in Angie using her acting skills on the job… But no, I don’t see her ever getting heavily involved in the SSR; that’s not what I like about that character.

Thompson certainly came out on top of the whole situation with Fennhoff and Stark; does this mean he’s looking to get a promotion to chief now that there’s a power vacuum in the SSR?
Fazekas: My view is, he certainly expects one, but we don’t always get what we want. [Laughs.]

What are you most looking forward to exploring in a potential season two?
Butters: We’ve talked about exploring more of Peggy’s past; how did she end up working for the SSR, what drove her to that? Just exploring Peggy — that’s the great thing about television, it allows you to explore these characters more in-depth than you get in a movie.

What are you most proud of from this season, looking back?
Specific to this episode, I love the last scene between Peggy and Jarvis — it’s one of my favorite scenes… You write it and then you see how it’s directed and performed, and what I loved about how Chris Marciano directed it was, Angie freaks out about the penthouse and is cute and then she goes off, and the rest of the scene, the way Chris Marciano directed it is, they’re so far apart from each other, there’s all this furniture between them and they’re talking about everything but what they’re actually talking about, which is “oh my god, I’m really gonna miss you, I really liked working with you.” So they’re having this very restrained conversation and they’re apart for almost the entire scene until right after he pulls the vial of blood out and hands it to her, and they just touch fingers when she takes it from him. My favorite emotion to write and to see is “not cry,” and they’re both holding back this well of emotion, and there’s tears rimming Hayley’s eyes — it’s so great, and she does “not cry” like crazy. So that’s just a good example of a scene I’m really proud of.
Butters: And I’ll take it in a broader sense; this has been such an amazing experience for both Michele and I, from the writers we work with on a daily basis to the production staff we work with; getting the opportunity to work with ILM for our visual effects and this truly amazing cast. In an overall sense, we’re both incredibly proud of this as an eight-episode series, I just couldn’t be prouder.
Fazekas: Of all the jobs we’ve had, everyone is so happy — not that we haven’t worked in jobs where people have been happy, but it’s been especially apparent on this show that everyone is so happy to be working on it and so happy to be coming in every day.
Butters: And we’re all working for the same purpose, to make a great TV show, and Marvel put all those pieces together, along with ABC, that really made it happen.

“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” returns to its 9 p.m. Tuesday timeslot beginning March 3.

What did you think of the “Agent Carter” finale? What would you like to see in a potential second season? Weigh in below!