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On last week’s “Agent Carter,” the SSR lost their leader, Chief Dooley (Shea Whigham); their enemy, Dr. Ivchenko/Fennhoff (aka Marvel comics villain Doctor Faustus, played by Ralph Brown); and one of Howard Stark’s most deadly inventions, Item 17 — a poisonous gas that turns regular people into murderous psychopaths. Suffice it to say, Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and her allies have their work cut out for them in tonight’s season finale.

Variety spoke to “Agent Carter” showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters ahead of the season one denouement, titled “Valediction,” to find out what’s in store for Peggy and Jarvis (James D’Arcy) when Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) makes his long overdue return, and how Agents Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) will handle working with Peggy now that there’s a power vacuum in the SSR.

In last week’s episode, Chief Dooley sacrificed himself after being cruelly manipulated by Fennhoff — how is the team handling that loss?
Fazekas: I think that [loss] — along with the fact that Peggy has finally come clean about everything she’s been up to — has galvanized the SSR and they’re all now acting like a team, where there’s no time for any of the usual dismissing Peggy for being just a girl or accusing her of being a traitor. Now they’re all on the same page and there’s a real sense of urgency, also because they know that Fennhoff is out there and he’s got a bunch of poisonous gas.

How would you describe the team dynamic in the finale between Peggy, Jarvis, Howard, and Agents Thompson and Sousa — it seems like very strange bedfellows.
Butters: Absolutely. Peggy becomes the uniting force between both worlds. With the SSR looking at her differently and respecting her — even though Howard has always respected her, even when he hasn’t been honest with her — she’s able to be the leader in Chief Dooley’s absence, and I think it’s really nice to see her take on that role in a very upfront way.
Fazekas: And no one really questions it, even in the SSR. And I think it’s interesting how Jarvis fits into that because he’s the inside man here, and the nice thing [after] episode seven where we learned that Jarvis knows Morse code and we found out about his special skills that go beyond his butlering, is that I think even the SSR guys and Peggy are starting to see him in a new light.

Howard returns in the finale — he and Peggy left things on an acrimonious note, so how is their relationship after his betrayal?
Butters: I think with what’s going on with Fennhoff and Item 17, there’s isn’t time to quibble about what was said. They have a job to do. But also in 108, you really see how these people have a true friendship, and they do really care about each other. And when Howard apologizes, you really do believe him. He’s being very genuine — even though in the same breath he does something maybe a little sneaky. But it’s who he is; he can have both of those things going on at the same time and have it be very true to him, which is one of the things that I like about his character. He’s very complex.

Fennhoff is a particularly dangerous villain because he’s so unassuming — what kind of threat can we expect now he’s on the loose with Dottie (Bridget Regan) and a bunch of poisonous gas?
Fazekas: In episode eight, we will learn the reason behind what he’s doing. And this is a real staple of Marvel and something, when we came on board early on, Marvel was very careful about: “what is the bad guy’s plan?” Because it can’t just be, “I’m going to destroy the universe!” That seems like a dumb plan because you are in the universe… So the bad guy’s plan — even if it’s fantastical, it should still feel grounded, it should feel reasoned. So we will learn a lot about why Fennhoff is doing what he’s doing, and it’s something that you can sort of understand. I don’t like what he’s doing and I don’t necessarily think he’s a great guy, but you can understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, even if it’s evil and terrible.

Peggy was at something of a disadvantage the last time she faced off with Dottie — what can you tease about their next encounter?
Butters: I hope it lives up to everybody’s expectations. It’s a great scene. Peggy’s not going to be an easy target for Dottie.
Fazekas: But Dottie, in a weird way, is probably Peggy’s most equally-matched opponent. In episode six, we saw that awesome fight sequence in the Automat where Peggy’s just kicking the crap out of everybody around her and practically never getting a hair out of place. That was fun — I loved that fight sequence, but she never gets hit. That’s not going to be the case when she meets up with Dottie again.
Butters: They both have two very different styles. Dottie is a trained killer and Peggy is someone who is more of a street fighter. She’ll use anything and everything to help her win.

What are you most looking forward to fans seeing in the finale?
Butters: I love the relationship stuff that happens; there’s a great ticking clock and all of that, but it’s Peggy’s relationship with Howard, it’s Peggy’s own relationship to Cap, to Jarvis and how those pay off… I’m really happy and pleased with what ended up in the final cut.
Fazekas: It was important to us for the season finale to give everybody a little moment and I feel like we did that. Everybody has a moment. It’s not always, in some cases, a moment that puts them in the best light, but everybody has a big, defining thing that happens, so I was proud of that.

After watching the “Agent Carter” finale, read part two of our interview with Fazekas and Butters.