The finale opens with a welcome return of one of the show's best gimmicks --- and one that it wisely didn't over-expose; the radio play version of Captain America, featuring breathless damsel Betty Carver. This time around, the actors play out their version of the final conversation between Peggy/Betty and Captain America as he flies his plane to his suspected demise. It's actually about equally as melodramatic as the version from the movie. (That's not a diss; melodrama is my jam.)
Actual Peggy is actually back in action after the death of Dooley last week. Accompanied by Thing One (Chad Michael Murray) and Thing Two (Enver Gjokaj), she visits the movie theater where the patrons mauled each other to death. Thing Two/Sousa ineptly blasts himself in the face with the canister of crazy gas and overcomes inept Thing One/Thompson, which feels about right for both of them. Peggy steps in, ever-ept.
Back at the SSR, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and Jarvis (James D'Arcy) show up just in time to explain the plot. Remember that battle in Russia we've been hearing about all season, where everyone died? That was because the Americans tested Stark's crazy gas (which he calls 'Midnight Oil') on their Russian allies. Actually, only almost everyone died --- including, we later learn, Faustus's brother. A few people survived asphyxiation by having tracheotomies, and those were the Leviathan agents we met earlier in the season. They were not reanimated corpses as I had previously optimistically surmised, so no Black Talon cameo for me.
Stark, reasoning that he must be one of Leviathan's targets (though the gas was used without his approval), offers to make a public appearance to draw out Faustus and Dottie. This has the fortunate side-effect of publicly exonerating Stark and establishing him as a national hero, which is a nice bit of manipulation on Howard's part, though press conferences aren't a legally binding form of arbitration.
Sniper fire disrupts the press conference. Stark is rushed into a police car, and Peggy goes after the sniper, only to find a rifle set up to fire automatically. The sniper was a distraction, and Stark has been taken by a hypnotized police officer.
Stark is taken to another of his secret vaults --- actually an aircraft hangar --- where Faustus hypnotizes him so that he'll release the Midnight Oil over Times Square during VE Day celebrations. This scene affords us both a flashback of the time Howard showed Dottie the hangar when he was squiring her around time, where we get to see her amazing black dress; and a scene inside Howard's brain where Faustus convinces him he's flying out to bring Steve Rogers back from the ice. This gives us a wonderful vision of Peggy in an all-blue version of her tailored red, white and blue outfit, carrying Cap's shield.
Peggy and the team arrive just in time to see Stark take off. Jarvis hops in another plane, promising to shoot Howard down if Peggy can't talk him down. Peggy rushes to the radio room and has a throwdown with Dottie, while Faustus flees. Peggy v Dottie is inevitably a lot of fun, but over far too quickly, with Dottie kicked out of a window and seemingly killed. (But not actually killed, of course. Marvel Studios does not have a surfeit of great female villains. We need to hang on to this one.)
Faustus runs into the suit bros on his way out of the hangar. He knocks out Thompson and tries to hypnotize Sousa, but Sousa is wearing earplugs and seizes the advantage.
Peggy reaches Howard on the radio. First she can't get through to him. There is tension. Then she can get through to him, and he agrees not to poison everyone in New York. The end. Not a huge dramatic moment, it must be said.
Back at the SSR, Peggy gets a standing ovation from her peers, but it's Thompson who gets the credit from a visiting senator, and while Sousa is ready to fight Peggy's corner, Peggy insists that she doesn't need anyone else's approval. "I know my value." Sousa asks her out for a drink; she gives him a rain check.
In the penultimate scene, Peggy and Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca, a person who is in this show sometimes) move in to one of Howard's residences, and Jarvis entrusts Peggy with the vial of Steve's blood, which he stole from Howard, who stole it from the SSR. It's a touching moment between the show's two best characters.
In the final scene, Peggy pours the blood into the Hudson River and says a tearful farewell to Steve. There is sadly no cutaway scene in which U-Man the Atlantean Nazi catches the drops of blood as they fall and carries them back to his mistress, the Super-Axis spy Lady Lotus, but obviously that's what I choose to believe happened next.
But wait, there is one more scene! Yes, it's a classic Marvel movie-style post-credit sequence. Faustus, locked up in prison with a gruesome contraption on his jaw to stop him speaking, finds himself sharing a cell with none other than Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).
And Zola has plans.
Plans that involve eventually becoming a television.