In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans of Peggy Carter got something quite unique. They got to see how the story ends. We know that Peggy survives, we know that she has a family and we know that she helps found S.H.I.E.L.D. we just don’t know how she got there. In the contemporary Marvel Cinematic Universe Peggy has lived her life and although it’s heartbreaking to see her struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s comforting to know that she made it that far. Even though the one thing she worked towards for her whole life turned out to be a secret hive for the people she was hunting, but hey Peggy’s always willing to admit her mistakes and luckily Steve’s always willing to listen to her advice.
In 2014, Peggy Carter is living in a retirement home in Washington D.C. She appears to be confined to her bed, but at 95 years old who can really blame her? Steve and Peggy seem to have a comfortable rapport suggesting that this is not his first visit. It doesn’t take long for Peggy to figure out that something is on Steve’s mind but he does kind of wear his heart on his sleeve. Steve explains that he’s having a crisis of faith because he can no longer tell what’s right anymore. The only reason he sticks with S.H.I.E.L.D. is because Peggy helped found it. Peggy accuses Steve of being a little over dramatic but that doesn’t stop her from giving him some sage words of wisdom.
“The world has chanced, and none of us can go back. All we can do is out best, and sometimes, the best that we can do, is to start over.”
These words are significant because by the end of the movie that’s exactly what Steve decides to do. He decides that S.H.I.E.L.D. is corrupt so it’s time to reboot the system. If Hydra goes down, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s going down with it. It’s time to start over. Even though it’s been 70 years, even though Peggy as moved on and she’s not the girl she was when he knew her, Steve still uses Peggy’s advice and I think that’s the best recommendation anyone could possibly get. When you’re the person that Captain America turns to for advice then you must have done something right.
Steve’s visit is bitter sweet because Peggy soon begins to lose her grip on reality. Peggy is visibly distraught by her confusion and Steve’s sad smile is almost too heartbreaking to watch. It’s a cruel thing to take away Peggy’s mind because it was so important to her but as she says to Steve she has already lived a life - Steve’s the one that missed out on that. She’s already told Steve what he needed to hear before she starts to lose control, she’s given him permission to go against S.H.I.E.L.D. even if she was one of the people that helped found it. But it’s still a fairly tragic ending to their romance. It’s a classic story really: boy meets girl, boy gets frozen, girl gets Alzheimer’s, boy destroys the organisation girl spent her life building.
That said, if Peggy’s words of wisdom tell us anything it’s that she’s obviously aware that something is not right. She basically tells Steve to take S.H.I.E.L.D. down, which is not really something you expect to hear from one of the people that helped found it. Unfortunately, whether she meant to or not Peggy was part of something that didn’t turn out very well, and that’s something I can’t wait to see explored in the Agent Carter television series.