By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Agent Carter is proving to be the better of the two Marvel Entertainment products that’s on television. Not only does the show have a very strong and beautiful lead but also it is set in the 1940s, an era ripe for subterfuge and conspiracy. When World War II hit, just how any nations can survive meant being on top of technology. That is, whoever can invent the next modern marvel would hold the fate of the Earth in their hands. In Captain America, the First Avenger, that meant creating the super soldier.
In the television series, a secret group named Leviathan takes an interest in Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) inventions. The U.S. Government fears that he may be selling out and is investigating him. But before he is scheduled to appear at another senate hearing, he disappears. British agent Peggy Carter is back at work with the Strategic Scientific Reserve following the events from the movie and before she knows it, Stark recruits her to help clear his name. He thinks that he’s being corralled and refuses to bow to pressure. Sadly that makes him a man on the run and any return appearances will be limited.
For Peggy Carter, she feels a little lost. The man of her dreams is presumedly dead (he’s frozen somewhere in the Arctic) and she can only find solace at work to keep her distracted. She also has to contend with the behaviours of her co-workers; the men at this time never treated women fairly. Although the Suffragette movement was decades prior, attitudes towards the working-class women still have not changed. Although the war is over and some ladies are willing to go home to be house makers, others would rather choose to remain where they are and make a difference. The first episode works hard to establish that fact.
Without missing a beat and marching towards the halfway point of the series, Agent Carter is very much Captain America if not Diana Prince’s (aka Wonder Woman) equal from a different comic book universe. We are not talking about the New 52 version, but instead are looking at the version of her depicted during the 40s.
After Carter’s appearances in two movies, a one-off special and a cameo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., performer Hayley Atwell is very comfortable in the role. She brings a special type of sassiness which is infectious to watch and the fact that this series focuses on her daily struggles with the attitudes of the time more than with the spy capers makes this particular style of narrative endearing. She’s a role model and to see how she will develop in the remaining episodes will have fans hoping for more. She certainly a very capable leader and soldier in “The Iron Crossing.” By the end of that episode, she finally proves herself as a very capable agent in a man’s world. After the events in “The Blitzkrieg Button,” she better watch her back! With Dottie Underwood looking like this era’s version of the Black Widow, a covert ops assassin, just who she serves gets revealed fairly easily. The Russians are involved. But as to what kind of capacity means catching the last three episodes.
English actor James D’arcy as Jarvis proves to be just as inspirational since his mannerisms will be coded into J.A.R.V.I.S., the artificial intelligence that helps Tony Stark (Iron Man) in the future. Together, these two headliners sometimes channel the same action, adventure and fun that’s found in the 60’s Associated British Corporation’s The Avengers, but only with the roles reversed. Whether that’s intentional or not, this nod is very much appreciated. When both leads are of British origin, some viewers may well wonder if that’s where the inspiration of this series is coming from. In the third episode, they get more chances to play off each other and to show to the world that working as a team is important. Strangely, the next two so not pair them up as much. They are at odds over how Howard Stark treats them. The question if they will reconcile looks slim.
Although the producers are not pushing the noir narrative style to the extreme in this mini-series, there are certainly elements of it to be found. As a gentle spy-thriller, there’s certainly lots to appreciate about this narrative that will have to climax to set up the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D. proper at some point in time.
Hopefully there will be an order for a series two after Carter and Jarvis deal this season’s threat. Although the hints are few and far between as to whether or not the series will tie to the cinematic whole, hopefully by the season’s end, the direction will be clear.
To see these two go on new adventures can be just as thrilling, and the Marvel Universe needs more female heroes. Throughout the film’s, there’s just not many strong and likeable female characters to root for. Most of them are forgettable. Agent Carter and the Black Widow can not carry the torch forever.
One thought on “Marvel’s Agent Carter! A Mid-Season Review”
Huh. Maybe I’ll have to give this a shot then. I thought Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was okay, but I lost interest quite quickly, which is a shame because I’ve generally really loved everything else created or directed by Joss Whedon – I guess the characters just didn’t stick with me all that much. From what you’ve written though, Agent Carter sounds like it might be a bit more up my alley in the characters department.