Confession time: as one of the few people who THOROUGHLY enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger, with its ability to capture the earnestness, action, humor and heart required to really sell the idea of a bad ass boy scout, plus the added appeal of the gorgeous Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter – Marvel’s Agent Carter already had a lot going in its favor in the eyes of this reviewer. Having also found the Agent Carter One-Shot (attached to the Iron Man 3 DVD/Blu-ray release) to be a solid introduction to the solo adventures of the heroine, I anxiously awaited the premiere of this new series. I can gladly say that Marvel has largely succeeded once again! The pilot is able to re-capture the magic of The First Avenger while establishing Peggy Carter as a force to be reckoned with in her own right.
Bored by day, Carter is treated as nothing more than a secretary who only has a job with S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s precursor, the SSR, because of her role as Captain America’s “liaison.” The casually sexist manner in which they use the term oozes slut-bucketry of the highest order. When her long-time friend and compatriot Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is forced to go on the run due to being framed as a traitor for selling his technology to foreign forces, Carter is on the case attempting to clear his name. This is the main through-point of this seven-part series and the anchor upon which most of the plot revolves and character interaction develops between Carter, her co-workers, and a gift left to Carter by Stark in the form of Edwin Jarvis (James D’arcy).
Peggy’s fellow SSR agents, including her superior, Roger Dooley (Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham), the office lead agent, Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), and the kind-hearted, injured war vet Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). These agents are given brief moments that establish their brusque slightly disrespectful treatment of Carter as well as their effectiveness (for the most part) as agents in their own right. I appreciate this balance which doesn’t portray these agents as inept goofs who are always dependent upon Carter to save the day. This aspect actually makes Carter even stronger by demonstrating that she is not some passable agent outwitting dimwits, rather she is able to outthink agents who are pretty decent at their job.
The dynamic most worth watching is between Carter and Jarvis, it crackles as the two exchange quips and barbs on the path to developing a working relationship that adds a nice energy to the show. Carter is cool, spontaneous and firmly stabled as a woman fully-capable of taking care of herself, who while feeling more saddled with Jarvis, does come to appreciate his usefulness to her as another resource for timely getaways, housing, and hankies.
Carter is allowed to play dress-up in the first two episodes as a blonde bombshell and a milk inspector, both assumed identities that allow Atwell to flex her acting chops and have some fun with some accents. This further distinguishes the show from its spiritual predecessor, Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., with a lighter take on the espionage game. Don’t let this fool you, however, there are still some unexpectedly visceral violent moments. These particularly come from the big bad of the series, Leviathan, a fictional terrorist organization from the comic book universe with an adversarial relationship with HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. This component will probably supply a great deal of the connective tissue to Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. There was not too much development on the villain front but hopefully given the short run of this series the writers will be able to flesh them out as worthwhile antagonists for our heroine.
The Agent Carter premiere, written by Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directed by Louis D’Esposito (who directed the Agent Carter One-Shot) establishes a good foundation for future episodes to build upon, distinguishing Agent Carter’s niche in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one that has been well-earned.
Episode three “Time and Tide” teaser