– Spoiler Review –
Agent Carter‘s series premiere combines the first two episodes into a 2 hour long romp that barely lets up and is certified fun to watch. The first hour “Now is Not the End” certainly feels like it was meant to be the pilot alone, thanks to its fast pace and adventure, and while the second hour “Bridge and Tunnel” slows down a bit, it address and builds on all the intriguing mysteries set up so far. Is it worth your time? In short, absolutely. For the longer lists of reasons why, see below.
As seen in the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter, Peggy has been regulated to secretarial duties at the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) and desires to have a mission again like she did during the War with Captain America. She gets one from the most unlikely of places, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper reprising his film role), who is currently being hunted by the SSR because they believe him a traitor. It appears someone broke into Stark’s vault of most deadly weapons and is selling them to the highest bidders. He needs someone at SSR who he can trust and isn’t actively hunting him, so he recruits his old friend Agent Carter to help clear his name, with assistance from his butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). It’s a great set up for a season long tale and already holds a lot of mysteries.
To go along with the story, the world of 1946 that Agent Carter portrays feels spot on and believable, even when Peggy pulls off her watch to crack open a safe or she’s disarming a glowing bomb in her sparse little bathroom. It’s her time spent at the diner, her dealings with her fellow SSR agents, and the Captain America radio dramas she so disdains that help ground us in 1946. Each area is a sign of the times and is used well, helping to show both that time’s strengths and obvious weaknesses. And when some advanced tech comes into play, like say the two way radio typewriter or the Vita-Ray scanner, they never feel so out of place as to break the plausibility, but instead actually strengthen it.
On top of all that is the awesome performance from first and foremost Hayley Atwell. We all knew she could do it in both Captain America films and the Marvel One-Shot, but carrying a show where you are the lead is a whole different beast and she does not disappoint. This feels like a role she was born to play, covering all the range of emotions Peggy must go through in her wacky average day expertly, while still having fun in the role where permitted. The writing team has got this character and her world down and it shows through Atwell’s delivery. There’s several stand out moments in the first hour, but one of my favorite’s is in the second hour: while scanning workers for Vita-Ray radiation, she blows Van Ert’s cover, who goes running off with SSR Chief Dooley and Agent Thompson chasing him. Instead of joining the chase, she asks Mr. Jones (Ray Wise) for directions in the building and waltzes down the stairs just in time to stop Van Ert from getting away. Peggy constantly is showing up her male co-workers, but they just don’t know it yet.
All the double dealing she has to do recalls one of my all time favorite shows, Alias. Jennifer Garner’s character Sydney Bristow thought she was working for the CIA only to find out it was really some splinter group known as SD-6. Recruited into the real CIA, she has to carry out SD-6 missions, but make sure whatever objective they’re after falls into CIA hands instead. Sure, it got crazy towards the end with the Rambaldi stuff, but Agent Carter exists in the MCU where the God of Thunder comes to Earth and falls in love with a human, so if they went a little off rails it wouldn’t be a stretch for the audience. But as I was saying, Peggy has to pull double duty here too, and just like Sydney she’s in disguises and outsmarting the people she works for, even though she isn’t stuck working for a nefarious company. It makes for a fun premise and some hairy situations, but again gives Peggy a lot of chances to show why she deserves more than the sexist jabs and desk duties her co-workers give her.
To compliment Peggy is Edwin Jarvis, played with wit by D’Arcy. His preference for spywork to conclude before his bedtime with the misses is hilarious, but as the second hour goes on we start to see him warm up to the excitement of the job, no matter the hours. Even more interesting is Jarvis’ complete platonic relationship with Peggy, instead of the usual romantic interest subplot the secondary male character falls into. I’m really happy with this decision, as it breaks from both Alias and Nikita (another of my favorite shows with a complicated, but real female lead character who’s secondary male character is her love interest) in that regard. Peggy doesn’t necessarily need romance in her life, with her still dealing with the loss of Steve Rodgers (nice usage of flashbacks to the first Captain film), and it prevents us dealing with another subplot in its truncated 8 episode season. While we know from The Winter Solider she eventually got married and had kids, it’s not important to the character at the moment and may never be seen the on the series proper.
As for what I’m sure we’ll see on the series is an explanation of the what and who behind Leviathan, the group seemingly behind the stealing of Howard Stark’s technology. Their members, the two evil henchmen with the strange tracheotomy scars, were deadly and resourceful villains for the first two hours, though they kind of lacked personality (which might have been the point). Brannis being a defector from the Leviathan group was a little surprising, considering how fearful he must be of them if he was desperate enough to drive around a super deadly milk truck. Hopefully the heart with a snake(?) through it he drew at the end will clear some of his motivations up, since it was his response to Peggy’s question about where he hid the rest of the weapons. The other Leviathan member wasn’t terribly interesting due to the fact we didn’t really get any motivation for him either and he just went around killing almost everyone like a Terminator. I believe the Leviathan group will turn out to be a series villain, not a season one.
Here are a few other things:
- Framing Stark probably isn’t possible without their being an inside man at the SSR. Chief Dooley’s pretty insistent of Stark’s guilt, making him a little too obvious for being the inside man at the SSR, but my money is on Agent Sousa; The Usual Suspects taught me to never trust a guy with a limp.
- I really want to know what Jarvis and Stark think Peggy will never pick up on…I’m betting it’s that this job of clearing his name is them recruiting her for SHIELD and not something nefarious as the scene’s music and framing suggested.
- Speaking of the show Nikita, the actress playing Peggy’s waitress pal/apartment hunting buddy Angie, Lyndsy Fonseca was in that show for its entire entertaining run (but you might recognize her more from Kick-Ass). Knowing her ass-kicking background, I wonder if she’ll get caught up in Peggy’s spy life (much like Sydney’s roommate gal pal Francie did in Alias)
- I’ll try not to compare Agent Carter to nor mention Alias and Nikita too much more as the season goes on, but I couldn’t review the season premiere without at least touching on them briefly and mentioning them in the same breath already is definitely a compliment.
- Anton Vanko, the gentleman at Stark Industries who inspects the bomb, was first seen in my least favorite MCU film, Iron Man 2.
- I couldn’t believe it, but the rowdy customer at the diner should look familiar to fans of films like Beerfest and Super Troopers.
- Really liked the scene where the radio drama, which has rightfully annoyed Peggy all episode, lines up with her fight with the big man.
Above all, Agent Carter is just a lot of fun to watch. It know what it wants to do and where it wants to go, whereas Agents of SHIELD‘s first season was plagued by a lack of those things and largely left fans eager for the MCU to be on television with a sour taste. While that show’s second season has finally found its place, Agent Carter already has and is an entertaining show whether it would be connected with the MCU or not. Funny, fun, and confident, Agent Carter is the type of show and dame we need right now.
+ Hayley Atwell
+ Intriguing mysteries
+ Period setting
– Somewhat bland (but deadly!) villains
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD REVIEWS:
Season Two: 2.1 Shadows | 2.2 Heavy is the Head | 2.3 Making Friends and Influencing People | 2.4 Face My Enemy | 2.5 A Hen in the Wolf House | 2.6 A Fractured House | 2.7 The Writing on the Wall | 2.8 The Things We Bury | 2.9 …Ye Who Enter Here | 2.10 What They Become | 2.11 Aftershocks | 2.12 Who You Really Are | 2.13 One of Us | 2.14 Love in the Time of Hydra | 2.15 One Door Closes | 2.16 Afterlife | 2.17 Melinda | 2.18 The Frenemy of My Enemy | 2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen | 2.20 Scars | 2.21,22: S.O.S.