TV Review | Agent Carter | Season 1
Previously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Captain America, with the help of Agent Peggy Carter, the Howling Commandos and the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), saved the world from destruction at the hands of the Red Skull, Arnim Zola and HYDRA.
Believing Steve Rogers to be dead, Peggy Carter continues to fight the only way she knows how...
Season summary: Peggy Carter must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark while trying to navigate life as a single woman in 1940s America. (Wikipedia)
I hugely enjoyed Hayley Atwell's performance as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, so was naturally delighted to hear that the character would be getting her own series following up on what happened to her after the events of that film.
This enthusiasm increased when it was announced that Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios' head honcho, and the writing duo of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - writers on all three Cap films, Infinity War and the still-untitled Avengers 4 - were to be involved.
Watching it on TV as it was broadcast was fantastic, getting to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue on-screen on a weekly basis during a break in Agents of SHIELD. This series was helped by having a major character from the film side - sorry Agent Coulson! - as the central star.
Atwell continued to be effortlessly brilliant every episode too, continuing to make the titular Agent Carter one of my favourite characters in the MCU. No exaggeration, it's hard to watch when Steve Rogers is brought up because Peggy's grief feels so real it almost feels like the audience is intruding on a real woman's personal trauma.
She's ably supported by James D'Arcy as Edwin Jarvis, with the pair making for a fantastic English double act that often perplexes the Americans they have to deal with on a regular basis. Hell, it's so pronounced that 'English' becomes Peggy's nickname as used by Angie, played by Lyndsy Fonseca.
I do remember there being a lot (and I mean a LOT) of fan-fiction about Angie and Peggy being interested in each other as more than friends, and the pair do have an undeniable chemistry, although the show never really frames it as anything more than an unexpected friendship, but feel free to let your imagination run away with you as they would make quite the glamorous couple!
The male members of the cast are also pretty good, with them all coming to eventually respect Carter's abilities for one reason or another over the course of the season, but their behaviour might prove oddly troubling for male viewers.
And I don't even mean their generally misogynistic behaviour that would be typical for the show's time period either. The show can sometimes feel frustrating with how often Peggy finds herself obstructed or blocked from a course of action by these mean, but I would say that is part of the show's message.
Yes, it can feel irritating, as the audience is all too aware of just how capable Agent Carter is and how little assistance she actually needs from her colleagues. But this is how women were treated then and I fully expect there are plenty of women who watched the show and recognised lots of similar behaviour that is just as familiar today.
The message the show is trying to send isn't a criticism, but I do wonder if the constant obstructions Peggy faces are part of what throws off how lopsided the show feels with its over-arching story. The show only just feels like it has finished setting the scene by the end of episode five.
This might have been fine if Agent Carter had twenty-plus episodes like Agents of SHIELD, but this season is only eight episodes long and it all ends up feeling like a roller-coaster that has one large climb, a huge plunge on the other side, and then it's all over.
I do think it would be possible to trim down some of the earlier episodes and maybe get things moving a little faster, although I will say that I didn't really notice this problem when the show was first broadcast. Spread out the episodes over a longer time rather than bingeing the season and you might enjoy it a little more.
One last word for Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, also returning from his appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger. He's such a fun presence to have around, and the show feels more energetic when he's present. It's also interesting how, despite Howard's similarity to Tony, Cooper keeps his character much more likeable due to being not quite as arrogant as the Armoured Avenger.
Agent Carter's first season is enjoyable enough, but watching it all in a short space of time does show up a few flaws in the pacing, with the ending feeling particularly rushed. Hayley Atwell is stellar once more as Peggy, and the rest of the cast are all good too, but there's nothing truly special here to make it stand out or something that will live long in the memory.