Review: Marvel's "Agent Carter" is Fantastic

Synopsis (ABC): It’s 1946, and peace has dealt Peggy Carter a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark.

My opinions: When I first heard that Agent Carter was coming on the scene, I was actually apprehensive. The only Marvel show on ABC at the time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., was a show I just couldn’t get into, especially since a large amount of it seemed like fanservice. But the closer we got to Agent Carter, the more I was convinced that I should at least check it out. And I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Agent Carter is everything I wanted from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what I’ve wanted from a comic book/fantastical show in general (which, sadly, also includes the second season of Sleepy Hollow). I’ll break it down.

• Agent Carter has a clear throughline. Unlike with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s no having to keep up with tons of Marvel movies to know what happened; we’re introduced to the set-up from the beginning. Capt. America has crashed, presumed dead, and Agent Peggy Carter has to continue life without him as she works towards keeping America safe. We don’t have to have seen the entirety of Captain America; we can just jump right into the show.

• Peggy is exactly what a “strong female character” is supposed to be. The thing I don’t like about how a lot of people write supposedly “strong female characters” is that they always fall back on the same stereotypes; a woman who somehow knows everything about everything, has smart, annoying quips for everything, but is also severely complicated for no good reason, i.e. Katherine Heigl’s character in Person of Interest.

But Peggy’s characterization is actually rounded; she’s a woman who has to deal with the misogyny running rampant in the 1940s male-oriented workspace and also  easily lives in the very feminine world designed for women during this time. She’s a believable mix of the two spheres. She’s also a very sympathetic character and deals with her emotions in a believable way. A lot of this has to come down to the expert writing, but a lot of it also has to go to Hayley Atwell’s superb acting.

• Peggy and Jarvis’ relationship is refreshing. There has always been a contingent of TV fans that wants there to just be a male-female relationship that doesn’t involve romance. It would appear that the working relationship and growing friendship between Peggy and Jarvis (James D’Arcy) is just that. Jarvis is (thankfully) fiercely devoted to his wife and his home schedule, but still loves helping Peggy with her covert missions.

Also, their relationship is a twist on the usual man-woman TV team. While Peggy is more take-charge and “masculine” in that sense, Jarvis is more “feminine” in the sense that he cooks and cleans his home (a big nod and poke at the “housewife” role many women had during this time) and that, it would seem, his wife is the one that goes out as if to suggest she has a traditional job (ex. the scene where Jarvis tells Peggy over the phone that he wants to have his soufflé ready in time for his wife’s return home).  Jarvis’ experience (and love) for leading women serves him well since Peggy needs just such a person to be her partner-in-espionage.

• Peggy’s penchant for undercover work is fun. Seeing Peggy use costumes, accents, and personalities to get information brings the “Gee whiz!” vintage comic book element to the show that makes the show feel fresh as well as nostalgic. That fantastical element really cements the show in the ’40s, as well as…

• The show’s amazing production values. Agent Carter feels cinematic in terms of its sets, props, and costumes. There was tremendous attention to detail, which already placed this show in my “check it out” list. I feel like I could write a post about the costumes at some point; keep a look out for that.

The only downside I have when it comes to this show is that it’s only an eight-week event series. Why can’t we have Agent Carter as a regular series? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is nowhere near Agent Carter in my book; Agent Carter has a lot more to say than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Carter focuses on gender lines, feminism, and top it all off, it’s just plain fun, more fun than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , to me, anyways. I love this show and I feel like ABC and Marvel should consider making this a full season. Or, at the very least, give us another event series season.

What did you think about Agent Carter? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. Photo credit: ABC