It happened! It’s here! After months of anticipation, tonight finally saw the debut of Marvel’s Agent Carter, an eight-part mini-series focused on Hayley Atwell’s character in the Captain America films. While still reeling from Steven Rodger’s death, Agent Peggy Carter works for the Strategic Scientific Reserve during the day while running private missions at night which will eventually lead her to found S.H.I.E.L.D. All of this is well and good and has been known since the beginning of the show’s development, but does the series live up to the hype? Keep reading for our review of the two-hour premiere!
Yes, is the short answer. Oh gods, YES.
The core plot of not only the opening two-parter but what appears to be the mini-series as a whole is fairly straight-forward. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is revealed to have had a hidden stash of dangerous weapons (because of course he did), but many of these pieces have recently shown up on the black market. The SSR believes Stark to be the salesman himself and sets about capturing him, but before making his escape to an unknown locale Stark convinces Peggy that he was robbed, and that in order to clear his name she must begin to reclaim his stolen goods. She begins this intricate process (which includes reclaiming a truck full of glowing explosives) with the aid of Stark’s butler, Jarvis (James D’Arcy), and finally begins to feel as though she has a purpose again.
Atwell’s performance is nothing short of incredible. She’s recognizable as the tough-as-nails-but-has-a-heart SSR specialist from the first Captain America movie, but brings the character into her own within the first few minutes of the show. She maintains such a commanding presence that when we see her in a room full of men at an SSR meeting, it takes a minute for us to register that not only is she not in charge, but her opinion is one that’s likely to be ignored. One of Atwell’s greatest strengths is that her Peggy keeps her cool in situations like this, and can keep her emotions in check. However, when she’s truly challenged emotionally she doesn’t shy away from the pain and there aren’t so much cracks in her tough-girl facade as their are raw feelings flowing freely from every pore of her being.
The central subplot of the first two episodes involves Peggy’s blossoming friendship with a waitress named Angie (Lyndsey Fonseca) at a diner she frequents. The two bond over their struggles with re-adjusting to the sexist social norms of the pre-war era, and when Peggy needs a new place to live (after losing her previous friend and roommate to an attacker who was after Peggy), Angie helps her secure a place in a hotel housing many single, working women. Peggy’s other main companion is Jarvis, Stark’s uptight English butler whose assignment was to keep Peggy safe and, as a result, ends up in way over his head with all of her attempts at espionage. However, just in the first two hours, the pair are already becoming quite the well-balanced team with Peggy playing the hero and Jarvis the sidekick. The role-reversal of the two is a welcome one, and Peggy is one of the first leading ladies in this decade who seems to truly be following in the footsteps of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers.
Final judgements: Plot-wise, nothing done in Agent Carter is revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to be. They stick to the Marvel formula (which has been fine-tuned for a while now) and allowed the rest of the characters to grow around it. The show passes the Bechdel test multiple times throughout both episodes, and the would-be Italian back room black market dealer was a POC, so the show’s already nailed representation. I could’ve dealt without Angie calling one of the other girls living in the hotel a slut for a cheap laugh, but aside from that, I don’t have any related complaints. I came here for the ass-kicking and Atwell’s smirks and period costumes, so color me ten shades of thrilled that the show built from this is quality. Final Grade: A. A+. A++