In the past few weeks, Marvel has seen it fit to debut its new series, Agent Carter. On the surface its an excuse to take up the mid-season hiatus of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so we all don't go nuts and storm the offices of ABC. I, for one, giggled with a sort of perversity when I heard they were making the show. It seemed like Marvel was digging at the bottom of the barrel. After all the big hype for the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fell flat on its face.
I can honestly say now that I am very impressed with most of the aspects of [Marvel's Agent Carter](series:1119765), and I personally believe it is much better than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I know most of you will be thinking, How does a show about Captain America's ex-girlfriend measure up to Inhumans, Hydra, naked blue aliens with tubes running out of its guts, and mentally traumatized Scottish geniuses? Well that's the easy part.
I would now like to take the time out to say that this is an article of my own opinion. You don't have to like my opinion but it would be nice if you respect it. I am not a staff writer or one of those jerks who hook you with Facebook posts and get you to read an article that basically says everything we know already. I love comics, I've been reading them since I was a kid, and I'm definitely not one of the wanna-be Marvel groupies who think that because they watch everything Marvel, they're suddenly a geek. So without further ado, Agent Carter.
For those of you who don't know, after the war Peggy Carter now works at the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), a sort of precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the MCU. While the SSR is a creation never mentioned in the comics, the addition is a positive one. Carter has a platform that allows her to go to work and kick ass, but still allows her to come home and reveal more about her character. More on that later.
The post-war 1940s setting is phenomenal in its presentation. Most of the show so far has functioned like a pulp detective novel. The hats, the attitudes of the other agents on the show, the interrogations where its okay to beat the snot out of your suspect. The third episode featured a street shooting that seemed like something out of The Godfather. Its the kind of show that makes you want to buy a fedora and start sipping gin while pestering for clues.
Undoubtably the show also deals with misogyny, giving a slight Mad Man-esque vibe. What's different is that the main character is female. In the first episode, it comes quite as a shock as her coworkers are disrespectful and talk with stereotypes that middle-schoolers make fun of. However, in the three episodes so far, the theme is not overdone. The show makes it clear that misogyny is a problem and a current issue, however it does not go overboard with presenting the issue in an overblown fashion time and time again. It's probably one of the best feminist shows I've seen in a long time.
The Main Character
Maybe I'm just partial to Peggy Carter. I saw Captain America in theaters and at the end I was the only one crying in the theater as my friend punched me to shut up. Captain America was a good movie, not necessarily Oscar worthy, but a good movie. The show allows us to expand not only Carter as a character, but also as a person.
Hayley Atwell's acting is honest and genuine. She portrays Carter with lots of panache as well as wit. Her performance makes you take Carter seriously. It seems that there's much more charm to Peggy Carter than any of the other characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is partly because of the contrast of the setting of the two shows and partly the fault of the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show takes place mostly in the Bus. It's their home. But the problem with that is it's harder to reflect on the character if everyone lives in one location per-say. Carter is shown living first in a small apartment with one bed she shares with another woman. She moves from there to an all woman's boarding house called the Griffith. Some example inferences you can drawn from these locations are: she's struggling to make ends meet, she's not really looking for a relationship right now, she's not really ready to settle down. And this does not include the items shown within her various apartments. You don't get that with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Joss Whedon has done living-together-on-a-ship-while-giving-character successfully before with Firefly. Kaylee's hammock, Inara's shuttle, Jayne's wall of guns and his hat. For some reason it did not happen with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Supporting Characters
Edwin Jarvis is a doll. Even though so far he has not beaten anyone as much as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second in command, Agent May, he is by far more charming and likable. He also isn't just the Marvel version of Alfred Pennyworth, but his own man. He has a wife which he dotes on and periodically works in the field with Carter. While he and Alfred do share the same role as counselor, Jarvis is not so much as a paternal figure as a best friend everyone needs.
I did mention the misogyny earlier and it's best embodied in these guys who can come off as jerks. However, I feel that the characters are written a lot more strongly than most in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. When Trip died in the Inhuman City, I really didn't feel much. He was just there for no reason. Yet when Agent Krzeminski appears for three episodes then gets gunned down in the third, I actually felt a pang of sadness. The fact is, I got to know more about Krzeminski than I ever did about Trip. Krzeminski was a womanizer, he was stupid, he liked a good sandwich, and he was easygoing. Sure he could be a dick but honestly he felt like more of a badass than most of the characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The thing about the side characters in Agent Carter is they give you all the feel of pulp detectives or war veterans itching for action. They're from a time when America just kicked a whole lot of ass in war that had more of a righteous cause than most do today. They're men who want to do the right thing but are willing to punch a guy in the face to get the answers they want. Hard-boiled is the term. They're men like this:
Are they dicks? Sure they are. Are they sexist? Most definitely. Is it excusable? Obviously not. But they're way tougher than most of the guys at the current version of S.H.I.E.L.D. They're a more sexist, dickish, and realistic version of the Howling Commandoes. Chief Dooley seems more up to the task of being the head of the SSR than Coulson being the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson's too nice of a guy. Dooley seems like if he had the symbols running around his head, he would suck it up, knock back a glass of Jack Daniels and punch something. Being nice isn't going to take down Hydra. The great thing is that Carter acts as a foil to all of them, which obviously in time is going to teach them to respect women.
I called it. I wrote an article back in December about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they were going to keep stealing ideas from this one series, Secret Warriors. And now in Agent Carter, they've introduced one of the terrorist organizations first mention in Secret Warriors: Leviathan. I really hope this means they're bringing white Nick Fury back.
In the comics, Leviathan is the Russian equivalent of Hydra. Long story short, Leonardo Da Vinci gathers the world's greatest spies and sends them on missions to recover different artifacts. Eventually the Russians, Viktor Uvarov, and Vasili Dassiev betray everyone, even Hydra, and take a few of these alien regeneration pods. The pods get sabotaged and the Russian soldiers inside get turned into the weird alien thingys as shown above.
What does this mean for the show? Well there are a lot of possibilities. The appearance of Viktor Uvarov and Vasili Dassiev seem very likely. Obviously Leviathan is going to use Stark's tech to do something silly. Maybe we'll get to see mutated alien Russians. Or possibly a three way between S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra and Leviathan. Whoopdedoo.
Agent Carter has had three episodes so far. So far, I am impressed. I like it more than [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.](series:722469), and I think it's very well done. Is it on the level of Game of Thrones in terms of dialogue and intrigue? No. But it does Peggy Carter justice and gives viewers a strong female character that not just women watch and admire, but men as well.