Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review - MARVEL's Agent Carter

On the big screen, Marvel can seemingly do no wrong.  On the small screen, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gained momentum and seems to finally be coming into its own with stronger, more exciting storylines and action.

Now, during S.H.I.E.L.D's winter hiatus, ABC is re-introducing us to Peggy Carter, the beautiful-but-tough-as-nails S.H.I.E.L.D. agent we first met in Captain America: The First Avenger in Marvel's Agent Carter.  I love me a strong female character who kicks ass in any capacity, so how does Peggy measure up?

It’s 1946, and post WWII peace has dealt Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized into a desk job when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve),  Peggy must maintain a tripe life, balancing mundane administrative work, her phone company operator cover story for those in her personal life, including roommate olleen (Ashley Hinshaw (True Blood), and action-packed secret missions for her boss Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). Also co-stars Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Lyndsy Forseca (Nikita), Kyle Bornheimer (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Meagen Fay (Malcolm in the Middle), and Bridget Regan (Jane the Virgin).


The great thing about Marvel owning their own stuff is that they can use it in any way they see fit, so I loved seeing the footage of Captain America in various scenes from The First Avenger in a nifty opening montage, showing Peggy's life then and now and how she's coped (or not?) with the loss of her (potentially) great love Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who (SPOILER ALERT!) seemingly died at the end of the film (Of course he was found frozen in ice decades later, awakened and later reunited with Peggy and shared a sweet relationship with her in her final, elderly years).

Before Agent Carter, there was another spy series that centered around a formidable woman, Alias, starring Jennifer Garner, which, at least in its first couple of seasons, was awesome (and recommended by me for binge-watching), with terrific action sequences, lots of costume changes, bits of humor and wit, and of course tension as Garner's Sydney Bristow tackled with not getting caught in her double life.


Agent Carter has many of these same elements, and Atwell is good in the role.  She wears the style of the 40s well, red lips and all.  The character definitely fights an uphill battle daily against most of her male colleagues as they demean and degrade her importance and relevance, and you feel for her and root for her to stay strong, which she does.  I like that we get to meet the man who inspired Howard's son Tony Stark's (played by Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man and The Avengers) computer attache Jarvis - here he's Howard's butler Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy, Broadchurch), who is a bit of a prim-and-proper comic sidekick for Peggy.

I wish I could say I loved the pilot, but I didn't have as much fun or get pulled in as much as I'd hoped to.  Admittedly, while I acknowledge this is still within a comic book-esque universe, the supernatural elements thrown in kind of seemed out of place here.  And honestly, though the character of Peggy Carter is one to admire as a strong woman in a very-much man's world and one that makes sense to have a series created around, I just don't think she works well as the lead focus of a series, but rather as she was originally established - the companion, the supporting character ... in the case of the Marvel Universe, as Steve Rogers' femme fatale.  I can name other female spy series that work better, at least for me - the aforementioned Alias, the CW's Nikita, and USA's recently cancelled Covert Affairs.

Since this is a short-lived series, and because it may set up important information within the Marvel Universe films and on S.H.I.E.L.D., I'll watch it in its entirety and hope that I get into it more.  But it falls short of being a winner and must-see draw for me.

Marvel's Agent Carter airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC.

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