Did you fall in love with Agent Carter as quickly as I did? I think it may have been love at first sight of Peggy Carter walking down the street like Carmen freaking Sandiego.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve met this character. We’ve had chances to fall for her in both Captain America and the Agent Carter one-shot released as an extra on the Iron Man 3 DVD, but this is the first time our gal has gotten a film or TV show to call her own, and she pulls it off with the presumed amount of panache — which is to say a whole heck of a lot.
The two-hour Agent Carter premiere threw a lot of fast-paced plotting at us. Peggy Carter is living in NYC a year following Captain America’s presumed death. Like many woman of this era, she is trying to keep the social power she earned during World War II when the men were at war and women were allowed more power in the relative chaos. Or so the narrative goes.
Peggy is (apparently) the only female agent in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.), and most of her colleagues treat her like a glorified secretary despite the experience she gained in WWII and the effectiveness she continues to prove in her new position.
When old friend Howard Stark (yep, Tony Stark’s dear old dad) has some dangerous inventions stolen and is accused of treason, he asks Peggy to help retrieve his inventions and clear his name. You know, simple stuff.
One badass woman in a man’s world.
If you haven’t caught on already, the general theme of the story is that Peggy Carter is a woman trying to make it in a man’s world. You will understand this well by the end of the premiere because we are hit over the head with it an infinite amount of times during these first two hours.
I would have liked to see a bit more nuance in this exploration of the post-war era — not to mention a few more female characters for Peggy to interact with. Sure, she has one gal pal to hang with in the form of waitress friend Angie (Nikita’s awesome Lyndsy Fonseca), but so far she exists solely in Peggy’s “normal” life, which is given less time than Peggy’s spy life. I would like to see more women in the spy game — if not as other female employees at the S.S.R, then as villains Peggy is working to take down — or, if not, more time developing interesting stories within Peggy’s “normal” life. Basically, just more Bechdel Test passing. Like, maybe Agent Carter could just focus on full-on leaping that thing in a single bound. Right now, this is the tale of a woman in a man’s world, which is just reinforcing the male-ness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. It isn’t enough to throw one female lead at us, and call it square. We need a world and stories within it that aren’t built upon the assumption that it is men who are the heroes and the villains, with the occasional exception of women who defies the perceived limits of her sex to become someone notable. That is not progress and it’s not good storytelling.
That being said, Agent Carter is a lot of fun and does a great many things right. And, like any television show, should not be judged on one or two installments alone — but in the larger stories it tells.
Angie and Peggy: two great dames.
In spite of what I just said, the Angie/Peggy dynamic really worked for me — eventually. I’d like to spend more time with these two characters. Though their relationship started out feeling a bit forced, the scene in which Peggy has an interview for Angie’s all-female apartment building is one of the best of the second episode. Angie and Peggy share looks over the head of the house’s stern matron as Peggy puts on a Good Girl Persona, and it made their friendship work in a way it hadn’t before.
I am also hoping that we find out there is more to Angie than meets the eye. Perhaps it is Fonseca’s character history as a badass spy lady, but Angie seems awfully interested in getting Peggy to move into her apartment building. Regardless, more Peggy/Angie, please!
Peggy and Jarvis: I ship it.
So, I am pretty sure I’m supposed to be looking at the relationship between Peggy and Jarvis as a bromance/buddy cop sort of situation, but I can’t help but ship these two together. Their banter? Everything they’ve already been through together? The way Jarvis called Peggy out on isolating herself from the world and other people? It’s not often I am so invested in a relationship so early in a show’s run, but these two are so great together. Sure, Jarvis is married, but we still haven’t seen his wife, which makes me think there is more to this situation than meets the eye. Also, if Agent Carter didn’t want me to ship these two together, then they shouldn’t have made so many Sydney/Vaughn parallels in the first episode, you know?
Whatever the nature of the relationship between Agent Carter and Howard Stark’s butler, they are currently the best dynamic on this show. Truth.
Hey, Victor! It’s so good to see Enver Gjokaj again.
Like many people, Victor was my favorite character on the glorious television show that was Dollhouse. Based on this fact alone, I will love his character on Agent Carter no matter what.
But even if it weren’t for my predisposed affection for Agent Daniel Sousa, I would still have warm and fuzzy feelings for this guy. A veteran who lost his leg in the war, Daniel defends Peggy to his a-hole co-workers in an early scene. Peggy soon-after asks him not to — she can defend herself — but the two have an easy friendship. Or at least a friendly colleague-ship.
When Daniel catches Peggy glimpsing at a file about Steve, they have a raw albeit brief convo about the blackness of the war. Given that Peggy told Steve in The Winter Soldier that he saved her husband’s life in the war, it isn’t much of a jump to guess that these two will eventually get together, but we’ll see. Either way, it seems that Daniel will soon become a foil in Peggy’s double-agent ways, as he is proving to be a more observant agent than most of his co-workers. And, unlike them, he doesn’t make the mistake of underestimating Peggy.
Heartbreak and how it motivates Peggy’s character.
The premiere did a good job of reminding the viewer that Peggy is still a woman in mourning over the presumed death of Captain America. Yes, they included that heartbreaking goodbye scene between Steve and Peggy that is enough to make you want to shout Steve’s popsicle coordinates at Peggy through the screen, and there’s the occasional reference to The Cap. The episodes do a good job of bringing these up organically. VitaRay, aka the compound that helped turn Steve into Captain America, is a chief component of the magic bombs the mysterious Leviathan bad guys seem to be making in bulk, so we get a sad moment of Peggy staring heartbreakingly at a photo of Steve in the S.S.R.’s VitaRay file.
And America hasn’t forgotten about their over-the-top hero. As in life, Captain America is used as a popular propaganda tool in death. He pops up in the news stories about Stark’s presumed treason and, later, in a hilariously-terrible radio drama about his damsel-saving, Nazi-killing exploits. And these mentions aren’t just a way to connect Agent Carter to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (thankfully). They are a way to illustrate just how much this woman has lost, and to explain why she is so intent in isolating herself. In the best scene of the two-hour premiere, Jarvis tells Peggy that she will not succeed without allowing other people to help her. Hopefully, this theme will manifest in compelling ways over the course of this series.
The action scenes.
I care more about the character development than the action, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate an innovative fight scene — and Agent Carter was full of them. Peggy fought an assassin off using her stove, battled someone on the roof of a moving milk truck, and took out a goon while listening to a fictionalized version of herself cry for Captain America’s help. This was entertaining stuff, and great examples of how to utilize action to build character. All of the action scenes in this premiere worked on both a visual and narrative level, something that is sadly somewhat rare on television. Many action shows focus solely on what looks cool, forgetting that action sequences can also be used to tell us something about the characters and theme.
The relative ease with which Peggy bested her attacker in her own apartment, i.e. a domestic space, versus how it was somewhat more difficult in more traditionally masculine spaces such as the Roxxon factory says something about this world. Though, the fact that Peggy pretty much kicks ass anywhere says something about her character. She is comfortable and effective in both the traditionally feminine and masculine spheres of this world, and she will use whatever means necessary to complete her mission and save lives — whether it be a perfume bottle, a brief case, or her own fists.
What did you think of the Agent Carter premiere? Will you be watching more episodes? Do you ship Pegvis? Sound off in the comments below!