We’ve been introduced to a number of badass females in the films and television shows from Marvel Studios. There’s Melinda May, Natasha Romanoff, Maria Hill, and Skye/Daisy Johnson, just to name a few. However, before any of them even reported for duty at S.H.I.E.L.D., there was Peggy Carter fighting alongside Captain America and holding down the fort at the Strategic Science Reserve during the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, we get to see even more of her adventures in ‘Agent Carter’ on ABC while ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ takes a little break this winter.
Prior to receiving the call from Howard Stark that saw her become one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of ‘Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter,’ Hayley Atwell’s beloved character got a very different call from her old friend from the war. After having some of his most dangerous creations disappear from his vault and reappear on the black market, Stark is being called a traitor by the SSR and the US government. To clear his name, he contacts Agent Carter about helping him track down the ones responsible and bring them to justice. But since she’s unfairly stuck doing administrative duties around the office rather than joining the other agents in the field, she’s left to carry out her mission in secret and right under the noses of her superiors.
The two-hour series premiere had Marvel written all over it. First of all, there was an excellent blend of action and humor, but it defied genre as it went on to touch upon a very noir-esque area as well. And then another Marvel signature was the Mcguffin (or the one thing that everyone is after), which in this case was the Niramene gas. But just because we’ve come to expect all of this from the House of Ideas by now doesn’t mean we’re tired of it. In fact, despite getting the formula a number of times before this, ‘Agent Carter’ is still new, fresh, and very enjoyable.
One of the big reasons for the success of this show is star Hayley Atwell. True Believers have been clamoring for a female-led Marvel story for some time and there is frankly no one better than Peggy Carter, who would probably not be the same without Atwell. I’d even go so far as to say that Robert Downey Jr. is to Tony Stark as Hayley Atwell is to Peggy Carter. With that being said, she shines just as brightly as RDJ in the debut of her own series. In the premiere (which is actually the first two episodes), we get to see her go undercover twice to get the information that she needs to stay ahead of the SSR and learn more about the villainous Leviathan. Her disguises as the milk inspector and the blonde bombshell were on par with Tatiana Maslany’s work on ‘Orphan Black.’ Atwell really shows great range as she seamlessly transitions from ‘LA Confidential’ to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ to some sort of James Bond/Carmen San Diego hybrid.
Even though she was clearly the main event of this card, Atwell was joined by a number of talented people. Of course Dominic Cooper reprising his role from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ was a very welcome sight, but James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis was the best thing that Stark brought to the table. Firmly planted in his schedule, Jarvis is not cut out for espionage, but he’s willing to be the best butler he can for Agent Carter by helping out even when she may not want it. The dynamic between the two is probably the most fun aspect of the show and I can’t wait to see more of it, especially since the end of the first episode seems to indicate that Howard and Jarvis aren’t exactly telling Peggy the whole story.
In addition to D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray and Kyle Bornheimer were regular cast members that stood out as interesting. Even though they’re SSR agents, there are times when they come off as goons. That’s probably not what they were going for entirely, but it works since Carter is supposed to be above and beyond better than anyone else in that office. Regarding some of the one-off characters, it was great to see Andre Royo of ‘The Wire’ and Kevin Heffernan of ‘Super Troopers’ in this show. It’s too bad that they didn’t get more prominent roles because both are really talented actors, but their appearances as Spider Raymond and the Madison Avenue Guy contributed to the overall quality of the show, albeit only a little bit.
My favorite part of the premiere was the radio play titled ‘Captain America Adventure Hour’, which features a helpless character named “Betty Carver.” Throughout the second hour, it was used as a clever juxtaposition between this airheaded representation of Peggy and the badass action that the real Peggy was unleashing upon her foes. This was best represented during the struggle at Sheldon McFee’s house. On top of that fun dichotomy, Peggy’s reaction to the show every time it came on was priceless. And while I loved it, I doubt that they’d use this again at risk of playing it out, which is a total shame because Ralph Garman was an excellent narrator. However, there are some very talented writers working on this series, so I’m sure that they’ll find some other way to be awesome throughout the rest of the seven-week engagement.
At the end of the day, this was a great way to kick off ‘Agent Carter.’ We know the mission, we somewhat know the villains, and we know that our hero is someone that we can definitely get behind. All of this was set up nicely in the premiere and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Peggy, Jarvis, and the mission. I will say that it was a little curious that there was no “post-credits scene”, but with the ‘Ant-Man’ teaser and the all around excellent introduction to this series, I can’t really complain too much.
‘Agent Carter’ starring Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Shea Whigham, Kyle Bornheimer, and Enver Gjokaj airs on Tuesdays at 9:00pm on ABC.