Friday, 4 September 2015

Review: Marvel's Agent Carter (Season One)

Today we take a look at the forgotten hero of the Marvel universe - move over Iron Man et al, it's Peggy Carter's time in the limelight...

While I wouldn't say I'm an out and out fanboy, per se, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I am certainly an appreciator of it. The Avengers is a perennially entertaining film and I also enjoyed the single-hero films, particularly the Captain America ones (though Iron Man is probably the best Avenger). In regards to the first 1940s-set Cap film - The First Avenger - a big reason for my liking it was the brilliant Peggy Carter, by far the best super-hero 'love interest' around. Well-played by Hayley Atwell, Peggy was a capable soldier and secret agent and didn't fall into the damsel-in-distress model. I was excited, then, when I heard she would be the first female character to lead her own instalment of the MCU in Agent Carter, the series. Eat your heart out, Black Widow!

Thankfully, Agent Carter was a genuinely thrilling show - the driving force of which is Peggy's fight to prove herself despite the fierce sexism of her co-workers at the SSR (the forerunner to SHIELD). The pace and plot more or less consistently gain momentum over the trim eight episode series so that, by the time of the finale, I was both excited and saddened to see it end. While at first the supporting characters seem plain and the villains too obscure, Peggy's fellow agents, such as the boorish Thompson, stern Chief Dooley and the understanding Souza, are fleshed out as the series goes on and two effective villains are introduced. Here's hoping we have more of them if the series is renewed. Oh, and word must be given to James D'Arcy's lovable stiff-upper lipped Edwin Jarvis, butler to Howard Stark, whose double act with Peggy makes up the majority of the humour - and heart - of the series. 

But the show can only belong to Hayley Atwell who triumphs in the starring role. Though at times the series itself seems less sure about her as its lead. For instance, whenever Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark turns up, as he does from time to time, the focus almost totally switches to him as if as the audience would much rather be watching a show about Iron Man's womanising Dad and Peggy is just holding his place. Mostly, though, Peggy is handled well by the showmakers and it's refreshing to have both an adventure-based period series and an exciting female lead. 

US TV seems to be superior to British telly in its female lead characters - Buffy comes to mind as the queen of them all - but still there's too few well-developed female characters like Peggy around today. For that alone, I'm very happy that, after some uncertainty, Agent Carter has been given a second series. It's lucky then that Agent Carter is a fun show on its own two legs regardless of Peggy. It may employ the odd familiar plot point or guessable twist but its general consistent quality more than make up for a few quibbles. Agent Carter, you had better report back for duty soon.

Female agency - Peggy Carter has to prove herself to her colleagues in a post-War America.

P.S. Despite the links to the popular MCU and starring three brits as the leads, for some unfathomable reason Agent Carter took an age to be shown in the UK. Hopefully, this will be sorted out next year or will simply just go up on Netflix. Come on, she's even nicknamed 'Miss Union Jack'...

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