A Skeptic Watches Agent Carter
Even though Captain America is my favorite out of the Marvel Avengers movies, I was never that enamoured with Peggy Carter. She’s okay, I guess, but she’s exactly like every other “strong female character” you see in comic book movies these days beautiful, confident, able to hold her own in a fight…all admirable traits, but nothing special. And then they announced the Agent Carter television show. Really, Marvel? Not gonna choose a fan favorite character like Loki to get his own series? Gonna go straight for the non-superpowered side character who serves primarily as a love interest in one movie?
I was definitely skeptical.
The first episode is pretty much what you’d expect: A period drama with an underappreciated heroine who decides to prove her worth to the male dominated agency she works for. Not bad, but not terribly inventive.
And then, I just about threw my mouse at the monitor. Peggy used some special femme fatale lipstick to drug a guy. Ugh. It’s petty to criticize such a small incident, but it’s such an overused idea and utterly ridiculous Drugged Lipstick.
I hesitantly started Episode 2, telling myself that, if nothing else, it was great costume porn.
And then, somehow, the show began to grow on me. By Episode 3, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to watch the rest.
Why the turnaround? Well, the truth is that this show’s best asset isn’t its titular character. Now, don’t get me wrong. Hayley Atwell is a solid actress and Peggy’s character has some depth. But it’s really the supporting characters that makes this show dazzle. Here are my two favorite examples:
- Jarvis is a delightfully written character whose aversion/attraction relationship to danger reminds me of Sherlock’s Watson. Better yet, he and Carter get to trade off who plays the straight man, meaning that he bring humor to the show without getting stuck with the “Comic Relief” label.
- Daniel Sousa is one of Peggy’s coworkers. He’s a wounded war veteran, which makes him easy to sympathize with. As the season goes on, he turns out to be really interesting. Not only is he the only guy in the office who consistently respects Peggy as an agent, but he’s actually rather clever and capable when it comes to foiling the villains.
(Speaking of villains. There are two in this season and I won’t name them, but the writers did a great job of making them interesting.)
Basically, Agent Carter’s charm is how it pulls off being a serious, hard hitting crime drama without being completely bleak and heartless. There’s a lot of murder and corruption in Peggy Carter’s world. People die in creatively unpleasant ways and betrayal lurks around every corner. And yet, she doesn’t let it destroy her. She finds a way to trust. There is buttkicking, but there is also friendship. And somehow, it just works. Season 2 comes out next year and I cannot wait.
I will leave you with this link to the epic Dubsmash war that Hayley Atwell/James D’Arcy got into with the Agents of Shield cast: