New York City, 1946… Agent Peggy Carter continues to fight the good fight with the SSR, however in a reduced capacity. With little respect from her fellow agents and no idea how to move on from her beloved Steve Rogers, Agent Carter is at a crossroads. Until she’s called on by an old friend to gather information on another looming global threat that’s known simply as Leviathan.
Since her introduction in The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell has been immensely memorable as the tenacious yet extremely capable Agent Carter. One of the few female heroes given a prominent role in the Cinematic Universe, fans clamored for more and Marvel granted our wish with her very own One Shot as well as brief flashbacks of Carter with the Howling Commandos on SHIELD. Although a great majority of us enjoy watching Agent Carter tear it up, those segments were mere morsels compared to the amount of depth viewers were treated to during the two-hour premiere.
Peggy Carter has been a fan favorite almost from the start, apparently well adept to handle any crisis and foe thrown at her. That is, until the frenzied hostilities of the Second World War cease and what once was is commonplace again. Separated from her friends, tasked to a menial job and mourning the loss of her love, we see Agent Carter in rare form as she’s uncertain of her future. It may be due to having an established CU character like Agent Carter as the lead of her own limited series, but the premier was far and away a better product than the first half of Agent of SHIELD’s first season. If anything, Marvel Studios learned that pacing was key, as no scene was wasted on tedious exposition or showcasing silly tech. Although the cast is just as big as their contemporary counterpart’s, there’s no doubt Hayley Atwell is the focus, as every scene only further improves upon our admiration for the stalwart agent.
What was especially fantastic were the number of charismatic characters who elicit aspects of Peggy’s personality we’ve never truly witnessed before. Beginning with Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) who relates with Carter through their diminished duties. Then there’s plucky waitress Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca) who can sense Peggy is in need of companionship but remains understandably concerned about losing anyone else close to her. The most persuasive of all is Howard Stark’s trusted attendant and butler Edwin Jarvis, played with an impeccable balance of professional reserve and domestic timidity by James D’Arcy. Jarvis is the perfect foil to Carter, who playfully takes jabs at Edwin’s relatively mundane life. In turn, Jarvis becomes a confidant of sorts while acquiring a taste for adventure and tradecraft while supporting Peggy during her clandestine operations.
Its comic book roots aside, Agent Carter remains grounded and accessible gloomily in part by the disparity and discrimination our titular hero experiences throughout the premiere. Many a time, Peggy is marginalized in her roles within the SSR and deprecated for good measure by her cocksure co-workers. Agent Carter takes it all in stride because her reserve is far deeper than any of her counterparts will ever know. In a lesser degree, her closest allies Jarvis and Sousa inadvertently downplay her adeptness, despite being quite aware of her exploits during WWII. A fault all men but Howard Stark have shown yet will probably be rectified as the series progresses. For the time being, Carter uses her unfortunate circumstances to play on the assuredness of her allies and enemies to get the upper hand. Few may complain about the smug attitudes of the males on Agent Carter but to be fair, men have acted that way towards women for the longest time. No matter all her strengths and qualifications, Peggy is nothing more to her compatriots than a skirt. Thankfully we progressed a little bit culturally but I’m certain women can claim even today their portrayals are more accurate than half of us can know.
By establishing a new threat in the largely unexplored history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and featuring a strong, multi-faceted female lead, Agent Carter provides a fresh take in the now decade-long venture. With its exceptional start, one could only hope the quality of Agent Carter persists if not improves and provides a new benchmark for all future Marvel film and television properties.