Episode 1 & 2: “Pilot” & “Bridge and Tunnel”
Agent Peggy Carter, still coping with the loss of Captain America, must help Howard Stark prove his innocence against accusations of treason.
What a show. Honestly, defining it beyond that has proven to be a challenge. Upon two more viewings of the two-hour premiere, it’s still difficult to find a starting point to begin praising Agent Carter. It’s not just another Marvel product, not just another spinoff or in-between for the gaps in their movies. More than anything else, Agent Carter is good TV. Exciting, engaging, and it creates a need to go back and experience it again. And again. And again again. And as many times as you can until you’ve had your fill of this amazing world.
One of the elements that separates it from the pack is the style. A superhero secret agent period piece set during the years after World War II. Secret government bases filled with cutting edge technology that is considered almost laughable today. The retro quality is perfectly realized to give everything in the series a unique look and feel. These are the days when scientists spoke of flying cars and interstellar travel and vast technological paradises in the year 2000. What we wouldn’t give to tell them that the biggest breakthroughs of the 2000s were things like Google, YouTube, the iPod, and Red Bull energy drinks. Of the unexplainable phenomenons like twerking, hashtags, and cat videos that make up our lives. Maybe it’s better they don’t know. Let them dream, let them fill our minds with extraordinary fantasies in the not-too-distant future. What is entertainment other than a way to escape the disappointment of reality for an hour or two?
This world is experienced through Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), an intelligence agent struggling to cope with the loss of the Captain, a country transitioning back from war, an office filled with men who believe her strongest asset is answering the phones, and allegations of treason against one of her closest friends. It’s not unexpected that many will see this show as yet another “girl power” program. The fact of the matter is that it features plenty of chauvinistic behavior that makes strong women like Peggy grind their teeth with frustration. But what the show captures so well is the idea that Peggy isn’t a great agent because she’s a girl, she’s a great agent who just so happens to be a girl. This sentiment is perfectly captured during an exchange in the first episode.
“Why didn’t he stop her?”
“They’re still pulling staples out of his face.”
No matter if you’re boy, girl, or somewhere in between, that’s awesome.
A lot of credit goes to Hayley Atwell, who makes Peggy such a fun character to root for. Again, it’s not because she’s a girl, it’s because she kicks ass. The only time her gender comes into play is at one point to seduce information out of a target. As a male human being who understands every one of our stupid flaws and defects, let me just say that no man could have said no to her. Forget pretty, forget sexy, that woman achieved such a state of enticement and attraction, I’d have given her my car without blinking. She brings that same level of flawless execution to everything she does. So much more than the pretty face, you admire how unbelievably good she is at her job. That character is the driving force behind the show.
The supporting characters are equally well crafted. It’s not until the show is over and you’re watching it again that you realize how quickly these characters became ingrained into your mind. A perfect example of this is Peggy’s roommate Colleen (Ashley Hinshaw). Never has the lost of a bit part character carried so much weight. Colleen was the kind of person who should have have been popping up on the show for the foreseeable future. By all accounts, she was in what should have been the safest position. She was clueless of Peggy’s secret life, never tried to probe or stick her nose into Peggy’s business, and remained firmly rooted in her own problems at all times. We lost her right as we were realizing we liked her. Daniel Sousa (Joss Whedon veteran Enver Gjokaj) provides another example of someone who refuses to be defined by his most obvious quality; in his case a physical handicap. Like Peggy, he’s defined by the devotion he puts into every aspect of his job. You can’t help but admire someone who puts in so much effort. Then there’s Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), the man behind the computerized voice in Tony Stark’s Iron Man helmet. As nice as it would have been to have Paul Bettany (who provides the actual voice) in the role, D’Arcy makes such a strong impact so quickly that taking the role away from him seems a terrible idea.
Agent Carter does its job up to the highest standards, and it looks good doing it.
Episode Score: 9.0 and 9.1