01 “Now is Not the End” (Agent Carter season 1) [SPOILERS]

agent carter

I am only just getting into Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, having missed the boat when it started. I’m informed it gets better about midway through.

But Agent Carter is one that I am able to get into on the ground floor. So why the hell not, eh?

In the growing pantheon of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Captain America: The First Avenger was probably my favourite until Guardians of the Galaxy came along. And Peggy Carter was a big part of that. So if Marvel want to give her a show, I’m on board with that.

The pilot episode joins Carter a year after the end of the war, and still mourning both Steve Rogers and her place at the centre of the action during the war. Meanwhile, Howard Stark is a suspected traitor, after the theft of some of his particularly destructive inventions for the black market. He recruits the frustrated Carter to hunt down the inventions and clear his name.

First off, this has a touch of pilot-itus. As with the Constantine pilot, it needs to simmer down a bit and pace itself. But the fact that it is action-packed isn’t much of a downside.

Peggy running back and forth trying to find uber-dangerous bomb was a heckuva romp, and worth watching for that alone. But it was clearly the beginning of a series, and went through the usual motions of setting up premise and characters. It’s not a bad premise to start on, a treasure hunt for whatever weird nasties Stark has cooked up.

We also have an interesting new bad guy: Leviathan. Characterised by little y-shaped scars on their throats and using artificial larynxes to talk. Which is a nice hook, but it’s going to take more than that to take them beyond a discount Hydra. But there’s time for that.

The casual sexism floating around the forties setting makes for a good backdrop for some female badassery, though I wasn’t wild at the way that she is introduced to Howard Stark and his butler — and Carter’s new assistant — Edwin Jarvis. The rape-in-a-dark alley fakeout was a) unnecessary, but b) obvious. Must do better, Marvel.

What won me most, though, was the characterisation she got. Of course Captain America was going to cast a heavy shadow, but the way that they merged her sense of loss with her sense of post-war redundancy was a good decision. There are some interesting recent historical themes which this serious could explore.

It wasn’t perfect, and there are things it needs to improve on — above all, calming down a little bit — but I think we could be onto something here. As much as anything, it could do a lot to address Marvel’s woman problem.

It also sets a stage of Peggy Carter versus the world, with antagonists in the form of her co-workers and boss, this shadowy ‘Leviathan’, and even Stark and Jarvis thanks to the mysterious comment at the end by the latter, about her not suspecting a thing. I will be tuning in next week, and hoping for good things.

Closing thoughts:

  • That two way communication typewriter thing is very stolen from Fringe. It’s cool. But tut tut.
  • Over exaggerated posh British accent aside, it’s nice to see James Darcy again. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything since Master and Commander.
  • Part of me is disappointed that they didn’t cast Paul Bettany as Jarvis, though.
  • Am I alone in thinking the body count astronomical in this episode? If it carries this on (It almost certainly won’t -Ed) Game of Thrones could have found itself a rival in the gratuitous deaths stakes.

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