Marvel’s Agent Carter, starring the excellent Haley Atwell as the titular character, does not allow viewers to breathe for more than a few minutes. The explosive, 2-episode premiere moves quickly and even includes nods to Captain America: The First Avenger without dragging the plot.
Apart from a multitude of Easter eggs that comic book fans may catch, the show also includes nods for those whose only reference point stems from the first Captain America movie or the Marvel short featuring Peggy Carter being promoted to an agent of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). Dominic Cooper continues his role as Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) with the same egotistical sarcasm that he showed in the first Cap America film. James D’Arcy also plays a pivotal role as Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, who movie fans may recognize shares the same name as Tony Stark’s butler-like AI program, J.A.R.V.I.S., in the future.
Atwell plays a phenomenal Agent Carter who not only deals deftly with the sexism that women experienced at the end of World War II but uses it to her advantage. Carter uses disguises and personas to achieve her ends, being equally flirtatious and deadly (without being sexually explicit or brutal). For the most part Agent Carter finds information by playing her male colleagues and extracting info without them even realizing it. However, she’s not afraid to kick ass when necessary either. Followers of Atwell’s Twitter account would know that she posted a “days without incident” counter (in the same vane as Bruce Banner’) due to a few on-set accidents in which she accidentally punched or kicked a member of the stunt crew. The tweets promised action, and Atwell does not disappoint.
What makes Atwell a perfect choice for Carter is that she is not rail-thin and does not need to be explicit or crude to get the job done. She does so modestly without coming across as prudish either. And as the series continues I am certain she will continue to serve as an excellent role model for girls and young women, showing that heroines need not be thin as a bean pole in order to be sexy or to get things done. Agent Carter is also a superb model of assertiveness and exemplary behavior as she not only refuses to back down from snide remarks made by fellow agents but even steps in to stop the verbal abuse of another character.
Above all Agent Carter is human, and the series premiere does not allow the viewer to forget that fact. Often in superhero movies and TV shows the characters are stoic and cold to the point that they are robotic. Agent Carter is anything but: she cries, jokes, and makes mistakes throughout. Moments in which she thinks about Steve Rogers are solemn without being depressing, and an interesting choice on the part of the show is to have her think of the scrawny, 90 pound Steve Rogers rather than beefy Captain America.
If the subsequent episodes are as fast-paced as the first, the series has the potential to set the bar extremely high for Marvel shows that will air throughout the year (the next being the Daredevil series on Netflix). As the series progresses it will be interesting to see how SSR eventually becomes S.H.I.E.L.D. and connects to the rest of the MCU.
Marvel’s Agent Carter deserves all five stars given, and then some. It is a victory for everyone.
*And if you missed the first look at Ant-Man, here it is: