Marvel's Agent Carter (2015) season 1, episodes 1 and 2
"Now is Not the End"
WRITER: CHRISTOPHER MARKUS and STEPHEN MCFEELY
DIRECTOR: LOUIS D'ESPOSITO
"Bridge and Tunnel"
WRITER: ERIC PEARSON
DIRECTOR: JOSEPH V. RUSSO
AIR DATE: January 6 2015
Agent Carter starts off with a bang with two episodes, ‘Now Is Not the End’ and ‘Bridge and Tunnel’, establishing the latest Marvel adaptation for the small screen after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is on an extended break. The series, which focuses on Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), the one-time love of Captain America (Chris Evans, seen in flashbacks from Captain America: The First Avenger) in the post World War Two era, looks to be something of an Alias (the good television series, not the dreck comic book from several years ago written by Joe Quesada’s best friend) for the period.
The main story itself concerns Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, still playing the part with as much of a rake and rogue style as ever) apparently being investigated for selling weapons to America’s enemies. He reaches out to Peggy, asking for help to clear his name. While he’s going abroad to handle things on one front, he asks Peggy to handle the investigation stateside. He even entrusts her with the services of his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy, playing the role in a very civilized and proper English way, keeping calm and carrying on) as her support.
There are a few Easter eggs for the comics fan to take in as we go along. The Roxxon company for one is mentioned; it’s been referenced elsewhere in the greater cinematic and television universe, particularly in Iron Man 3. Comics readers will know it well from the company having its hands in many a nefarious underhanded plot down through the years. Anton Vanko (played by Costa Ronin) is the co-creator of the arc reactor with Howard - we saw an elderly version of the character in Iron Man 2, fated to have a son played by a brain damaged mumbling twit (hello, Mickey Rourke). The big Easter egg, and perhaps the identity of what will be a Big Bad for the series, is the organization Leviathan, which was established in the Secret Warriors comics series as an organization rivalling both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra.
The production very much has a mid-Forties feel to it, in terms of technology, music, wardrobe, but also attitude. Boarding houses for women have very strict (almost Puritan) rules for single women. Male chauvinism is on full display in terms of how women are treated - many women who had responsibilities and careers during the War resent the fact that they’re being shuffled out of those responsibilities by veterans who don’t respect their own contributions.
Jarvis and Cater
have a clandestine meeting
Other main characters for the series are established early on, though rather sketchily. We’ll get to know them more as they go along. Chad Michael Murray plays Agent Thompson, an SSR agent with a chip on his shoulder, a chauvinistic veteran with no respect for Carter, a lot of attitude, and a lot of ambition. Shea Whigham plays Roger Dooley, the boss at SSR, who has little time for Carter’s input (this tends to be a pretty chauvinistic era, and that certainly is on full display). More sympathetic is Agent Daniel Sousa, played by Enver Gjokaj. He’s a war veteran, but one with a crippled leg, and he doesn’t care for the chauvinistic attitude towards Carter, or the ribbing he takes for his own condition. I do like the dynamic between Carter and Sousa - there is a mutual respect there between them.
D’Arcy is a welcome touch as Jarvis. When Iron Man was first put into production the choice was made not to have a Jarvis, familiar to comics readers as the Stark family butler and then the butler and primary staffer for the Avengers. It was felt, no doubt, that people would just associate the character as a Marvel version of Alfred Pennyworth. Instead we got an AI system named in his honour in the armour and in Tony’s residences. Here we have the original as a young man, and he’s something of a comic relief character, quite accustomed to settling down at home with his wife early each evening. The banter he has with Carter is refreshing though, and he keeps himself calm under pressure.
It’s a pleasure to see Hayley Atwell playing this character again full time. We’ve seen her full on in the first Captain America movie, and then as an older woman in the sequel. And we’ve also seen her this season in flashbacks on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dealing with end of the war urgent business that tied into the present day storylines. She continues to play the character with inner strength, a resourceful and smart woman with innate courage who’s chafing at the feeling of not being respected. She’s also still grieving the apparent death of a man she loved - we know at some point she’s going to move on with her life, but here the grief is still fresh. She’s kick ass in how she fights, but also very human, feeling the loss of an innocent and a friend dying in her place. Atwell plays both aspects of that character seamlessly, and in doing so holds our interest and our sympathy. It’s a fine start to the series.