Laura Tormos ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Unlike most love interests in superhero films, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was no damsel in distress in Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. This was a woman that, during a time of war, ascended to an authority position in the male-dominated Strategic Scientific Reserve during the height of World War II, and went toe to toe with Nazis and Hydra agents without so much as smudging her killer red lipstick—and in heels, to boot. In Agent Carter’s 1940s-era New York City, just a year or so after the end of the war, Peggy Carter is still with the SSR. The institutionalized sexism of the time, however, means that she’s been relegated to a desk job in favour of her male counterparts, who ridicule her and laugh at her relationship with Captain America. Seemingly everywhere she goes she has to hear people stress the period’s ideals of what it means to be a woman and how they should behave: distressed, blushing, helpless, all which she is not.
Agent Carter’s two-hour premiere is devoted to tearing all these expectations down and proving that Carter is more than capable of doing everything a man can, and even more importantly, handling the jobs they now refuse to give her just as well as any of her male co workers. However, Marvel’s first female-led TV show has more to offer than just this small female triumph. By far its biggest asset is Atwell, who never asks you to feel sorry for Carter despite everything she has to deal with. She explores Carter’s vulnerable side while still showing you that she is anything but a victim.
The plot revolves around the government’s attempts to nail Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) for treason after his scientific weapons experiments fall into enemy hands. The government believes he is selling them, and Stark turns to Carter to help clear his name and track down whoever is stealing his “bad babies” (what Stark calls his most lethal weapons), and lends his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), to serve as her sidekick, who is, admittedly, not very helpful at first—though that’s part of his charm.
One thing that could warrant a complaint is the lack of a real villain being introduced even after two full episodes—though there might be some hinting. There’s also the visual incongruence between the scenes from The First Avenger that’s spliced with the new footage. Agent Carter already feels like an established show despite this, however, and will hopefully help pave the way for the rest of the women of Marvel by showing that yes, women action heroes are bankable. With its feminist message, alluring star, cool espionage tactics, and smooth ‘40s aesthetic, one could forgive any of its shortcomings—of which there are decidedly few.
Overall Episode Grade: A