Television is glutted with comic book shows these days. From Agents of SHIELD to Arrow to The Flash to the host of supernatural-themed ones, it’s “this year’s candy pink refrigerator.” Into this mix steps Agent Carter.
Boasting an excellent cast that includes Hayley Atwell in the title role she created in the first Captain America movie, Shea Whigham of Boardwalk Empire and True Detective, and Enver Gjokaj of Dollhouse, this feels like a more solid and respectable show, not to mention more fun, than just about anything I’ve found on network TV. It’s not the lightweight, aren’t-young-people-pretty sort of fare that you find in something like The Flash. Instead, Agent Carter feels really integrated into a world of its own, a world not overly dependent on CGI.
I have to say the commercials appalled me, and at first I wasn’t interested for that reason. The advertising tagline was “Sometimes the best man for a job is a woman,” which is so sexist and 1986 that I almost puked. But once you watch, you find that the sexism is very much part of what Peggy Carter has to fight. Sidelined after the war, her record (largely classified) is treated as a joke and she is pushed into secretarial work and denied assignments as an agent in the SSR. This creates a kind of de facto secret identity for Peggy, and that becomes the basis of the show.
I’ve seen the first three episodes. These (and it seems like this plot will continue for some time) deal with Peggy Carter’s attempt to clear Howard Stark’s good name. As we know from the movies, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is the genius inventor son of a genius inventor. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is being accused of treason when his inventions end up in enemy hands. Only Peggy believes that these inventions were stolen. Working with Stark’s butler, Jarvis (James D’Arcy), Peggy functions undercover on Stark’s behalf while working by day for an agency trying to bring him down.
So, secret identity. And no one notices because she’s “just a woman.” So far so good. Better, though, is the script, which leads us into conspiracies and nightclubs, to evildoers in back alleys, strange inventions and sleazy hotels. It’s all very atmospheric with dialogue that sounds, miracle of miracles, like actual people speak it. After having my heart broken by Gotham, this is welcome indeed.
There’s action in every episode: Agent Carter isn’t going to make the “let’s talk this to death” mistake of the early episodes of Agents of SHIELD. Fights, car chases, tense encounters, disguises…it’s all deployed to great effect.
In case you can’t tell, I recommend Agent Carter. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much fun.