Tuesday night saw the 2-hour premiere of Marvel’s “Agent Carter” with Hayley Atwell reprising her role…and it was MORE than “good,” it was amazing.
The pilot episode “Now Is Not The End,” picks up after the events in Captain America: The First Avenger, where we find ourselves in 1946 New York. The war has ended (and Cap has taken that icy plunge in order to save the world), and Agent Peggy Carter of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) finds herself back at SSR HQ. Instead of being respected for her work during wartime, though, she’s treated the way all women were treated back then: as a glorified secretary.
But when old friend Howard Stark (yes, that Howard Stark) is accused of treason, he goes on the lam and secretly contacts Carter to help clear his name — and leaves his butler and only trusted confidante Edwin Jarvis (who some may recognize as “J.A.R.V.I.S.” from the Iron Man franchise) to help her in any way she needs (and sometimes doesn’t want).
Stark is brought before Congress and accused of secretly selling weapons to U.S. enemies — to which he contends he didn’t — then goes on said “lam” and back in those days, being convicted of treason was punishable by death. (And before you ask, the U.S. really did execute people for treason and espionage back then…the most famous being George and Ethel Rosenberg).
The weapon in question: Stark’s formula for Molecular Nitramine: a chemical compound that is so dangerous, just a small amount can implode everything within 500 yards. When Carter learns the formula’s not only been weaponized but sitting in a safe at a club appropriately named “The Club,” she infiltrates the club in disguise, grabs it without being discovered (for the most part) and takes it to Stark Industries scientist Dr. Anton Vanko (that name should be familiar to you Iron Man 2 fans, but more on that later) and says the compounded weapon came from Roxxon Oil. So of course, Carter and Jarvis visit the refinery where they come across scientist Miles Van Ert (who made the compound), and Leet Brannis (James Frain, above) — a man who speaks through the use of a throat mic — drops one in order to make escape in a dairy truck FILLED with small spheres filled with Nitramine – but not before saying “Leviathan is coming.”
In the second episode, “Bridge and Tunnel,” the SSR grabs Van Ert (James Urbaniak) during a chemical screening for the compound and after literally beating him with a stick, gives up the location of Brannis and the dairy truck. But, it’s Carter and Jarvis who get there first and after a battle and a half between Carter and a mystery assassin only known as “Green Suit” (under Leviathan’s employ) on the roof of the speeding dairy truck while Jarvis and Brannis (who was mortally wounded by a stray bullet from above) are below trying not to die, Carter goes back inside the truck and steers it off the side of a cliff into a lake below…where the weapons activate, implode and literally suck the lake dry – leaving nothing but a crater.
Having escaped death (again), Carter asks Brannis about Leviathan (which sounds like HYDRA on steroids) but because his throat mic is broken and he himself is on the precipice of death, and draws a symbol in the dirt that looks like a half of a heart with a line through it before dying. Hearing the sirens coming in fast and furious toward their location, Carter and Jarvis make their escape, but not before she quickly wipes away the symbol. However, SSR agents discover women’s footprints and a hotel key at the crash site while another finds a license plate while sifting through the Roxxon Refinery rubble – which looks like someone took the entire building and put in a crusher that turns cars into cubes- that viewers know came from Stark’s car that Jarvis used when he and Carter went to Roxxon.
It was a LOT to pack AND take in for two episodes, but writers Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (pilot, both Captain America films) and Eric Pearson (ep 2) alongside directors Louis D’Esposito (pilot) and Joe Russo (ep 2) gave viewers all they could handle and left fans like me desperate for MORE.
Amazing balance of humor, tragedy and action. Whether it’s Carter secretly mourning the loss of her roommate or her new friend who works at the local automat telling her about the girls who stay at the women’s only apartment complex she’s about to move into (“That’s Sarah, she’s a slut.”), there’s something for everyone.
Better pacing than the other show. Where “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” took a couple episodes to find it’s legs, “Agent Carter” hit the ground running and left me breathless by the end of the two-episode premiere.
Accurate representation of the time period. Women of this age were indeed treated like frail, ditzy and WEAK women who are only good for a few things: making babies, serving food, looking pretty, and taking dictation. Seeing Agent Carter manipulate the brilliantly stupid and sexist men of SSR by using “woman troubles” a.k.a. “menstrual cycle” to leave work early and hit “The Club” to grab the Nitramine before the SSR can, is brilliant.
I also love that when Carter has to do battle, she not only does it using things I never would’ve thought of – like messing up someone’s face with a stapler or taking down the fleeing Van Ert with a briefcase without breaking a sweat (while her colleagues show up seconds later drenched in sweat) – it makes me fist pump the air with a “HELL YEAH!” Of course some women and “younger feminist” types will be angry with the way women are portrayed from both sides (see the scene where Carter is interviewed by the female proprietor of the women’s only apartments) but a simple Google search would fix all that.
Showrunner Kevin Feige and crew do a great job of showing younger viewers (male and female) the rampant sexism that occurred toward women through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s — yes, it’s slightly offensive, but we’re talking about a time period that was offensive toward the so-called “weaker sex.” Agent Carter is a superheroine…she just doesn’t happen to wear a skintight suit is all.
Casting. They definitely weren’t messing around when it came to casting. Alongside the familiar faces from the Captain America/Iron Man franchises, in the first two episodes, we see Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”), Andre Royo (“The Wire”), James Frain (“True Blood”), Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill”), and Kevin Heffernan (Super Troopers) in a hilarious role as a sexist “Madison Avenue” type who loves to belittle the automat waitress until he’s taken down a peg or five by Carter. His comeuppance sparked many a “large Farva” joke on social media, myself included.
And bring him a large Farva with them eggs, sweetheart! #AgentCarter
— Cricket Lee (@crixlee) January 7, 2015
And of course, James D’Arcy (Let’s Be Cops, Cloud Atlas) as the one and only Edwin Jarvis. I was hoping Paul Bettany would be able to play the role but D’Arcy is indeed the right man for this show!
Easter egg/film references. “Agent Carter” is very clever in the way they’ve incorporated Captain America and Iron Man (OTHER than Daddy Stark) into the series – the most obvious being the scene where Rogers makes a date to go dancing before plunging into the icy depths in order to save the world (which made me cry then and made me cry again during the show) – and the most subtle is Stark Industries’ Dr. Anton Vanko, whom Iron Man 2 fans will recognize as the father of Ivan a.k.a. “Whiplash,” as played by Mickey Rourke.
IT’S ONLY EIGHT EPISODES (so far)! Like The Wonder Stuff sang in their 1987 hit, “Give give give me more more more; I’d like it all!”
IF I were to give it a rating as of right now, I’d give it “stars infinity +1.” It’s a worthwhile show that gets the job done and done right.
As you can tell, I am absolutely in love with this show (so far). What about you? I’d love to hear your likes/dislikes/where the show can improve!
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