At halfway through the eight-episode first season of Agent Carter I could spend my time reviewing the plot, production value, and even casting, but instead let’s look at Marvel’s first female lead from the cinematic universe.
Originally hailing from Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Peggy Carter was arguably the only female in the film. The movie failed the Bechdel test on all accounts, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the test, it’s rather simple: two women need to talk to each other on a topic other than men. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Now this doesn’t make Captain America a bad movie, but it did twist Carter’s character. For her to “stand up” alongside men she had to physically punch her way in, as if that’s the only communication men will respond to.
When I was eagerly watching the film in theaters I gasped in shock as Carter shot the Cap’s new shield. Her reaction was extreme to say the least, and made me feel that she was unstable with violent outbursts. In what situation is it a laughing matter for anyone to use a gun on another human? Oh yeah, when she’s the only chick around and has to constantly prove she’s just like the men. Bad form Marvel.
Now back to actress Hayley Atwell’s character Peggy Carter in, Agent Carter. Although I had planned to watch it from the start, I had my reservations. Her character from the movie had me concerned that she lacked enough range to be a show’s lead. Luckily, Marvel released a short fifteen minute film of Carter’s post war adventures back in 2013. This set the overall premise for the series, which piqued my interest.
From episode one, Agent Carter does not disappoint. I promised this wasn’t going to be about the casting, costuming, and other artistic mediums, but let me take one small moment to just say hell yes. Oh, and Atwell does a spectacular job reprising her character as well as adding new depth and intrigue.
(Atwell posing with her layers of tights, spanks, mic pack, and harness.)
The show once again sets Carter against a myriad of men in the SSR station; however we’re finally seeing more women involved as well. Woven into her character development, Carter begins closed off and self-reliant to a fault, but as she reaches out we’ve now seen her in the presence of her all-female apartment complex talking about – gasp – not men. What a novel idea! She even has female friends now, I mean, is this incredible or what?
Perhaps it’s a little crass to place so much on Carter’s shoulders, but she and Black Widow represent the most heroic women of the Marvel universe directly from the movies. These blockbusters draw viewers into their smaller production counterparts. Yet, unsure how Peggy Carter would hold up against the rest, season one is only eight episodes (as opposed to the slower paced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which started with twenty-two episodes in the first season.)
True, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has several well rounded women in the cast, but they are new standalone characters thanks to a bit of the Whedon flair (Buffy anyone?) But, unlike Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Agent Carter story has been streamlined to make as much of an impact in those few episodes as possible. The result has left the audience with a well-rounded, action grabbing start that keeps us on point, even if the returning characters are minimal. When this season ends I pray over my DVD collection that it will be renewed for several more to come.
Hayley Atwell is stunning in her performance. The guises that she adopts are flawlessly executed both in the costuming and makeup, as well as her adaptation to different mannerisms and speech patterns.
(OK, the middle one was just for fun)
The costuming alone is a visual treat mixed with the slight manipulation of color to both set us in the 40’s without completely losing touch with today. The only drawback? She’s too good. The other men in her department pale in comparison, and yet we need to feel that they are competent enough to act as the very beginnings of what will one day become S.H.I.E.L.D.. But the series is in its infancy, so I can forgive a few issues. Actually, with the shows I watch I think I’ve proven I can forgive a lot of issues, as long as characters stay strong and the plot interesting.
Inconsistencies are a natural part of any show. I’ve seen very few series that have a nearly perfect recollection of previous events and details (hello impressive Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Agent Carter doesn’t surprise me. Smash a building, most of its surroundings, and a ton of debris into a condensed ball of matter? Sure, we can roll that in on a tow-truck for you. Diffuse a bomb with common household items in precisely the right volume of each ingredient on the first try? No problem! But these things add to the comic book world just like the witty language and absurd gadgets, so we forgive them.
In the end I’m just excited that there is a Marvel universe series that is not centered on a classic super hero. No special abilities, no super human strength or intelligence, but average people who are still pushing themselves to do extraordinary feats to protect others. Carter has no slinky assassin skills, no green rage, or god-like strength; she is a woman who knows how to fight. She smashes, tears, uses her surroundings, and fights like a scrappy down-and-dirty expert. My favorite move? Whenever she smashes her elbow into an enemy. That’s the sharpest point on our body and damn if she doesn’t use it realistically. If I learned how to fight you better believe it’s going to be like Peggy Carter. Black Widow may look crazy sexy in her second skin latex suit doing all kinds of acrobatic grips and tackles, but just try and tell me there isn’t something intrinsically sexy about smashing a brute’s head with a stapler and walking away like a boss.
Let’s face it, I’m addicted.
I need more.
Thank you google and Hayley Atwell’s twitter feed for the images used.