Molly Jamieson reviews the latest addition to the Marvel franchise
It certainly is nice to have a kick-ass brunette at the centre of the latest Marvel franchise to make it to the small screen. Agent Carter amply fills the gap left by Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during its mid-season break, bringing a touch of old-time style and wit to an audience overloaded with explosions and alien tech. This mini-series follows on from the events of the first of the recent Captain America films, where the war is over and Steve Rogers is presumed dead. We all know, having seen him assembling with The Avengers and facing his past in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, that Captain Rogers survived and went on to continue his career in derring-do. But Peggy Carter, grieving for his loss, is unaware, and relegated to the position of glorified secretary in the otherwise entirely male SSR.
When her old friend from the war Howard Stark is suspected of treason, he comes to Carter for help in clearing his name. His inventions have gone missing and are starting to be sold on the black market, and he is thought to be responsible. Peggy knows that none of her colleagues will listen to her, so, with the help of Stark’s trusty, excessively English butler Edmund Jarvis, she begins her own clandestine investigation.
Peggy and Jarvis initially clash on superficial matters such as priorities – in particular, Jarvis’s punctiliousness about supper – and danger, but they grow to trust and respect each other more with each adventure. We follow the ill-matched pair sneaking into parties and wooing gangsters, escape from enormous implosions, and Peggy having to deal with leading not one, but two secret lives. The first, her work for the SSR, secret from her friends; her second, the investigation, secret from her colleagues. The star, Hayley Atwell, said in an interview that the 8-part mini-series is more like a set of four films.
What is really great about this series is that, while we do get a good laugh at the old-fashioned misogyny and chauvinism of a boys’-club office scenario, we never have any doubt in Peggy’s ability to take care of herself. While Peggy is ignored at work and the subject of many sexist comments, she never wallows in self-pity. She’ll comment on the lack of respect, but rather than dwelling on being stuck in an under-appreciated position or losing her temper hysterically, she’ll outwit her critic, proving herself to be smarter and more keenly insightful in every case than her male counterparts. The other SSR agents are by no means shown to be stupid or insensitive, only relics from a bygone era. At least, one would hope that era is bygone.
If, like me, you felt that Peggy Carter was one of the sole redeeming features of the first Captain America film, this series will amply and stylishly fill the gap she left in the movies that followed.