Skip to main content

Have a Seat 'Agents of SHIELD', 'Agent Carter' Has Got TV Handled

REVIEW: Agent Carter (S1E1,2)

Agent Carter premiered two episodes Tuesday night and it exceeded every expectation and blew away any doubts skeptics may have had; including this one. See, when the show was first announced I thought it was a terrible idea. Who wanted to see a show about an obscure female character set in the 40's? I thought it would be too broad and unrelatable. I have to admit I was dead wrong. Agent Carter is not only exciting, enjoyable and entertaining, it's also the best television show Marvel has produced. 


Peggy Carter finds life after the war mired in a thankless desk job with the Strategic Scientic Reserve (a precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D) battling a sexist work environment while yearning to be a field agent. Despite her stellar military record, she's undervalued and dismissed. However, it's because of that treatment that she's able to run circles around the male agents unbeknownst. 

Haley Atwell proves that her strong work in Captain America: The First Avenger was no fluke. She's funny, fierce, versatile and absolutely dynamic. When Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper reprises his role from the same film) enlists her to help prove his innocence, she reluctantly agrees to get back in the game even though it puts her in direct conflict with the SSR. Stark's inventions have gone missing and are ending up on the black market and Stark is suspect number one. 

"Now is Not the End" features some more from the Captain America films as the same writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, script the first episode. Joseph V Russo, the co-director of The Winter Soldier, helms the second episode, 'Tunnel and Bridge". The creative team lends some consistency in the quality of the action and storytelling that elevates the material from a television miniseries to near theatrical level heights. 

Peggy thwarts a would-be assassin in close-quarter combat so well it would make Jason Bourne proud. Atwell easily transitions from diffusing a bomb to beating down an intruder to weeping for her fallen roommate. The direction from Louis D'Esposito makes these moments a flawless visceral experience. 

In the second episode, Russo creates a wonderfully subversive scene using the hilariously simple-minded radio show, "Captain America Adventure Program," as a backdrop as Peggy has to put the hurt on another guy. As she's brawling the show jump cuts to the overly appreciative female voice actress in the studio. It directly contrasts the reality of Peggy getting it done herself and not depending on a male hero like Cap to save the day. With every punch, she's not just laying waste to a guy, but to the patriarchy itself. 

It's a reality of the times when the end of the war found returning G.I.'s going back to work in industries that women held down while they were away. The displaced women, like the dearly departed roommate Colleen, had to seek employment elsewhere. It's a running commentary on society and how women were pigeonholed into specific roles. It's not clear if that portrayal is solely a reflection of the time period or a broader scathing indictment of society in the here and now. Regardless, Peggy is a feminist warrior in the fact that she defends herself, demands respect and gets the job done. Even using men's misconceptions against them. However, she isn't alone in this crusade to save Stark.

Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) is under direct orders from Stark to aid Peggy anyway he can and their contrasting personalities add some humorous and charming conflicts. The butler's buttoned-up stoic but sarcastic demeanor against Peggy's gung-ho style offers some comedic relief. It also illustrates that despite Peggy's insistence to work alone she really needs some support. She's feeling like a magnet of doom that even prevents her from sharing an apartment with new waitress/actress friend Angie (Lyndsey Fonseca). She doesn't want to place anyone elses life in danger by mere proximity to herself. This self-awareness is just one of the things that make Peggy more than just a super-agent but a more faceted character. Something Marvel's other TV show has struggled in doing in a season and a half. 

Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter may share a family tree with the SSR at its roots, but the level of execution in each series couldn't be more different. The most obvious is the setting. SHIELD lives in the shadow of the more exciting wing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movies, and takes its cues from there. It began its rookie season treading water before the events of The Winter Soldier gave the show some weight and energy to its plotlines

Prior to that it was busy finding itself, trying desperately to appease fans with Easter eggs that didn't amount to more than "hey, there's that stick that was in Thor" and mentioning names of far more interesting characters that you'd have to pay money to watch. Add in convoluted stories, benign adventures that didn't amount to much or had any resonance, a wacky scientific duo, and poor character development and well the weekly drop in ratings from the sky-high debut was not unexpected. 

With Agent Carter, its miniseries structure keeps the story moving along knowing full well there'll be a beginning, middle and an end. Instead of meandering around looking for a purpose, Peggy is on a mission and uses her wits, charm and bravery to try and clear Stark's name. Peggy and the show have a visual style that's soaked in pulp noir. The 40's time period allows for indulgent production design from clothes, sets and cars that are both nostalgic and inviting. In the end, it's Atwell that binds all the wonderful elements surrounding the show together. 

Atwell's performance holds the audience, earns their attention and keeps them rooting all the way along. She's as charming and capable as James Bond with the same air of confidence, but without an ounce of pretension. Atwell gives Peggy multiple layers to grasp onto and is as disarming with a smile as she is with a punch to the face. A miniseries may not be enough to contain Atwell's starpower. Let's hope there's more Agent Carter to come. 

Check out scenes from the next episode, "Time & Tide."




Comments

  1. I'm also hoping for another run, but I like the fact it's 8-episodes... Another thing that was tough for SHIELD to manage. They've got the hang of things now though, and I think it's a much better show than when it started. Agent Carter has the advantage it wasn't the first out the gate and expectations were low. In other words, a nice surprise whereas SHIELD was bound to disappoint.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree, SHIELD came in with impossible expectations. Everyone had their own version in mind about what they wanted to see and it was its own thing. My biggest problem was the poor execution. And yes it's far better than a year ago. Yet I still don't feel engaged into the show. I'm glad there are people who enjoy it though.

    Agent Carter does benefit from being born out of The First Avenger and its own one-shot but the execution was far better right from the gate. hindsight is an advantage but it feels and looks like a better creative team made AC a winner. As far as expectations go, i agree the stakes for AC were different but not lower. It seemed like a placeholder until AoS returned but for a show with a female lead the mountain was pretty high to climb. if it failed how soon would they try again? AC's success should lead to more of its kind - women kicking ass. something more common on TV.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

DC Comics March Movie Poster Variant Covers are Fantastic

DC Comics may have outdone themselves with their running themed variant covers for the month of March 2015. After some fun and gorgeous variants in 2014 like Darwin Cooke (December), LEGO (November), and Bombshells (June) to name a few DC Comics is continuing to bring some creative covers in 2015. January will feature Flash throughout the company line in celebration of his 75th Anniversary, February will bring everyone’s favorite wild card, Harley Quinn, on DC covers, and perhaps the best mash-ups of comics and famous movie posters will arrive in March.

WONDER WOMAN OF THE DAY: Fitness Model Gia Macool Embodies the Amazon Princess

The closest we'll ever get, probably, to superheroes in real life is through the great work of cosplayers. You see them at every pop culture convention from the very basic to extremely elaborate costume design. However, you don't have to be a cosplayer to enjoy dressing up as your favorite superhero from time to time. Take fitness model and entrepreneur Gia Macool for example. An accomplished fitness competitor and model, Macool is also a big fan of DC Comics' Wonder Woman. She shows her love of the iconic Amazon Princess in her fitness wear, meal prep accessories and even a full blown photo shoot in a Wonder Woman costume. 

For decades comics have featured very muscular superheroes, male and female, epitomizing the human form at its strongest. So when bodybuilders and fitness pros decide to suit up as these costumed heroes, they are the embodiment of those fictional characters in the flesh. Macool looks like she stepped out of the pages of a Wonder Woman comic with a suit …

Fitness Women in Superhero Body Paint by J.M. Manion

J.M. Manion has long been a successful photographer covering the fitness and bodybuilding industry. He has photographed some of the strongest, well-defined physiques on the planet. He's also had a love of super-heroes and comic books. So much so that Manion began publishing his own comic book, Iron Siren Comics, featuring some of the fitness competitors he's covered as superheroes themselves. It's no wonder he sometimes incorporates superhero cosplay and body paint into photo shoots. Here are just some examples of his work:

REVIEW: 'Death or Glory' #2 by Rick Remender and Bengal

After a raucous debut, 'Death and Glory' takes a weird turn. Like a really weird turn. Imagine David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino had a baby and out came out issue two of this new series from Rick Remender and Bengal. The question is is that a good or bad thing?


DEATH OR GLORY #2  
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Bengal Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: June 6, 2018 Cover Price: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
With a botched heist job, a bullet in her side, and all her money gone, Glory wrestles with what to do next. The cargo her ex-husband was trafficking wasn't drugs but people and after putting them all safely on a bus to Arizona, she's broke and being attended to by one of the Brazilians that stayed behind. Her scheme was pretty straight-forward - rob the money that the dirty sheriff was going to transport and use it for her dad's surgery. Easy peasy. Then it all went to hell as the sheriff recognized her, she dropped the money, and now no one is happy, not the sheri…

New Sci-Fi Horror Series INFINITE DARK From Ryan Cady, Andrea Mutti, and K. Michael Russell Coming in October

Image/Top Cow announce an all-new, sinister ongoing science-fiction series—INFINITE DARK—by Ryan Cady and Andrea Mutti with colorist K. Michael Russell that will hit stores this October.


In INFINITE DARK, the universe has ended, but humanity has survived. For years, the passengers and crew of the vessel Orpheus found the endless void between realities to be a surprisingly peaceful home.

Then they found a body—bloodied, brutalized, and surrounded by inscrutable runes. As Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the Orpheus' first murder, she'll come face to face with a horror from beyond the confines of time itself…

INFINITE DARK #1 will launch from Top Cow/Image Comics this October 2018.