The Marvel universe does rather seem to be trying to take over the airwaves these days. I’m not really averse to that idea as compared to something like CSI or NCIS it does at least have plenty of ground and variation to cover. The television offering of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD didn’t really live up to the hype though, so they seem to have gone a lot more stealth with Agent Carter, which means this little gem may go sadly under-noticed.
I blitzed my way through this eight-part series in just two days, which compared to the stop start nature of my watching of Agents of SHIELD tells you a lot about the respective quality. Where SHIELD goes all out but comes away feeling amateur, Agent Carter’s ambitions feel much smaller and far exceeds them.
The most important element of the show isn’t the supervillains or superheroes, the technology or saving the world. Instead it’s an extremely capable young woman in the 1940s who’s been side-lined now that the war is over and the men are taking back their jobs. She’s also grieving the loss of Captain America, not just as a hero, but as a friend and romance. These injustices don’t cause her to wallow however and she soldiers on. But when an opportunity to use her skills, on her own terms presents itself she pounces on it with perhaps more enthusiasm and confidence than is wise. Peggy Carter is an absolutely fantastic character and Hayley Atwell plays her perfectly with humour, strength, heart, vulnerability, wit and uncertainty.
The supporting characters often struggle to meet the same levels, they tend to be a bit more one-note but even in just eight episodes they start to carve out some depth for themselves beyond the assigned roles of ‘comic relief’, ‘macho man’, ‘sensitive possible romantic interest’ and ‘sleaze’.
Characters (and good casting) have always been the strength of the Marvel universe and this series plays to those strengths. The plot and mystery working through the season is just enough to keep things moving along, never feeling like it bogs down or completely disappears into irrelevance. The cross-references to other elements of the universe, particularly from the Captain America film are well done too.
This little series has shot right to the top of favourite shows of the year. Peggy Carter is a character that I just fell in love with almost immediately and want other people to get to know. It’s a shame it was buried on Fox UK over here and so even people watching Agents of SHIELD may not have known about it. Hopefully the second series will get a bit more press as it really does deserve to be seen.