I’ve been having something of a twisted relationship between the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) on film and the MCU on television. I know the vast majority of the cinematic entries like the back of my hand, with Thor: The Dark World being the one film I’ve yet to see (although judging from the fandom, I’m not missing out on much!); yet I’ve witnessed nothing of the MCU’s adventures on the small screen. I know, horrible isn’t it? I’m the assistant editor for a superhero website and I’ve seen neither Daredevil or Jessica Jones. I suck; it’s the truth. I’ve yet to tune in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.
Now before you lot start a petition to have me removed from A Place to Hang Your Cape, I should point out that I’m not totally ignorant to what the MCU gets up to when it’s not in the cinemas, because I’ve recently sat down with Agent Carter. Sat down is putting it mildly – I’ve fallen rather rapidly in love with the show, thanks in no small part to Hayley Atwell. I treated myself to the box set of Season 1 last Christmas and blitzed my way through it’s eight episodes, and what with Season 2 kicking off, I thought it high time I catch up on one of the MCU’s small screen installments. I’m extremely glad that I did!
Agent Carter follows the adventures of, yep, you guessed it, Peggy Carter, sweetheart of Steve Rogers and badass S.S.R. agent. The series takes place after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, and sees Peggy finding herself demoted in her job somewhat when those who served in the war return from fighting. Now that the war is over, Peggy becomes little more than a waitress to the men of the S.S.R, but that all changes when Howard Stark whisks her into a deadly situation. Stark claims his inventions have been stolen and are being sold on the black market. He asks Peggy to go undercover and find out who is behind the thefts – whilst the S.S.R. are convinced Stark has turned bad guy. With the help of Stark’s personal gentleman Edwin Jarvis, Peggy is unexpectedly thrown back into a life of thrills and spills as she and Jarvis race against the clock fighting a rogues gallery of villains in order to clear Stark’s name.
I knew little of Agent Carter before watching it, other than it focusing on the leading lady from one of my favourite MCU films, but that in itself had something of a bitter aftertaste. Turns out many fans were initially displeased with the choice to focus on a minor character in the MCU when a great many more could have been given their own series. However, in the context of the MCU, Agent Carter makes perfect sense. After all, over fifty years pass between Steve’s crash into the ice in Captain America: The First Avenger, did we really think Peggy would sit around and mop for Steve in that time? She certainly didn’t strike me as the soppy type!
Whilst following on from the film, Agent Carter is still a fairly standalone affair, and arguably an all-too brief one with just eight episodes in its first season. However, that doesn’t detract from what a refreshing joy Agent Carter brings to the MCU. It doesn’t have the visual thrust of the Iron Man films, but it’s clearly not meant to. It’s a light, humorous, action-filled affair, and one that expands on Carter’s character a great deal. Peggy Carter as a character, and Hayley Atwell as an actress, are easily the best things about this show. When we first met Peggy in Captain America: The First Avenger, I found her to be something of a clichéd character – the tough, hot-headed female lead who ultimately looses her guard and falls hopelessly in love with the male lead. Here however, no longer cemented in being the hero’s plaything in a two-hour action flick, she’s given the freedom to be a far more engrossing character. Atwell herself is an undeniably hooky actresses, one with a lot of class and swing that suits the retro charm of this show extremely well..
The series touches on something I wasn’t expecting at first – sexism in the work place. Agent Carter is, perhaps, a curious reflection of a woman’s life in post-war America where she may have found herself in limbo with the men of the country returning to their routine lives. In Captain America: The First Avenger, she was something of a proto-Black Widow, but a Black Widow who was as comfortable on the battlefield as she was behind the desk. In order to fulfill this role once the war is over, she must deceive her male co-workers. But anyway, sexism aside, on with the show!