Agent Carter: “Now is Not the End/Bridge and Tunnel” Episodes 1 and 2 Review

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The latest Marvel project takes us all the way back to 1946, where we follow a young single woman in New York named Peggy battling sexism at her job and overcoming the limits of her time. At its best, Agent Carter is Marvel’s Mad Men. At its worst, it’s not much better than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Depending on your opinion of the studio’s for foray into television since the Marvel Cinematic Universe took over all our summers, that likely means that Agent Carter is either pretty solid or a weak attempt at expanding the brand. I’m going with the former.

From a cinematic perspective (ok, maybe a little bit of a fanboy’s too), Captain America: The First Avenger is easily one of my favorite Marvel movies. The old-fashioned aesthetic, and storytelling for that matter, really grabbed me. It was such a pure superhero movie because it had the attitude of the World War II era that gave birth to the superhero. Superman was thought up at the same time as Captain America, but his movies continue to try very hard to be modern (not that last year’s The Winter Soldier doesn’t, it just succeeded with flying colors while still having Cap be a product of his time).

But while First Avenger was a retro WWII action flick, it did include arguably the most badass female in any Marvel film in Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Thanks to an incredibly warm fan response to the adaptation of this character, we’ve now got a TV show. Well, a miniseries.

Agent Carter‘s two-hour premiere succeeds at the most important thing it needed to: ensuring that Marvel and Atwell had not mined Peggy for all she’s worth. There is still plenty of material for this character to cover. From the second she appears on screen, chin up to her classic ’40s misogynist naysayers, it’s clear that Agent Carter will be relatively fresh ground for Marvel.

The premiere shows her working her way around the system to solve the problems her colleagues are too dense to see. The case at hand has Peggy’s old friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper reprising his role as Iron Man’s father from First Avenger) on the run from the government when some of his more dangerous inventions land on the black market. The ones in particular that Peggy is after are glowing, yellow balls that cause massive explosions, because this is very much still a Marvel product.

Before Stark leaves the scene to go hid abroad, he leaves his butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) behind. Over the course of the two-hour premiere, Peggy and Jarvis’ dynamic becomes a clear highlight. There’s a lot of great comedy in their scenes together, especially the ones that involve a little action.

Speaking of, Agent Carter is pretty light on action so far. It wouldn’t be a problem had the pacing been a little smoother, but this two-hour premiere definitely felt a little long. The supporting cast could use some fleshing out. It’s pretty hard to like any of them right now, considering they are all incredibly sexist. But Atwell is just strong enough that this development can come in time as she carries the show.

One thing I have to point out is the show’s poor production values, much like those that plagued Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it was starting. I know Agent Carter is supposed to look like the ’40s, but it looks like a TV show made in the ’90s that was trying to look like the ’40s. It’s nitpicky, but hard to ignore when The FlashArrow, and even Gotham are pretty easily on the next level of TV aesthetic. They look like shows that take place in the real world, Agent Carter looks like a sound stage. I hope this improves in the next couple episodes because it is an unfortunate distraction.

Otherwise though, Marvel’s latest series is teeming with life, mostly thanks to its focus on Peggy herself, who seems to be cementing herself as a Marvel standout. The show mostly succeeds at feeling like the ’40s while also giving us some cool spy action. The supporting cast needs fleshing out, but that will likely come in time. Right now, Agent Carter appears to be Marvel’s best chance at catching up to DC in the television game. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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