Agent Carter is an 8 episode mid season series that spins out of 2011’s Captain America the First Avenger. Focusing on Peggy Carter, who helped fight Cap fight Hydra in WWII, she now finds herself still working in the SSR but not taken seriously by her male colleagues. Her duties are resigned to getting coffee and filing paperwork.
Set in New York City, Peggy greatly mourns the loss of Captain America, whom she believes to be dead, as does the rest of the world. His loss and the void he leaves behind loom large over the series. The opening scene recaps the end of First Avenger as Peggy is remembering her final moments speaking to Cap. On a humorous note in this world there is now a Captain America radio show and it is ridiculously hilarious. In this show Cap’s girlfriend is completely helpless and is constantly fretting “Help me Captain America! The Nazis tied me up again!!!”
The main story opens with Howard Stark, (who later will be the father of Tony Stark from the Iron Man films) accused of being a traitor. Some of his inventions turn up missing and he is accused of selling them to America’s enemies. On the run from the SSR, he contacts Peggy and asks for her help. This puts her in a position where she almost becomes like a super hero, in that she has a secret life from her co-workers, and has to carry out her investigation in secret.
Assisting her is Howard’s English butler Jarvis, whom Tony Stark later bases his AI assistant of off. They are great on screen together, sharing that British whit. Though Jarvis is not one for combat he is a loyal aid to Carter.
Peggy Carter is played as a person first and an action heroine second. Her doubly secret life affects her friendships and living situation as well. She becomes close to a diner waitress, but their friendship is strained by her secrecy. Peggy’s public identity is that of someone that works at the phone company, which is actually the hidden base for SSR.
She does have one colleague who takes her seriously, and offers some romantic tension. He is a fellow agent who was hurt in WWII and uses a crutch to get around. They don’t go the full blown romantic route but the possibility is planted. Their relationship is strained as he begins to suspect her doubly secret life.
One thing I like is there is an actual body count to this series, and it’s mostly the good guys. Specific agents and characters we are introduced to die, which adds a real consequence to the actions of the series, something I think honestly is lacking from the MCU movies. Also the series finale offers one particular scene that is more gruesome than anything the movies have offered.
There are reference to other things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the show is not over burdened with them. Anton Vanko makes one appearance, who is the father of the Iron Man 2 villain. The Roxxon Corporation is around in this time. The Howling Commandos appear in one episode, and share Peggy’s grief over the loss of Steve Rogers. The Red Room, where the Russian Black Widow spies are trained, is introduced. We get one female character that is a foil for Peggy, but the word Black Widow is never said in this series, which was a nice touch of subtlety. There’s another Russian character whose abilities reminded me of Purple Man, but I don’t think it was actually that character.
The final episode ends with a good emotional scene reminiscent of the end of First Avenger, in which we get some good insight into the relationship between Peggy and Howard, as well as how Howard views himself. Peggy is clearly the hero, and does get recognition from her immediate peers, but that moment is soon deflated as she is again ignored by the higher ups. At this point Peggy seems not to be bothered by this anymore, which may come across as sort of anti-climatic.
The final ten minutes or so wrap things up for the characters. For Peggy’s fem fa tale there is a scene that honestly reminded me of the end of Halloween, when Dr. Loomis looks over the balcony for the body of Michael Meyers. Peggy takes a step to move on in her grief of Rogers. Seeds are planted for future stories which viewers of the MCU, especially the WInter Soldier movie, will be familiar with.
Even though we know that both Carter and Stark will survive the events of the series, these 8 episodes provide a tight character driven story that definitely leaves us wanting more. Here’s to many more great seasons of Agent Carter.