Agent Carter: Episode 1.1 “Pilot”
Agent Carter springs into action as Marvel’s first real leading lady – no other Marvel property has been led by a woman, and it’s a damn fine refreshing change of pace to see a pair of heels puncturing the bad guy’s faces instead of some primary-colored boots.
While Agent Carter skates the airways, I, Agent Bobby, am going to be your large-caliber straw straight into the boba-filled depths of the “Agent Carter” TV show, now airing on . . . probably ABC? I don’t know, I “Hulu Plus” everything so I have no idea when it airs or even what channel it’s on. Could I Google that information? Certainly. Will I? Unlikely.
Anyway, at the time of this writing the pilot and the second episode have been released. Here’s my rundown on the very first episode. Part review, part summary, part deep literary analysis combined with penis jokes. Let’s ride:
The “I Haven’t Seen It” Review:
You’re tentative to watch “Agent Carter,” and who wouldn’t be? Television is in a Golden Age of writing and intelligence, and my guess is your DVR, hard drive, or Hulu queue is already filled to bursting with delicacies. Who has time for one more show, Bobby? I can’t fit another one into my schedule. WHEN WILL I SEE MY KIDS?!
Well, that’s your problem, but you should definitely check out Marvel’s “Agent Carter.” The first reason is that it’s a female-led spy show, and this particular female is the indelible, britches-incinerating, honey-tongued, ass-kicking, Captain-America-wooing, car-shooting, leather-jacket-wearing, piercing-eye-having Hayley Atwell. Attention DC and fans of strong females –this is a woman. A Wonder Woman, if you will.
The show centers on her ability to project the strength and vulnerability necessary for giving a crap about any central protagonist. She’s badass without Angelina Jolie’s cold inaccessibility. Atwell’s Agent Carter is funny but not quippy, displaying an acerbic wit that endears without coming off like schtick.
The big question is: can a side-character from a single Marvel movie anchor her own television show? The answer is unequivocally “yes.”
Now, the show itself doesn’t try to be the super-hero show that “Agents of SHIELD” is (thankfully) becoming. It also doesn’t (thankfully) suck as hard as the pilot of “Agents of SHIELD” either. In the elementary class of superhero TV pilots, the “Agents of SHIELD” pilot scored a C-, the “Flash” pilot managed a B-, and the “Gotham” pilot got kicked out of school and sent to a military academy, but later dropped out because of syphilis and a coke problem. “Agent Carter” comes out of the gate swinging with a high “B.” The potential for an A+ in its future is high – it’s got a novel concept, a fantastic lead, a marvelous (eh?) pedigree, and an infinitely explorable setting.
What’s it about, you may ask?
The premise of the show is fairly simple, and it executes elegantly on the concept: SSR Agent Peggy Carter in post-war America, pushing through the dawning hypocrisy of “feminine uselessness” in a country where women had taken over operation while the men were away. The men are back and they want the old ways back too, but the women have too much experience now to suffer their bullshit. This show could just as easily be about factory workers – there’s even a nod to the universal nature of the concept, when Peggy’s roommate mentions teaching the guy replacing her on the assembly line how to use a rivet gun. It was happening to women everywhere at the time, and not even war-hero super-spies like Peggy Carter are immune to it.
Women are getting their asses slapped, their cans goggled, and their opinions ignored. Peggy is constantly being handed files or asked for coffee, and it’s pretty clear that everyone thinks her sole contribution to the war was “Captain America’s chippy.” The concept grounds her and immediately sets her up as the underdog, and you’re rooting for her before the second scene is out.
The shooty-shooty, punchy action is also pretty damn good for a TV show, and the plot of the first episode is the classic “underground weapons dealer” espionage fair, with a super-science twist.
Also, for the folks who wondered if “Agent Carter” would be “like Alias, but in the forties,” there’s a fancy dress and a glamorous wig pretty early into the episode. So, kudos to you for the prediction.
The supporting cast is still fairly background (it is the pilot, after all), but it does include an almost unrecognizable Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), a delightful Kyle Bornheimer (Perfect Couples, which is my favorite sitcom ever that got cancelled after like 8 episodes), the versatile Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse), and a grumpy Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire). It even rocks a few surprise cameos by comedy greats like Kevin Heffernan (Super Trooper’s “Farva”) and James Urbaniak (half the cast of Venture Brothers, basically).
In short, it was rad. If you like ‘40s adventure stories, spy stories, ladies punching faces, or even just underdog tales, the show is a must-see.
The “I Totally Saw It” Review (ie, SPOILERS)
This is the part for people who’ve checked out the show. If you haven’t, leave now. Go. Seriously. Okay, spoilers staarrrrrt . . . now.
Things I Loved:
- The episode is titled “Pilot” because it opens with a pilot. That’s a true fact.
- HAYLEY ATWELL!
- The Captain America callbacks are necessary, and are done tastefully.
- The opening War-Peggy/Domestic-Peggy montage to jaunty forties music is the most fun thing I’ve seen in a Marvel TV show.
- Dominic Cooper is still Starking it up nice.
- The inclusion of Jarvis as Peggy’s hand-wringing Brit sidekick is a brilliant touch.
- Emergency bathroom chemistry, followed by emergency fancy perfume bottle.
- Enver Gjokaj as crippled-sympathetic-work-friend -probably-villain-in-the-future guy. He’s just always great in everything, and I’m glad Joss Whedon keeps tucking him into excellent parts.
- Surprise dead roommate. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like that it happened, but it displayed a promise that the show would have some teeth. Peggy’s crying was also pretty gut-wrenching.
- Kyle Bornheimer. His sort of clueless misogyny combined with his flat snarkiness and dopey face is hilarious. He seems like a good “failure character” that could be a hoot to have in the background.
- The setting. Come on. Forties super-spy show ? Done and done.
- Lack of SHIELD or mention of SHIELD. I’m so glad they didn’t try to make it a prequel to the other show. Or at least, ONLY a prequel. I’m interested in the show because I’m interested in Peggy, and they served that need well.
- The appearance of Whiplash’s dad, pre-Howard Stark screwing. It’s a cute touch of continuity for the nerds.
Things I Loved Less:
- Lack of a main theme. I know it’s de rigeur nowadays, but it bums me out, especially for a period show.
- Tracheostomy ninjas. I’m sure there’s a good reason for why they have ninja powers and holes in their necks, but it’s coming off as kind of silly right now.
Thompson (after asking Peggy to file paperwork): “You’re better at that kind of thing.”
Carter: “What kind of thing is that, Agent Thompson? The alphabet?”