fresh/press TV review – AGENT CARTER (s1e1)

MARVEL’s AGENT CARTER marks the studio’s first female led project. HAYLEY ATWELL reprises her role from the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies for this period piece. What we have here is a lot more than just a secret agent version of MAD MEN. There is a lot of action and a lot of laughs.

The series premiered with a 2 hour event (OR back-to-back episodes) with some big cameos from CAPTAIN AMERICA (technically, right) and Tony Stark’s father. One of the better co-starring characters is JARVIS (before he became the artificial intelligence for IRON MAN). He essentially plays the butler who aids Carter in her special missions. For me, he looks like another AVENGER – a young RALPH FIENNES (from THE AVENGERS movie based on the British television series).

AGENT CARTER surprised me. I think it was mainly due to the tone. I didn’t expect this series to be so fun. I thought it would be focused on political conspiracy or solving a mystery by detective work. Instead, Carter was unexpectedly hands-on. Our hero kicked butt like she was BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or something.

The action sequences were actually quite impressive for the small screen format. We had fist fights and chases and explosions. The show reminded me of a retro-set ALIAS. Essentially, we have a female JAMES BOND infiltrating the baddies and solving mysteries with gadgets and disguises. A lot of the humour comes from the chauvanistic attitudes of her male counterparts and their dismissal of her. She uses their naivety against them, whether it’s her fellow men at arms or the bad guys.

Charm. AGENT CARTER has a lot of charm. There’s a soft playfullness floating between each scene. The show never gets too serious. If it does, it quickly deflates the situation with a joke. I’m sure a lot of work went into kicking off this show. In fact, a lot of pilots are the best episode of a series. However, with the limited series approach, I feel like the writers have developed a sturdy arc with the end in sight. This is a benefit we have already witnessed from shows like TRUE DETECTIVE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY. It’s much easier to tell a complete story when you know how long its duration is beforehand. For these reasons, I feel like the quality of CARTER will maintain itself through to completion. For me, this is something SHIELD struggled with, causing me to abandon early on in the first season.

A lot of the enjoyment boils down to our lead character, PEGGY CARTER. Atwell delivers a good blend of take-me-serious with I-can-kick-your-ass-anytime. She balances this action hero-ness fairly well with comedy. Just like BUFFY, there is this sort of great satisfaction that comes with seeing a girl take down a worthy adversary in a matter of seconds – like David versus Goliath. This character trait echoes Steve Rogers before he became Captain America.

The Marvel movies rely on spectacle. Their television series have yet to deliver in this regard. If you expect these sort of big budget action sequences, I fear CARTER will disappoint you. One could argue this series focuses on the unlikely underdog hero and her journey to save the day. With its period setting and old-fashioned ideals, Atwell’s Carter is constantly seen as the underdog despite her abundant capabilities. In fact, she is often delegated to serve coffee or type up a report – the stuff of secretaries.

While AGENT CARTER may not be the dawn of a new day, and while it’s not the most original content, it is a familiar story worthy of our hourly attention every 7 days.

I laughed a lot. The action scenes were exciting. The mystery was intriguing. The gadgets and retro technology stuff was cool.

Until it does me wrong I’m down for next week’s helping. I’m looking forward to a larger mystery moving forward each episode, a little bit at a time.

What did you think?

Is AGENT CARTER another Marvel television let-down?

Do you think HAYLEY ATWELL delivers in her role?

Would you rather less comedy and more intrigue?

Or was the show totally boring and dry?

So... What'd you think?

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