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Case Files: Agent Carter, A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Chris Mills is the founder of Great Stories and sometimes blogger.  He enjoys coffee, hockey, strategy games, traveling with his wife, and tracking the movements of his favorite vigilante.

ac1Agent Carter (ABC TV Series)-SOME SPOILERS WITHIN!

Following the success of the Avengers-related movie properties as well as 2014’s biggest box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy (as of this writing, the latest Hunger Games entry could still usurp that title) and the small screen success for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC and Disney went searching for the next cog in the Marvel juggernaut (no pun intended).  That cog ended up being a surprise to many, for we find ourselves with a female hero from yesteryear introduced to the non-comic reading audience in the very first Captain America movie.  Agent Carter, liaison and love interest to Steve Rogers, is a character firmly placed in the WWII-era of Marvel history.  And while there is some excellent material to potentially mine for plot threads, would the choice go over well for a general audience that may be more interested in the present and future of Marvel’s deep catalog?  If last night’s product is any indication, doubters may have been silenced as the two hour pilot offered up a smorgasbord of quality action, character development, and enough Easter eggs to satisfy the hard core comic audience.

ac3It is quite interesting for me to write this blog, considering the timing of fellow blogger J.L. Metcalf’s thoughts on Wonder Woman and the yearning for more strong and independent female characters to be given their due justice (I believe she is even now posting her own thoughts on Agent Carter which you can read in her column, The Female Perspective).   And even more to her point, the Agent Carter series seems to not only fill that perceived gap in the movie/TV space, but the themes in the pilot also address head-on the very topics of our chauvinistic society’s view of women and their roles.  Of course, we are talking about a show that is firmly placed in a time that very few of us have lived to see, but that may make the very real issues Agent Carter faces all the more believable as our society has turned from an obvious man-dominated world to a softer yet still very real underlying fraternal culture.

ac2As a man, watching Peggy Carter navigate through her spy-filled landscape ever so more competent and effective than her male counterparts, yet not being given the respect she is due, I could not feel more in her corner.  She never plays the victim, even chiding a friendly male colleague who attempts to defend her honor against another SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) agent.  Peggy Carter can take care of herself.  And her quick wit just about destroys the troglodyte male counterparts that surround her.  When a male agent asks her to handle the mundane task of filing some paperwork because she is better suited for it, she remarks that he must need help with his alphabet.  Well done!  Despite the adversarial nature of her co-workers, we know there are more dangerous threats to address for Carter.  And in this first eight episode story arc, we find that the United States government is investigating Stark Industries founder, Anthony Stark, for illegally selling arms to America’s enemies.  Stark goes rogue to clear his name and seeks the help of his friend Peggy in doing so.  The nature of the weapon that has fallen into the wrong hands is something the world has never seen, adding to the urgency of the events as they unfold.

ac4I don’t want to give away too many plot details, but just as Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s storyline has furthered the Hydra terrorist plot that began in Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, Agent Carter has revealed another shadowy organization called Leviathan as the antagonists.  Leviathan is firmly rooted in Marvel lore as a group born from the totalitarian Communist Soviet regime (as Hydra was born from the Nazis in Germany).

ac5For her part, Agent Carter employs some incredible hand to hand skills, weapons expertise, and spy-tech tricks to dispatch with some of her enemies.  It felt like watching a female James Bond on some level, and left me wondering if we might see some of the neat Howling Commando spy weapons that were revealed in last seasons Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  How cool would that be?

Marvel has done an admirable job of creating continuity between their big and small screen projects and it appears that Agent Carter is going to be no exception in spite of the completely independent timeline.  The connections to the Marvel Universe as a whole do not end with the many references to Peggy Carter’s relationship with Captain America and her attempts to move past his “death” and be her own person.  Being re-introduced to Tony Stark’s father also brings with it the very important appearance of Edwin Jarvis (Stark’s butler) and his very prominent role in the first two episodes seems to indicate that his impact on the story may be far from ordinary (or simply obligatory to appease the comic continuity crowd).  Roxxon Oil, previously seen in the Iron Man films and a very intricate player in the comics, is also featured.  We also get the appearance of Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (who in the comics would become Iron Man villain Crimson Dynamo).  Adept viewers will remember that Vanko’s son was the villain Whiplash in the second Iron Man movie.  We expect the Stark/Vanko relationship will not end well in the Agent Carter series.  Those were the Marvel Universe references that were recognized by yours truly, but some further data mining on the internet turned up some less obvious fare that is sure to please other viewers with a deeper knowledge of Marvel’s rich history than I.  Among these, a reference to law firm Goodman, Kurtzman & Holloway (the law firm Marvel Comics Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk works for), the name Leet Brannis (which refers to a small time crook from Marvel’s early days) which serves as a main plot point for this story arc, and more!

ac6If you did not get a chance to see the two-hour premiere, I would recommend watching online or catching a re-run.  This series is starting off stronger than the mediocre debut of Agents (a series which has only grown better with time), and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

-Chris

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