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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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The Female Perspective: Yes Please, Agent Carter!

Welcome! This blog is written by author J.L. Metcalf and will chat about comics, movies, garden gnomes, ghosts or even books and daily life. It is a place where I offer my ladylike perspective on anything and everything my brain can think of. 


Agent Carter = Awesome
Agent Carter = Awesome

Yes Please, Agent Carter!

Yesterday I wrote about why we need a Wonder Woman movie, today, it seemed appropriate to write a short review about the premier of the seven week mini-series “Agent Carter” on ABC. Here we have a woman carrying an entire show and she does it with grace and dignity. While also kicking lots and lots of bad man butt.

This mini-series is a big gamble for Marvel (and for those of us who pine for a Wonder Woman movie). The success of Agent Carter will tell the studio mucky-mucks that maybe, just maybe a woman can, in fact, hold the attention of an audience while also showing the world that a woman can kick butt and still retain her femininity and humanity. You can bet that the studio heads are paying close attention to the reviews and viewership of this mini-series.

Agent Carter herself is played by actress Hayley Atwell, who also played Agent Carter in “Captain America: The First Avenger” along with a short film on the “Iron Man 3” DVD extras. She gives Agent Carter the grace and dignity that the character needs to make her likable. Not to mention, she is not the usual blond, stick-thin starlet we see in so many movies and televisions shows these days. She’s a normal sized, curvy woman who manages to beautifully toe the line between being sexy and being tough. Everything she does is with great style and poise.

The fight scenes during “Agent Carter” are beautifully choreographed. Especially the one when they flash back and forth between the “Captain America” radio program and Agent Carter’s fight scene. That was a work of pure genius, the silly dialogue and inventive sound effects interspersed with “real life” fighting was fun to watch and wildly inventive.

What I also enjoyed was that the show didn’t shy away from showing Agent Carter as having emotions. She cried at the death of her friend and she is clearly still grieving the loss of Steve Rogers. Not to mention, she is very careful about allowing anyone to get close to her for fear of them dying as well. It takes a stern talking to from Jarvis to remind her that even Steve Rogers needed her to keep him grounded.

She is a human superhero. An unusual, complex and delightful character. She can kick serious butt when she needs to (there is nothing quite like watching a woman slug a guy, knocking him to the floor. I’m not a violent woman but I have to say that was quite a bit of fun when she first meets Jarvis) but she also uses her brain and her feminine wiles when needed. The scene were she excuses herself from work for “lady issues” was wonderfully comic (because even to this day, women can still do this and fill men with fear that they’ll start telling them what their “women issues” are!).

All-in-all, I am quite excited for the next few episodes of “Agent Carter”, I think she has the potential to move the studio execs in the right direction, that direction being a full-length movie about a female superhero. Until then, I am excited to have five more episodes of Agent Carter to watch!

She is stylish, beautiful and tough as nails. Love me some Agent Carter.
She is stylish, beautiful and tough as nails. Love me some Agent Carter.

Did you watch “Agent Carter”?  What did you think? Tell me in your comments!