Season 1 - January to February 2015 (8 episodes)
Season 2 - January to March 2016 (10 episodes)
Marvel Blu Ray Zone B
Warning: Some spoilers.
Following on from the popular Agent Carter One Shot short movie included as an extra on the Iron Man 3 Blu Ray and DVD, Hayley Atwell reprises the role which she first played initially as Steve Rogers’ love interest in Captain America - The First Avenger and some of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films depicting her at different ages in different times. This show is set in 1946 and I came to it via a very cheap Blu Ray set from my local cash converters. Well, I can tell you that I was so impressed with the first episode that I ordered a Blu Ray set of the second season straight after watching it so that, by the time I’d finished the first series, I could go straight onto the second.
Initially we see a version of Peggy Carter who is still mourning the loss of Captain America as she is handed all the menial ‘women’s jobs’ in the intelligence agency for which she works, the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). However, as you would expect, she starts doing things her own way and getting a jump on the case in hand, without the knowledge of her superiors and co-workers, subsequently making herself a target in the process. Here, she works to clear the name of Howard Stark, as played once more by Dominic Cooper from the role of Tony Stark’s dad in Captain America - The First Avenger and is assisted throughout the majority of her investigations by Stark’s butler Jarvis (played wonderfully well by James D'Arcy) while trying to throw her newish, possible romantic interest, fellow agent Daniel DeSousa (played by Enver Gjokaj) off the scent of what would be her perceived collusion with an enemy. All this after an arsenal of Stark’s weapons is raided and unleashed into the wrong hands by an unknown party.
The casting is wonderful and everyone does a good job here. Hayley is pitch perfect and, honestly, takes to the action just as well as she does to everything else about the show. She had me when her character uses a leather jacket and thick gloves to scale an electrified fence in seconds during the first episode. And it’s the kind of thing you expect from Marvel when they get things right... and as you know, Marvel really have a good track record with getting their stuff together properly (with just the odd glitch here and there on the way).
As you would expect, there are also lots of little throwaway references to all things Marvel and it has a lot of ties to other concepts in the MCU too. Such as, in the second series, when they are trying to shut down a dark matter rift, they use a new invention called the Gamma Cannon, which is obviously a forerunner of the technology that gave us The Incredible Hulk in the cinematic version of that character’s creation. Or the main villain in the second season being Whitney Frost, who long time fans of Marvel will know debuted in the comics back in 1969 as the character Madame Masque. Another example of the wonderful referencing cementing the various MCU structuring would be one of the main villainesses of both series, the lethal Dottie Underwood. She is one of the ‘Black Widows’ trained by the Russians from a young age to be a ruthless killing machine (and has Peggy and her colleagues in her sights). Alas, that character is left at a loose end at the end of the second series (I’ll get to that in a minute) as is another character which would eventually herald in the Winter Soldier programme. It’s good to get another look at Sgt Fury’s Howling Commandos in action again too although, of course, in the cinematic version of the Howling Commandos of the 1940s, Nick Fury isn’t their sergeant at all.
And, it’s a fast paced show with some absolutely beautiful period sets, costumes and cinematography... indeed, vintage stockings were used over the camera lenses as they were back in the day because they couldn’t afford to shoot with the same special lenses they used in the first Captain America film. There are some nice nods to the obvious, such as Hopper’s Nighthawks inspiring a certain aesthetic to a lot of the show and sometimes the not so obvious, such as a wonderful, dream musical sequence in the second series. This latter is a really nice attempt at doing one of those big budget, abstract set piece musical numbers and it’s a real blast, although I think in terms of this specific variant it’s possibly just a shade too early, by maybe a couple of years, in terms of that particular style being used given the show’s 1946 setting, perhaps?
Now, the slight downside is that the writers obviously didn’t know the show was going to be cancelled. So some of the characters like Dottie Underwood are deliberately left to bring back into the action in a later series and, although the second series does have a proper resolution to things (Peggy gets the guy!), they couldn’t resist leaving things on a cliffhanger to set up the next show. So, in the last minute, a main regular character is shot dead by an unknown hand. I guess that one may never get resolved now, although Agent Sousa goes on to appear in the time-travelling episodes comprising the seventh series of Agents Of SHIELD. And, yeah, we already know what Peggy’s future holds in store for her from the MCU films... and we also know what her re-written past will probably look like, given Steve Roger’s return trip to the 1940s to be with her and live his life out with her in Avengers Endgame (which also features James D'Arcy as the original version of Jarvis). It’s resolution enough although, it has to be said, the obvious resolution the show would be working towards would be Peggy Carter getting together with Howard Stark to set up SHIELD. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see this before it was cancelled but, then again, with the current MCU status... you never know, we might get fed more information about those events in time. My understanding is that one of the reasons the show was cancelled is similar to the reason the Emmy award winning Tales Of The Gold Monkey (reviewed here) was prematurely stopped... aka, not enough ratings to justify the extra expense of making a historical period show, alas.
Meanwhile though, as they say in the comics, we are left with two seasons of an absolutely splendid TV show which dovetails nicely into the current MCU and is a real joy to watch. Agent Carter is something you’re really going to want to take a look at if you want to see the flesh on the bones of the character whose life, death and then life again was referred to throughout Phase 1 to 3 of the MCU films and possibly, for all I know, coming again in Phase 4 (surely the new Doctor Strange movie, given its probable plot, could slip a few more things into the mix?). Marvel fans are definitely going to want to familiarise themselves with this show.