— Guest post by Wolff —
Hey everybody! As Hunter so kindly explained I am temporarily taking over her blog while she’s in China (my evil plot begins mwahaha!…ahem). Because there has been so much Marvel out recently, I thought I’d dedicate the first week to the most notable releases, so buckle up!
Ok, to start things off with a “bang” (or perhaps a “pow” or a “whammo”) I’ll go over the first season of Marvel’s Agent Carter. The first two paragraphs of this post will contain minor spoilers for the show and major spoilers for Captain America: The First Avenger, which is where fans of the Marvel-verse first saw Agent Peggy Carter.
The show consists of 8 episodes and is set in New York CIty during 1946, a little while after the end of WWII. It follows Agent Margaret “Peggy” Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British member of the American intelligence agency the Strategic Science Reserve (SSR), as she struggles to find a place for herself in a male-dominated field. During the war Peggy was part of the Howling Commandos, a ragtag group of special operatives that included Captain America himself, and now she finds herself being treated as a glorified secretary and stuck behind a desk despite being well qualified as a field agent. To make matters worse, Captain Steve Rogers (Captain America, played by Chris Evans in the film and is included in the show only in clips from the movie) one of the few men who respected her for her abilities and with whom she had had the beginnings of a romantic dalliance, has been lost somewhere over the Arctic and presumed killed in action.
Fortunately for Peggy, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) has a problem. The genius, billionaire, playboy, inventor who she worked with during the war has been accused of selling his inventions to the “enemies of the United States” (read Russians in this case). This is a big deal because, even though most of Howard’s inventions don’t work the way they’re supposed to, most of them are fairly deadly. While fleeing the country to avoid arrest, Howard asks Peggy to help prove his innocence, offering the services if his personal butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). (Jarvis, as it turns out, is not secretly trained in martial arts and possesses no awesome spy talents, so he ends up driving the getaway car most of the time, which works hilariously well next to Peggy kicking ass and taking names.) Peggy agrees to help clear Howard’s name and finds herself working counter to the SSR as they attempt to track down Howard for treason. Throw in a couple of curveball Russians on top of that and Peggy’s got her hands full.
With the resurgence of 1940’s and 50’s inspired clothing and aesthetic, a recent uprising in feminist feeling, and the success of the Marvel films, this show could not have asked for a better time to be aired. Of course it helps that this is a well-written and well-acted series on top of that, but the receptiveness of the audience is important to the success of any show no matter how good.
In terms of the actual show I say again, well-written and well-acted. And well-shot and well-costumed, and very well researched so as to be period accurate. I can’t speak for the conformance to the comics as I barely dabble, but from what I do know there are several easter eggs out there for any comic-book readers who may be watching. In any case, the series does an excellent job of flushing out characters that were briefly touched on in The First Avenger, the most notable being Howard Stark. I was a bit surprised, considering that Peggy is the titular star of the show, but considering that Howard was essentially began as the gimmicky plot jump-starter for the show it’s retrospectively to be expected. Peggy came with her own set of strong traits already, Howard was the one who actually needed more depth. Most of this comes in the series finale, and it’s not so much character development as revealing to the audience more depth. (SPOILER, it involves an evil Russian hypnotist and a plot to blow up New York City)
The costumes for the show are on-point, period wise, and the series starts off with Peggy in red, white, and blue, most likely a nod to her origins. This is only really for the pilot episode and the promos, but it is used to great effect in one of the opening shots of Peggy walking to work through a sea of gray-suited men, a wonderful visual metaphor.
The music is also pretty period accurate, the songs on the radio as well as the Captain America radio show that plays occasionally are good background additions that help to round out the 40’s feel. At least twice it was less background and more foreground for comedic effect. Once was during a “bar-fight” in a diner when It’s a Good Day was played over the melee (appropriately the original Peggy Lee version); and the other was during another fight when the Captain America radio show was playing, again amplified to play over the action and draw parallels between the fight in “real” time and the on-air battle.
Overall I feel the show does a great job at balancing a number of things; comedy and drama, the original source material and the new take on it, and the 1940’s time period with modern day sensibilities. It’s a good-ol’-fashioned spy thriller with new effects that give it spice. I recommend it for fans of that era and for Marvel fans, and I look forward to season 2!
“I didn’t know our government had such good taste in secretaries. What’s your name darling?” “Agent.”
— Guest post by Wolff —