By Matthew Soall
In what was a testament to short-form serialised storytelling Marvel’s Agent Carter was leaps and bounds in front of the competition.
We pick up with Agent Carter after the disappearance of Captain America. She is working as a budding agent for the SSR and is unfortunately being underutilised by the men she works with in the highly-chauvinistic 1950’s setting.
Carter is thrown against a wall, metaphorically speaking, when she is approached by her old friend Howard Stark, who is being accused of selling highly-valuable and volatile weapons to the Russians. Torn between her duty to the SSR and her friendship with Howard, Carter embarks on a mission to clear his name, keep her job and try to press on in increasingly difficult circumstances.
It’s not often that we see a lot of short-form storytelling with so many TV series going straight to 22 or 24 episodes. But in Agent Carter’s case, the series was required to fill the mid-season gap for Marvel’s Agents of Shield season 2 and succeeded because of it.
With the show having to complete the story in little over a fourth of a normal series, it didn’t have the time to waste on reintroducing audience members to old characters. Catch-up episodes kill me when I’m watching a TV series and I generally consider them little-more than filler.
In Agent Carter’s case, the focus was entirely on the storyline. Each episode had some great beats to them and good cliff hangers to leave you wanting for the next episode.
Hayley Atwell is on the mark here again. It’s great to see her stretch the legs of this character, having only been a supporting character in two Captain America films, and a lead in a ten-minute short film of her own. Her interplay with the other characters was enjoyable, she gave the presence of someone too smart to be in the position she is in, but resigned to the fact that she is relegated to lesser roles by her co-workers. Her motives are often during the series questioned giving Atwell’s Carter the chance to school her co-workers on making presumptions about her abilities.
The rest of the cast where a mixed bag, some fell into the stereotype category while others simply served the plot. There was a standout performance by James D’Arcy as a young Edwin Jarvis (The inspiration for Tony’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S in the Iron Man films). He was an enjoyable fish-out-of-water character/sidekick that acted as the voice of the audience throughout the series. The other honourable mention is Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. He’s a likeable rogue as he steps in and out of the series with devilish charm.
But it can’t all be roses. Agent Carter did suffer from a lack of the superhero element that I love from other Marvel entertainment. I expected an appearance from Winter Soldier, or maybe a cameo from someone else connected to the super hero element. We did get links to the Black Widow program, but it didn’t quite satisfy my superhero habit.
As a complete package, Agent Carter gets so many ticks in the right boxes that you will wonder why Agents of Shield’s season one got off to such a sloppy start. Agent Carter demonstrates the strengths of a female lead action/drama with plenty of James Bond gadgets and hints to the larger MCU plans. You won’t be able to help being completely satisfied with Marvel’s latest offering.
For a more in-depth review you can listen to our podcast review here