I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
Agent Carter shows a lot of promise from the outset. It is a female led series, which within the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a very rare occurence (although Jessica Jones seems to be rectifying that as well). It links in well with the wider Universe that Marvel are building, taking a character who has not just got their own series but also stars in at least three of the major movies that Marvel have released. Lastly, it is a unique and original setting, the 1950s, a time when technology was simpler, the world didn’t necessarily know about superheroes and woman were treated as second class citizens. A lot of interesting developments to build upon.
It was quite disappointing that to begin with Agent Carter seemed quite generic. It didn’t feel like it was bringing anything especially new to the screen or developing anything for the Marvel Universe. The set-up was done quite well but the for at least three to four episodes, the same formula was repeated. Agent Carter evades her own organisation, the SSR, and works with Howard Stark’s mild-mannered butler Jarvis to try to find one of Stark’s lost inventions. There are scrapes along the way but this is generally it.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this done many times before. Agents of Shield suffered from the same problem, developing a “villain of the week” that the team had to beat and offering very little that really caught the imagination. TV is moving on from the self-contained procedural and although there were hints of a bigger story-arc, Agent Carter wasn’t really offering it.
Until episode 5. This episode sees Agent Carter being sent to Russia to investigate something known as Leviathan. Here the series’ bigger story is cracked open, with child-assassins, familiar faces returning and Agent Carter’s skills being truly put to the test. It also unlocks the rest of the season and gives it a huge push forward, offering direction and some unique, creative storylines to pursue.
The villains improve and don’t just feel like faceless, generic henchmen. Ralf Brown is great as Dr Ivchenko, as is Bridget Regan as the assassin Dottie. Both prove to be equals to the SSR team and the finale is well worth the episodes that build to it. Of course, the villains need good heroes to fight and Hayley Atwell is great as Peggy Carter. She balances action, drama and humour very well and her chemistry with the rest of the cast, particularly James D’Arcy as Jarvis, brings a charm to the series.
The later episodes also see the series become more mature and risky. Characters are not necessarily safe and some of the moments push the boundaries. Daredevil on Netflix took a more mature theme considering it was a superhero series and although it doesn’t reach those levels, Agent Carter certainly pushes the network limits.
The lesson to learn is that the bigger story is better than the generic procedural and there is plenty more to develop upon in this series. All those elements I listed at the beginning are still set in place and can now breathe some new life into the Marvel television Universe as well.
Overall, Agent Carter has a lot of positive elements which were unfortunately wasted with the first four episodes. Once the big villain is revealed and a larger story is being told, the excellent cast has some decent material to work with and a series to rival Agents of Shield and the Netflix shows could begin to emerge.
Best Episode – The Iron Ceiling: The episode that reveals the true villain and opens the season up to some decent storytelling.
Best performance – Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Should there be another season? – If they take the approach of the last few episodes than there is plenty more potential here.
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)