Agent Carter: Now is Not the End

"Miss Carter, I've read your war record. You are a credit to your profession. If the men in your office can't see that, then they're fools."

I've been excited about this show since it was first suggested after the Agent Carter One-Shot was released. Did it manage to live up to my ridiculously high expectations?

You betcha.

It's 1946 and Peggy Carter is still working as an agent for the S.S.R. But a lot has changed since we last saw her in The First Avenger (this series is actually set before the One-Shot). Peggy is working in New York and facing an enemy just as insidious as the Nazis or HYDRA - the rampant sexism of the period. Now that the boys have come back from the war, Peggy is just expected to smile, do the typing, man the phones and make the coffee. Her wartime record is dismiss by the other agents as they snigger about her being Captain America's "liaison". I commend the series for not shying away from the horrible chauvinism and misogyny that women like Peggy and her friend Angie would've faced back then.

One of the things I love most about this episode was how Peggy turned her co-workers' narrow-mindedness to her advantage, such as using their casual sexism against them by sneaking into mission briefings with a tea tray to learn the information she'll need to know for her own operations. Much of the success of this show is really down to Hayley Atwell's central performance. It really goes without saying that Atwell is absolutely bloody brilliant as Peggy, but let's say it anyway: Hayley Atwell is absolutely bloody brilliant as Peggy Carter. It is really no surprise that, after Nick Fury, she has appeared in the most Marvel Studios' productions (seven if you include the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man).

The only bright light amongst the S.S.R. agents was Enver Gjokaj's Daniel Sousa, a crippled war vet and the only agent who treats Peggy with the respect she deserves. He has potential love interest written all over him, He also has potential HYDRA agent written all over him, but that's only because I suspect practically everyone of being a potential HYDRA agent. Ditto Peggy's friend, Angie. She's a little too friendly. I hope I'm totally wrong, of course, because I love Gjokaj and Lyndsy Fonseca and hope they get more to do in later episodes.

'Now is Not the End' gets the show off to a confident start, with only a few minor wrinkles. It's very exposition heavy, taking a lot of time to set up the story arc that will continue throughout this eight episode series. Howard Stark's private stash of really scary weapons has been stolen and sold on the open market. Branded a traitor, he flees the country and entrusts Peggy to find the missing weapons and clear his name, which she'll have to do behind the backs of her co-workers. Which won't be so hard since some of them are morons.

To help find the weapons Peggy is aided by Stark's butler, Edwin Jarvis, a character so phenomenally English he makes Queen Elizabeth look a slack jawed yokel. James D'Arcy is great fun as Jarvis and he and Atwell have a chemistry that is thankfully devoid of any kind of romantic tension. Alas, Jarvis and Stark seem to be playing Peggy and have a secret agenda. And they seem to think she won't find out. Like most of the other men on this show they have made the fatal mistake of underestimating Peggy Carter.

Intel and Assets

--Always nice to see James Frain and Andre Royo show up in shows I like.

--The murder of Peggy's roommate came as something of a brutal shock. Poor Colleen. A nice girl who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

--Frain's character said that he and the other voiceless guy worked for someone or thing called Leviathan. Surely the last thing Peggy needs in her life right now is another dick?

--The typewriter Colleen's killer used to communicate with his superior reminded me of Fringe.

--Agent Carter is the first female lead project from Marvel Studios and the first female lead TV series based on a comic since Birds of Prey in 2002. That's right, we haven't had a comic book TV series with a female protagonist in 12 years. 12 whole years. That is disgraceful.

--While unmistakably a television production, the show captures the look and feel of the 40s perfectly. I love the style of this period and it is great to see it recreated so well.

--Speaking of style, Peggy strutting down the street in her red fedora amongst a sea of men in their dull grey suits and hats was a fantastic image and should've been how she was first introduced rather than that cluttered opening montage.

Sousa: "Poor guy. Heard he got his personality shot off in Iwo Jima."

Thompson: "If you don't mind, these surveillance reports need to be filed, and you're really so much better at that kind of thing."
Peggy: "What kind of thing is that, Agent Thompson, the alphabet? I can teach you. Let's start with words beginning with 'A'."

Peggy: "Howard, you're asking me to become a traitor in order to prove you're not one, you do see the irony?"

Peggy: "I seem to have a habit of losing people close to me. Perhaps losing is too nice a word. I get them killed."

Drunk at Club: "I'm glad you changed your mind."
Peggy: "What can I say? It's every woman's right."

Peggy: "Oh, one more thing: tip generously."

Three out of four Crikey O'Reillys
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Jess Lynde said...

I really adored this premiere. So much fun! Let's say it again: "Hayley Atwell is absolutely bloody brilliant as Peggy Carter." And her dynamic with James D'Arcy as Jarvis is indeed fantastic. Great, solid center, with lots of goodness around the edges. Even the chauvinist coworkers are well inhabited.

Of course, like Mark, I suspect everyone of being a potential turncoat and it makes me sad, because I, too, really want to like Daniel and Angie! Can they please stay good guys? I'm hoping Daniel gets roped into Peggy's activities, goes undercover with her, and we get to see Enver breaking out his skills!

I'm also hoping that whatever Stark and Jarvis are up to, it has something to do with "testing" or "vetting" Peggy to install her as the new head of SSR. Or something like that. Putting her through the paces to demonstrate her bonafides to everyone else, as it were. Rather than something underhanded and dirty. Because, again, I really like the dynamic between Jarvis and Peggy, and I'd hate to think he and Stark were actually manipulating her for nefarious purposes.

Billie Doux said...

Hayley Atwell is indeed wonderful. I liked her dynamic with Jarvis and the way she was using her workmates. And I'm already worried that Enver is going to be a love interest slash secret bad guy.

But I think there's something about the series that isn't working for me. Maybe it's the time period? The whole post-WW2 forties thing is a huge part of the series and I liked it in Captain America, but here it sort of made me impatient. So did the sexism, which was certainly a thing, but felt like it was being taken to extremes. Maybe it's a TV versus movies thing and I'll get into it later?

Josie Kafka said...

I really enjoyed this. Hayley Atwell is excellent, and I hope we get more Enver G. in the next few episodes.

I also developed a serious case of shoe envy during these episodes. All of Peggy Carter's shoes are fabulous. I want them all, and I want them right now.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I loved Carter in this, and she's a fantastic lead. The setting feels a bit cliched for me, but still done well. I too hope Enver isn't a double agent, but what if he is that husband she mentioned in The Winter Soldier. Her chemistry with Jarvis is probably my favorite part.

I hate to admit it, but this show is already better than most of AoS's first season. I'm looking forward to the next six episodes, and I bet we'll get more next year.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the music.

I really wish we had gotten this show instead of Agents of Shield.

Mark Greig said...

Considering what we know about Peggy's future, I thank you might be right about what Stark and Jarvis are really up to, Jess

ChrisB said...

I went into this with muted expectations, not being a guru of all things Marvel. I was afraid that most of the story would be too new or too "inside" for me to follow.

While I am sure that there was a lot of that, there was not enough to mute my enjoyment of this pilot. I loved the chemistry between Jarvis and Peggy, was crushed when Coleen died, and cheered every time Peggy kicked some ass.

This pilot reminded me quite a bit of the Aliaspilot. That's a good thing.

mazephoenix said...

Brilliant and fun. Why are we only getting eight episodes?
Oh I loved Enver's part here. He does have love interest/agent of Hydra written all over him.
Loved Andre Royo's brief part too.
But Hayley Atwell's Peggy was the star, kicking ass and being smart all over the place. Yum.

Juliette said...

I liked it, but I was a bit disappointed that a show with a female protagonist still insisted on fridging a woman in the pilot. Couldn't she have had a cute boyfriend or just a friendly male co-worker or neighbour? But noooo, she has to keep mooning over Captain America (not that he's not worth mooning over) and an innocent girl has to get fridged. Again.

Although, on the subject of Peggy's love life, is anyone else shipping her and Howard Carter? If she turned out to be tony Stark's secret biological mother, I would be totally fine with that.

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the fun review Mark - as always lots of fun. I agree with everyone else, a really strong start to the series but I echo Billie's discomfort. For me, it was about the men who Carter works with. They are agents and therefore can't be complete idiots and the sexism was over the top which I well know can be the case but it felt over-played. She has probably worked with some of these men and they wouldn't dismiss her so quickly and so thoroughly. Maybe that piece will become more nuanced.