by Mark Greig
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?
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.