I rarely review television shows. I’m not sure why this is. I review films and books and products but television isn’t usually something about which I offer commentary. Perhaps it’s because there are so many outlets covering television that it feels like an already saturated medium. There are so many more experienced and profound people than myself offering opinions. Who wants to read mine? However, I’m breaking that pattern to talk about the ABC television show, Agent Carter.
Confession: I’m a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) geek. Note, this doesn’t mean I’m a comic book or graphic novel geek. Far from it. I have my own expert named Shell that I pepper constantly with questions when it comes to that side of things. The films and TV shows encompass my knowledge. I know for many this may completely void any opinions I have. That’s fine. The numbers of Marvel’s fanbase show that I’m not a minority on that. Marvel has introduced an entire new audience (that’s still growing I might add) to comic heroes and stories. And they’ve done it well.
I have, for most of my life, completely eschewed comic book films and television shows. I just wasn’t a fan. (The only exception to this was Lois and Clark. I loved that show.) Enter Captain America: The First Avenger. Here I found a story grounded in reality (WWII) that had fantasy enough to stretch the imagination (super soldier program) and a hero that understood evil and didn’t embrace some ‘dark side’ or dark tactics in order to save the world. This was a hero that I could introduce my kids to without reservation. Captain America was seriously one of the good guys. I could and did get behind that.
So if you understand Cap’s story through the MCU, you also know Peggy Carter. Peggy is a key player in Cap’s world and in his life. She’s also one of my favorite characters. Without her encouragement and support, I don’t think Cap would be exactly who he is. She helped him break out of that dancing monkey routine and challenged him to more. To me, it feels like Peggy makes the people around her strive to be better and achieve more. So when ABC announced a show centered around Peggy, I admit that I approached it with some level of trepidation. Were they going to mess it up by bringing her to television? Would they shortchange her character in order to fit her in a shorter format? I knew Peggy could be the central character and hold a show, but did the writers? Producers? Would the network require a different Peggy to fit their ideals? Obviously I had a lot of questions and really, the track record on network shows I love isn’t that fabulous. So I tentatively stepped up to watch this show. And, with more than a little fear, I allowed my kids to watch with me. That took a big step too because if their hearts were broken or the shine was taken off of one of their beloved characters, I would need to be the person to pick up the pieces. But I took the chance. And I am so glad that I did.
Agent Carter, a short form series with only eight episodes, excelled far beyond my expectations. In fact, it blew my hopes out of the water in the best way possible as well. Whereas most television shows struggle to find their footing, voice and personality in their freshman year (see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – big fan now but I had to choose to stick with it in the beginning), Agent Carter fit into the puzzle like a missing piece that had been lost and was now found. Each episode felt big and beautifully cinematic. The historical aspect of the show was well done and vivid, bringing to life a time that we don’t often see in entertainment. There are many shows and films about WWII, but not as many for what happens after.
With many shows and films, I’ll find myself asking where the creators want to take us. Did they really mean to do that? Often, the missteps in voice or tone take me out of the story enough to begin analyzing things from a writer’s perspective. This makes it not entertainment for me as I begin to see catalysts, storylines, climax, and characterization from an educational perspective. Agent Carter, for me, didn’t suffer that. I was able to stay ‘in’ the story. So much so that each week felt like I was sitting down to a new film – not a new episode of a television show. When each episode ended, I was ready for the next one to begin. I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes or cringing. I was fully engaged each and every week. Even cameos by beloved characters were handled with grace and style. New characters (Jarvis, Sousa, Thompson) were crafted with care and deliberation. Choices were made that planted seeds into the larger Marvel Universe. This series was expertly handled with a deft hand to even the most minor of details.
Rather than feeling like this was something a group of writers sat down to create, this show fit so well into the MCU that it felt like Peggy’s story had actually happened and we only just now had found the ‘lost tapes’ that allowed us to see those missing years.
I thoroughly enjoyed all eight episodes of this show and I cannot wait to own them myself so that we can watch Peggy’s story chronologically from Captain America: The First Avenger through Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yes, we’re those sort of geeks in my house and we’re all quite happy that ABC chose to pick up this series. So ABC, may we have some more please?