In the first episode of the first season of Agent Carter, a stapler. A STAPLER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Agent Carter.
Trigger Warning: For talk of misogyny and race.
Hello, friends! This will be a short run through the first season of Agent Carter, but in case this happens to be the first Mark Watches project that has brought you here, here’s a brief rundown of some important stuff!
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As is the case whenever I start something new, I do like to admit what I know prior to beginning my first review. Thankfully, I’ve avoided the entire plot/cast for this show, but I know the following things about Agent Carter:
- Agent Carter is in it. I FEEL LIKE THIS IS A GIVEN.
- Hayley Atwell has injured every single stunt person on the show, apparently.
- The show is not very good about representing a diverse late-40s New York City. I had the show filtered out of my feed, but when a certain author I have written about said things about this show, it inevitably got back to me.
It was nice to go into another Marvel show with very little information because it made it easier for me to try and figure out what Agent Carter was trying to do. In one sense, the show has a huge hurdle to overcome: Where does it fit in the larger cinematic universe? It’s a period piece, so it would be a lot harder to fit it within the overarching plot we’re getting with the films and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which is okay! I think one of the many strengths in “Now Is Not the End” is the fact that the show is clearly trying to set itself up as its own story. It can be tied to the greater universe, but it’s not about those other characters. This is about Peggy Carter and the world she’s trying to build for herself after the end of the war.
And it’s largely a stunning portrait of that. From the set pieces to the costumes, from the institutional sexism she faces to the color palettes, it’s pretty impressive. It’s also clearly flawed, as many, many people have surely pointed out in the last year or so. I mean, I know I’m being repetitive here, but the entire main cast and secondary cast is white, nearly every background character is white (which is horribly unrealistic for 1940s New York City), and the first villain and the first person to die is a black man. (How you gonna bring in the exceedingly talented Andre Royo just to kill him off ten minutes later???) It’s a glaring mistake on the part of the show, but you know what? I’m coming into this nearly a year after it aired, and while I’ve seen none of the meta about Agent Carter aside from the one thing I mentioned before, I’m certain I’m not saying anything original.
So I don’t feel the need to re-hash what I’m sure has been said already. I enjoyed “Now Is Not the End” as a beginning, a chance to see what Agent Carter would do a year after the war ended and a year after Steve Rogers apparently died. (TOO MUCH EMOTION ALREADY.) Due to the sexism of the time, Peggy’s been cast into a subservient role as S.S.R., though she is quietly prepared for so much more than that. Yet she can’t seem to catch a break, no thanks due to her viciously misogynist co-workers. Even in the exception – Enver Gjokaj’s Daniel – there’s still a sense of paternalism. Which I appreciated! Even with good intentions in mind, we men can still come across as sexist. But I loved that there’s a parallel drawn between her experience as a woman and Daniel’s experience as someone with a disability. I think that’s why there’s a sense of camaraderie between these two characters. Even if they aren’t on the same level, they can relate to one another’s experiences.
As far as the story goes, it’s interesting, but it’s clearly not intended to be a one-shot. This is the start of some longer arc involving the “Leviathan,” and I’m perfectly fine with that. Y’all know how much I love serialization, and while I don’t expect that from Agent Carter, I think the Leviathan plot is pretty cool. Howard Stark! Dangerous technology! JARVIS! I think it’s not that surprising that the dynamic between Peggy and Jarvis is the best part of this pilot episode, and I’M OBSESSED. I love the idea that these two characters are both hiding their “real” lives from other people.
But I think it goes beyond that. Jarvis isn’t a fool, and he’s learned a lot working for Stark. At the same time, I feel like Peggy is gradually pulling Jarvis into the world of espionage, and it’s so entertaining to watch. Ultimately, that’s one of this show’s strong suits: it’s just fun to witness it all. Y’all, I have to do it: SHE USED A STAPLER TO KICK SOMEONE’S ASS. Peggy Carter doesn’t have any special powers. She just uses her body and literally anything within range of her. I think she also exploits the unsuspecting men around her, who all doubt she can THROW THEM OUT OF WINDOWS. Oh my god, what will she use next? A chair? A radiator? Me??????
Anyway, I’m very intrigued by these weird humans who can’t speak and I don’t know what the nitramene bombs are for, and there’s a huge mystery here, AND I’M READY. Bring it, Agent Carter.
The video for “Now Is Not the End” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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