philip k. dick, the man in the high castle
throwing the thursday oracle

marvel's agent carter

Well, eight weeks have come and gone. Next week, Agents of SHIELD will return. I looked forward to Agent Carter each week, and wouldn’t mind it being renewed.

But the series has to deal with two groups of audience members: those who are fluent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the rest of us. While I am not usually a fan of gigantic film franchises, the MCU has some talented people I enjoy, so I have a passing knowledge. I saw and liked the first Iron Man, and also had fun with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. But outside of those two movies (and the Agents of SHIELD series), I haven’t seen any of the MCU material. So while the question for fans is how well Agent Carter fits into the structure, for me, the question is whether I can enjoy the show without knowing the ins and outs.

I thought it did pretty well with this. Some of the material was meant for the fans ... I had to research to find out that one character in the show has a passing relationship to Scarlett Johansson’s character in The Avengers, but I assume that was obvious to people in the know. (And there was one brief scene at the end of the final episode that introduced a character who was apparently a big deal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which also included Peggy Carter.) None of this mattered to me, and it wasn’t necessary to know the shout outs to enjoy the TV series.

Agent Carter takes place in 1946, and plenty of time is spent on showing how women were marginalized in that era. Carter isn’t just the equal of her fellow spies, she is better than them, but no one pays any attention to her. Eventually, with some help, she saves the world, only to see the credit go to the man who is her boss. This set up the statement that to a large extent served as the show’s motto, as Carter states, “I know my value, anyone else's opinion doesn't really matter.”

The show was often fun, it only rarely took itself seriously (and chose the right times to do so), and it made its points about gender equality with flair. All of which adds up to slightly better than “meh” ... fun to watch, never necessary. If it came back for a second season, I’d be there, but I won’t miss it if that doesn’t happen.

Except ... Hayley Atwell. First off, she’s great as Carter, and she pulls off the 1946 look as if she were born to it. Her Carter is positively iconic, easily the best thing about the show. (And Atwell proved to be a popular person to follow on Twitter.) And there’s no way around it ... Hayley Atwell is a bombshell. It’s a bit off to say that about a woman playing a character who fights sexism, but if I didn’t mention it, you’d think I was blind, and my take on the series would be invalid. Plus, of course, Carter kicks ass ... the fight between her and “Sin Rosetro” (see, I can make sly allusions just like the Marvel fans do) in the season finale was a highlight of the series. Grade for Season One: B+.