Marvel’s Agent Carter ended last night, without confirmation of a second series, so for now this is it for Peggy Carter and the SSR. In many respects, it was a satisfactory ending. Peggy comes to terms with the loss of Steve Rogers, Howard Stark deals with his own destructive nature and legacy, and the SSR accepts Peggy as one of their own—though the accolades for the resolution of the Howard Stark situation goes to Agent Thompson, not Peggy. But as Peggy says, she doesn’t need public recognition—she knows her value. All she’s wanted is to be allowed to do the work, and that is what she gained during her first year with the post-war SSR: The ability to be an effective member of a team.
It’s the penultimate episode and things are starting to play out to their final conclusion, which means we’re getting into some spoilery territory. Consider yourself warned.
With Peggy’s semi-betrayal of the SSR out in the open, this episode finally lets Peggy air her frustrations with her male co-workers that is very satisfying. It’s something we’ve wanted to see from the very beginning, Peggy delivering a comeuppance to her chauvinistic fellow agents, but what really makes it kick is that Peggy does it while she, herself, has been brought low. She’s finally getting somewhere in her furtive investigation, having connected the pieces of the Red Room, Dottie Underwood, and Leviathan, but she’s also lost the trust and, at least temporarily, the respect of the other agents. It actually makes her indictment of the SSR—“Unless I have your lunch, your coffee, or your reports, I’m invisible to you”—all the more damning because it doesn’t come while she’s on a high horse.
First, some housecleaning from last week. Seeing the Soviet Red Room—the origin of modern-day Natasha Romanov—raised some questions, particularly about whether or not the little killer girl may have been a young Natasha. In the comics, Natasha is very old, aided and enhanced by a Red Room supersoldier serum knock-off, but to date, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Natasha is just a regular person, albeit, a highly skilled and trained one. So I checked around and I have it on good authority that no, that was not young Natasha. In the MCU, she is not enhanced. Some people may be disappointed, but honestly, I think that makes the Red Room that much more chilling. It means they found a way to create soldiers like Dottie and Natasha from just plain old-fashioned human cruelty. Of all the various brainwashing methods we’ve seen Hydra employ, Bucky Barnes’s mind-melting electroshock therapy may be the most brutal, but the Red Room’s childhood indoctrination is the most sickening.
Just when I was getting sick of people telling Peggy—to her face, on repeat—that the men she works with will never respect her, Agent Carter brings back some of Peggy’s war buddies and we get to spend a refreshing hour watching people who genuinely respect Peggy work effectively with her. Agent Carter was just beginning to wear the sexism schtick too thin—which is what happens when you keep having super obvious conversations about the same topic—we’re reminded that not everyone treats Peggy like a sandwich girl. This episode sees Peggy and Agent Thompson heading to Russia to investigate a lead about Howard’s stolen weapons, and they hook up with the Howling Commandos to complete the mission. Well, they hook up with some budget Commandos from the comics who were not in the The First Avenger, and Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough).
After a State of the Union hiatus, Agent Carter returned without missing a beat. In very short order, this show has become everything I wanted out of a Marvel TV show—exciting action, a mix of fun and dramatic character moments, and meaningful connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The best part about that last one is that the show’s writers are managing to create those connections without banging you over the head with reminders about what’s gone on in the movies. You don’t need to have seen both Captain America movies in order to understand Peggy Carter, and if you haven’t seen Iron Man, you can still enjoy caddish Howard Stark. This week’s episode was chock full of those sub-connections, which went a long way to enhance the movie characters, especially Tony Stark.
Last night was the two-hour premiere of Marvel Studios’ latest TV venture, Agent Carter, a spin-off series starring Captain America’s main squeeze, Peggy Carter. It’s the second network show for Marvel, following last year’s Agents of SHIELD, and since there are only eight episodes in what is being billed as a “limited series”—aka, “we’re not planning on renewing this unless it’s REALLY popular”—I’ll be recapping episodes each week. Let’s start with this two-hour premiere, which set up Peggy’s post-World War II, post-Captain America life in New York.