Agent Carter

February 4, 2016

3 Simplistic Things: January 2016

The new year begins, and while it might be new, the old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” With that, here are three things to take away this past January.

1. The X-Files Return:

After nearly a year of build up, “The X-Files” returned and our favorite believer and skeptic, Mulder and Scully, respectively, look like they haven’t missed a beat.

After their last venture, the mix-reviewed “X-Files: I Want to Believe” it seemed like the X-Files were buried, but since everything that’s old is new again, the iron was struck while it was hot, as they say. The two-part premier at the end of January was a welcome return to form for the agents, but of course controversy was added after word leaked that Gillian Anderson was supposedly offered half the salary that her counterpart, David Duchovny, for the revival. Either way, with four episodes remaining, and fan interest reignited, could it be possible that more X-Files could be on the way.

2. #OscarsSoWhite Controversy:

Well, this was a big one, and for reasonably good reason. After the Oscar nominations were announced, the Internet exploded with news that there was not a single non-White actor or actress awarded a nomination. Enter #OscarsSoWhite.

Two arguments can be made for this, and both create great debate: Perhaps there simply were not enough “great” roles by non-White actors and actresses in 2015, and that brings me to the bigger question. Why? Why, were there not enough great performances by non-White actors? The simple answer is that because Hollywood is not making these roles available and great actors and actresses are being wasted. Granted, yes, Idris Elba not being nominated this year for “Beasts of No Nation” will be discussed for quite a while, but why are we talking about a single performance, when we should be talking about numerous non-White actors being nominated? There is your core problem, not just the Academy, but Hollywood as a whole.

3. Agent Carter Returns:

In a TV world crammed with male heroes, it’s great to see a female heroine come back with a vengeance. “Agent Carter” returned, and after some questionable promos that I saw about this season being a little too silly, I’m sold that Hayley Atwell is back and better than ever. Moving from NYC, and trading the concrete jungle for the palm trees of Los Angeles, “Carter” introduced some new Marvel lore (hopefully) and set the tone for the introduction of some mystical and spacey things to come.

That’s it for this month, let’s see what kind of love we get in February.

January 7, 2015

Simplistic TV: Agent Carter Premiere Episode

SPIRIT

Maybe it’s because I’m an unapologetic Marvel “fanboy”.  Maybe it’s because strong female heroines like Ellen Ripley, Beatrix Kiddo, and Sarah Connor have always been more interesting to me than their stereotypical square-jawed Dudley Do-Right male counterparts.  Maybe it’s because several other shows in the same genre, including its parent company predecessor, underwhelmed out the gate.  Maybe it’s because my male physiology reacts to seeing the flawless Hayley Atwell by raising my endorphin levels to a staggering amount.  Hell, it may be all of those reasons combined which resulted in my enjoyment of the premiere for Agent Carter. 

Agent Carter, a spin-off of Marvel’s best One-Shot short film of the same name and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., takes place about a year after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger and follows that film’s standout character, Agent Peggy Carter.  Carter, a war hero of the highest order, is now forced to find her way and try to do her job as a spy while stuck in a chauvinistic, male driven world keen to keep her serving coffee and answering phones.  So yeah, it’s like Mad Men meets Alias.  Truthfully, the series gives Marvel a real opportunity to flesh out the Peggy Carter character.  Thus, bringing more understanding as to why Cap’ still pines for her and why she would be the one chosen as the first Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Carter has got the no nonsense determination of a Nick Fury and the beautiful but deadly charm of Black Widow.

“Love The Hat.”

In defense of Agent Carter’s less enjoyable programming peers, shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Constantine, and even (gulp) Gotham have story arcs meant to be spread across the normal 20 to 26 episode season structure.  Agent Carter is meant to be a strong, short arching, cinematic punch of 8 episodes; much like a standard UK television series.  (Which is why UK television is of a higher quality than American television in my opinion.  Although, that’s a conversation for another day)  However, it is clear from at least the first two episodes that showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas are confident in what they are doing, know what their show needs to accomplish, and know how to SMOOTHLY insert elements of its comic book and MCU source material in a way that enhances the experience instead of hindering it.  (Ahem!  Gotham.  Ahem!)  And really, it’s just plain fun.  The 40s era SPIRIT and charm has always been a great vessel for any absurd or unbelievable concepts the show wants to try.  (See: Indiana Jones)  And don’t worry about punches being pulled either.  Agent Carter may not be Boardwalk Empire in terms of graphic violence, but it is not from a lack of trying.  There is death and brutality in this female led, 40s era, 8 o’clock, comic book show, owned by Disney that may surprise you. 

Hayley Atwell seems to be born to play this role.  You can see why Marvel had the confidence to give her a big showcase show like this that she has to practically carry alone.  She not only nails every countering line to the volley of sexist insults hurled her way, she seems to have the ability to share an instant chemistry with whichever actor they put across from her.  She fortunately gets to separate herself from Scarlett Johansson and Ming-Na because they both play very guarded characters.  Peggy Carter is guarded in a different way in my opinion.  While Melinda May and Black Widow use lies to protect themselves, Carter, armed with truth, almost dares anyone wanting to crack her shell to step up try.  Her confidence as a character and Atwell’s portrayal of that confidence is perfect.

Dominic Cooper, although having a minor role, is still great as Howard Stark.  He does not take the easy way out by doing a Robert Downey Jr. impersonation.  He leans more toward the Howard Hughes/Citizen Kane type of billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist.  My one tiny gripe would be the Edwin Jarvis character, played by James D’Arcy.  D’Arcy is a great choice for the role and plays Jarvis well, but I hope the writers turn up his snark a bit more.  I realize I am contaminated by Paul Bettany’s brilliant A.I. version, and I know they are utilizing the role reversal of Peggy being tough and Jarvis being foppish.  I just want the banter between the two of them to be a little more biting, much like it is with Downey Jr. and Bettany.  It is there between the two…but I’m greedy for more. 

The rest of the supporting cast is fine in their roles, more or less not getting in the way of the story.  I say that hoping the Lyndsy Fonseca waitress character Angie either amounts to something much bigger or falls a little more to the wayside.  Shea Whigham’s character Roger Dooley is a preferable boss to Peggy Carter than Bradley Whitford’s Agent Flynn from the Marvel One-Shot.  Dooley seems to fit better in the era than Whitford’s Agent Flynn did.  Now, that may just be because I’m used to seeing Whigham on Boardwalk Empire.  However, I like to think it’s his gruff and unapologetic use of chauvinism as apposed to Flynn’s snarky approach.  Whigham is clueless to Carter’s activities, but I don’t see him as a cliched idiot. 

While staying up to see a humdrum Ant-Man trailer, I managed to find something even better cooking right under my nose.  Agent Carter is a show that hits the ground running with a quality to it that might catch you off guard.  It is a welcome addition to the Marvel universe and seems to bring hope that Marvel shows to follow will also learn from its predecessors mistakes.  Scan yourself for vita-rays…have someone tie you to a chair…turn on some Benny Goodman…oh and tip generously…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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