Here’s a post for International Women’s Day! We are living in the dawn of the age of the action heroine and I’m all about it. There was Emily Blunt in that movie the Edge of Tomorrow, Cassandra from the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition, great and new interpretations of the She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel comics, pretty much the whole cast of Legend of Korra was kick ass women… Those are a lot of my favorite things last year. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe has lagged behind in the diversity department, as the new poster for Age of Ultron might remind you, everything so far has been headlined by white dudes. That changes with the recently concluded miniseries Agent Carter.
Set in 1946 New York following the conclusion of the MCU’s version of World War II, Agent Carter is the story about the early days of the SSR, the organization that would eventually become SHIELD, and one of its most important members: Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, reprising her role from the Captain America movies). Peggy is an outsider; largely because she’s the only woman working in an openly sexist office but also because she still can’t get over losing Steve Rogers. The name Captain America hangs heavy over this show, and I am really interested in this idea of a world that had super heroes and villains but doesn’t anymore. Hopefully that’s something the show could delve into if there ever is a second season.
But the focus this season is on a plot by a secret organization to steal secret Stark tech for nefarious purposes. The SSR immediately decides that they have to hunt to Howard Stark, but Peggy, who worked closely with Stark during the war, insists he’s innocent. When everyone ignores her and leaves her to do paperwork, Peggy decides to conduct her own investigation. So the game is afoot: Peggy has to clear Stark’s name and stop the real bad guys while simultaneously hiding everything she’s doing from her coworkers and the USA’s top spy agency. It’s campy fun that allows for us to watch Peggy kick a whole lot of ass pretty much on her own.
Peggy’s outcast status means that the show lives and dies based on Atwell’s performance, so we’re lucky she’s so great. We get a little of Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark, which is fun, but it’s actually his assistant Jarvis (James D’Arcy) that is closest to a co-lead in this show. Jarvis is the only other person working to clear Stark’s name, and he helps Peggy on her covert missions. There’s enough chemistry between Atwell and D’Arcy to make the somewhat tired tough girl/squeamish guy dynamic work. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Peggy’s fellow agents played by Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, and that guy from some HBO shows, Shea Whigham. All of them good playing otherwise heroic dudes who are bogged down by sexist ignorance.
And that’s the thing about this show I think people will remember, that it’s agenda wasn’t really to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe but rather to drive home how much ass a woman can kick and how stupid everyone is for ignoring that. Sort of like those early seasons of Mad Men, when the show was as much about showing how bad things were back then as it was telling the story of those specific characters. And just like that show, I hope we get a chance to see more about where these people go and what they become.