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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Agent Carter.

Agent Carter.

Guys, I was so excited about this series when it was announced. I actually considered doing it as an ongoing, and only didn't because I predicted - accurately, I think - that the density of plot would make it difficult to cover episode-by-episode in a satisfactory manner. But this was definitely one of the series that I was most enthused about this year, because I adore Peggy Carter almost as much as I adore fiction set in the 1950s and spy dramas. 

Set in the aftermath of World War Two, Agent Carter sees Peggy Carter relegated to demeaning chores within the Strategic Scientific Reserve. This all changes when Howard Stark visits her, having been accused of the theft and sale of his own deadly inventions. To prove Howard's innocence, Peggy becomes a double agent, working with the SSR to hunt him down while simultaneously attempting to find the real culprit of the crimes pinned on him, with the aid of his butler Jarvis.

I was completely correct to be excited about this. I actually didn't see the first episode, instead starting on the second one while under the mistaken impression that it was the first, so I spent the first twenty minutes or so very confused. Once I had my bearings though, I started to really love this series. A lot of care and thought was clearly put into the show by its creators, and it really does pay off.

That is a stylish hat.

I'm going to start by praising the two leads. Hayley Atwell as Peggy and James D'Arcy as Jarvis are both excellent in their roles, and their characters play off each other delightfully: Peggy is sharp, witty, and no-nonsense, and only bolstered by Atwell's incredible range, while Jarvis is an awkward mother hen, with D'Arcy's excellent comedic timing and manner making him one of the funniest characters in the show.

(It's worth mentioning that D'Arcy does also have excellent range, to the point where despite the two shows airing roughly at the same time, I and many others didn't realise that he was playing a major character in both of them.)

The two make an excellent contrast with each other, and some of the best scenes in the show come from when they're working together, with Jarvis' nervousness clashing with Peggy's calm, no-nonsense attitude. The most memorable example of that for me is, when preparing to smash an interrogation room window, Jarvis anxiously stops to ask what will happen if there are people behind the glass, only for Peggy to irritably fire back that 'they may be hurt, there'll be a spray of glass.' As they again prepare to smash it, Jarvis stops once more to ask what will happen if those people have guns, only for Peggy to just as irritably respond that 'we may be hurt, there'll be a spray of bullets.'

Thompson fulfils the role of eye candy for this series.

The other characters are also pretty fun. Peggy's friend Angie isn't involved in the plot much, but is massively enjoyable to watch whenever she's on screen; her adversary Dotty is intimidating, fascinating to watch, and has a fair few darkly comedic moments of her own (and a possible connection to Natasha Romanoff?); and Peggy's male co-workers are - well, they're probably the least interesting cast members, to be honest, but they're interesting enough, and as they get development over the series they only become more so. The only one that never managed to get me interested in him is Dooley, Peggy's boss.

(Like a lot of people, I ended up thinking that Thompson and Sousa should be a couple. An LGBT romance in the 1950s would make an interesting storyline, and Sousa, despite being set up as a romantic interest for Peggy, would make a terrible love interest for her. She almost never reciprocates his interest, and it's made very clear in the show that his image of her is significantly divorced from reality.)

The plot, too, is very well done. It's fairly typical spy drama stuff, with a mysterious organisation using Howard Stark's weapons to cause havoc, but spy dramas are fun, and Agent Carter never pulls a Spooks and forgets that the espionage hijinks are meant to be ridiculous and enjoyable to watch. The episodic plots are all coherent and well-crafted, and the overall series plot, while its pacing isn't ideal at times, is engaging and enjoyable.

Jaaaarvis. Presumably the model for Tony's AI butler of the same name.

The 1950s setting is also worked in well. The set, costume, and manners of speaking all scream the era at you, and the intense misogyny of the era is weaved into the plot very skillfully. A lot of things set in the past choose to skirt around the uglier aspects of it, instead choosing to render whatever time period they're harking back to as a magical wonderland of joy and whimsy, and thankfully Agent Carter mostly avoids doing that.

There's no word yet on whether it's getting a second series, but it really should. There's not a lot of programs on television right now that can quite match up with Agent Carter, and I'm including its sister show, Agents of SHIELD, when I say that.

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