Saturday, August 01, 2015

Tonight's TV: Agent Carter (2015)

My immersion in the Marvel world continued this weekend with the first two episodes of this year's TV series AGENT CARTER.

In the past month I've watched four Marvel films for the first time, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), IRON MAN (2008), and IRON MAN 2 (2010).

For those who, like me, are new to the Marvel films, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) served with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, during WWII.

In CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Steve's plane went missing while he was in the midst of saving the world (or at least a big chunk of it) and he was presumed dead. By the time the "frozen in time" Steve awoke several decades later, as seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Peggy was an elderly lady.

The limited TV series AGENT CARTER is set in 1946. With the war over, Peggy now works for the secret Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), a forerunner of SHIELD which is hidden away in a NYC phone company building. Despite Peggy's valor during the war, most of the men at the SSR treat her dismissively, wanting her to serve coffee and file papers.

Peggy's old friend, inventor and weapons manufacturer Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), is accused of selling weapons to the enemy. He secretly approaches Peggy to get her help to clear his name; Howard then disappears but leaves behind his trusted butler Jarvis (James D'Arcy) to serve as her aide and comrade in arms. Things get deadly almost immediately.

I was quite impressed with the initial episodes. Atwell and D'Arcy are simply terrific; it's fun listening to their banter -- in clipped British accents -- as their friendship develops. Their relationship is strictly platonic, as Jarvis is devoted to an unseen wife named Anna.

Incidentally, it's curious to note that Howard's son Tony has a robot butler in the IRON MAN films...who is also named Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany).

AGENT CARTER has a cinematic quality, fitting right in with the movies, but with the extended storytelling time allowing for added depth. The show has a great '40s look, with bright candy-colored costumes and sets, including an automat diner where Peggy regularly meets with Jarvis. Adding to the fun, the series filmed some street scenes on the same Warner Bros. backlot sets where movies were filmed in the 1940s, including the set seen at the right.

One of the things I really appreciate about AGENT CARTER and the Marvel movies is they feature strong female characters who can kill at a moment's notice while remaining beautiful and feminine. Atwell is a real find as Peggy, who is afraid to let anyone get close, as people she cares about have a way of being killed. I'd love to know more of her back story but you certainly don't need it to enjoy Atwell as a woman trying to make it in a "man's business," the spy game in the '40s.

D'Arcy is likewise wonderful, seemingly mild-mannered and proper yet always there in the clutch. I'm intrigued by his references to his wife and would love to know more.

After talking with other classic film fans who also like the Marvel films and TV series, I think some of the appeal for viewers such as myself is that some of the entries (CAPTAIN AMERICA and AGENT CARTER) have "retro" settings; all of the films also emphasize old-fashioned values such as service to country and mankind, self-sacrifice, and good determined to triumph over evil.

Based on feedback from many other viewers, I expect that I'll be enjoying AGENT CARTER all the way to the end of the series, and I'm looking forward to Season 2, which will find Peggy and Jarvis in late '40s Hollywood.

Meanwhile, I learned today about the existence of Marvel short films. At the end of IRON MAN 2 Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) left for a new assignment in New Mexico. He had an adventure along the way, as seen in a brief short on YouTube.

I anticipate watching THOR (2011), THE AVENGERS (2012), and ANT-MAN (2015) in the near future!

Update: Thanks to Michael Kuzmanovski on Twitter for alerting me that AGENT CARTER will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 18, 2015. The DVD and Blu-ray editions are both listed as "Amazon Exclusive" on the Amazon site.


Blogger Irene said...

I had no idea there were Marvel short films! Thanks for that link. I watched it now and of course loved the swing music :) I will watch some of the others now too.

I really like Agent Carter and am looking forward to the next season with them in old Hollywood. I think you've hit the nail on the head about why people like Captain America, Agent Carter and so on, it's the values they represent which are so lacking now days. About Agent Carter I also love the eye candy of the whole thing. You are going to enjoy the remaining episodes - there are some real twists coming!

7:42 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

"Agent Carter" tops my list of favourite programs this past season. I liked Peggy's character from the films and watched the first episode out of curiosity. I hope they stick with the same eight episode format for the next season.

On the final episode, when Peggy stood on the bridge with the vile of Steve's blood and I heard the first notes of the selected song and knew it was Bing and Dixie, I'm not ashamed to admit that I burst into tears, and watched it more than once.

9:34 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hayley Atwell is "aces" in this show.
I note that series one is soon to debut on Blu-Ray...sign me up!

7:12 AM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Haven't started this one yet but looks like a binge-watch is in order soon :)

11:53 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura,
I had been introduced by my son-in-law to "CAPTAIN AMERICA" and was surprised to really enjoy it! Not sure if the later films mentioned would be for me but I really liked the 40s setting of the first film.

Now.....and as a direct result of your review...having been alerted to this TV series, we have started watching it. And enjoying it. I so agree with comments about the older values being a real draw here.
Both Hayley Atwell and James D'arcy are very familiar to me. Fine actors both.

Thanks for the pointer. I would not have looked out for it otherwise.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Irene, I'm delighted I could pass on what I learned about the Marvel shorts -- I have more to watch including a 15-minute AGENT CARTER short.

It's wonderful to see the enthusiasm here of so many classic film fans for this well-done series. Don't you wish we could all meet for dinner in the show's automat? :)

Jerry, I'm especially happy that I was able to steer you in the direction of this most enjoyable show. I watched the third episode late last evening and continue to really enjoy it. If I had the time I suspect I'd be "power watching" my way through even more quickly! (Kristina, let me know if you "binge-watch," LOL!)

Best wishes,

12:09 AM  

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