Marvel have taken over the world with their cinematic universe, with both Iron Man 3 and Avengers Assemble ranking in the top 6 highest grossing films of all time (Iron Man 3 was recently overtaken by Frozen), and the hype surrounding Avengers: Age of Ultron (to be released 23 April) suggests that this domination is set to continue. However, their venture into TV through Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has not yet reached the same level of success. As a Marvel fan I felt compelled to watch the series, and did really enjoy it, but it was not on par with the films. However, Agent Carter, which has already aired in the USA, has received much better reviews. The lead female character has long been sought after from Marvel fans, many of whom would have liked to see a Black Widow film in the Phase 3 line up. It also moves away from the modern setting which has dominated the studio since the comparable failure of Captain America: The First Avenger, being set in the 1940s. However, despite all this, there are currently no plans to air the show in the UK. Channel 4, who have shown the first two series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., have not announced any plans to continue their link with Marvel in airing Agent Carter. So, for the meantime, we have to hope that someone else will pick it up, or watch it via other means…
Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, will be a familiar character to anyone who has watched the Captain America films. She appears first as part of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, who carry out the procedure to make Steve Rogers a “super-soldier”. The two form a close relationship, and Carter, along with Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad), helps Rogers in his rescue attempt at the Hydra base. Their love interest is reflected in her jealousy at him kissing another woman, which makes the subsequent events all the more poignant. At the end of the film, Captain Rogers is talking to Carter as his plane goes into the water, asking her out on a date where she will teach him how to dance just before the plane is submerged and contact is lost. She is left to mourn for him, and it is this period of her life which Agent Carter explores.
She appears again in Captain America: the Winter Soldier in a somewhat strange scene. Rogers visits her in a hospital/nursing home in the same state as he was in the 1940s when they knew each other. She, meanwhile, is 95, and has lived a full life. The bizarre flirtation between the two is a little uncomfortable, but heart-warming for those who were traumatised by their separation in the first film. We find out that she helped form S.H.I.E.L.D. along with Howard Stark, which is the reason Captain America stayed a part of it. She also gives him advice which points to the end of the film, saying “Sometimes the best we can do is start over,” showing her importance in influencing his decisions. In a deleted scene from the film, we find out that Carter marries a man saved by Rogers during his attack on the Hydra base.
These events hint at what will happen in Agent Carter, and the idea of more of an exploration into the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D., the life of Howard Stark, and how the fight against Hydra played out after Rogers’ death sounds fascinating. The plot outline is that Agent Carter is contacted by Howard Stark to clear his name after he has been accused of treason for selling weapons of mass destruction. Along with Stark’s butler Jarvis (the inspiration for Tony Stark’s personal computer), Carter goes out to find and destroy all of these weapons.
The series has received high praise in America, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it 97%. They rate it highly because it escapes the classic superhero trap of focusing too much on the action side of the story, writing that the series focuses “on Peggy Carter as a person first and as an action hero second.” Other critics have praised the show for its light-hearted nature, combining this style with the action Marvel Studios are known for, with the San Francisco Chronicle writing “Gosh, Marvel’s Agent Carter is a heck of a lot of fun.” It has also received high praise for its tackling of gender equality, with the strong female lead “fighting bad guys and sexism.” All of this suggests that this is a series to follow, and we can only hope that it will show soon in the UK. In the meantime, our hunger for Marvel will have to be fed by excitement for the next instalment of Avengers.