Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 1 Review “Pilot” & “Bridge & Tunnel”

HAYLEY ATWELL

I think it’s safe to say that Marvel has reached “Entertainment Juggernaut” status at this point. They have the most successful movies at the box office, a successful and entertaining TV show already airing on ABC, and four more TV projects coming to Netflix shortly. Now they’re adding another feather to their cap in the form of the hugely entertaining and immensely enjoyable Marvel’s Agent Carter.

The pilot episode kicked off with a couple scenes from the end of Captain America: The First Avenger which caught us up with what happened to Cap and where we are in the timeline of the series. It was a little strange watching scenes from a movie released four years ago, especially with the much more beloved and more successful Captain America sequel being released so recently. It was a bit odd being reminded of one of the weaker Marvel movies before the otherwise great episode began, although it makes sense that they’d want to tie this into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe so that people are totally aware that the show ties into those big, shiny, successful movies!

We’re quickly introduced to the setting of the series, which takes place in the beautifully realized New York City in 1946. World War 2 has just concluded, and all of the soldiers are coming home and settling back into their old jobs, which squeezes Peggy into a glorified receptionist position in an organization where she used to be top dog. This of course means that most of the guys in the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) are treating Peggy like crap, except for Daniel Sousa (Dollhouse’s Enver Gjokaj) and to a certain extent her supervisor Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham). Look, I get that this is 1946 and that the gender roles 70 years ago weren’t exactly what they are today, but it’s going to get pretty old if she’s still fighting to be appreciated and taken seriously by her male colleagues in a few episodes. She’s proving that she’s just as capable, if not more capable than the rest of the agents, so this will get pretty annoying pretty fast. It’s even more glaring on a network like ABC where there are so many strong female leads to be found, it will be frustrating to have one being so constantly downtrodden. I know this is the first episode, and that this might change soon, but it’s just the gut reaction that I got.

That’s really the only criticism that I could come up with, though. The episode itself was a ton of fun, and the cast is definitely top notch. The case for the week involved Peggy trying to clear the name of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) when he’s accused of selling his weapons to enemies of the state. This is an eerily similar charge to one that his son will face in about 50 years, but that’s neither here nor there. It looks like they’ve found a clever way to write the busy Cooper out of the show for much of its run, but I hope he comes back soon. The rest of the cast is great, especially Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. She brings a huge likability to the character, her accent is lovely, and man does she look good in a dress! She also brings a great physicality to the character, and she’s totally believable as a badass super spy. The supporting cast around her is also stellar, with James D’arcy wonderful as Jarvis. He makes a great pair with Carter, and all of their scenes together are delightfully British and charming.

In the end, the actual episode itself did exactly what a pilot episode is supposed to do: Introduced the characters, set up a few ongoing mysteries (Leviathan, Stark’s glowing doohickeys, etc.), and ended in an effectively moving conclusion with Peggy’s roommate being killed. There really wasn’t a whole lot of plot, but that’s what the second episode is for!

Pilot episodes are always pretty tough, but the second episode of a TV series has the onus of showing you what type of show we’re going to get on a weekly basis. Therefore, “Bridge and Tunnel” conveniently aired right after the pilot so we can get a taste of what Agent Carter is all about!

The episode kicks off with Peggy talking about moving in near diner waitress Angie (Nikita‘s Lyndsey Fonseca). I think we can all safely assume that they wouldn’t hire an actress from Nikita, somebody as experienced in action scenes like Fonseca, if they weren’t planning to do more with her than have her wait tables. I don’t know if she’s Hydra, or maybe she’ll eventually join the SSR alongside Peggy, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see her kicking butt pretty soon.

The case of the week had to do with the SSR investigating the implosion at the Roxxon plant, which involved interrogating their CEO (played by Ray Wise!) and the employees. Things quickly escalate as Peggy and Jarvis try to find the rest of Stark’s stolen weapons, all while trying to avoid being killed by the mute assassin.

Let’s just get this out of the way at the top: This episode was awesome. The action was great, the writing was perfect, and it was just non-stop fun from start to finish. That’s the main feeling I get while watching both of these episodes: Fun. While other comic book shows are trying a darker tone, and everything else on TV feels like the same drab and gray color palettes that we’ve seen a million times, Agent Carter is vibrant and just plain fun to watch. The pilot was directed by Louis Esposito, the guy who directed the Agent Carter One-Shot short film, and this second episode was directed by Joe Russo, the guy who co-directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both of these guys are clearly familiar with the Marvel universe and maintaining a consistent tone, so I’m hoping that the other directors they bring in can maintain the same level of quality.

My complaint with Peggy still being under-appreciated by her colleagues because she’s a woman was definitely still valid in the second episode. You’d think after Peggy weeded out the dirty Roxxon employee, then caught him without breaking a sweat, that Dooley would be a bit more appreciative and impressed. Instead, he doesn’t even let her stick around for the interrogation because “ladies shouldn’t see this.” She just caught this guy, basically single-handedly! This is already getting a little old, and it’s also a little irritating that Peggy has to keep all of her work hidden from the rest of the SSR. It’s fun seeing her try to clean up her mess and stay undetected, but it’s frustrating that they’re all working for the same side yet she’s keeping everything a secret. Again, this remains my only complaint at this point with the otherwise stellar show.

The episode concludes with Peggy being convinced by Jarvis to move in next to Angie “She’s totally a Hydra agent” Martinelli, who is already becoming more suspicious due to the fact that she can somehow afford a luxurious and prestigious apartment despite living on a waitress’ salary. We also see Stark’s license plate turn up in the wreckage of the Roxxon plant, but I don’t really see that incriminating or hurting Peggy in any way. It’s just another hurdle to clearing Stark’s name, but it isn’t like we expect that to happen anytime soon. Not quite as strong of a cliffhanger as the first episode, but I’m still very excited for the third episode regardless!

I’d be very hard pressed to think of another show that only aired two episodes and already had such a clear voice and tone for the show. Here’s to hoping they can keep their momentum alive, and keep that Marvel juggernaut rolling!

What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments section below!

Random Thoughts:
– Why don’t we have pastry vending machines anymore?! Man, I wish I lived in the 40s!

– Does Marvel just have an unlimited budget for “shining mystical doohickeys”? They have swirly shiny orbs in just about every Marvel project to date!

– If the name “Doctor Vanko” sounded familiar, that’s because he’s the father of Whiplash, the villain from Iron Man 2 played by Mickey Rourke.

– I couldn’t figure out why Roxxon employee Mr. Van Ert looked so familiar, but it’s because he played Forrest’s producer Grant in Comedy Central’s Review. If you haven’t seen that show yet, please fix that immediately. It’s on Amazon Prime Instant Video!

– It was pretty crazy as a Southern California resident to see Ralph Garman as the radio announcer on those Captain America broadcasts. He’s been a regular on the Kevin and Bean morning show in Los Angeles for many years.