‘Agent Carter’ (Season 2): Standing Alone in a Larger Universe

I happily admit that I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, Marvel as a whole is easily my favorite fandom, and I spend plenty of my free time geeking out over all the small and large ways that the movies and films tie together. So I get the notion that some hardcore fans have that, by being set in the 1940s, Agent Carter “doesn’t matter” in the grand scheme of things. That said, what really matters is how any of these shows or movies stand on their own, and in that regard, Agent Carter is easily one of the best works of the MCU, one that’s only grown more fun and confident in its second season.

Really, with any work set in the MCU, there needs to be a balance between the larger narrative and what’s going on in the individual work itself. It’s the reason Avengers: Age of Ultron made for a bloated mess while Ant-Man surprised as one of the most fun films from Marvel Studios yet. Ant-Man paid homage to the larger universe, sure, but it wasn’t a slave to setting up future movies the way Ultron was.

So, in truth, that freedom to only ever have to make small references, tangential links, makes it so Agent Carter can fully tell its own story. It’s something that’s only become more of a reality in the second season, with Peggy no longer mourning the loss of Steve Rogers and finally being recognized as a competent agent. Now, she can just get down to business and do her job, which means a season of fun adventures ahead for the audience.

And so far, there’s definitely a greater sense of fun about the show. From Bernard Stark the flamingo, to the hopeful acts hanging out at the SSR’s talent agency front, to the return of the cheeky banter between Peggy and Jarvis, this season is every bit as sunny and vivacious as its new Los Angeles setting. There’s a larger narrative being built around classic Marvel villains and elements, sure, but the show is getting to engage with these elements on its own terms; the rest of the time, it just gets to be the fun, entertaining show.

Sure, there are plenty of ties to the MCU already being explored for those uberfans like myself. The show is exploring the darkforce – here called zero matter – which will apparently be a focus in Doctor Strange, and the shadowy organization Chadwick answers to uses a symbol that clearly connects them to the ancient HYDRA recently revealed on Agents of SHIELD. However, these ties are small at best, and are ultimately being used to further the narrative of Agent Carter instead of the larger universe. It makes for a show that anyone can enjoy on its own merits, which is more and more beginning to seem like a rare thing in the MCU.