Marvel’s Agent Carter is a spin-off of both Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Captain America. Set in 1946, after the conclusion of the war, and disappearance of Captain America, Peggy Carter is assigned a secretarial job with the SSR (precursor to Shield), and later pulled out of her world to help clear Howard Stark’s name. That’s the basic gist of it anyway. I was excited for this show. Needless to say I’m a comic book fan, especially Marvel, and any time a character is tapped for a show or movie it’s exciting (except Ant-Man, who wants to see that?). So we, my wife and I, sat down to watch the first episode, and after that I have to admit I just haven’t had any interest in the rest.
It’s not the acting, the cast is great, especially Peggy herself, Hayley Atwell. The rest of the cast is a blast of familiar faces and great talent. The design of everything is great, costumes, gadgets, and sets are fantastic. Unfortunately, for me, it’s down to the writing that killed the experience. Here was an opportunity to present the Marvel Universe’s idea of a strong woman ahead of her time, the titular character of her own series, and an example for young people everywhere. Unfortunately what we got was a trope of the most glaring variety, and not just Peggy Carter either.
Everyone gets that it was rough for women in the workplace after the war. Women had taken a leading role in manufacturing and technical fields while the men were at war and when they returned things were set back to ‘normal’ or what was normal for them. Anyone who doesn’t know that is living under a rock, and certainly not watching Agent Carter. I’d hoped the writers were just making their point early on, but it wasn’t long into the premier that I realized that every scene was going to be a study in how every man around Peggy was either stupid or a rampant sexist, and just how awesome Peggy is. They beat that horse to death and kept beating it all the way through the first episode. It’s sad because here you have a great setting, story, theme, and character in Peggy Carter, but they relegated her to a tool just to make a point rather than a fully realized character with her own story. Frankly they did more harm to the point they were trying to make than good.
Now this is all just my opinion mind you, but I know I’m not alone. Twitter, that night, was full of people making similar comments about the show’s direction, and lack of real substance. Even my wife asked when they were going to focus on her intelligence, skill, and determination rather than cast her as a man in a skirt just fighting everyone. Not that women can’t fight, there’s some pretty tough women in the world, physically, but Peggy was never portrayed that way before. Why is it that some people can only write tough women if they make them physically powerful? Why is it so hard for some writers to accept that overcoming obstacles with wits can be just as strong? This was an opportunity to present a great dynamic, a fantastic story about a woman becoming successful, and spin a tale of adventure but sadly it descended into all the old tropes. Stupid men, man in a skirt that points out how stupid the men are, a few redeeming characters that just aren’t enough to overcome the bad tropes, and a missed chance to really give young people characters to look up to.
Did you watch the other episodes? Did they do better, or did I miss the mark you think? Let me know below.