Marvel fans know that everything is connected in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so far they have been able to weave together a complex set of stories in both film and television. Marvel’s Agent Carter was the first major property in the MCU to be headlined by a woman, and soon the big screen will be getting Captain Marvel. It’s an exciting and refreshing change, and hopefully the future Carol Danvers will be as fun, complex, and interesting as Peggy Carter. It’s a period spy drama on the surface, but at its heart, its the story of one lonely but capable woman, who is strong, smart, sensitive, can kick ass, and make you fall in love with her.
The first episode’s use of Peggy’s final conversation with Steve in “Captain America: The First Avenger” paid off terrifically in the end, as she once again wound up on the radio talking to a man on a plane — this time one who was trying to destroy New York rather than save it, and this time able to actually do something. It was a subtle and emotional touch, and one that I really appreciated.
Agent Thompson ended up taking credit for saving the thousands of people gathered in Times Square, but Peggy and the audience know that it was Peggy who stopped a hypnotized Howard Stark from unleashing “Midnight Oil”—a poisonous gas that was originally developed to keep soldiers awake for days, but that turned out to induce psychosis and homicidal rage upon exposure.
ABC has yet to renew Agent Carter for a second season and has billed the show as a “limited event”—and it’s going to be several years before the Captain Marvel feature film hits theaters. However, Agent Carter has proved that a female-led Marvel entity can not only be just as entertaining as the MCU’s male-fronted projects, but that it might be more entertaining than the series it replaced for eight weeks on ABC’s schedule, a.k.a. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Over the course of its short tun, Agent Carter created a satisfying, action-packed story of espionage and emotional complexity. The series took Peggy, Jarvis, agents from the SSR on a worldwide adventure, that all began when Howard Stark recruited Peggy to recover inventions that were stolen from him. At the end, Fennhoff is in custody, Dottie is on the loose to cause havoc in the future, but Peggy and Howard have come to terms with Captain America’s death, and have a mutual respect and admiration for each other.
The best thing about the series was the arc they gave to Hayley Atwell to take her character across. The Peggy of the finale was much different from the one we saw in the series premiere, and even from the one that punched Stark for lying to her about Steve’s blood several weeks ago. Peggy put on a front with her vibrant personality and self-confidence, but she was being held back by her love of Steve and her inability to move on after his death.
In a beautiful and poignant moment, Peggy poured the last remaining vial of Captain America’s blood into the river and finally gets the goodbye she never had the chance to experience. What’s even more heartbreaking is that in the future, Steve will resurface and Peggy will have lived a full life without him. That moment is the reason she is able to allow Thompson to hog the spotlight and take the credit for saving the New York public. It’s also why she was able to smile at the idea of one day accepting the invitation for drinks from Sousa.
“I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the President’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Atwell’s delivery of this line embodies everything that makes her perfect for Peggy Carter: she’s confident, powerful, and poised, above it all and yet slightly disdainful that the rest of the world is still struggling to get to where she’s at. She doesn’t need medals or approval or a positive opinion, but it wouldn’t hurt to have these, and she’s going to keep being herself until women get the recognition they deserve.
The first season Agent Carter was about Peggy getting comfortable with Peggy and not worrying about what other people thought of her. It was the beginning of her career at the SSR and peggy’s struggle to get her colleagues to realize her value. The show gave her respect, a sense of peace, and added an exciting chapter to Peggy’s life story. The series also gave another layer to the MCU mythology, as it introduced Marvel comics characters like Johann Fennhoff (Doctor Faustus) and gave us glimpses into the Black Widow training program. They created deep and interesting characters like Bridget Regan’s Dottie and Lyndsy Fonseca’s Angie that are begging for more exploration—especially now that Angie is in the know and living for free with Peggy at one of Stark’s numerous residences.
Most of all, Agent Carter showed us why we need more female-driven superhero projects, especially Marvel since they proved how well they can do it. Peggy Carter is a character that has evolved beyond Captain America: The First Avenger and her Marvel One-Shot, and if Agent Carter is any indication, we have so much more to explore and discover with her.
Throughout the series’ eight episodes, showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters told a tight and entertaining story that captured the spirit of 1940’s America, added in a compelling spy drama, added liberal doses of humor, and they did it all with a woman front and center. Here’s hoping that ABC recognizes the talent they have on hand, the potential these characters have for more great stories, and renews it for season two soon. Mission accomplished Peggy and like I like Jarvis, “would be honored to assist you at a moment’s notice, Ms. Carter.”