Sunday, April 19, 2015

Agent Carter - an agent of change

tv series review

The first season of Marvel’s Agent Carter is refreshing with a strong female lead

Marvel's Agent Carter
Season 1

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D'Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, and Shea Whigham

Marvel’s ever-expanding Cinematic Universe is very noticeably dominated by male characters. All their biggest franchises, such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Hulk, have male leads with female characters (like Black Widow and Maria Hill) usually supporting them in secondary roles. This is one of the reasons why their latest television series Agent Carter is so refreshing.

The drama follows the story of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a prominent character in the Avengers franchise, who we are familiar with as Steve Roger’s love interest, and whom we know will eventually help establish the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (better known as SHIELD). But in 1946, Carter is still getting over the apparent death of Rogers and struggling to make a place for herself in a male-dominated world. Treated like an unglorified secretary by her chauvinistic Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) colleagues, Carter finds herself undervalued and sidelined. But when inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is accused of selling dangerous weapons to criminals, he reaches out to Carter for help in clearing his name, leaving his butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) to assist her.

Unlike her depiction on the cheesy Captain America Adventure Program radio show, snippets of which intermittently appear in the series, tough and resourceful Carter is determined not to be frazzled by how she is depicted and treated, and uses her skills and smarts to outwit everyone around her, including both the bad guys and her SSR cohorts.

The cast gives solid performances across the board. Atwell is perfect in the lead role, as is D’Arcy, who is fantastic as the amusing sidekick to Atwell’s smart Carter. Shea Whigham, Chad Michael Murray and Enver Gjokaj are all competent in the roles of the SSR chief and agents, respectively. Their characters, however, sometimes seem to be built around stereotypes, and the series doesn’t always dig as deep as it should into some of its underlying themes.

Still, while its central mystery might not be exceptional, Agent Carter is an entertaining watch, propelled by terrific performances by its leads. It is great to have a strong female character at the helm of a Marvel series, and the drama neatly ties in with the other ongoing projects in this shared, comic book-based universe. Ultimately, Agent Carter delivers a focused and engaging eight-episode season and fans of its accompanying franchises will surely enjoy Carter’s adventures.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 19th April, 2015 *

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