Agent Carter came to a close tonight with the courage of a show that’s not sure if it will be renewed. After a strong four opening episodes things went askew, course-correcting as quickly as it erred and determined to be quality. Unfortunately, while the show is well-scripted, well-acted and well-produced, it lacks something.
Here’s some alternate adjectives: adventurous, action, camp, predictable, safe and secure.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s formula has been dissected. Their biggest hits – Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider – were unsafe and tread new ground. The hype for Captain America: Civil War is near-colossal and Marvel is banking that their fans are game for a ‘psychological thriller’ that probably kills a major player (Coulson was loved but overall supplementary, Quicksilver was cannon fodder). Agent Carter isn’t stepping outside of its bubble.
Well it is, in that is shook things up by coming to Los Angeles and delving into the supernatural quicker than Agents of SHIELD. The vague black goo turned out to be a virus consuming an alternate dimension and will supposedly link into Doctor Strange, though there’s nothing in the narrative to support that at all. Furthermore, the series premise of ‘genesis of SHIELD’ is barely addressed.
The series finale picks up at the Mexican standoff between Peggy, Sousa and Thompson outside Whitney Frost’s lair. Inside the zero matter from Dr Wilkes explodes and transfers into Whitney Frost, empowering and emboldening her further. She pursues the team and dues ex machinas Jarvis and Howard Stark arrive to save the day.
Stark is a delight. Some lines are hilarious and others are hammy, but Dominic Cooper’s coy performances smooths over well. He’s not integral to the plot at all and his appearance in this moment is truly odd but hey, who doesn’t love some Howard?
WOAH, HOLD IT RIGHT THERE. TO CLARIFY: Howard Stark, NOT Howard the Duck.
It gets a bit crowded as all the characters converge. Between Peggy, Sousa, Thompson, Wilkes, Jarvis, Stark and Samberly everyone’s shuffling around to make room for everyone else. As such, it’s not as memorable as other episodes of Carter.
The highlight of the night was certainly the mafia boss’ association and friendliness with Howard Stark. It underscores the recurring theme that the writers understand these characters on a deeper level than those on Agents of SHIELD. Imagine Scarlett Johansson casually dropping a line about Howard Stark’s mob connections in Captain America: Civil War. It works, and that’s the whole appeal of Marvel TV. Far-flung corners of the universe that would otherwise be unexplored.
As the season drew to a conclusion a plan was created to lure the villain to a far-away location, remove the zero matter and arrest her. Easy as pie. No seriously, easy as pie. The confrontation lasts all of five minutes and could be summed up with ‘they used science’. It lacked tension and was a real anticlimax for a villain we’ve spent so long getting to know. This is the woman that intimidated Dottie Underwood and killed half of the council. She sure went down easy after one little gamma cannon.
Then a black hole opened in 1940s Hollywood and we were supposed to believe it would end the world. If you’ve seen any Marvel film ever you’ll know the world does not end before the events of Iron Man, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange or Captain Marvel. It removed all the tension from the episode – except the possibility of one of the team dying.
And each of the men had their chance to comedically explain their suitability of sacrifice, only to have Sousa jump the gun and do it himself. Which makes sense, as he was Peggy’s primary love interest. However this is no Gwen Stacy moment, and the matter ultimately resolves itself.
There’s a sense of resolution in the air. It’s unclear if ABC will commission a third season after mixed ratings and reviews. The man that greenlight the pilot has been ousted and the wonderful Hayley Atwell has landed a 22-episode crime procedural called Conviction. It’s on the same network, and she’s clarified the schedules would not conflict if the series is renewed, but there’s a sense of closure more akin to a series finale than a season finale.
In such, Peggy and Sousa aggressively pash upon the closure of their case. Peggy’s scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes sense and there’s a happy ever after for at least one soul in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her friendship with Jarvis is still airtight and the series even takes a moment to absolve Peggy of Ana’s shooting. Dr Wilkes – who frustratingly only ended up being an innocent in the crossfire – moves on to Stark Industries with Howard.
Agent Carter works in my mind as a trilogy. Atwell has always toyed with flashforwards to different periods of time but there’s still a little post-war juice left. One final mystery in the forties would wrap things up nicely, ideally with the genesis of Nick Fury’s SHIELD, before hopping all over time X-Men-style.
The closing moments undo one final plot thread. New York Chief Thompson – morally ambiguous, untrustworthy, ultimately good intentions – is murdered in cold blood for a file pertaining to the supposedly fabricated war crimes of Peggy Carter. An intriguing device for later, perhaps.
If Agent Carter is renewed it will delivered fantastic television, hilarious quips and sensible action. It does what it says on the bottle unapologetically so and is quite good at it. This is not Jessica Jones or The Avengers. This is Peggy Carter and co doing the best they can with the resources they have, including that beautiful Marvel logo and its devoted fan base.
Here’s hoping they complete my theoretical trilogy in another amazing locale – like London, Las Vegas or even Miami. And finally make that One Shot canon!