Peggy Carter rocks.
If there’s one thing that tonight’s doubleheader kicking off the eight-episode Agent Carter miniseries does well, it’s prove that Hayley Atwell is a dynamo—charismatic, unflappable, and just plain fun to watch, Atwell kills it as S.H.I.E.L.D. precursor S.S.R.’s secret badass, staying one step of ahead of both the bad guys she’s after and the coworkers who expect her to be taking calls and filing paperwork. The rest of the show? Well, it could use a bit of work in spots, but it got the most important part right. Agent Peggy Carter is the best.
Now about the rest of the show.
Like my colleague Darren Franich says in his review, not every aspect of Agent Carter is on the same level as the woman playing Agent Carter. Outside of James D’Arcy’s Edwin Jarvis and a brief appearance from Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark, few characters really pop—although I’m hopeful for Enver Gjokaj’s Agent Daniel Sousa—as anyone who’s seen Dollhouse can attest, the man has some serious acting chops.
That’s not to say everyone else is bad—the villains are mostly boring, but the main cast members, from Chad Michael Murray and his S.S.R. Bros to Peggy Carter’s automat waitress friend Sarah are all quite good actually. They’re just not on the same level as Atwell and D’Arcy—but maybe that’ll change as they get more to do down the road.
Then there’s the plot, which is, unfortunately, not incredibly interesting. After setting up the premise—Howard Stark is framed for selling his most dangerous weapons to the enemy, and he needs Peggy to use her position within the S.S.R. to secretly hunt down the real perps in order to clear his name—the first episode is pretty generic Marvel stuff. Carter and Jarvis go off on a hunt for the Dangerous MacGuffin That Will Destroy Everything.
While this is old hat when it comes to Marvel, it’s very briskly plotted, with lots of fun, well-choreographed action scenes and a bit of intrigue introduced when Peggy is hunted by a man with a Y-shaped laryngoscopy scar working for something called Leviathan (a comic book reference to another organization not unlike Hydra that first appeared in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors).
There’s a crazy fun spy sequence where Agent Carter puts on a flashy dress and a blond wig to get information out of a wealthy fence named Spider Raymond (played by Bubz From The Wire!) and a thrilling fight scene in Peggy’s apartment after she defuses the first bomb she finds at Raymond’s only to find her roommate dead.
It all builds to a climax at a power plant owned by Roxxon Oil (Comics aside: This might be the first MCU appearance of the evil Roxxon Corporation from the comics, yes?), where Leviathan agents have amassed A LOT of Stark’s glowing super-explosive, and a milk truck full of it gets away after one of the baddies sets off one of the bombs. In Peggy and Jarvis’ mad escape, the resulting implosion rips off their bumper. This will be important.
NEXT: Slowing things down a bit