Agent Carter

Agent Carter ratings are still slipping: Tuesday night’s episode dropped to 4.6 million viewers and a 1.3 rating, down 13 percent from its last original episode two weeks ago. The CW’s The Flash (4 million, 1.3) is right on the heels of its Marvel rival, tying the ABC series in the adult demo.

There’s still a lingering perception among some in Hollywood that female-centered comic-book titles are fandom kryptonite. Marvel, despite its regular drip-drip-drip release of films, hasn’t made a female-protagonist movie title since 2004’s Electra and doesn’t have any on its slate until 2018 (Captain Marvel). Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said he’s very much in favor of making a female title, but that the issue comes down to “timing.”

“I very much believe in doing it,” Feige said. “I very much believe that it’s unfair to say, ‘People don’t want to see movies with female heroes,’ then list five movies that were not very good, therefore, people didn’t go to the movies because they weren’t good movies, versus [because] they were female leads. And they don’t mention Hunger Games, Frozen, Divergent. You can go back to Kill Bill or Aliens. These are all female-led movies. It can certainly be done. I hope we do it sooner rather than later. But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing.”

But now here comes Agent Carter, and we’re seeing the first recent Marvel title to really feel like a disappointment out of the gate, with a soft-ish debut and ratings dropping for the show’s second and third outing, falling into ABC’s ratings red zone. Clearly its possible to have a hit TV action hour with a female protagonist (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias), and after only three episodes it’s still too soon to declare Agent Carter a flop. But should Agent Carter remain on this track, one wonders how its disappointment will be perceived — as one concept that didn’t pop? Or as “evidence” that comic book fans won’t heavily support a show without a guy with washboard abs on the poster?

Agent Carter was perhaps not the creatively strongest example as its a period drama without a costumed hero. Perhaps Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones will fare better.