Sunday, March 08, 2015

'Agent Carter' is Good, but Not That Good

For the record, I like Agent Carter.  Its first season has been genuinely entertaining.  The production value of the show was impeccably gorgeous – it successfully rendered the the era it is set in.  And the bickering and chemistry of Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter and James D’Arcy’s Edwin Jarvis resulted into many engrossing and amusing moments.  However, I won’t be declaring that Agent Carter’s 8-episode season has been strong and very exciting.  It’s a good show, but it isn’t really a “must-watch” one.

Agent Peggy Carter is not a boring character at all.  Again, she and Edwin Jarvis make good TV when partnered together.  And as a female character, she’s as strong, independent, and appealing as you would expect from a lead heroine.  Moreover, her struggles for personal validation in a man-dominated world – to shed the typecast of being Captain America’s dame, to be taken seriously by her peers, and to be judged by her own merit – add additional depth to the character.  But it’s not enough to make her significantly rise above other badass, competent, attractive heroines.  For me, she’s only a tad above “generic.”   

The plot of the first season was lackluster.  It didn’t really enrich the MCU’s TV world-building, and the narrative didn’t have a “gripping” factor.  Heck, I probably wouldn’t have tolerated the story if this has not been made by Marvel.  A big part of what kept me following the narrative was because of – again, for its third mention – the great fun in all the scenes Peggy and Jarvis are together.    

Agent Carter didn’t provide much points for Marvel’s campaign of gaining a dominating foothold in the small screen as they do in the big screen.  Marvel is doing a swell job with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and they will always have a huge advantage because their TV universe is shared with their movie universe.  However, DC is still on the lead so far.  DC’s Arrow and The Flash are the benchmarks here.  Those two shows are generously pumping DC mythos into the construction of a DC shared TV universe.  Hence, more and more DC comic book characters are being adapted into the small screen.  It’s a superhero universe after all, and DC is just delivering what is expected from such: superheroes and superhero mythologies.  I understand that Marvel is maybe trying to be “diverse” and “fresh” in its TV programming by producing material like Agent Carter.  But they have to remember that what they have in their hands is a superhero universe, and in a superhero universe, adaptation of superheroes and superhero mythologies – especially the familiar ones – are just much more desired and exciting than spin-off series of a secondary non-superhero character.  No matter how beloved she may be, Peggy Carter is just not an equal to Green Arrow or the Flash. 

It’s true that Marvel does have a couple of upcoming Netflix web TV series featuring Marvel’s street-level superheroes, starting with a Daredevil series in April, and only then could we really tell how much Marvel has caught up (or is lagging behind).  But my main point is simply that, in a superhero market that has Arrow and The Flash in it, an Agent Carter – and something that lacks impact to boot – will definitely pale in comparison and won’t be fully appreciated.      

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