TV Review: Agent Carter – Series 2

To round off his coverage of Agent Carter Series 2, reflects on the series as a whole in the knowledge that the show will not be returning for a third series

★★★☆☆

Image: Marvel/ABC/Bob D'Amico

Image: Marvel/ABC/Bob D’Amico

The news that Agent Carter was cancelled after this series was not ‘news’ but it was rather disappointing in all honesty.  This series was undoubtedly a let-down. It was nowhere near as good overall as the first and with shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones on the scene, being just average is no longer acceptable in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  This is a franchise that is marketing itself on success and it cannot afford bad films (and despite my personal feelings, there is no denying that Captain America: Civil War was well received).  Therefore, when the show was underperforming I can understand why it was axed.

However, I do feel this was a tad bit premature.  This show was not any worse than Agents of SHIELD and that is getting a fourth series (and it was certainly better than the terrible first series of that other show).  For a show that had a good cliff-hanger, I feel that it should have been given a second chance and we could have seen whether or not the writers could learn from their mistakes this series.  This series was forgettable but it was not bad. In fact, it had some very good moments that could have made even better had the writers just known when to leave well enough alone quite frankly.

Undoubtedly the best bit of this show was the title character.  Just like in Series 1 Peggy is a tremendous force and Hayley Atwell’s performance is one to be commended.  She brings a multi-faceted character to the fore.  Agent Carter is not just a hard as nails agent, she is someone who loves, feels, and has emotions just like everyone else.  She has flaws just like everyone else, and has to go through life facing different challenges.  I am very happy the show gave her new ones, rather than rehashing the same ones she faced in Series 1.  Apart from Thompson, no one was underestimating Peggy anymore, and she had gotten over the death (well sort of) of Captain America.  She was not shutting people out, but being a bit more adventurous (and finding two suitors in the process).  Rather than trying to fit in, she was happy to be her own person and take on anyone to do what was right, which is great for her character.  As a whole she was great to watch on the screen and showed why the show was about her.

I also really liked the two new female characters that were introduced this series.  Ana Jarvis was a character we had heard of but not seen, and it really paid off when we encountered her.  We knew Jarvis loved her, and that she had nearly been killed by the Nazis, but precious little else.  Having met her, we saw a character that was full of life.  She was not a fussy caricature, nor was she an unrealistic Mary Sue, but instead someone who did not aspire to adventure, but was willing to be there for the characters when they needed her.  She never tried to stop Jarvis from the danger he was going into, but she also knew that she did not need to join these fights.  Instead, she served as a humanising force, demonstrating that not everyone needs to be strong like Peggy to have their own strength.  The scene where she got shot was emotive and the way she bounced back from it demonstrated that she was a happy and engaging character.  Whitney was also a very good addition.  She was a great foil for Peggy, being an incredibly smart person who used gender norms to get her way.  While Peggy is willing to challenge the views of the day, Whitney embraced them and got what she wanted.  However, she was also an incredibly bitter character who disliked the world and when she gained real power, she went insane due to the resentment she felt.  Seeing the flashback scenes for both Frost and Carter demonstrated how the experiences of their childhood made them grow into such different people and how they ended up on opposite sides of this fight.

Another great part of the second series were the scenes with Dottie Underwood in them.  I know that she only came back for a little while and did not play anywhere near the role she did in Series 1, but it is a testament to her strength as a character that the scenes in this series with her rank amongst the strongest.  Dottie was a great character in Series 1 and this remained the case here.  We once again saw her as the badass Black Widow character (with a black and red dress to boot) absolutely wrecking people and helping Peggy out while trying to escape at the same time.  Her friendly and folksy personality contrasting with the ruthless killer that she is always is a nice touch and we saw it here this series as well.

I also really enjoyed the darker turn Jarvis took after Ana got shot.  Jarvis has always been the person who is happy to join in the action but never gets his hands dirty.  He was the straight-laced sidekick/getaway car driver, but never the fighter.  However, Ana is his berserk button, and when she was shot he immediately put that to the side.  He actually tried to shoot Whitney Frost in cold blood (putting himself and Peggy in serious danger to do so) and made some really cutting remarks about Carter in the argument they had after that.  Not only that, but he actually ran Whitney over with his car as well, demonstrating just how ruthless he could be when he needed to.  It is good to see that he was such a human character who, when pushed, could be just as dangerous as any of the other fighters in the show.  It is also a testament to the strength of Ana’s character that we were somewhat cheering him on for what he did and that his arguments did not feel contrived or stupid.  Given that he was the template for the software that later on became the Vision it hints at the nuance of the newest Avenger.

One thing that this show did not do well was their usage of Jarvis before the shooting of Ana.  Before he took on the darker persona, Jarvis had moved from loyal sidekick to wacky butler and that somewhat felt out of place this series.  It is understandable that they would try to bring Jarvis back, as the dynamic between him and Peggy was part of what made Series 1 so good.  However, in this series we had somewhat moved beyond that dynamic.  We needed a character last series that did not underestimate Peggy and would help her out, as the SSR was not doing so at all.  Having him there was important as it stopped Peggy from being too much of a Mary Sue and demonstrated the respect that she could get if she wanted to.  He also served as a vital connection for Peggy to humanity, which she was trying to eschew after having her heart broken by Captain America’s ‘death’.  He was there to remind her that she needed others, that she could not do everything alone and needed to have friends and colleagues.  However, this series she had moved on from Steve, so she did not need an anchor.  This was further proven by the relationships she had with Sousa and Wilkes, she was not the disconnected character we saw last series.  Furthermore, as made clear by Masters and Whitney, no one was underestimating her at all.  Therefore, the two key elements of Jarvis were lost this series and until he got his own arc, he was just bumbling along, which felt unnecessary and distracting.

Finally, I found the show’s attempt to take a more humorous direction to be a serious mistake.  I am not against comedy or laughing but this needs to be in moderation.  When a show feels the need to pause the plot in order to carry out a joke then that is distracting from the plot of the show.  I almost feel that they felt that they needed to make up two episodes worth of jokes as they had two more than last series.  Seeing main characters act stupidly for laughs is a serious disservice to them.  Recurring ones can occasionally act out in a way to give them character, but the main cast are a group of people we need to connect with, and having them act out of character in order to make us laugh (or chase after flamingos for no reason) does not endear us to them anymore.  I wish that the show had focused more time on the plot and used the extra airtime they had to do more than try to make us laugh.  For example, Dottie escaped them, but they were too focused on the plot to try and tie that arc up (they might have tried to bring it back in Series 3 but we will never know).  Even if they were hoping to make that pay off later, we could have at least used some lip service there, and I feel that it was written out in order to make more jokes, which is a real shame as we could have used another episode with Dottie.

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