If you didn’t catch the premiere of Agent Carter this week, you may be missing out on one of the season’s coolest new series. The limited-run series will fill in the mid-season hiatus for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but if the first two episodes that ran back-to-back are any indication, this circa-1940s hero could give any team of 21st century agents a run for their money. Here are five reasons why you should be watching this show:
1. The Spiffy “Old-School” Spy Gadgets. The show is set in 1946, not long after Captain America’s disappearance at sea and the end of World War II, so the world of high-tech digital weaponry and surveillance methods wasn’t readily available in the spy game. This isn’t a problem. Between the killer lipstick and safe-cracking watch, Carter’s sleek tools of the trade could make both James Bond and Maxwell Smart envious. What was really interesting was the early typewriting “texting” between villain Green Suit Man and his contact. I love the super-powered items in most present-day Marvel properties, but it was refreshing to get away from the floating computer screens and other digital-age toys.
2. Edwin Jarvis. The introduction to Howard Stark’s butler and the man who inspired the name of Tony Stark’s virtual confidant is a wonderful addition to the Marvel television universe. Played by James D’Arcy, he’s an exemplary example of a proper British gentleman, but with a little more up his sleeve than he lets on. He’s funny, smart, and sensitive, but not without a little conflict resolution know-how. As of this first episode, we learn that he and Howard aren’t exactly being forthcoming about their intentions with Carter, but we somehow still want to trust him. Figuring out what really makes Jarvis tick will be a fun adventure in itself.
3. The Radio Theater. One of the thorns in Carter’s side was having to endure the horrible radio tributes to the “late” Steve Rogers, via the delightfully cheesy Captain America Adventure Hour (presented by Roxxon, no less). This was a cool glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of popular radio series, from the stylized—but not necessarily good—voice acting to the folly sound effects. These segments were comically entertaining and were an ideal way to keep the essence of Captain America alive in the series.
4. The Automat Scenes. The automat was a dining fad that was popular in the first half of the 20th century, where patrons acquired diner-style food items via vending machines. There may be a couple of these restaurants still existing somewhere in the world as a novelty, but in the 1930s, 40s and 50s in particular, they were fixture in many big cities. Using this as the setting for many of Carter’s most significant conversations with Jarvis, as well as the great scene involving her sticking it (almost literally) to one rude, chauvinistic regular, really brings out the circa-1940’s sensibilities. This is enough to make you want to travel back in time to enjoy a cup ‘o Joe in this comfortable, nostalgic setting.
5. Agent Peggy Carter Herself, Of Course. Peggy Carter is quickly becoming my favorite female Marvel hero. She’s not a superhero, but she exhibits more heroic elements than anyone with powers. Hayley Atwell’s portrayal is to thank for much of this. She can smoothly slip in and out of an American accent, and she holds her herself with class and decorum. Carter shows self-restraint when needed, but is no one’s pushover. She’s brave, but not rash. She can land a fist in the right place, or a compassionate word when needed. Plus, she can take out a man using nothing but a stapler. That’s impressive for anyone of any era.
If the remainder of the series maintains this level of style, this will be a trip back in time worth taking.
Agent Carter airs Tuesdays on ABC.