It’s no secret that I really really like Captain America. But even more than America’s favorite boy scout, I have a gigantic hero-crush on Peggy Carter, the woman who helps Steve Rogers become the Star-Spangled Man with a rescue mission.
Clearly, I was not alone in this pining for more Peggy, as ABC has created a mini-series about her life post-First Avenger. As a woman, I love the fact that Peggy is getting her own television event. In fact, I’d argue it’s better than her own movie—we’re getting seven episodes of Agent Carter which is about five more hours than we’d get in one feature film. If the production value of the two-hour opener keeps up throughout, there won’t even be much to complain about re: quality, either.
Behind Every Man….You Know What? Scratch the Man Altogether.
Peggy Carter is an exercise in role reversal—now the woman is kicking ass and there’s a man bumbling along behind. Jarvis, who in this iteration is a human butler (the impeccably dressed James D’arcy), continually insists that he has more domestic duties to attend to, such as checking his roast and starching clothing, than worrying about solving the overarching mystery of the series. The reversal is made most overt whenever a Captain America radio show plays over the foreground action of Peggy’s important agent business. This comparison crescendos when, close to the end of the second episode, Peggy is literally throwing punches where, in the radio show script, it’s Cap taking down the bad guys. Personally I found the parallel a little too explicit, but on further reflection I think I really like what Agent Carter does here: there can be no mistaking that Peggy is now the hero America needs.
Lovely Ladies Everywhere
Hayley Atwell has been quoted echoing the words of Ginger Rogers: “Peggy Carter can do everything Captain America can, but backwards and in high heels”—and that might just be what Agent Carter is truly about. Peggy has relocated to Brooklyn. Peggy cares deeply about those around her. Peggy is looked down on by superiors for things she can’t help about herself. Peggy rises above and does what needs doing—all while dishing out a little justice of her own. Leaving Steve out of the picture entirely would be irresponsible, but framing the show so that it illustrates how Peggy and Steve leaned equally on each other is positively brilliant.
With Captain Broad-Chest out of the way, there’s room for so many more female characters to round out Peggy’s entourage. The first episode of Agent Carter does have a body count, but it would seem the ladies of the show are like the heads of hydra–cut one down and two more will grow.
Female power is strong behind the scenes, too: not only did Hayley tweet straight through the filming process in order to draw attention to all the hard-working women behind the scenes, but ABC has decided to spotlight the female costume designer and her work every week on their network’s blog.
So How good IS Agent Carter?
On a whole, the show garnered rather visceral reactions out of most of our team, including one of our leaders. When asked to respond to the premiere two-part episode, Leia provided this quote: “Peggy is FEMINIST AS FUCK and I want to be her. #atwellforbond”. Another contributor, Sam, responded with “I really liked the radio shows. But also unf. Too much Hayley to be eloquent.” Staff writer Tushar also weighed in on the subject, saying “I’m generally drawn to fashion of that style and ladies that pull it off well combined with an attitude of pure secret agent badassery. That said, Peggy Carter irked THIS gentleman’s ire in all the proper formats, and would render it challenging for him to to keep the ‘gentle’ pretext on that descriptor… or as sam put it, ‘all the unf'”. Clearly it’s not just the character we’re all responding to, but the positively delightful actress who portrays her. Hayley loves Peggy just as much as we do—and it shows. In fact she loves her so much that she managed to weasel her way into Avengers 2, simply by asking director Joss Whedon for a part in the film. And after all, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe seems so wrapped up in the founding and then crashing of S.H.I.E.L.D., why shouldn’t one of its co-founders get all the screen time?
Peggy Carter is everything I could have asked for in a super hero, and I’m so glad she’s finally here.
For more on Agent Carter’s costume designer Gigi Ottobre-Melton, see her series on the ABC blog.