So far the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into television hasn’t been a perfect transition. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has potential but mostly has wasted it away with only the rare exceptions (such as some of the early episodes of the first season and the Hydra arc). So it was probably a good idea for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next television show to center around one of the better parts of the series so far: Hayley Atwell’s performance as Peggy Carter. Atwell has deserved a breakout role for years now, and Peggy Carter certainly allows her some range to work with. Unfortunately, Agent Carter doesn’t quite take full advantage of the character either. When it’s working Agent Carter is the type of fun show that makes it easy to understand why comic book fandom has become so big, but when it’s not working, the show becomes too bogged down in ridiculous macguffins and deus ex machinas.
Agent Carter was marketed as Alias set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a fan of Alias, I couldn’t be more excited and early episodes seemed to follow the Alias formula well while still feeling like a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The problem with this series is that the main plotline of Peggy trying to clear Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper also returning from the movies) from any wrongdoing when some of his weapons end up on the black market doesn’t really go anywhere interesting.
That’s quite a shame because the show does display a strong ability to create interesting characters. Howard Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis (played with some British charm by James D’Arcy), could have easily been a one-note comedic character in most other shows but he feels like a real character here. Shea Whigham’s Chief Dooley also becomes quite three-dimensional as the show goes along (although a lot of that may be due to the typically great work of Whigham), and the mysterious Dottie (Bridget Regan in an almost unrecognizable role) is written in such a fashion that the mystery surrounding her won’t let you down.
The show’s main asset, though, is undoubtedly Hayley Atwell. Atwell clearly enjoys playing the role of Peggy Carter, and why wouldn’t she? She gets a strong, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical role that makes use of everything an actress has to offer, and she makes the most of it.
Marvel’s Agent Carter is worth it just for Hayley Atwell’s performance even if it does let you down with its convoluted plot.