Agent Carter: 1.01 Now Is Not The End
The biggest issue with Agent Carter is that it took so long to get to UK TV screens. Designed as a mid-season replacement to Agents Of SHIELD - and a prequel to that show and much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - it is far more than the forgotten second cousin of the MCU; Agent Carter is actually one of the best things on television.
It looks amazing amazing for a start; Hayley Atwell is stunning, strolling down 1940's New York in that red hat and takes her Captain America: The First Avenger character in a whole new direction. Atwell's sassy, confident, tempered performance made her far more than a basic love interest for Cap himself, and through her clever reintroduction through flashbacks on Agents Of SHIELD season two we saw exactly what led her to becoming one of the founding members of SHIELD.
In this season, SHIELD isn't quite there yet; Atwell finds herself overlooked and underappreciated in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), a precursor to SHIELD filled with male bravado, living off the heroics in the Second World War without realising that Carter's involvement was the key to whole victory. When an important briefing is about to be given, Shea Whigham's SSR chief Roger Dooley orders Carter to man the phones, to which she cooly sets up a call diversion and joins the briefing without pausing for breath.
Agent Carter's first episode could have existed purely on the intrepid agent looking cool, kicking ass, outwitting her male colleagues and generally being awesome. But with just eight episodes, the show sets the scene in the first ten minutes; Howard Stark's inventions have sold to the enemy and he has been labelled a traitor. Naturally the father of Iron Man has been duly framed and in a great little scene, he meets Carter in a moonlit dock to task her with clearing his name and retrieving the stolen weapons.
Enter James D'Arcy as Stark's Butler Jarvis, a man so deadpan in his delivery and so very 'British' who has been forced to clean up after Stark's escapades and womanizing for years and now finds himself allied with Carter to save his boss. D'Arcy and Atwell prove to be a fantastic double act and are very, very funny together. In fact, those struggling with the balance between drama and comedy in Agents Of SHIELD have no need to worry here. Agent Carter has both in spades and nails it every time.
Fifteen minutes in and Agent Carter had already become one of the most entertaining series on television. This continued with a daring mission to crack a safe and steal a weapon before Carter's SSR colleagues - hellbent on capturing Stark and imprisoning him for his crimes - can get there first. Atwell strides around a ball in a gold dress and blond wig, taking out bad guys and masking herself from her colleagues in a way that is both tense and very, very fun.
The final action sequence, as Carter uncovers a whole truckload of explosive devices and escapes an imploding factory is fantastic. Lots of mystery - who are Leviathan? - and plenty of action and humour. Again, sharp delivery from Atwell and D'Arcy as she calls in her escape route...
"Mr. Jarvis, could you bring the car around?"
"Certainly. When would you like it?"
Oh, in about twenty seconds."
All topped off with Peggy Carter jumping onto the rook of the car and speeding away with devastation in their wake. Agent Carter delivers a lot in its first episode and with just eight episode this season, let's hope it can keep up the pace.