Why Agent Carter deserves a TV series

Feature Seb Patrick 27 May 2014 - 06:55

Responding to a small pocket of online negativity, Seb argues the case for Marvel's forthcoming Agent Carter TV series...

We’re big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Agent Peggy Carter here at Den Of Geek, so unsurprisingly we’re fairly enthused about the idea of her getting an upcoming solo TV series – not to mention the fact that a female character taking a solo lead in the MCU is a long overdue development. We were therefore somewhat surprised when one of our latest posts about the subject on our Facebook page attracted a significant number of highly negative comments, with many wondering why Peggy, in particular, was a character deemed worthy of a TV series.

We wouldn’t usually get into the habit of replying directly to comment threads on Facebook in this way – that could lead us down a terrifying rabbit hole if we started to do it regularly – but we thought this one was worth addressing. Because Peggy is great, quite frankly, and we think she’s a character who fully deserves a TV series that stands a good chance of being pretty excellent.

“She is an irrelevant character,” wrote one commenter. “It's like making a show about ‘that black guy from Terminator 2 that made Skynet’” Notwithstanding the fact that we would totally watch a TV series about Miles Dyson – seriously, a show about a conflicted scientist grappling with the moral implications of a technology that he wants to use to change the world for the better but which he’s discovered is ultimately responsible for all kinds of evil and terror? Sign us up! – comments like this seem to totally disregard Peggy’s role in the MCU.

While not the most prominent of characters in the comics – she was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a retconned love interest for Cap in stories set during flashbacks to World War II, but such stories became less and less frequent after the character’s initial mid-1960s awakening, and her main purpose was to provide a link to Cap’s present-day romantic interest, Sharon Carter – she’s already established herself as one of the most significant figures in the cinematic universe. For starters, she’s pretty great throughout the entirety of Captain America: The First Avenger – taking little shit from anyone, establishing herself as a senior figure in a male-dominated military environment, and ultimately helping to basically save the world. The Winter Soldier, meanwhile, makes clear that she – along with Howard Stark – is basically one of the main founders of SHIELD. You know SHIELD? That quite important organisation? Basically wouldn’t exist without her.

The Agent Carter Blu-ray one-shot, meanwhile, dispelled any notion that Carter isn’t, as another commenter put it, “badass” (as if that were the sole arbiter of whether a character deserved to have a film or TV series made about them). True, it’s a slightly lightweight affair – but it’s a lot of fun, and showed that Peggy is more than capable of holding her own as a lead character without the context of having Captain America around her. It also gave her the beginnings of a setup and supporting cast (and while we don’t yet know if Bradley Whitford’s Agent Flynn will make it into the TV series, we sure as heck hope so, because Bradley Whitford).

This latter point is crucial to understanding some of the reasoning behind launching Peggy into her own show – a fact that’s been overlooked by people who have rattled off lists of Marvel comics characters they think are “better” or more “deserving” of a TV show. It’s much easier to springboard into a TV series (particularly one that’s going to be as short as eight episodes) when you have a lot of the characters and background already in place. Indeed, arguably one of the things that harmed Agents of SHIELD at the start was that its only real links back to the MCU were Coulson and the sparingly-used Hill and Fury; and it’s equally arguable that it only really became good when it started to fall back on the established-elsewhere setup of the Hydra infiltration. What’s more, and also from a production point of view, this is an opportunity to get Hayley Atwell and Dominic Cooper – actual, proper, established movie stars – heading up a TV show. Again, if we draw a comparison to AoS, the comparative lack of star power in that show may have counted against it – but here, the names will surely help draw people in.

It’s just odd that so many people have chosen to make this an “either/or” situation – suggesting that because Agent Carter is going to exist, it’s at the expense of films or TV shows about other characters they happen to like. Do we still want to see a Black Widow or a Carol Danvers Captain Marvel movie? Of course we do. But the fact of the matter is that we’re getting a cool-looking spy series in a period setting (a setting that’s already been shown to work well on screen, to boot), starring a smart, likeable and hugely capable female lead character, played by an absolutely brilliant actress. If that’s not the kind of thing that’s going to be up your street, we have to wonder what it is you’re getting out of the Marvel films and shows in the first place.

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I like the idea and setting this show will take place in. I think 8 episodes to make the mini series is perfect for telling an important back story.....I'm not sure it'll require a second series. Also more Hayley on screen is a good thing.

This article is incredibly patronizing... And wrong. Look, this is a free world and it is perfectly OK to dislike the idea of certain spin-offs if you are a Marvel fan. It does not make you less of a Marvel fan at all if you happen to dislike the idea of a spin-off series. I for one am a life long Marvel fan and I don't want to see an Agent Carter spin-off series. At all.

I can't quite understand the huge adoration expressed for this minor character and/or actress in this article. Or am I the only one who did not, after Captain America, think, "wow, that was an amazing movie but it's all thanks to that Peggy Carter woman, she alone made this movie great, and what an amazing actress, she deserves an Oscar for that performance alone."

I love it that Carter is getting her own series. I even find it dissapointing that it will only be 8 episodes, were I was hoping for at least 10. The series is also a great move by ABC because it will air in the gap between Agents of *blank* season 2.0 and 2.5, giving the American viewer more stability in airing and it will keep them with both shows.

The thing is, the success of the MCU is derived I large part from audiences that go well beyond Marvel fans. I'm no Marvel fan, and I sure as hell would watch this because to me Peggy was a really memorable character. Much more than PepperPots or Black Widow.

It's exactly what the MCU needs - SHIELD backstory, a female lead, and a chance to revisit that 1940s-1950s era. I can't wait.

I didn't feel like The Avengers was great all thanks to Coulson. And yet there's Agents of SHIELD, and it's actually become a decent show.

I didn't feel like Series 2 of Doctor Who was great all thanks to Sarah-Jane, and yet there was a spin-off - likewise with Torchwood and Captain Jack - and they were both great.

I didn't feel like Breaking Bad was great all thanks to Saul, and there there's going to be a spinoff, and I can't wait for it.

Simply because someone wasn't adored and/or didn't make a film amazing isn't a reason for them to not have a spin-off, nor a reason to dismiss it before you've seen it.

I'm pleased she's getting a series. It'll serve as a good story, the founding of SHIELD. Peggy may not even be prominent in the comics, but she was well liked after Captain America film, and if producers and Atwell want to do this project, then why not? They've wanted to do something for a while, and reckon it'll be pretty good. Carter and Howard Stark starting SHIELD? Great!

When it comes to the MCU, I think the spin-offs owe quite a bit to the One-Shots as well. Coulson's One-Shots showed off his personality and prowess, while cementing his role in forming the Avengers.

The Agent Carter One-Shot likewise showed off Peggy's prowess and potential to carry her own adventures in the post-War setting. Moreover, 'The Winter Soldier' also opened up new possibilities for a series which includes the HYRDA infiltration of SHIELD. I doubt the latter could be done effectively in 8 episodes, but just one well-shot scene involving Arnim Zola could be more than enough to garner a positive response.

I think it will be great. SHIELD could do with some more backstory, and TV can always do with one more female lead on a non-romantic TV show. I just hope they keep getting Agent Carter right.

I didn't realise there was negativity concerning the Agent Carter, I must be living in a bubble. I'm fairly surprised, as I really enjoyed Hayley Atwell's Agent Carter and I love all things retro so it looks very promising. I feel like they could go in two directions. They could show how the war comes to an end, with Hayley teaming up with the Howling Commandos and then forming Shield towards the end or they could set it after the war with Agent Carter hunting down the last Hydra agents.

Very good points well reasoned. I'm disappointed that it's only getting 8 episodes - 12 would have been lovely I think, while still being able to tell a decent story and fill the mid-AoS gap that caused the first series of that show so much trouble.

Having the ability to tell a self-contained story (from the end of CA1 to the confirmed formation of SHIELD for example) is a great route to go down without having to worry about the need to set up a 2nd series. I hope this show does really well - not because I particularly think there will be a need for more "Agent Carter", but because I like the idea of Marvel being able to create these "single-story" TV shows that allow for more character development for a smaller budget than a similar movie would. That alone may well pave the way for more female-helmed shows and films.

"small pocket of online negativity" that must have just been one guy using 2 accounts, because I never heard any of it.

What do I get from Marvel films? Superheroes with actual powers, like in the comics. What do I not want to get? Normal people just acting tough and WWII era spy stories. Kick Ass demonstrated quite well why the former is just implausible and if I want the later I'll watch Restless. Except I won't because it doesn't interest me in the slightest.

So count me in with the doubters. This seems like a dull proposition to me.

if Bradley Whitford's in it...I'm in...if he's not...hell I'm still in.

Thanks for explaining this to me, I have nothing against her character, I was just wondering about the hype. Makes a lot more sense now. Honestly, comments like that aren't even worth mentioning, they're just really immature. I would love a Miles Dyson miniseries.

seems obvious to me. cool character, already established, stylized 40s settiing, likeable actress. what's not to like?

It's not like they decided to make a Willie Lumpkin show--though I would watch the hell out of that too.

in the film avengers, don't two of the heroes have no powers, and one (Cap A) has only that he's been boosted to human limits? they still seemed fun.

i know a lot of people like batman and his only super power is glowering.

maybe they'll set it 5-10 years after WWII and make some cool cold war stories while expanding the SHIELD formation mythos. like a technothriller. it does seem like it has potential. it's just not a superhero story, it's a comic book pulp noir.

Yeah - the idea of "single-story" mini-series sounds awesome...!

I'm pretty sure when they announced Iron Man people said there were better/more deserving Marvel characters which should be turned into a feature film first. The rest as they say is history.

HA, love it. You could say Iron Man has no super powers also. Although, maybe a superior intellect and unprecedented technological expertise is up there with super powers.

The article doesn't really tell us "why Agent Carter deserves a TV series", other than because Stan Lee made her up and she was a founding member of SHIELD. Big deal. Unfortunately, there isn't anything that makes me want to see this show. At all. She doesn't seem particularly interesting and doesn't bring anything new to the table.

I'm all for expanding the Marvel universe, but it just seems like Marvel are trying too hard to make a show with a leading woman - as a famous anti-Jurassic mathematician once said Marvel are "so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should". How will it look for the Marvel/pro-women movement when it gets cancelled after 8 shows because no one cares about Agent Carter?

I really hope it succeeds and goes on for 7 seasons because I love successful TV, and I will keep an open mind about it and keep an eye on it (from afar), but it just seems like a waste of budget to me as like others have said, there's plenty of other characters that could be given a chance and have a better chance of success..

yes, I would count Iron Man among, let's broaden the term, the 'highly powered'.

People forget that big powers are expensive for television, and when you aren't a little kid reading comics and requiring power fantasies it can be more interesting increasing the stakes by making your protagonists be vulnerable and requiring them more to possess more ingenuity and qualities of character.

I was responding to the commenter who was suggesting that it was pretty much only super powers that held any interest. I am suggesting that regular human feats, against the odds battles, spy shenanigans and techno-fetishism, not to mention stylized reflections/interpretations of the past all make for fertile story-telling ground, probably moreso than 'really really strong flying simpleton with a hammer'. It's nice to get a good range--SHIELD sometimes does. pulp fiction riveted audiences with little to no super powers and pulp fiction is the mother/father of comic books.

Growing up, SHIELD and the Howling Commandos weren't my cup of tea, but they sure were popular, along with cold wars and super secret organisations like hydra, enormous guns and elaborate ships and bases. rich story environments.

I think most story genres have done a lot of balancing out genders over the last generation--or even sliding the other way, but comics universe stories seriously needs to step up its game with fully realised, credible and charismatic female heroes.

and who doesn't want more of such a sweet looking actress on their screens? just to finish on a callow note, y'know.

I do look forward to the potential of this series

It's certainly true that many of the MCU Avengers are either non-powered or very low level powered, however I've always felt the non-powered heroes were
kind of pointless in a world inhabited by actual superheroes.

MCU Hawkeye was a joke and Black Widow is only popular because, for some reason, teenage boys seem to like hot women who can fight. This also seems to be the appeal of Peggy Carter, as it was with Sydney Bristow.

The cost argument is clearly the reason why they don't want to use actual 'supers' but that's just a cop out to me. Either do it properly or don't bother.

And no-one in the MCU is 'vulnerable', powered or non-powered. No-one dies in comics except Bucky and Uncle Ben. And even that's only half true any more.

I'll watch it, but I'm not expecting to like it. Same with Gotham. I'm not determined to dislike them, I just think they will have to have a lot more to them than their premise to keep me interested.

It may be that both boys and girls like having female heroes as part of the milieu for a variety of reasons. to identify with, relate to, pine for, provide broader social dynamics for story telling.

I don't feel one way or another about Hawkeye (though I'm keen on the actor who portrays him in the films. It does seem that archer is a powerful archetype for a fictional character, whether Robin Hood, or Merida, William Tell or John Rambo. All the modern fantasy stories for young adults either include one or revolve around one.

It's true no one in comics dies for very long, and that does rob stories of some of their emotional impact, but the more powerful a character it is, the more difficult it is to create scenarios where the character is in jeapordy, or where we feel tension. It's just another reason it's handy to have wide varieties of characters.

I think, right now we are in a cornucopia of superhero media, between film, live action television and animated television and each medium effects the kinds of stories told--an animated avengers show can more easily have African settings, or space battles than live action. films can't develop storylines and characterization the way television can.

It does still sound like you are hung up on the idea that it isn't a superhero show. But that's like feeling miffed that Law and Order isn't either. It's a comic book property, not all comic book properties are superheroes. We're up to our eyeballs in superheroes right now. This show decided to spin off a 'secret origins' of SHIELD, and showcase a female protagonist. The narrower your interest in comicbook type stories is, I guess the less satisfying material you are going to find. If non-powered characters are out(imagine Bruce Banner without Rick Jones), and female characters, and low powered heroes, and broader world building, you're kind of just left with a combat videogame.

Incidentally, as a boy I came across Black Widow when she joined Daredevil's title in the 70's. She was fascinating. The cold war was still going, she was exotic, enigmatic, her character's conflicted loyalties and betrayed sensibilities made for rich pathos, there was the tension of her relationship with Daredevil, the dazzling graphic framing of both of them swinging through the city on their lines. And she had secret spy lore and tricks too--great stuff for a kid's imagination. There is a lot more to superhero stories than cosmic fights and women in tights. Or if there isn't for you, i would think they must seem pretty boring.

if this new show is crap, it won't be for lack of opportunity to tell engaging thrilling stories(IMHO)

Is a female lead that difficult to do? Maybe they shouldn't? Is it unthinkable that out of all the comicbook shows one of them might be about a female lead?

A WWII hero and a founder of SHIELD sort of sounds like a big deal.

I have to say, I a little taken aback by some of the comments

I was agreeing with you my friend. In Avengers, there are more leading characters who don't have super powers, I cound Hill, Coulson and Fury also in the leading characters.

I grew up in the 80's, where my super heros were Micheal Knight, Hannibal Smith, Howling mad Murdoch, Face Time man and BA. No super powers there, but lock them in a garage with several thousand $s of welding equipment, a 4x4 and several sheets of metal and they could come up with something to rival Thor.

Don't even get me started on Stringfellow Hawk. That man's only power was moodily playing a double bass, and TWOCing a fancy helicopter and hanging on to it for 4 years.

BTW, I really like Agents of Shield. It's got much better after the Insight project incident, but I have stuck with it from day 1, and I will continue to do so. Agent Carter, hell yeah, bring it on. It's essentially the "Rise of Shield" story line. I can't wait.

I'm 34, and I like seeing Black Widow on screen. Just 2 hours of black widow would do me. Does that put me on a level with Teenage boys? OK, find me at the skatepark (do teenagers go to skate parks any more???).

I actually thought Hawkeye was pretty cool, and due to the character filled nature of Avengers, all they could do was hint at his bigger back story/place in the world (Budapest). Looks to me like Hawkeye is a guy you can send into any situation, and he has a keen eye for the details, which at the end of the day was put to good use in Avengers.

Black Widow I think has been shown in the MCU as the mother of all spies. The way she popped up in Iron Mans life, and infiltrating in russia. You get the point that she has been popping up all over the world for years, infiltrating organisations left right and center. That's badass.

And one last thing, are you saying Uncle Ben isn't actually dead? That's going to piss spidey off!

Have to say I liked the period setting of Captain America and the whole Hydra storyline. Although I liked Avengers, i thought it was a shame that we never got to see more of the WW2 stuff. and that the Howling Commandos were reduced to a montage. I think this show is going to fill that gap and I'm quite excited about it.

I think 8 episodes is just right. It means there won't be so many naff filler episodes. I find some of the 22 episode seasons a real slog - I'm currently ploughing through the Vampire Diaries and there's so much in it, it's really hard going! Agents of SHIELD felt like a real slog (although its last few episodes were good). A nice concise mini-series (with no damn cliffhangers at the end) sounds like a great idea.

A strange opinion you have likening a quote about the dangers of science to casting a woman in a leading role! Oh the humanity! (No need to clone dinosaurs by the way - there's been a few of them on this board). Is it too much to ask that occasionally we get to have a good leading female character rather than them being relegated to the continual stock love interest role? Peggy Carter may have been a small character but surely the point of the new show would be to expand on her character as one of the founders of SHIELD. That's a good enough idea to make me want to watch it.

Maybe this show is a way of filling in a gap in their universe. We've had Hydra infiltrating SHIELD in Winter Soldier, perhaps Agent Carter will show us how that happened. I think the rise of SHIELD and the rise of Hydra is a fairly interesting prospect.

Yep, I'll give you that. That could be interesting.

Actually, I've been meaning to address this in a forum somewhere. Black Widow actually IS superpowered. What you say? According to Marvel Comics Database she was a recipient of the Soviet answer to Super Soldiers aka Red Room. The soviets gave her their own super soldier concoction based on the german version and administered it during her childhood. She was then trained as an assasin and spy and while maybe isn't as strong as Cap, she has reflexes that are just as good as his and her quickness is also ramped up to near superhuman levels. She also heals faster than normal humans and is resistant to disease and the debilitating effects of drugs and alcohol.

In comics-verse, yes… but I don't know if the MCU is going that route. Didn't Zola in Winter Soldier say that her birth date is 1983? (don't quote me on that… I'm guessing!) But either way, I remember thinking that she would have been too young for most of the KGB-run Red Room story lines that they have in the comic books. That means that the movies maaay be nixing a) Bucky/Natasha romance and b) the Black Widows be Super Soldiers. But I could be wrong! Hopefullly we'll find out!

I'm hoping all that will be addressed in the Black Widow film that is planned for the future.

ah. my comic book knowledge largely ends in the mid to late 80s--30 years worth of storytelling ago! i just looked her character up and she seems to have had some major retconning/retooling. perhaps it was necessary as audiences demanded more "realism" that she needed to be powered up to make her more plausible. adding her to the people who heal and don't age category probably made for some fun stories, but man, if i still read superhero comics I would be so sick and tired of everyone and everything having to have wolverine stitched in.

Some of my favourite episodes of stargate sg1 are with Catherine Langford in who was present when her father found the stargate in Giza. Her back story was petitioning the government to research the stargate and although she wasn't a major character in the film or series, her contribution was of vital importance to begin the stargate project. I would like to see a series about how SHIELD began and the successes and sacrifices around it however I hope it isn't all about a 'woman being in a man's world' and that it is just a good story told well.

Fingers crossed!! A black widow film would be super cool.

After spending my week off work watching all the movies, one shots and Agents of Shield in tue correct order (week well spent) I'm so looking forward to seeing this. Can totally see where they can tie it in theo AoS with Tripps grandfather. It's going to be awesome!

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