It's 1946, the war is over, and Agent Peggy Carter has a job at the SSR (Scientific Strategic Reserve) in New York, but, much like during the war, her superiors don't really see her full potential (think less "agent," more "secretary"). But Peggy still can't stay out of mischief, so when her war buddy Howard Stark becomes a fugitive after someone steals his most dangerous inventions and starts selling them, she can't resist jumping into the danger to help him out.
It is a most welcome return for the lovely, smart, and confident Peggy Carter, played as well as ever by Hayley Atwell. The character does appear to have changed some since last we saw her, but in no way that is unbelievable. She has actually become more feminine and less closed-off, and it's a nice change from the no-nonsense war-fighting agent. She still has all that sarcasm though.
|There she is!
Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark is only an occasional guest-star, but he proves even more than before (if that's possible) that he was, and is, through and through the best choice for Tony's dad. That 40's American accent he does is perfection.
Helping Peggy out, per instructions from Howard, is the Stark family butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) and in these first two episodes he easily held the position of second main character. His oh-so-proper-quiet-English-gentleman attitude is an amusing match for Peggy's stubbornness and spunk -- much like the computerized JARVIS and Tony; the assistant will suggest politely to the hero "that might be dangerous" and the hero (with a smart quip) will do it anyway. He is also, you won't be surprised to find, the very effective source of much comic relief.
|Easily the second coolest character as well.
Peggy's co-agents at the SSR are the people searching for Stark, so none provide much of anything except someone for Peggy to avoid while on her secret endeavors: There's Agent Thompson, (Chad Michael Murray) who is supposed to be sullen and mysterious, but comes across more as shallow, concentrating on his job, how cool he is, and not much else. There's the Chief, Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham) who gets by on even less character because he's the boss, and Agent Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) who's only function is to antagonize Carter. The one truly interesting character of the co-workers is Agent Sousa, (Enver Gjokaj) a desk agent because of a leg injury from the war, and the odd man out -- he is actually friends with Carter and he respects her abilities as an agent... he's also a little bit in love.
|She still keeps him in the dark though... for now.
That brings me to this show's bitter harping on Carter not being "respected" as a woman. Besides Stark, Jarvis, and Sousa there are no other men in the entire show -- good guy, villain, or nameless extra -- who treat Peggy or other women with even a hint of politeness. Maybe I exaggerate, but so do they -- normal, regular men are torn down into jerks who can't even act civilly! On the rare occasion when this thread focuses on Peggy does it become interesting, as she is exasperated to figure out how to get back the level of authority she had during the war without using her old trick of punching people.
Because it is the forties, I was looking forward to some old-fashioned mystery-solving with a side of Marvel patented one-liners, but they had to go further than that, and there is tech... too modern tech. The face of Peggy's watch opens a safe; her lipstick knocks out whoever she kisses, and Stark's secret inventions are very space-y, (so far) but the worst of all is the villain's tech -- they have... a... um.... Textwriter -- the baddie types on a typewriter, waits, and a response magically types back. It's powered by a radio transmitter disguised as a razor. I wish I were kidding. But besides those protrusions, the feel of the show is wonderfully vintage. They were even smart enough to use era-appropriate music!
|And I'm actually excited for next week's episode, which is more than I can say for most the shows I've been watching recently!
The plot has plenty of potential but the main bulk of this show's fun comes from one place; when it's down to old-fashioned-sleuthing Peggy, armed with her brains, a butler, and a hairpin. Then it is at its best -- a fun, engaging, and semi-superheroed blast from the past. It doesn't quite reach my highest hopes, but thankfully is even further away from my darkest fears. And there's still six episodes left in which to rise or fall... or stay pleasantly in the middle.