We finally got our first taste of Agent Carter Tuesday night and, while it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, it could very well be even better. By the end of the pilot episode Hayley Atwell proved that she is more than capable of leading her own show with her stellar mix of emotional depth and compelling action sequences.
The series takes place before her SHIELD days, where Peggy continues to work in the Strategic Scientific Reserve, the same organization she worked with in WWII. Considering the story takes place in the same year SHIELD was founded, my bets are that she’ll be leaving SSR by the end of the eight episode run.
Within the first few minutes of “Now is Not the End,” we saw Peggy endure her SSR co-worker’s sexist comments and snide jabs with as much as snark and personality we remembered from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While I did sympathize with Daniel Sousa (played by Dollhouse‘s Enver Gjokaj), I’m glad Peggy told him off for defending her. The last thing she needs in a den of lions is someone to fight her battles for her.
It turns out that Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, had been branded a traitor for selling weapons to enemies of the United States. Peggy offered to take on the case, but was rejected in favour of Agent Jack Thompson, who is hands down the most annoying character on the show. For now. Congrats, Chad Michael Murray.
Undoubtedly knowing the SSR would be completely useless, Stark and his trusted butler Jarvis (yes, THAT Jarvis!) reached out to Peggy to help clear his name and track down a deadly weaponized chemical called molecular nitramene. There is a certain charm to James D’Arcy as Jarvis that has me drawn to him, despite the fact that he and his employer have a certain shady way of going about things. It must be his adorable curfew – or his little pre-bedtime rituals with Mrs. Jarvis.
After promising to help Stark, Peggy underwent her own investigation. This is where the real strength of the show comes in: While her co-workers tried to undermine her at every turn, Peggy was not only far more qualified than them, but was also already ahead of them every step of the way. I was dreading the excessive sexist comments that could have come out of this show, but the way the series is structured sets them up as the butt of the joke.
Anyhow, in her first move, Agent Carter went undercover as an American blonde to track down the buyer and uses some nifty tranquilizer lipstick to knock him out in order to access his safe, which contained a ready-made implosive nitramene device. She brought it back to her flat to disarm it, only to lead her poor roommate Colleen to her demise at the hands of the mysterious man in the green suit. Between Steve and Colleen, Peggy became even more emotionally distant, hesitating to befriend waitress Angie, who just happened to live down the hall from a newly vacated flat.
I know that Angie seems super cute and harmless, but I’m still holding out hope she’ll end up being more than just a friendly face. Lyndsy Fonesca spent years on Nikita, so she’s more than capable of doing some stunt work. Can we please make this happen?
Also, did anyone else get serious Fringe flashbacks when Green Suit pulled out the creepy self-typing typewriter? Unsurprisingly, the man’s unknown boss gave him permission to kill Agent Carter by any means necessary.
Using tech from Project Rebirth (aka the project that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America), Peggy was able to locate traces of nitramene on a person’s skin and clothing, which helped locate the refinery and bad guy No. 2, Leet Brannis, played by the ever-creepy James Frain. He was only made creepier when the only way he could communicate was with a device held up to the hole in his neck, where he revealed to Peggy that he worked for an organization called Leviathan. My Marvel comics senses were tingling with that one–from what I can tell, it has to be some sort of Hydra-adjacent group. Before she could get any more information, he set off one of the devices from his truck and Peggy and Jarvis fled before the building imploded.
Using the same technology as Peggy, the SSR agents (with Peggy doing 90 per cent of the work) tracked down the other man in the refinery, Van Ert. While the Agent Thompson used his brute force to learn more about Ert’s employers, Peggy was already way ahead of them, tracking the dairy company that owned the truck carrying the nitramene.
Eventually this led Peggy back to Brannis, who demanded protection in return for information. Conveniently, right before he revealed what Leviathan wanted from Howard Stark, Jarvis interrupted and sent the three on their way with the remaining nitramene. Between that and the mysterious call to Stark about Agent Carter, I’m officially wary (but he’s still adorable).
With the other SSR agents trailing behind them, Peggy was intercepted by Green Suit, which led to an awesome fight on top of a truck. I love how many action sequences are in this series, especially considering that Peggy is in nearly all of them and she definitely never pulls her punches. That girl is tough. Speaking of which, when one of the devices in the truck is triggered, she stabs Green Suit onto the roof of the truck and jumps off before it tumbles over a cliff, causing a massive implosion.
Unfortunately, Brannis was fatally wounded and could only draw an indecipherable image in the dirt before dying. Peggy and Jarvis took off before the SSR agents could arrive, but Agent Sousa was able to find the hotel key Peggy left behind. Meanwhile, Agent Krzeminski found Howard Stark’s battered license plate among the refinery wreckage. Whoops?
Agent Carter definitely kicked off with a strong start and I’m excited to find out where it will go from here. Did you enjoy the two-part premiere? Sound off in the comments below and watch the trailer for next week’s episode, “Time and Tide.”
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.