TV REVIEW: Agent Carter “Pilot” | FanboysInc

TV REVIEW: Agent Carter “Pilot”

By Mike Sains

TV REVIEW: Agent Carter "Pilot"

In the interest of full coverage I’ll be splitting the two-hour premiere into a two-part review. This review is for the first hour only. 

When I first heard that Agent Carter was going into production I had, at best, mixed feelings. ABC and Marvel have had an uneven start with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that gave me pause. I’ll admit that the show has improved, both from a fan stand-point and a critical one. But for me, enduring a season and a half of watching a show finding its footing isn’t exactly a preferred way of being entertained. It is with great delight that I can say for sure that Agent Carter does not have the same problem. Sure, it has its problems, but not enough to stand out in any way.

The events immediately following the end of Captain America: The First Soldier is the starting point for the show circa 1946. We’re in post-World War 2 America and poor Peggy has been bumped down from a gun-toting bad-ass to the butt of many jokes in her new workplace, The New York Bell Co. AKA the SSR, a rough precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D. last seen headed by Tommy Lee Jones in Cap 1. While it’s a move that makes sense it is an undignified position for Peggy to be in. Nevertheless she arrives to her job in an red white and blue suit complete with a bright red hat.

First-Agent-Carter-Promo-Spot-3

 

Their mission is track down Howard Stark. “Like Father, like son” truly does apply here, as we learn very quickly that Howard has a whole slew of “bad babies” – weaponized inventions or patents – that he cooked up in his basement. Images of Tony Stark crafting armor suit after armor suit comes to mind. But instead of controlling all of them to save the day in a big blockbuster movie, Howard ends up having his stolen and sold on the black market. Too bad for him, as the Government thinks he sold them himself and now regards him as a traitor. He needs to be found and locked up. The SSR is to track him down by any means possible.

Fans of Boardwalk Empire will recognize Shae Whigham as the new man running the operation on a daily basis with other new additions Agents Souza and Krzeminski as the small band of competent agents at the freshly relocated SSR. Souza, an amputee war vet looking to do good at home and Krzeminski is, well, he’s one of two resident jerks on Agent Carter that encapsulate the whole of late 1940’s male-dominated society. He makes jokes at the expense of Peggy’s dignity, but then again it’s not like this behavior is exactly frowned upon, as Whigham’s Roger Dooley is equally as willing to get in a few good jabs about Peggy being Captain America’s “liaison”. But I think the distinction between the two is that Dooley merely sees Peggy as an annoyance, or rather an uppity broad just looking to give him a hard time if we’re going to be totally frank.

Just as soon as that’s established, who shows up? You guessed it. Howard Hughes in his Spruce Moose arrives to save the – wait, no that’s an episode of The Simpsons. No, it’s Howard Stark and his butler Edwin Jarvis, who just so happens to give the most threatening friendly introductions in all of the MCU. I mean really, could that have played out any worse? “OK boss, first I’m going to say “you’re coming with me”, you flip on the lights and charge her in your car. She’ll be so happy to see you! Oh, this is going to be the best!”

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Anyway, Stark might be a total mess but he’s no traitor. He just needs a better security system…which…could be the beginning of Ultron? Maybe Stark wants a guard for his home and it goes awry, gets shelved, then Hank Pym steps in to revitalize it in Ant-Man. Whoa. What just happened? Like I said, anyway, that’s the set-up: find Stark’s toys and at the end of seven week we should have a TV series. But what Marvel has achieved, instead, feels more like a movie than a TV show, even with the glossy, set-heavy shine of a soap opera. So, while the SSR and Eli Thompson try and track down Stark, Peggy Carter must aid Howard by thwarting her own team.

In the first hour of the premiere that means getting her hands on a chemical compound called nitramene, a gnarly explosive / implosion combination with a healthy blast radius. A quick trip to a nightclub run by a man called Spider Raymond played by Andre Royo, a few slick moves and a silent take-down or two and she’s in an out of the club. But her troubles hardly end there, as the nitramene isn’t just a formula anymore, it’s a full-on weapon. If anything this acts as the springboard for more chaos. Quickly though I have to say, even though seeing Royo was a nice little treat for fans of The Wire, he was sorely underused, considering his acting talent.

But once Carter is out of the club and back at her apartment she’s able to diffuse the bomb while in the ladies room with some clutch over-the-phone help from Jarvis – who provides hold music while you wait, by the way. But in that short amount of time in the bathroom things in the apartment have broke bad. Her one friend and roommate, Colleen, is dead and the assassin – who has a very interesting throat scar – is still in the house. The fight scene is well framed and brutal but it’s rather quick. But as quick as it is, it is a significant improvement from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s early days.

In my opinion I think that the scarred, voiceless assassin has some of the best scenes in the whole two-hour premiere. Matter of fact, in the first episode there’s a distinct correlation between awesome stuff happening on screen and the presence of guys who have to talk out of their throats while using little voice modulators.

What we are to understand is that Howard Stark’s formula for nitramene has been weaponized. A group called Leviathan either weaponized it or had it made, but either way one of their own, another voiceless man known as Leet Brannis is looking to sell a truckload to an independent buyer at an industrial chemical plant. Both Leviathan and the SSR do not want this to happen but it is Peggy who gets there first to stop him.

James Urbaniak, the voice of Doctor Venture on the Venture Brothers, plays Leet Brannis’ go-between, a man called Van Ert. He makes the best out of the few lines he has at the industrial plant. His delivery of“The least you can do is smile” is a fantastic line. But it’s right after that bit of comedy that the last hour finds its climax, as Peggy escapes the plant with Jarvis just moments before it’s explosion/implosion. Jarvis, while charming, is actually his best when he’s in the middle of a daring escape or a on-road high-speed gun fight. The visual effects during the explosion at the plant are pretty impressive, considering this is all on ABC; network TV rarely has VFX of that caliber.

Now Carter and Jarvis must discover who Leviathan is / are and what they want with them. This all ends at the L&L Cafeteria where resident dickhead #2 played by Kevin Heffernan AKA Farva from Supertroopers gets his comeuppance for acting like an A-1 asshole. Carter plays it like a boss and Farva does a great job selling just how much of a ponce this guy really is. It’s a satisfying and redemptive end to the first hour of action which ends in an even better teaser: Jarvis on the phone with Howard Stark, discussing Peggy’s potential to be used in more clandestine missions.

The Verdict:

This was a great start for a new franchise. Primarily what works the best is most fans are already familiar with this character, so there’s less getting-to-know-you beats in the show, which allows for the action to start right from the beginning. What’s even better is there’s not really even a need to know much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe to like this show. It establishes itself with confidence and doesn’t let up. Everyone involved should be proud. I’m hooked for the second hour.

Agent Carter “Pilot” earns a solid 9.0/10

Mike Sains

Mike Sains is a writer, editor, and podcaster for FanBoysInc.com and other outlets online. When he isn't writing, editing, or podcasting, he's collecting comic books, Funko Pop and Hikari Sofubi figures, and vinyl records of all kinds. He also likes free stuff. 😉 Follow him on twitter @MikeSains

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