Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Defense of Agent Carter Season Two

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In May, network executives will decide which TV shows they are going to bring back for another season, which new series they are going to add, and which old shows they are going to cancel.  Simply put, this is the time of the year when new shows and risky shows and shows on the bubble have to be on edge because they might not make it.

Agent Carter, the MCU’s newest network TV series, is easily the second-best MCU network TV series—and that’s not a knock on Agent Carter so much as a commendation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season.  That being said, Agent Carter is an excellent TV series which fills in an important gap in the MCU’s history.  And according to some reports, Agent Carter only has a 60% chance of being renewed.  In light of that, here is my defense of Agent Carter and why it needs a second season.

It is Character-Driven

This really can’t be overstated.  One of the benefits of a character-driven series like Agent Carter is how well the audience gets to know the character(s).  Season One of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had opportunities to do this as well with the six original members of the team, but it has not been able to devote as much time to character development this season between the breakneck speed, multiple plotlines, and expanded cast (though it has still done quite a bit of character development).  Agent Carter, on the other hand, did a lot of character development despite only being eight episodes long.

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Agent Carter gave a lot of its time to developing Peggy Carter, Jarvis, and their relationship.  We know Peggy Carter much better now than we did after Captain America: The First Avenger and the Agent Carter One-Shot.  We have gotten to see her strength of character and just how capable she is, despite (and sometimes because of) being a woman in 1940s America.  We have also gotten to see some of her weaknesses and failings, and how she has to overcome them.  At the same time, the other characters also received some substantial character development, particularly Sousa and Thompson, who went from flat stereotypes to well-developed characters over the course of two episodes each.  I want to see more of that.  Marvel was able to do a lot with Matt Murdock, Wilson Fisk, and the rest in Daredevil season 1; after how much they did with Peggy Carter, Edwin Jarvis, and the rest, I want to see what season 2 holds.

A second season would give the series an opportunity to explore other characters further, especially Sousa, Thompson, and Angie.  It would also give them an opportunity to flesh out more of Peggy’s relationships with Jarvis and Howard.

It Can Flesh Out Much of the MCU History

How much have we seen of the history of the MCU?  The Thor movies have opened with voice-over flashback scenes to the earliest history of the universe.  Guardians of the Galaxy filled in the history of the Infinity Stones.  Okay, but how much of the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. have we seen?  Aside from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and a couple scenes from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two, everything else fleshing out that history has borne the “Agent Carter” title.  The fact of the matter is, if we want to find out a lot of the history, we need an Agent Carter season two to do so.

I find all of this history to be absolutely fascinating.  I love learning more about the events surrounding the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D.  How did the S.S.R. turn into S.H.I.E.L.D.?  We didn’t see that in Agent Carter season one, though we did get a little of the build-up; we saw a bit of it in the Agent Carter One-Shot.  But if we want to see the full story, it will need to come in Agent Carter season two.  If that were the only MCU history reason to renew Agent Carter I think it would be enough.  And it’s not the only reason.

Agent Carter season one also introduced the character of Dottie Underwood, who was revealed to in fact be an early graduate of the same program (“Red Room” in the comics) which produced Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow.  In other words, Dottie is essentially the “proto-Black Widow.”  This means that all of those scenes with Dottie’s training and with the young girl who took out a couple Howling Commandoes actually served as a lead-in to the exploration in Avengers: Age of Ultron of Natasha Romanoff’s background with the Black Widow training program.  After seeing how damaged Dottie was by her training, how much more interesting will it be to see Romanoff’s memories resurfacing in Age of Ultron?  And conversely, after seeing Romanoff’s experiences, how much more meaningful will it be to see Dottie’s further development over the course of the Agent Carter TV series?  Will she go back to work for Leviathan, will she be captured and defect to the U.S. and S.H.I.E.L.D., or will she just do her own thing?  I’m curious to know how far the parallel between Dottie Underwood and Natasha Romanoff will go.

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Leviathan is another historical aspect of the MCU which deserves to be explored further.  Agent Carter season one only showed us that Doctor Faustus (Johann Fennhoff/Dr. Ivchenko) was involved with them and that they have a connection to the Black Widow Program.  Was that the end of it?  Or is Leviathan going to continue to exist as the Soviet equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the Cold War?  If that is the case, then Leviathan could prove to be an important building block on which any further exploration of Hank Pym’s service as the first Ant-Man will be built.  Imagine if they were to spin off a Wasp: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Ant-Man and Wasp: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series after the Ant-Man movie which follows Janet and Hank’s exploits during the height of the Cold War fighting against Leviathan agents!  All of that becomes far more of a possibility if Agent Carter continues to lay those building blocks.

It is Exploring a heretofore Unexplored Corner of the MCU

This one is pretty closely related to the previous reason, but bear with me.  The previous point dealt with things that we have already seen in the present and how Agent Carter can build up their historical MCU roots.  This point is about things that we haven’t seen yet—and probably can’t see in the present-day MCU.

So much of the MCU has been devoted to moving forward through time, that Agent Carter is right now the only MCU medium which can explore some of the older themes and stories in the Marvel Universe.  Captain America: The First Avenger glossed over most of World War II with a quick montage of war footage.  What about all of the heroes and teams that were involved in the fight on both sides?  Agent Carter gives us the opportunity to see some of these characters and teams in action—how might they adjust to the world after the war?  If Agent Carter could find a way to embrace some of the “campier” Golden Age heroes such as Whizzer, Miss America, the original Human Torch, etc., and work them into Captain America’s World War II history, I think the MCU would be richer for it.  Among other things, that would demonstrate why Captain America is uniquely qualified to lead a team like the Avengers:  he’s done it before.

Agent Carter season one explored some of Peggy’s fight against sexism in post-World War II America.  It was not a “feminist” show as we understand the movement today, but it did not mischaracterize how women were thought of and treated at the time.  That is important to understand:  The series is accurate to the time period, and it doesn’t try to use the older setting to address modern issues.  In my view, this makes the show that much better.  They could do the same thing with post-World War II racism, as well.

In the Marvel Comics, the first (chronologically) person to take up the Captain America mantle was Isaiah Bradley, the result of experimentation by the U.S. Army similar to the historical Tuskegee Syphilis Study.  300 African-American soldiers are subjected to experimentation in an effort to recreate the super-soldier serum, and of the 300, Isaiah Bradley is the only one to survive the testing and the ensuing cover-up.  He takes one of Cap’s costumes and an old shield and goes on a mission to destroy a Nazi/Hydra super-soldier program.  And in return for successfully completing the mission, he is thrown into military prison.  This is the kind of story that would never fly if it were set in modern day, but would fit right into the post-World War II setting of Agent Carter.  The exploration of racism is only one of the benefits Isaiah Bradley’s story offers; Peggy’s reaction to learning what had been done to him would be an incredible exploration of her character, as well.

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The Howling Commandos

This one is pretty much self-explanatory.  The Howling Commandos were one of the most fun parts of Agent Carter season one, and they were only in a single episode.  There are so many fun things that they can do with the Howling Commandos after World War II, up to and including an Agent Carter spinoff focusing on them going on a mission for the S.S.R./S.H.I.E.L.D. hunting down a Hydra Head.  At the very least, I would love to see them appear again in Agent Carter season two for one or two episodes.  Sadly, unless they do some Time Infinity Stone hijinks, we are not going to see the Howling Commandos again except in Agent Carter or another period piece.

So these are my four arguments for why Agent Carter deserves to be renewed for a second season.  What are your reasons for why Agent Carter should be renewed?  Can you think of any reasons I missed?  Do you think it should be renewed?  Let me know in the comments!  If you want to see one of these for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., let me know that in the comments, as well.

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1 comment:

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