Tonight, a new window into the Marvel Cinematic Universe opens with the premiere of Agent Carter on ABC. The series is set in a post-WWII world and after the "death" of Captain America, and follows Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as she hones her skills as a spy - pushing the Scientific Strategic Reserve towards becoming the world's premiere intelligence agency: S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yet, there will be no S.H.I.E.L.D. in Agent Carter, nor any appearances from familiar faces like Nick Fury or Agent Coulson (since the series is taking place some 70 years in the past). So, in that respect, Agent Carter is quite separate from other events currently happening in the MCU.
That being said, because the series is coming with Marvel's red seal of approval, audiences should expect Agent Carter to connect with the wider MCU in some manner. We already know of a few characters - Iron Man's father, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy), for instance - who have already been referenced to in the MCU. There will also be a certain scientist named Anton Vanko (Costa Ronin), whose son was real pain in Tony's backside during Iron Man 2.
Besides these familial connections, Agent Carter will tie-in with the modern MCU in more subtle ways. Speaking with Comic Book Resources ahead of tonight's two-hour premiere, writers/executive producers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) explain how they'll be working elements of the larger MCU into Agent Carter:
McFeely: We can't help but weave in the Marvel Universe. We've been at this for a few years now. All of our reference points are within the universe. We need a scientist character. We didn't go very far to come up with Anton Vanko, just as a very small part scientist character. If you know what he is, or what he goes on to be, that's interesting. If not, he's the Russian scientist.
Markus: Also, working in the past where you already know the future -- obviously, we saw ninety-something old Peggy -- there are references being made, whether you do them on purpose or not. We know Hydra eventually took over S.H.I.E.L.D. When somebody says something hopeful about the future in Agent Carter, that is going to be tinged with the fact we know the future didn't work out that well. There are plenty of little indicators of the future going forward, and the legacy of both the S.S.R. and Howard's technology that will have ramifications later.
Any mentions of Hydra's defeat or of S.S.R.'s future will undoubtedly carry a sting. There's also no ruling out Agent Carter could include a few hints that the audience - knowing Hydra is secretly rebuilding itself within the S.S.R., and later S.H.I.E.L.D. - will pick up on as the early stages of Hyrdra's infiltration, and that's an exciting idea for this "prequel" series to explore.
Keeping the MCU references to a minimum - and short and sweet when they are included - is a safe bet for Agent Carter. For one, the series needs to stands on its own apart from the MCU; something it could be argued Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. struggled with initially. It also needs to feel accessible to viewers who aren't heavily steeped in Marvel lore, yet not over indulge in too many Easter eggs. (Gotham, we're looking at you.)
Markus is of a similar opinion, saying:
"On every Marvel project, you want to make it inter-connective and yet freestanding. You want to be able to come into this without having seen all the proceeding things. Yet, increasingly, everything is all #Connected, because it is the same universe. We take pains to inform you of what we think you need to know, but not over-inform you about lore and backstory that a fan would already know."
It sounds as if McFeely and Markus - who together wrote Agent Carter's pilot - have tried very hard to strike a good balance between welcoming new viewers as well as playing to the fans, and hopefully that means the eight-episode series finds itself a strong following.
Will you be tuning in to Agent Carter tonight? How do you forsee the series fitting within the greater MCU? Sound off in the comments below!
Agent Carter premieres on ABC tonight, January 6th @9pm.