Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a break soon, so Agent Carter is coming to the rescue in January as Steve Rogers' old friends and allies Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) fight to stop weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. Set in 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War, Agent Carter finds its title character frustrated by being kept to administrative duties and seeking field work outside of her day job.
Stark Sr. is only too keen to make an offer after he finds himself being framed for selling his military-grade weapons to the highest bidder, and he puts both his cash and his butler (James D'Arcy, playing the original Jarvis) at Peggy's disposal while she investigates the missing weapons. The supporting cast also includes Costa Ronin, Lyndsy Fonseca, Shea Whigham, Enver Gjokaj and Chad Michael Murray.
Agent Carter was originally supposed to have eight episodes in its first season, but ABC has just announced a revised plan. The show will instead have a two-hour premiere on January 6th and will only be seven episodes long, including the extended premiere. While this might sound like the pilot will be two separate episodes awkwardly stuck together, it seems more likely that the decision was made because the first couple of episodes already had the feel of a two-parter.
Seven episodes seems like the right length for Agent Carter, based on what we've heard so far. It's long enough to string out the stolen weapons story arc for a satisfying amount of time, without being so long that the writers would end up having to resort to a "bad guy of the week" formula. For an example of a seven-episode first season done well just look at Breaking Bad, which spent the entirety of the first season setting up Walter White's motivation to become a meth cook and telling the story of his first attempt at starting up his own meth business.
In fact, it might be argued that Agent Carter would be better off sticking to short seasons in the future as well (assuming the show performs well enough to get renewed). While 22-24 episodes per season has become standard for a lot of U.S. TV shows, it doesn't always work out well and can lead to too many weak or filler episodes. As an espionage series that may have a different mystery/conspiracy for each new season, something in the region of 6-12 episodes could be a good length for Agent Carter.
Now let's just hope that next month's premiere doesn't leave us wishing the show was zero episodes long.
Agent Carter premieres January 6th, 2015 at @9pm on ABC.