Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’ Conundrum: A Fascinating (Yet Boring) Adventure

[Agent Carter Episode 4 SPOILERS will Follow.]


Marvel’s Agent Carter reveals more of its feature-film origins in this week’s episode, "The Blitzkrieg Button," in a lack luster, dialogue-driven “Act II” which purely sets up (hopefully exciting) episodes to come. As an hour of Tuesday night television, it’s monotonous; as journey into the Marvel world, however, it’s completely fascinating, and a success.

Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) sleeping with many women is one of the innocent yet awkward lessons this episode teaches its viewers. There’s no reason for Stark to be bedding women other than he can, and much like this series’ period setting, it's played for quick, convenient, forgettable laughs, rather than being an earnest aspect of this ever-growing world. Captain America, too, receives another confusing namecheck this week, as the creator of The First Avenger is berated for having a sample of blood from his creation, unbeknownst to Carter.

Interestingly enough, the on-the-nose references and family-friendly cheekiness never hurts Agent Carter as much as it unintentionally holds it back from continuing to build this fascinating world that’s (ever so) slowly emerging. What's exciting is that, through this world-building, Agent Carter thrives in a way Marvel’s theatrical counterparts can never afford to: by allowing the characters to talk to each other.

It's much like the first Avengers: The Age of Ultron teaser, in which The Avengers are relaxing in Tony Starks’ (Robert Downey, Jr.) living room, trying to understand the logistics of Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) hammer, as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Stark each have a go and try to pick it up (some more successful than others). The scene is immediately iconic, a fan-favorite, simply because it represents the most unique use of Marvel’s superheroes, to date. You can find many examples of Marvel heroics in their many films - it's not unique. If the Stark family has taught us anything, it’s that personality is everything - so why not enjoy it?

This is what Agent Carter provides us with, essentially. The lack of any logical story surrounding Howard Stark’s missing weapons - while perhaps simply an error in story structure - is also a good indication that superficial, surface-level entertainment and character exploration is all that we’re going to get. Unless, of course, Avengers 2 writer and director Joss Whedon is keen on deeply exploring the origins of Ultron on midseason television - which does not seem to be the case, at all. Whedon is not even a producer on this series.

What we do have, however, is a series of forgettable, unimportant conversations which ultimately are... completely entertaining, for some surprising reason. Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) and Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), two characters who appear as if they come from a high school play, are never more enjoyable than when they’re posturing for one other in front of a witness - cheap interrogation ploys and all - as if dominance means anything when Dooley (Shea Whigham) returns from abroad. And Dooley, the trans-Atlantic traveler in the SSR, is never more entertaining than when he’s facing off, breath mint to breath mint, with a Nazi Colonel.

There are times when television should take a stand and times when the art of storytelling deserves more appreciation; then, however, there are times when having fresh breath is entertaining. For some reason this behavior, in this moment, feels as if it should be supported. If anything, to simply remove the weight of having to force a storyline with Stark's “Bad Babies” at a time when there is no cinematic world providing support elsewhere. This is why we will never truly see any of Stark’s “baddest” babies.

Then what is the purpose of Agent Carter, if not to lead audiences into the next Phase of the MCU? It appears Marvel Studios is still attempting to answer that question, while Marvel Television and ABC are continuing to employ heavy-handed scheduling techniques - two-hour premieres; action-less hiatus week - to make up for the series and its story failing to maintain any semblance of pacing, week to week. Yet again, the conversations are entertaining.

The Blitzkrieg button, as shown in this episode, is sadly not fascinating, or enjoyable. Neither are any of the odd, abnormal weapons which are all conveniently compact and ready for episodic dispatch - though at least they served the purpose of their name. In this episode, we have Stark creating an entire story, Jarvis (James D'Arcy) telling many lies, and Peggy (Hayley Atwell) keeping track of ear-rubbing - simply to reveal that the name, the device’s purpose, and ultimately what it contains is all a fallacy. The most discouraging thing is that Blitzkrieg button is a terrific name for a device, and its purpose seems worthwhile.

What we have now is Peggy Carter on a mission to save Stark; SSR on a mission find Stark and Peggy; Stark on a mission to sleep with women; Jarvis on a mission to use his established “tell” in a future episode; "Leviathan" is someone, somewhere; and an unknown female assassin on an unknown mission, who is honestly too unaffected from seeing an automatic revolver to be believable.

In 4 episodes, Agent Carter will come to an end and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return. Whether or not this show will represent the principals of success for Marvel on broadcast television still remains to be seen. If anything, the series can hang its hat on a series of provable campfire chats that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has no room for.

Agent Carter returns next Tuesday with "The Iron Ceiling” @9pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below:

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Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’ Conundrum: A Fascinating (Yet Boring) Adventure