TV: If You’re Not Watching These 3 Shows, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Part 2/3

Part 1 HERE…

2. Agent Carter, ABC // Tuesday, 9PM EST

“It’s a man’s world; Peggy Carter merely rocks it.”

HAYLEY ATWELL
Photo courtesy of TVLine (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

HOT WOMEN CAN ALSO KICK BUTT, television and movies tell us. What most these films and shows portray, however, is that these badass hot chicks tend to think and behave like fem-bots (*cough* Kate Beckinsale in all the Underworld movies *cough* …to be fair, though, she was portraying a vampire. They tend to not emote, ever). Yes, you can wear eyeshadow and karate-chop bad guys but as a character, you need to also embody human quirks and fallibilities, especially on shows on which people’s lives are constantly at stake.

Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a character from Marvel’s Captain America comics, is such a woman. Her emotions definitely run the full human female gauntlet as the titular star of Agent Carter. The show was originally meant to just bridge 2014-2015’s winter break gap for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a runaway hit for ABC. Due to a fervent cultish fanbase, the show was picked up for another winter season that aired in January 2016.

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Peggy Carter is a seasoned wartime/postwar agent for the fictitious government group, the Strategic Scientific Reserve (the S.S.R.–S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prototype), kind of the 1940s X-Files division of the C.I.A. or N.S.A.

Nerd Aside: The S.S.R. was responsible for giving Steve Rogers the super-soldier serum and creating Captain America. Post-WWII, it continued to protect America and the Allies from advanced sci-tech threats from both foreign and domestic groups.

As a woman of the ’40s, Peggy rocks firetruck-red lips, high heels and flowery frocks while running down evil spies with a handgun. Meanwhile, she simultaneously copes with commonplace girl dilemmas, e.g. moving on from an ex (in her case, Captain America/Steve Rogers himself, whom she and everyone else post-WWII presumed KIA. He’s not dead, just frozen deep in the sea), chauvinism in the workplace (she is the only field-rated S.S.R. agent with lady parts), and blushing when she realizes her crush feels the same way.

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Oh, Cap… I miss ya // Photo from Captain America: The First Avenger

TWO ANNOYINGLY UNREALISTIC TROPES Agent Carter AVOIDS and, by which in the process, elevates itself as a female-driven action-heavy drama:

1. The mechanical use of sex appeal to get what the woman wants:

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When Peggy inevitably has to use her sex appeal to slip past red tape, she is always visibly amused by how easily men can be distracted by a mere flash of cleavage. She is fully aware that in her time, that is just the hand she’s dealt: It’s a man’s world; Peggy Carter simply rocks it.

2. The female spy or assassin is invincible in physical combat, no matter how big or many her opponents:

Kill Bill, this show is not. Peggy, while heavily trained in kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, still sweats, bleeds, and occasionally gets a major can of whoop-ass handed to her by worthy adversaries, some male and some female. This is such a rare yet delightfully grounding touch to the show. The only other instance in which I have seen a realistic portrayal of a female spy in combat was J.J. Abrams’ Alias.

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The show, summarily, mixes high sci-fi with everyday period drama antics. It is a bundle of charms and then a pair of socks. Even Atwell’s British accent (the character is a naturalized British-American citizen) is put to good use. Having a female English accent at the focal point of historical American politics removes a certain cynicism an American viewer may have about a period piece.

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Basically, I can sum up Agent Carter as = Sexy + Suspense + 40’s Fashion + Real Feels = Awesome Sauce.

SHOW #3 NEXT MONDAY, KIDDIES.. What could (should) it be?

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