MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER: Now is Not the End (television mini-series critique)


I’ve always loved Hollywood’s rendition of World War II. Don’t get me wrong, Saving Private Ryan and Flags of our Father are great, important films and I totally get that war is hell, but when I need a break from true history, I enjoy the romanticized version.

The Great Escape. The Dirty Dozen. Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer. All perfect examples. Even Pearl Harbor fits the bill. (The visuals, not the plot. Or the characters. Or any semblance of entertainment value whatsoever.) Now we have Marvel’s Agent Carter, which continues the comic book version of WWII established in Captain America: The First Avenger.

We’re halfway through Marvel Entertainment’s inaugural mini-series, which is enough to make an early assessment — one episode at a time. Does Agent Carter match the postcard propaganda pedigree of those other period piece productions? (*) With fedora-wearing tough guys named Thompson and Dooley who pack heat and crack wise, how could it not?

Agent Peggy Carter.

Marvel’s excellence in continuity, both in story and staff, is on full display in Now is Not the End. This first episode of Agent Carter is directed by Louis D’Esposito, who also helmed the One-Shot short film of the same name. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the writing duo behind the Captain America films, supply a fun, fast-paced script with solid characterization and snappy era-appropriate dialog.

In terms of special effects and 1940s authenticity, this mini looks every bit as convincing as The First Avenger. It’s a small screen project with big screen production value, impressive given the tighter budget and faster turnaround.

Agent Carter isn’t just faithful to the look of the era, but also its mindset. The storyline explores sexism in the workplace of post-war 1946. Peggy Carter, the sole female in a white male-dominated agency, is constantly looked down upon. She’s dismissed on a daily basis by her peers, and even by her boss. He assigns Peggy missions, but only in the form of lunch orders.

This theme was introduced in the One-Shot and is expounded upon here. What makes it all the more intriguing is the juxtaposition of sexist, chauvinistic agents with Howard Stark, the uber-womanizer who objectifies women while simultaneously seeing the true worth of Peggy, which is not to “fondue”. Not just.


Playboy Howard Stark.

In addition to sexism, Peggy mourns the perceived “death” of Steve Rogers, the love of her life. She’s trying to move on, but it’s tough when your last boyfriend was Captain freakin’ America. Good luck to whoever attempts to follow in his steps.

By way of archive footage from The First Avenger, we see Peggy and Steve’s final conversation as he kamikazes the Red Skull’s bomb-filled plane. The emotions that pour effortlessly from Atwell at the loss of her love are I’m sure what won her this mini-series in the first place. Or at least won her the One-Shot, which won her the series. I wish we saw more of her in Captain America: The Winter Solider, but that’s made up for here in spades. Atwell’s range as an actress is so expansive that she can deliver tears as equally well as she can punches. She can even pull off a flawless American accent.

Assisting Peggy on her secret, non-lunch related missions is Howard Stark’s loyal butler, Edwin Jarvis, as played by James D’Arcy.

It makes sense why director Jon Favreau and the crew behind the first Iron Man film turned Jarvis — a flesh and blood comic book mainstay since the 1960s — into J.A.R.V.I.S., a British-accented sentient computer with dry wit. (**)

1) It emphasized the loneliness that Tony Stark wallowed in before adopting his Iron Man identity. At the time, he related more to machines than people.

2) It differentiated one playboy/millionaire/superhero-with-a-butler-sidekick from another playboy/millionaire/superhero-with-a-butler-sidekick, i.e. Bruce Wayne and Alfred. Batman had already graced the silver screen in several blockbusters by that point, whereas the general public had barely heard of Iron Man. “Ironman… hmm… That’s a triathlon sponsored by AC/DC, right?”


Butler Jarvis in action…


As much as I understood the changes, I still missed the original Jarvis that I grew up reading in the pages of The Avengers. Not anymore!

Marvel has found a great way to introduce the real deal into their ever-expanding cinematic universe. In the comics, we only ever see an older Jarvis in modern times. In the setting of Agent Carter, however, we see him in his prime — back when he worked directly for Howard.

Does this mean he’s alive in the present like Peggy is? Probably not, but at some point in the past Jarvis must’ve made a big impression on young Tony, enough of an impression that the boy would later name his virtual servent after his childhood servent. Maybe we’ll learn Jarvis’ ultimate fate in Avengers: Age of Ultron where J.A.R.V.I.S. plays a key role in the creation of a new hero. If not, then at least we get him here for a few more episodes.


…and live-action.

Now is Not the End not only expands the M.C.U., but also strengthens its inter-connectivity. The action-packed climax takes place in an oil refinery owned by Roxxon, the nefarious energy corporation that’s been seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Iron Man trilogy.

We even meet Dr. Anton Vanko, the father of Mickey Rourke’s villain in Iron Man 2. In that film, Rourke’s beef with Tony was payback for Howard’s alleged theft of Anton’s Arc reactor design.

We’ve already seen the sons battle it out. Could we see the fathers do the same? In the world of Agent Carter, nothing seems to be off the table, and that’s a good thing.


NEXT MISSION: Bridge & Tunnel, which is not a companion magazine to Town & Country.


(*) Impressive P-lliteration, eh? Thank you, but it’s not as good as that of baseball Bugs Bunny who once said, “Watch me paste this pathetic palooka with a powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermous percussion pitch.” Pachydermous. He’s the master.

(**) J.A.R.V.I.S. is short for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System.



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