Comic-Con 2013: Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’: Happy Ending or a New Beginning?


One of the benefits of covering Comic-Con is the chance to see things like Agent Carter with an appreciative crowd rather than as just a neat little feature on the blu-ray of Iron Man 3 in your home. In the newest and most elaborate by far Marvel One Shot short film, we get 15 minutes more of Agent Peggy Carter as played by Hayley Atwell, who was one of the best parts of Captain America: The First Avenger, and it serves the dual purpose of providing us with a happy ending for her, while at the same time setting up what could be a new beginning for 1940s-era espionage.

The film opens with a reminder of Agent Carter’s last grieving moments in the first Captain America film, before jumping us forward one year later. We see a small cell of SHIELD operatives working in an office, headed up by one Agent Flynn (Bradley Whitford). When a call comes in from a mysterious overseer (voiced by Shane Black, director of Iron Man 3) handing down a mission, everyone stands at attention, waiting to be tapped. It quickly becomes painfully clear that this is 1946, and Flynn runs a good old boys club which views Agent Carter not as a field agent, but a secretary who happens to excel at codebreaking. That is, until the one night where she’s forced to work late while the boys go out to the bar, and the call comes in that they need 3 to 5 agents to locate and retrieve a mysterious vial of blue liquid called “Zodiac,” and she’s the only one in the office. Rather than go fetch the crew, she heads out to handle the job herself. Seems she’s got a lot of anger to work through.

What follows is a lot of Peggy Carter kicking butt, disarming people with her nonthreatening demeanor before disabling people with her completely threatening fighting skills – showing them off in a way she didn’t really get to do in the feature film. After she handles her business with her usual grace and panache, she returns to an earful from Flynn about protocol and how she’s only with them because she was grieving, and “Captain America’s old flame” needed to be stuck somewhere to feel useful. The worm turns, however, when a different mysterious caller contacts Flynn – one Howard Stark, who recruits Carter to help him run SHIELD – throwing delicious egg on the face of Flynn. After that bit of triumph, there’s a funny little button that brings back Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan as well.

Truth told, Hayley Atwell was one of my favorite parts of Captain America, with how controlled, subdued and yet burningly apparent her relationship with Steve Rogers was, free of smarm and snark and cleverer-than-thou bon mots that so characterize modern on-screen relationships. Not to denigrate the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts dynamic, but there was something perfectly simple and pure about Rogers & Carterstein… er, Carter, and this short was necessary to give us some closure to her character beyond her attachment to Cap. Thanks to Agent Carter, we see that she soldiers on and gets what she’s earned.

It’s not just a nice epilogue, though – or at least it doesn’t have to be. In the Q&A after the screening, director Louis D’Esposito mentioned that the last short, Item 47 ( featuring Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford as an outlaw couple trying to use a discarded Chitauri weapon left over from The Avengers to rob some banks only to find themselves recruited into SHIELD by Agent Jasper Sitwell), was seen by Disney chief Bob Iger last year at Comic-Con, and he liked it so much that it made Marvel’s new Agents of SHIELD TV show possible.  Now that we’ve also got a kickass leadership of old-school SHIELD set up with Carter, Dugan and Stark Sr., who’s to say they can’t get some adventures of their own? It could be in future shorts, or the history of SHIELD could be woven into the new show in flashback episodes. Dare we hope that they get their own movie?

Yeah, that’s probably too much to ask. But don’t doubt that Atwell could carry that film if it wasn’t. Agent Carter is a fun treat which could lead the way for some female-led Marvel films (Captain Marvel seems a popular choice) and, if nothing else, it gives its title character the send-off she deserves. My only concern is that I’d hate to think that Marvel might’ve blown their Bradley Whitford wad, and now he won’t be able to somehow make it into a future Marvel movie as somebody like Henry Peter Gyrich or The Master of the World or something.



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