chamekke: (cha_hazels_rose)
[personal profile] chamekke
The 2-hour premiere of Agent Carter aired tonight (2 episodes shown back-to-back), and I gotta say, it was pretty damn wonderful.



I'm sure most reviewers enjoyed it. The creators had diligently studded the eps with period references: you get the radio serials, the Horn & Hardart-style automat, the fast talking high trousers male agents of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), and of course a busy office switchboard (and how much fun was it to see Agent Peggy Carter march smartly through a secret doorway, Get Smart-style, which magically appeared thanks to the deft movements of a switchboard operator?).

But I'm going to talk about the parts I loved.

Friendships between women. This is so damn rare on television, I can't even. And OK, there was a certain amount of mandatory chatter (early on) about looking for a man and getting married. But I'll accept this as arising naturally out of the post-war period, when women were being told to stand down from their careers. Fortunately, what we mostly get to see is Peggy Carter chatting with her roommate Colleen (who doesn't know what Peggy really does, i.e. work for SHIELD SSR), sharing some heart-to-heart talks with Angie the automat waitress (ditto), and in general experiencing the solidarity and fellowship she clearly needs, yet is denied at work - where she is apparently the only woman present, agent or otherwise.

So, the Bechdel test? Passed.

Enver Gjokaj as SSR agent Daniel Sousa. It's always a thrill to see this extraordinary actor pop up, and Gjokaj is memorable as the one colleague who recognizes Peggy's extraordinariness and respects her for it. (He's also the sole "other" at SSR, as he walks with a brace and crutch due to his war injuries.) When he defends her from verbal attack, and Peggy tells him she's capable of holding her own, Gjokaj does this very interesting thing with his face; empathy and hurt fight a brief battle, and then you can see as rueful understanding and acceptance win out.

James D'Archy as Edwin Jarvis, Stark's butler (and Peggy's one day-to-day working ally). He's quirky, he's fastidious, but there's substance beneath the mannerisms. He and Peggy quickly develop a working relationship of mutual respect, humour and trust. And all this despite Jarvis's frequently-referenced family obligations to the (so far unseen) Mrs Jarvis! There's a lovely scene at the end of episode 2 where Jarvis reminds Peggy - whose self-reliance has become brittle at this point - that even Steve Rogers accomplished what he did because he counted on other people to back him up. It's sensitively done, not the least bit condescending, and you can see why Peggy is disarmed.

The women's residence where Peggy eventually goes to live. It's implied this is going to be a sort of female haven for her; although that remains to be seen, of course. It tickles me immensely because it's exactly like the place I lodged when attending art school in Manhattan, mumble-mumble years ago: the Parkside Evangeline Residence in Gramercy Park, which also forbade gentlemen to visit beyond the ground floor (although I did manage to smuggle a boyfriend into my 9th floor suite, ask me how).

Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. I loved her protectiveness of her friend, her open grief at a sudden death. The fact that she quietly but keenly continues to miss Steve - the real Steve: we see her gazing longingly at a photo of Steve which was taken when he was still scrawny, pre-serum Corporal Rogers, not the super-soldier Captain America. That Peggy has a decidedly ample bosom, and that this aspect of her body shape isn't made to be "part of her character", it's simply how she is built. And let's not forget the terrifyingly awesome way she deals with a customer who bullies her waitress friend one time too many.

Oh, and there are the ways that Peggy subverts expectations around her femininity for her own ends. When she's excluded from a meeting, she gleans the information she needs by coming in with a tray of coffee "for the men" and scanning the paperwork as she pours the cups; she gets time off (to perform a critical mission of her own) by saying she has a headache and letting her boss's squeamishness about "female problems" do the work for her; she adopts a slinky dress, blonde wig and American accent to go undercover, but one big smooch of her red lips makes the bad guy pass out: it's knockout lipstick by CONTROL, not Chanel.

So if you haven't seen this show, try to catch it. It's refreshing, intelligent, and worth a second look.

 

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] togsos.livejournal.com
Okay, so not reading your post because I am only going to see this tonight, but so glad to see positive reaction to it seems universal so far.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chamekke.livejournal.com
It's better than I'd hoped it would be, to be honest. There were moments early on when I feared the show might move into any number of tiresome tropes (Action Girl, Smurfette Principle, etc.) but Agent Carter, and Peggy, turned out to be much more than that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blythechild.livejournal.com
I LOVED the first two episodes. Peggy was my favorite thing about the first Captain America film and I'm delighted that the same level of commitment to her character and attention to the time period has been brought to the small screen. I couldn't get over seeing a tv show that featured a smart, resilient woman (pretty much on her own) who didn't need a man to save her, could use her gender to manipulate others without becoming callous, and who is sympathetic enough that you kinda wish she was your friend (random assassins notwithstanding). And how happy am I that James D'Arcy was cast as Jarvis? That guy made me cry in Cloud Atlas. This was better than I expected it to be :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chamekke.livejournal.com
This was better than I expected it to be :)

Heh, I just finished saying exactly that to Togsos. I was sooo worried that it might veer into one or more irritating tropes (Action Girl, Smurfette Principle...) but the show's creators are better than that.

Few things irritate me more in TV and movies than the smart, likeable female lead who inexplicably has no female friends, no supportive female coworkers*, but exists only in a bubble of maleness. I liked that they I am SO glad they didn't go there, and I'm really hoping they don't slide into that.

*Sometimes this can can be handwaved by explicitly making the workplace all-male, but it still bugs me. Thus I was unreasonably tickled by Peggy's exchange with the (female) switchboard operator at the beginning. It doesn't imply friendship, granted - the operator was effectively functioning as a doorman (doorwoman?) - but it was a nice moment of respectful, fleeting woman-to-woman recognition of the type we seldom get to see on TV.

P.S. And yeah, Peggy would be an awesome friend.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 03:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] draycevixen.livejournal.com

I really enjoyed it too... although I have to admit that I cringed when Peggy used the "female problems" excuse as I felt it just reinforced the way these men already see her.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chamekke.livejournal.com
That was my first reaction - "Aw, Peggy, did you have to go there?" Then I thought about it and decided, yeah, maybe she did. The stakes were high, and she had to find a quick way to get out of the office that was open-ended. I debated a bit whether instead Peggy could have suddenly feigned illness, but that might have seemed less plausible under the circumstances (she hadn't been dragging herself about), and a headache plus undisclosed-and-therefore-flexible-symptoms gave her leeway not to worry about how long she needed away, whether she looked healthy or not, and even (thanks to her boss's stupid comment about shopping) whether someone might spot her out and about.

That said - at this point it's pretty clear Peggy was thinking "Fuck it, if that's how they're going to see me, hell YES I'm going to work it to my advantage," since it's obvious the only way her boss & coworkers are going to see past her femaleness is if she single-handedly hoists the Empire State Building into the air or something. At present their dismissal of her is so absolute, it's hard to see how Peggy could hope to overcome how they already see her, since they seem to be deeply invested in seeing her as both stereotypically female and disturbingly unfeminine. TBH I'm curious to see if the show's creators will go with the "men eternally oblivious to female character's awesomeness" trope or if they'll surprise us. Hoping for the latter, expecting the former.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-07 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] draycevixen.livejournal.com

...I understand the motivation in doing it but she's been presented as a woman who has never taken the easy way out and then, she does.

There are lots of other points in these two episodes where she's gallivanting around without her bosses having a clue where she is or what she's doing so it just felt clunky and unnecessary.

Still, it wouldn't have bothered me so much if they weren't getting it so right everywhere else so I'm definitely taking this as a win. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-08 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] severinne.livejournal.com
I made a point of making sure I was home in time to catch these first two episodes and I absolutely loved it :D For all the reasons you already mention here though the scene with the fork was a special delight. And I do love the quality of her relationship with Jarvis. Can't wait to see more.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-08 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chamekke.livejournal.com
Yes, the scene with the fork was wonderful - and a great insight into what Peggy can be like when she's really riled.

It's fantastic to have a new show we can really get excited about watching, isn't it?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-09 03:30 am (UTC)
ext_3743: (fangirl (bisty_icons))
From: [identity profile] umadoshi.livejournal.com
SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. I just saw it tonight, and I am so very happy with the glory that is Peggy Carter,

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-09 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chamekke.livejournal.com
*nods* She is wonderful and I love her.

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