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.

 
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