Marvel’s top secret agent is back for a second season! Let’s see if it reached the heights of the first…
The hugely enjoyable first season of Agent Carter proved that this oddball (a period spy series from Marvel) yet ground-breaking (the first female-led property in the Marvel universe) show could deliver the goods. After only narrowly getting renewed thanks the size of its cult following, the pressure was on this second season to at least match, if not surpass, the first. In the result, it was a little uneven but the improved character dynamics made up for the so-so overall plot.
The series was a tad slow to start, for instance, as the first few episodes swung the pendulum too far to the side of goofy comedy, which is refreshing after the darkness of Marvel’s other TV efforts, but too much if delivered in large doses. The brilliant comic timing of the cast, Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy in particular, make it work though.
With the introductions of the first series out the way, returning characters like Souza and Thompson of the SSR are used very well, with Dollhouse‘s Enver Djokav continuing to be particularly likeable. Less regular but still recurring characters like Howard Stark and Dottie, Peggy’s nemesis from the first series, are used very well when they show up, to the extent that you wish they were there all the time. Once the series properly kicks off, the heart of the show is present and correct – the brilliant friendship between Peggy and Jarvis. The addition of Mrs Jarvis could have put a spanner in the works but Lottie Verbeek’s Ana is another endearing character brought into the fold who actually strengthens the bond between the pair.
Some of its characters aren’t utilised as well, however – it might just be me, but the ‘comic relief’ scientist Semberly outstayed his welcome. The biggest crime, though, is Jason Wilkes; he is introduced as a new love interest for Peggy but the pair don’t have as much chemistry as Carter and Sousa. It doesn’t help that Wilkes is also tied up in the rather underwhelming major threat of the series – the black space goo macguffin called Zero Matter. Apparently, this will come into play in the upcoming Doctor Strange (starring Benedict Cumberbatch!) but right now it feels like a stronger big bad could have easily been found.
Whitney Frost, the actress-cum-scientist who gains the power of Zero Matter, therefore doesn’t match season one’s Dr Fenhoff and Dottie as a villain. That said, potentially the highlight of the series is an episode that explores the similar pasts of Peggy and Whitney but shows how they have made different choices.
What really counts in Agent Carter is the exploring of the character dynamics, however, and this season certainly delivered on that in spades, moving things forward but with much still to be mined in future seasons. This makes it all the more saddening that, after poor ratings in the US, a third run doesn’t look too likely. Please, Marvel, don’t let Agent Carter go the way of her Captain America and be put on ice just yet.