Peggy Carter made her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: The First Avenger. An agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service, she was assigned to the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) during World War II. She was more than capable of handling herself, but she was also human. She wasn’t an invulnerable. She wasn’t made of stone. We saw moments of jealousy, anger, vulnerability, and love. Hayley Atwell played the character wonderfully, and she made quite an impression upon fans. So much so that she’s leading the charge in what is hopefully a new era of superhero television. Marvel’s Agent Carter premieres this week, and it’s the first female-led prime time comic book series of the modern era. That’s huge.
As far as Marvel is concerned, a Jessica Jones series is headed to Netflix and a Captain Marvel film is on the horizon, but Agent Carter is here now. The eight part series is taking over Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s time slot while that series is on break, and it couldn’t be a better fit. We know from the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray) that she helps build S.H.I.E.L.D., and Marvel deserves credit for creating this opportunity to let Peggy Carter to shine in a longer format. Her history in the pages of Marvel Comics is brief, so I think it’s a testament to fans’ reaction to the character that her role in the Marvel film and television arena has expanded in the way it has. Peggy Carter may not have superpowers or wear a costume, but she’s a superhero – both in her profession and to female fans like myself who have longed to see a leading lady in comic book entertainment.
As mentioned above, Agent Carter made her first on-screen appearance in The First Avenger; she met Steve Rogers in 1943. When the film ended, it was 1945. The new television series is set between that film and the Agent Carter one-shot. Because of that, we know where Peggy’s story is headed. Marvel’s Agent Carter is set in 1946 and so is the one-shot. After the events of World War II, Peggy’s heroic role and ability to shoulder massive responsibility is all but pushed aside. It was a common problem for women to face after the war with G.I.s returning home to fill roles that women had stepped up and taken in their absence. Peggy once stormed into battle and headed up missions, but her current superiors at the SSR want her to file reports and fetch lunch.
We see the sexist behavior of her SSR co-workers persists in the one-shot so we know it’s not defeated by the end of this eight part series. My guess is that this series will lead into the one-shot and that if we get another eight episodes of Agent Carter next year, it will pick up with the beginnings of S.H.I.E.L.D. We know that is her destiny, and Carter’s triumph will be that much more satisfying because we’ll learn more about her journey there.
Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’ve seen two Agent Carter cameos in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far this season. Both were flashbacks to 1945 during wartime. We move further ahead in her timeline in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and see Peggy in two different periods: She appears in an interview dated 1953 in the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian and then in 2014 in a nursing home. We learn that she married and had two children. Her husband was someone Steve saved during the war, and she’s wed by the 1953 interview. It’s possible we’ll see the groundwork for that relationship in Marvel’s Agent Carter.
And that’s not all! The upcoming Ant-Man will feature an Agent Carter cameo (the time period of the flashback hasn’t been confirmed), and rumors have swirled that she will show up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yeah, Atwell and Carter keep busy.
Her numerous appearances in the past are establishing Carter as part of the foundation of the MCU. She was there in the beginning with Steve Rogers, and she has shown up more than any other characters from that time period besides Rogers. She’s on more or less equal footing with Howard Stark. Speaking of Stark the elder, Dominic Cooper is reprising his role as Stark from The First Avenger and the one-shot in Agent Carter. John Slattery appeared as an older version of the character in Iron Man 2 and also has a role in Ant-Man.
It’s a big deal that Agent Carter is coming to network television. The stakes are high. If it proves successful for ABC (who, by the way, have done a much better job than I expected in promoting the series), it has positive repercussions that, with luck, will extend to all the dark corners of comic book television and film and bring more female-led projects into the spotlight.
Marvel’s Agent Carter premieres Tuesday, January 6th, with a two hour special beginning at 8:00pm ET/PT on ABC. Will you be tuning in?