Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pilot Review: Agent Carter

Agent Carter (ABC)
Premiered January 6 at 8pm

I had completely forgotten that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was vacating its timeslot for the next few months to make way for Marvel’s latest franchise entry, which is set in the 1960s and, like its parent series, stems largely from events depicted in the new Captain America movies. Hayley Atwell was one of the best parts of the first film, and in theory she’s the perfect choice to star in a show like this. Like the other show that took a long time to grow on me, this series suffers from being a bit too tame, occasionally involving brutality and death but usually failing to go far enough in its pursuit of compelling plotlines. The action is there, to be sure, and this show feels appropriately dated. Much of that is due to the chauvinistic nature of the agency and the clothing they all wear, and I hope that won’t contribute too much to making the show boring. There’s potential with a strong cast like this one, but I’m not sure how fully it will be realized. James D’Arcy, who I remember from his stints on “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and in the amazing would-be series “Virtuality,” is a fun choice to play Jarvis, the human predecessor to Tony Stark’s computer voice. I trust Enver Gjokaj and Shea Whigham from their TV histories on “Dollhouse” and “Boardwalk Empire,” respectively, and they seem to be the more well-mannered members of the establishment, particularly Gjokaj’s do-gooder Daniel. Lyndsy Fonseca, most recently seen on “Nikita” and “How I Met Your Mother,” is another familiar and reliable face. I’m ready to be impressed by Chad Michael Murray and Kyle Bornheimer even if they haven’t been as terrific in the past. I think this show could be a blast, but it’s going to have to stand on its own and disconnect from both the Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. universes to distinguish itself.

How will it work as a series? This two-hour premiere gave us a sneak peek of what the show will be like, with Jarvis serving as a butler always ready to help out and provide a grounding force for the solitary Peggy Carter, who is so concerned that the people in her life will be put in harm’s way that she won’t make human connections. Let’s just hope that her undercover nature doesn’t get her too far ahead of herself and tip off her coworkers too overtly.
How long will it last? The consensus seems to be that the ratings for the pilot were generally good but not terrific considering what they could have been. With just an eight-episode initial order, that may be all ABC wants to do, and something tells me they aren’t going to bring back “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” for another round either. Still, it’s always possible that Marvel will win out.

Pilot grade: B-

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