Friday, January 9, 2015

Marvel’s Agent Carter: Everything Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Not!!!

This scares you into thinking it will be like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin off show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not that exciting.  Even the more interesting episodes are bad episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  We’re talking Beer Bad episodes here.  (Note to reader, I actually liked Beer Bad but others hated it.  [I once met Nicholas Brendon {Xander in BtVS} who admitted to me it wasn’t a good episode.  That’s the only bad episode of BtVS I could think of.  I’m going to STFU before this becomes a Buffy article].  He then proceeded to call the police and have me removed from his house).  Noticed how I referenced Buffy there?  You didn’t? Well pay closer attention to your reading comprehension.  

They should really make a movie based on this show...
When you see Joss Whedon’s name attached to a TV show on a major network like ABC, you expect Buffy/Firefly caliber stories on a larger scale budget.  Yes, Firefly was on Fox but let’s face it ABC, NBC, & CBS are the bigwigs if only by reputation (perhaps it’s that extra hour of programing they offer).  Firefly never got the ratings and was canceled after just a few episodes.  Buffy gave 7 seasons on the WB/UPN and Angel did 5 on WB.  The networks were small and ended up having to merge just to survive.  The excitement that surrounded the follow-up show to the Joss Whedon directed Avengers coupled with his past works of Buffy, Angel and Firefly just seemed so awesome.  The Whedon fans were left to expect a Bufferverse/Firefly story telling styling coupled with scaled down Avengers scale action.  

Whedon should have shaved his head years ago.
What Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered to us was blah.  It’s not unwatchable but it’s rather generic and bland.  There is no real depth, layered characters, or decent jokes (all staples of Whedon’s prior shows).  It’s forced humor and nonexistent sentiment for characters that talk way too much (except Agent May, she’s really cool and totally hot).  All the show appears to be is nonstop references to the fact they live in the much more awesome MCU.  The show picked up a bit after Captain America: The Winter Soldier premiered, but only slightly and also left viewers to ponder if we are only going to get decent stories as spillover from their more awesome movie counterparts.  Season 2 is about halfway through and is just as bland as season 1.  I’ve grown tired of waiting for a show that’s incorporated into such a rich cinematic universe to start doing something.  Even with all its flashy new pretty cast members it’s just a lot of bells and whistles with nothing happening.  Now with that long nerd rant out of the way let’s talk about how Agent Carter couldn’t be further from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in only two episodes (technically one since it was a 2 hour premiere).

All these people and I'm still not interested.
Agent Carter immediately opens with depth and diversity and a relatable character.  They show the ending of Captain America: The First Avenger and what you think is just a recap for people who didn’t see the movie or haven’t seen it in a while is actually the driving force as to why she is who she is.  We then see Carter as a woman in 1940s New York trying to navigate a male dominated industry of government spying. None of her cohorts see her as anything other than a secretary.  The potential story arc of a character earning the respect of her sexist peers or just flat out leaving them behind as she moves onto bigger and better things is right there in the first freaking episode.  It’s a plot point with a clearly defined goal on where our character can go.  She may end up somewhere totally different but at least it’s a scope of reference for us to follow.  I may not be an English lady in New York but I do understand what it’s like to be an outcast.  Everyone relates to that at some point in their life, whether being the new person in the club or being a man in his thirties that proudly plays with Legos.  


What we also get is references to the MCU, but not forced references of people talking about an Alien invasion in New York.  We get references where Agent Carter thinking about events that fit into the overall character development.  We have a character whose driving force is the thought of her lost love Captain Steve Rogers.  It’s her driving force in why she keeps fighting to keep the world safe.  What’s Agent Coulson’s motivation, or May, or Skye’s?  Who even cares, given the one dimensionality of them? 

This comic strip is more entertaining about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Carter has layers and depth.  She’s playing a giant chess game with the world.  She navigates the men who look down on her.  She manipulates them with utter perfection.  She perfectly belittles Chad Michael Murray (CMM) when he makes her file some folder because she’s a woman who’s naturally better at filing.  Carter smartly points out how the system for filing is the alphabet and he’s a moron for not understanding it.  I was truly lost as to why she still took the folder from him until later in the show the men are roughing up a suspect to get information.  They ask her to leave because ladies shouldn’t see police brutality and she very coolly tells them to “have fun boys.” It’s because she understands that whining about her positon in life will not get her the respect she wishes to attain.

Kindergarten Cop would make an awesome TV show!
Agent Carter is playing the long game and hopes to attain the respect of her “colleagues” by being a good agent.  She’s assertive, not aggressive.  Men can be aggressive and it’s considered acceptable.  If a woman is aggressive she’s called the B word.  She needs to be assertive, that’s not done by bludgeoning men with rants about how she’s an equal or complaints about how unfair she’s treated.  It’s done telling a person who directly addresses an insult at you that you do not appreciate it or in the case of CMM pointing out how ridiculous his reasoning is.  Then she moves on with her life because there is no use wasting precious brainpower on sexist pretty boys.  She later shows her smarts by exposing the bad guy and after he flees, she takes the shortcut chasing him down while her male counterparts exhaust the long way with no success.  

Agent Carter doing her Carmen San Diego impression.
All this awesome character development happens during the humdrum office procedural stuff in the show.  The creators do not waste the time they have.  They understand they have 40 minutes to tell a story and have to move the plot and that’s what they do.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is nothing but downtime in their show coupled with the phone it in required action.

Oh look people in a room talking to progress the plot.  How interesting...not.
Agent Carter’s action sequences and cool spy stuff is fun and entertaining.  They give the audience excitement and suspense.  There is humor, action, drama and an assertive (not aggressive) female lead.  It's reminiscent of a little show that aired on the WB called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It has all the elements Whedon fans wished Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had yet Joss Whedon’s name is nowhere to be seen.  Just two episodes of Agent Carter have been more satisfying than the 20+ S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes the fans have been forced to endure.

For the record, Carmen San Diego is actually pretty cool.

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®