I’m late to the game and not yet all the way up to speed (I have three more episodes in season 2 to watch), but here are some things that are so great about Agent Carter and make this show so (sadly) unique:
- Very little cleavage. When Peggy Carter wears something that reveals her boobs, there’s a reason, and it doesn’t happen very often. The whole idea that female superheroes are superheroes mainly because they have very large breasts gets so tiresome. Agent Carter dresses like what she is–a woman trying to succeed in the post-WWII version of a man’s world. For this nod to historical reality, I am so very grateful.
- Very little female spy as seductress. Maybe twice has Agent Carter used her “feminine wiles” in the spying game. Mostly, she’s just smart and kicks people’s asses. Even her nemesis spy, Dottie Underwood, doesn’t do a lot of seducing. Lo and behold, women can be spies in ways that don’t involve them spending all their time making bedroom eyes.
- Relationships between women and men that are not romantic or sexual. Most of the time in TV and movies, if you see an attractive man and an attractive woman on the screen together and they’re not related by blood (and sometimes, even if they are, yuck), you can assume that they’ll either think about having sex with each other or have sex with each other. In my experience, this not how the real world works. I interact with many men who I do not think about having sex with or have sex with. Peggy and Mr. Jarvis are friends, even though they are both quite attractive. Peggy and Howard Stark are friends, again, even though they’re both lookers. The biggest question men like Howard Stark and Mr. Jarvis ask themselves is not, “How can I get Agent Carter in bed?” but, “How can I help her and earn her respect?”
- Real conversations about racism, sexism and able-bodied-ism. I don’t want to give a whole lot away, but you have to love a show that even though it’s set in a historical period where the chances of a black scientist were rare, they chose to make a black scientist a major character. What’s the excuse of all the other shows set in 2016? Introducing Jason Wilkes allows the show to have all kinds of conversations about racism and opportunity in post WWII America. Agent Sousa’s character brings us face-to-face with the reality of the thousands of disabled veterans who came back from the war. It makes sense that Agent Sousa and Peggy or Jason and Peggy would be drawn to each other as they all know what it’s like to be under-estimated. Rather than dance around the real-world fact of racism, sexism, and able-bodied-ism, the characters in Agent Carter have actual conversations about it. Yes, this is a thing. It exists.
Rose Roberts. No one wanted to let Agent Carter out into the field in season 1. She knows what that’s like. There’s a moment in season 2 that’s very much like the end of Buffy–share the power. We are all slayers. Peggy brings everyone out into the field, including Rose Roberts, the husky secretary who proceeds to kick some serious ass and likes it. In that moment, Agent Carter as a show suggests that maybe the real super-power is to empower others.
- A good super-hero. I get the tortured super-hero thing. It’s hard being Superman or Batman or Wolverine. Whatever. But does every super-hero have to be so tortured and flawed they end up an asshole? Peggy’s not particularly tortured. She is definitely not an asshole. An enemy tries to find a dark secret from her past to blackmail her with in season 2. He shows her the folder. She gives him a look like, “Dude, what’s your problem? That’s not true.” In the moment where the twisted super-hero would be brought to his knees by his ugly past, Peggy just suggests to the guy that maybe he should be better than that. Maybe it’s because she’s English, I don’t know. Over and over she does the good thing. The really good thing. When other people take credit for what she’s done, she doesn’t really care. In the famous quote from the end of season 1, she tells Agent Sousa, plain and simply, “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” What a completely revolutionary thing for a super-hero, let alone a woman super-hero, to say.