ABC
January 06, 2015 05:30 PM

Even with Avengers: Age of Ultron set to hit theaters in May, Agent Carter just might be one of Marvel’s most highly anticipated offerings.

After the events of 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter follows Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as she navigates New York City in the 1940s as a double agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve – a precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D.

As she undergoes secret missions for Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) to clear his name, she is forced to overcome the endless obstacles put in front of her that come from being a single woman in the 1940s. Meanwhile, she continues to mourn the loss of the love of her life, Steve Rogers.

We’ve seen the two-hour premiere, and it’s a must-watch. Here’s are five reasons why.

1. Agent Carter Can Contribute Heavily to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Canon

Hayley Atwell (as Peggy Carter) in Agent Carter
Michael Desmond/ABC

Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter has time on its side. S.H.I.E.L.D. – despite many tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon – is hindered by spoilers and the high cost of having Avengers drop in for cameos. Set in the 1940s, Carter has freedom to expand the universe as we know it – it can flesh out details, provide backstory and just generally make the canon a richer, more colorful place.

For example, in the pilot, we meet the father of one of Tony Stark’s enemies. The reveal lends a certain sense of foreboding to the story without spoiling what’s to come.

Furthermore, Peggy is a founding member of the as-yet-to-be-formed S.H.I.E.L.D. Dominic Cooper reprises his role as Howard Stark from the 2011 film, and Tony Stark’s robot butler, Jarvis, takes human form in his father’s actual butler, Edwin Jarvis.

2. Agent Carter Keeps it in the Family

Hayley Atwell (as Peggy Carter) in Agent Carter
Kelsey McNeal/ABC

For those afraid of new things, don’t be – some of the writing credits for the series include Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, both of whom wrote the screenplay for Captain America: The First Avenger. Joe Russo also shares some of the directing credits for Carter – alongside brother Anthony, the Russos directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Furthermore, showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have a connection to Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed The Avengers: The two worked on his (short-lived and under-appreciated) 2009 series Dollhouse.

3. Agent Carter‘s Cast Is Incredible

Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Atwell is no doubt a shining star (more on her below), but the show isn’t being carried on her narrow shoulders. We already know Cooper to be excellent from his role in Captain America, but so, too, is butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). His dry British wit is perfect here, as he long-sufferingly acts as Peggy’s sidekick (and tender of wounds).

Chad Michael Murray, of One Tree Hill fame, acts as blowhard Agent Jack Thompson. It’s reminiscent of Murray’s role as pigtail-pulling Tristan on Gilmore Girls, but with more institutionalized sexism. Enver Gjokaj (another Dollhouse vet), as disabled veteran Daniel Sousa, is the “nice guy” acting as Murray’s foil (but, sometimes, doing Peggy just as much harm as anyone else).

Finally, while every member of the cast pulled their weight in Carter‘s premiere, Lyndsy Fonseca deserves a final special mention for her portrayal of waitress Angie Martinelli. She and Peggy become fast friends as Angie unintentionally reminds her new best friend what, exactly, she’s fighting for.

4. Agent Carter is Marvel Studios’ First Female-Led Adaptation

Hayley Atwell (as Peggy Carter) in Agent Carter
Michael Desmond/ABC

This is a huge deal. Not only is Agent Carter Marvel’s first foray into a female-led brand, but it’s also the first time a woman has been the face of a comic book adaptation since 2005’s Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner. (Really not the impression that women want to be making on the comic book world.)

If Agent Carter performs well, it just may prove to Marvel Studios that female-led franchises are worthwhile and profitable enterprises. After all, despite a female Captain Marvel set for a 2018 release, there are still 20 – out of 21 – titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon led by men. Little girls need to believe that they can run the world, too. (Is a Black Widow movie too much to ask for?!)

5. Hayley Atwell, in Particular, Is a Delight

Hayley Atwell (as Peggy Carter) in Agent Carter
Eric McCandless/ABC

No, seriously. Have you checked out her Twitter? When she’s not apologizing to actors for thinking they were stuntmen or revealing that she accidentally head-butted herself (or that she punched the clapper board), she’s sharing Peggy’s exact makeup so that you, too, can get that perfect red lip.

More seriously, though, she is a force to be reckoned with. After featuring in Captain America: The First Avenger, Atwell’s presence was so captivating that Marvel bet on her to run a series herself. Like Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson, who leads Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Atwell’s relatively minor role in the canon quickly made her a fan favorite. If her appearance in Captain America wasn’t enough to win you over, Carter surely will.

In Carter, Atwell effortlessly portrays a woman whose agency is continually threatened by the men around her. However, Peggy uses her wit and sexuality as a weapon, taking down not only the “bad guys” who would do ’40s New York City harm, but also the micro-aggressions she suffers on a constant, by-the-minute basis at the SSR.

That said, Peggy also has some very real vulnerabilities, which are played by Atwell with empathy and authenticity. Peggy Carter is no caricature, and that’s a pretty rare role for a woman in Hollywood to enjoy and a valuable thing for women – and men – to see play out on their screens.

Agent Carter‘s two-hour premiere kicks off Monday on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. Seriously – tune in.

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