March 2, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Agent Carter”


The signs are foreboding for AGENT CARTER:  not only have the Season 2 ratings gone from lukewarm to frigid, but star Hayley Atwell has signed for another ABC pilot (although since the same studio and network are involved, and Carter only produces a limited number of episodes each season, doing both isn’t impossible).  It would be too bad if this turned out to be the end for the Marvel hiatus series, because with a shift in showrunners to Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, Agent Carter had a spring in its step this year that it lacked the first time around.

Season 1 had beaten the gong of SHIELD precursor SSR’s constant belittling and underestimation of Peggy Carter (Atwell) as a mere female so often that although its heart was in the right place, it practically came emblazoned with “#MarvelSoMale” on the screen.  Fazekas & Butters got to the same place much more entertainingly, by making most of the protagonists of Season 2 women:  not just Peggy, but central villain Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), a Hollywood movie star and brilliant scientist modeled after the real-life Hedy Lamarr; Ana Jarvis (Lotte Verbeek), the previously-unseen supportive spouse of Peggy’s sidekick Jarvis (James D’Arcy); and the return of Peggy’s deadly frenemy, Soviet assassin Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan).  There were men around, of course, with a pair of potential romantic interests for Peggy in colleague Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) and physicist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin), but it was the women who had the meatiest roles and most developed backstories.  Late-season episodes that had Peggy reluctantly teaming with Dottie to bring down Whitney were more stylish and fun than anything the larger scale Agents of SHIELD has managed in 2 1/2 years on the air.  Fazekas and Butters also moved the action to Los Angeles, minimized the hey-look-how-1940s-we-are feel of Season 1, and all but eliminated Peggy’s moping over the (apparent) death of her great love Captain America.

Having said all this, the unfortunate truth was that tonight’s season finale, written by Fazekas & Butters from a story by fellow Executive Producer Chris Dingess, was far from its best hour.  The script veered away from the season’s strengths:  there was very little of Whitney, just a single scene for Ana, and no Dottie at all, and instead the episode put too much emphasis on weak (male) characters like Whitney’s thuggish beau Manfredi (Ken Marino, best in small doses) and insistently insouciant billionaire Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).  It proved ludicrously easy to solve the season’s major plotline, sucking evil otherworldly “Zero Matter” out of Whitney by setting up some kind of X-ray contraption and waiting for Whitney to show up.  The climax was reserved instead for Daniel trying to avoid being sucked into another dimension by means of a garden hose wrapped around his waist.  The long-postponed clinch between Peggy and Daniel was anti-climactic, and the cliffhanger coda felt like an afterthought.  Director Jennifer Getzinger did what she could with the material, but the set-piece sequence resembled a low-grade nod to Back To the Future.

Despite its inability to exit on a high note, Agent Carter is on the right track.  Atwell, as she’s been since Peggy’s introduction in the first Captain America movie, is a compelling heroine, and Wynn Everett was a breakout talent as Whitney.  The hostile chemistry between Atwell and Bridget Regan were so strong that Peggy and Dottie earned a spin-off of a spin-off of their own.  The plotting was mostly focused and backed by believable character development.

Network television, of course, is a business, and Marvel’s piece of it more than most.  Agent Carter will only return to the air if it makes economic sense, and in the current world of constantly declining ratings, only ABC and Disney know if that’s the case.  On its merits, though, Agent Carter deserves another mission.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."