For the next eight weeks, this series will run in the place of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s 1946 and Peggy Carter, working for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s predecessor, must turn double agent in order to prove that Howard Stark isn’t a traitor.

Title: “Now is Not the End” and “Tunnel and Bridge”

Directed by Louis D’Esposito
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis
Shea Whigham as Roger Dooley
Lyndsy Fonseca as Angie Martinelli
Kyle Bornheimer as Ray Krzeminski
Meagen Fay as Miriam Fry
Bridget Regan as Dottie Underwood
Alexander Carroll as Agent Yauch
Chad Michael Murray as Jack Thompson
Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa
James Frain as Leet Brannis
Andre Royo as Spider Raymond
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Chris Evans as Captain America / Steve Rogers

Full cast and crew information may be found at the imdb

Premise

In the postwar era, Peggy Carter, still mourning Captain America’s apparent death, gets underused and misused by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s predecessor. When Howard Stark, under suspicion because some of his secret weapons have turned up in enemy hands, asks her help clearing his name, she must become a double agent to serve the greater good.

High Points

“Tunnel and Bridge” juxtaposes Carter’s adventures with a cheesy radio serial about Captain America, and its stock situations and sound effects. The results prove both hilarious and enlightening.

Low Point

Friendship notwithstanding, should Carter be taking an apartment that has a ten pm curfew? That just seems to be the show forcing secret-identity-shenanigans atop secret-identity-shenanigans.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 These episodes use numerous well-established tropes from comic books, action movies, and old serials. The hero must work against the system in order to enforce the values of the system. The female agent turns the sexist misperception of women to her advantage. People outrun explosions. Cliffhangers occur before each commercial break. Double identities cause crises, but none so great that the hero can’t save the world in her spare time. Nevertheless, Agent Carter uses these tropes and clichés with style and panache.

Effects: 5/6 Agent Carter appears to have a higher budget than S.H.I.E.L.D., and the effects are impressive. Some of the CGI used to put us in period is obvious if you look for it.

Acting: 6/6 The cast has great chemistry, most notably Atwell with both D’Arcy and Fonseca.

Story: 6/6 Despite the series having an overall arc, they did a great job of giving each episode some kind of story. I’ll excuse any issues with story on the grounds that we’re watching a tale in progress.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Production: 6/6 The show gives us a pulp-cover-bright version of postwar NYC, with some great retrofuturistic technology.

Overall: 5/6 I rarely watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I will definitely be following this mini-series to its conclusion.

In total, “Now is Not the End” and “Tunnel and Bridge” receive 37/42

Lingering Questions

I’ll accept that Carter, despite her incredible service record, gets misused after the war due to her sex. It certainly happened to many women in real life, and we’re reminded by a recent Hollywood film that it happened to other groups as well. But why is her identity so entirely a secret? Yes– she was a spy. But we’ve seen her involvements during the war. Did she never turn up in newsreel footage with Captain America and the Howling Commandoes? Did she have no public profile?

Howard Stark’s age lines up, in that he would have been in his mid-fifties when he fathered Tony. But does he look barely thirty in this movie? And he must have been some boy genius to have been a major contractor in his early twenties!

I’m not as versed in Marvel lore as some. Do we know how this will connect (as it will) to Age of Ultron?