Agent Carter airs its season finale tonight, and it might turn out to be the series finale, depending on a few factors. But if ABC is smart, it won’t let Agent Carter slip out of its hands to Netflix or into oblivion. It’s not just a great action series, it’s arguably the best thing ABC has on the air right now.
The first season of Agent Carter was great stuff, but it was somewhat limited in scope, both by the fact that it was an expansion of a quite good short film and by Marvel’s uncertainty there was an audience. The focus was on Carter’s work with the SSR and very much about the difficulties a woman, no matter how capable, would face in a post-WWII boys’ club. That said, it was still an unexpected show, a feminist neo-pulp that enjoyed being part of Marvel without being beholden to merchandise. The ratings weren’t world-beating, but they were good enough to make a second season happen.
So Tara Butters and Michelle Fazekas got the writing team together and swung for the fences, delivering a season that’s packed with action and comedy while having something genuine to say about the choices women have to make. The entire series has made a sharp contrast between Whitney Frost and Peggy Carter. Frost is a great villain, not least because the show carefully illustrates what she struggles with while not letting it excuse her actions. She’s got every right to be bitter over being defined by her looks instead of her genius-level intellect, but Peggy faced similar choices and pressures, something the show’s superb fourth episode revealed as it filled in both their origin stories. They both made choices, as the show points out without underlining it, and those choices had costs they had to pay.
Even supporting players like Chad Michael Murray, playing Peggy’s venal boss Jack Thompson, and Bridget Regan as the proto-Black Widow Dottie, have gotten some great stuff to work with. It’s the kind of show where Regan, playing a creepy dead-eyed murderer, can still be part of a hilarious sight gag. A show this deft and thoughtful isn’t just rare on network TV, it’s rare on television in the first place.
One way or the other, Hayley Atwell will be on ABC. She’s been cast in Conviction, a new pilot that sees her playing a spoiled child of privilege. And ABC is claiming that thanks to Agent Carter‘s short seasons, with eight episodes last season and 10 this, Atwell can juggle both shows. One suspects that much depends on audience response to Mockingbird: Marvel’s Most Wanted, a backdoor pilot we’ll be seeing later this season. Either way, we’ve had nine great episodes, and we’ll be enjoying a 10th tonight at 9 p.m. EST on ABC. Join us, won’t you?