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Marvel’s Agent Carter is a woman of substance

In Marvel's latest television series Agent Carter, Hayley Atwell reprises her role from the Captain America movies and rattles the old boys' network as a female action hero in postwar America.
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in Marvel's Agent Carter. Courtesy ABC
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in Marvel's Agent Carter. Courtesy ABC

What’s a girl to do when her boyfriend Captain America disappears for the rest of the century – and it’s only 1946?

Well, if like Peggy Carter you’re an independent woman in a male-­dominated post-war world, you take up spying and detective work and let those silly overgrown boys underestimate you at their peril.

In Marvel’s Agent Carter – a co-production of ABC Studios and Marvel Television – Hayley Atwell delightfully slips back into her iconic role from the Captain America movies The First Avenger and The Winter ­Soldier.

With the original movie writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely on board as the series creators, you just know Agent Carter is going to have plenty to do on her undercover assignments besides apply ­ruby-red lipstick, rock glamorous side-swept Veronica Lake hairdos and jitterbug in gorgeous gowns to big-band swing music.

“The main reason I want to go back [to Carter] is that she’s pretty undeveloped in the films – it’s quite two-dimensional,” says the London-born Atwell, 32, who holds dual American-­British ­citizenship.

“We’ve seen [Carter] very strong and physical. We’ve seen her being the love interest. But I think there’s so much more to explore about women of that time. Not just making it silly entertainment, but as something that explores what she would have gone through – the power dynamics in the office and working in a male-dominated environment.

“I just felt that there was so much richness and potential, in who she was, to explore this. That’s why it feels great to come back to her.”

Decades before Agent Phil Coulson and his team – who are midway through their second season in ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H. I. E. L. D TV show – swore to protect people, Carter also pledged the same oath to S.H. I. E. L. D’s precursor, the covert SSR ­(Strategic Scientific Reserve).

It was a time when women weren’t given credit for being as smart and tough as their male counterparts. As the soldiers came home from war, the ­women – the ‘Rosie Riveters’ and others who had contributed so much to the war effort – were routinely sent back home to make supper and babies.

In peacetime, the highly skilled Carter finds herself marginalised – stuck doing clerical work when she would rather be back in the field taking out the bad guys.

Adding to the drama, inner battles affect Carter as much as the physical ones. Emotionally, she is struggling to rebuild her life as a single woman in America, in the aftermath of losing Steve Rogers – Captain America – who was the love of her life.

When an old friend, the ­genius industrialist Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) – who will one day father Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man – finds himself framed for offering his deadliest weapons to anyone willing to pay, he turns to Carter. The only person he can trust, he asks her to find the real guilty parties, get rid of the weapons and clear his name.

In her corner Carter has a cool middleman and ally, Stark’s fussy butler Edwin Jarvis (played by James D’Arcy), who does his best to keep up with her.

In the two-hour premiere, Carter investigates whether Stark is as innocent as he claims. “The pilot is brilliant,” says ­Atwell. “The idea is, because it’s eight episodes, it’s going to be a very contained, intense adventure, with lots of twists and turns along the way.”

While the female action heroes in the Marvel Universe are easily outnumbered by the guys, ­Atwell sees Carter as a step in the right direction.

“It’s a flaw that Marvel is willing to correct, and to develop, because I can see there’s been a real interest in social media in strong women in this kind of franchise,” she says. “You’ve got Pepper Pots in Iron Man.

“So I think Peggy is a great role model. She’s part of that new wave of great heroines that young girls can look up to.”

The two-hour premiere of Marvel’s Agent Carter broadcasts at 9pm on Wednesday on OSN First HD


Updated: January 4, 2015 04:00 AM



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