×

Review: ‘Marvel’s Agent Carter’ Just Didn’t Have Legs (SPOILERS)

When critics are asked why they sometimes hedge when heaping praise on new series, an appropriate three-word response would be “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” Despite an extremely handsome pilot and appealing lead in Hayley Atwell, the ABC limited series meandered through several episodes that merely seemed to inch the story along, rallying only slightly in the not wholly satisfying conclusion. So while the show represented an enterprising line extension of the Marvel universe, the experiment has to be viewed as a miss, at least creatively speaking, which just didn’t have legs.

Like all of Marvel’s properties (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched the finale), “Agent Carter” derived some additional oomph from tying into the company’s flagship titles – in this case, both “Captain America” and “Iron Man,” inasmuch as the latter’s father, wealthy playboy/inventor Howard Stark (an under-used Dominic Cooper), set the storyline in motion.

Those assets, however, were largely squandered, as the writers failed to develop the characters much beyond Atwell’s Peggy Carter and James D’Arcy as Stark’s inordinately loyal butler, Jarvis. Nor did the Boris-and-Natasha villains ever truly pop, although the latter did at least provide an excuse for several well-choreographed fights.

Even the closing moment, which brought in Toby Jones to link everything back to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” followed the studio’s ambitious pattern of connecting its projects without providing much incentive to demand seeing the next chapter of Agent Carter’s story.

It’s a shame, really, because the show appeared to have so much going for it: A great look, smashing lead, rare period trappings, and an interesting exploration of the sexism Carter faced in a mostly boys club, despite her World War II resume.

Instead, “Agent Carter” goes down as little more than a footnote, providing another demonstration that peddling superhero-adjacent real estate isn’t quite the same thing as the Avengers mansion. And while the ratings weren’t bad – with aggregate seven-day tune-in roughly matching “Agents of SHIELD,” even if the audience in the key younger demographics was lower – the exercise essentially just kept the lights on for ABC, creating a credible reason for the present-day spy series to take a breather before beginning a stretch of original episodes into the spring.

It’s also another reminder that despite Marvel’s Midas touch at the box office, TV has been a slightly different nut to crack. Because as much as Atwell rocked those vintage costumes, after the pilot “Agent Carter” ultimately lacked the kind of accessories that would have made it truly take off.

More TV

  • Baldvin-Z

    Iceland’s Baldvin Z Crime Series “Black Sands” Added to All3Media Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden  All3Media is to handle international rights on Icelandic crime series “Black Sands” which, currently in development, is to be pitched at the Göteborg Festival’s TV Drama Vision confab on Thursday. “Black Sands” marks the first crime thriller to be created by Icelandic helmer Baldvin Z (“Trapped”) since the hit series “Case.” Commissioned by [...]

  • Justin Timberlake performs onstage during the

    Ad Time in Fox's Super Bowl Was Sold Out. Until it Wasn't

    Fox declared in November that it had sold all the advertising time available in its looming February 2 broadcast of Super Bowl LIV. But just this week, it found a little more. After holding nearly two months’ worth of discussions, Fox and the National Football League have devised a way to add commercial inventory to [...]

  • NBC Orders Drama Pilot 'Ordinary Joe'

    NBC Orders Drama Pilot 'Ordinary Joe' From 'House' Alums

    NBC has given out its fifth drama pilot order for the 2020-2021 season. The broadcaster has commissioned “Ordinary Joe.” It explores the three parallel lives of the show’s main character after he makes a pivotal choice at a crossroads in his life. The series asks the question of how different life might look if you [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho 'Parasite' Director

    Listen: Who Will Take Home the Oscars for Best Director and Picture?

    The Oscars are just two weeks away, so it’s time to start making final predictions about who is going to win. On this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, I invited the magazine’s deputy awards and features editor (and my “Pick of the Week” co-host) Jenelle Riley onto the show [...]

  • Dazzler, Tigra, Hit-Monkey, and M.O.D.O.K.

    'Howard the Duck,' 'Tigra & Dazzler' Animated Marvel Shows Not Moving Forward at Hulu

    Marvel Television’s remaining slate continues to dwindle. Variety has confirmed that the animated shows “Howard the Duck” and “Tigra & Dazzler” — two of four animated Marvel projects set up at Hulu — are no longer in the works at the streamer. The other two shows, “M.O.D.O.K” and “Hit Monkey,” are currently still on track [...]

  • Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi movie

    After 'Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi Delay, Is the Force Still Strong With Disney Plus?

    The issues on Disney Plus’ Obi-Wan Kenobi series are either a minor stumble or a portent of trouble ahead, depending on who you ask. It was reported on Thursday that series writer Hossein Amini was no longer attached to the project as Disney wished to overhaul the scripts. The move led to pre-production in London [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content