I used to think that every new entry into Marvel’s Cinematic universe needed to change the game. I’d be disappointed if I came out of one of their movies and some game changing event hadn’t happened, something that would send ripples throughout all following productions. As the shared universe has grown and spiderwebbed out into more compartmentalised stories, I’ve come to realise that this was a silly thing to expect. That’s not to say that some things that come from Marvel probably should have more far reaching consequences than they end up showing.
What I’m dancing around here is Agent Carter; Marvel’s period series set in the time between the first Captain America movie and the first Iron Man movie. And what Hayley Atwell does while she isn’t gunning for Sam Jackson’s cameo record. I just finished watching the second series and found myself wondering what the point of it all was. As of now, there are two factors that I tend to find myself judging any MCU product by.
The first is how good the series is as a stand alone product, if the uninitiated could view it and still get some enjoyment out of it. The Netflix series are the perfect example of doing this. While they seem to have very little to do with the other shows and movies in their shared universe, they’re so good on their own that it doesn’t matter.
The other factor is how they affect the shared universe around them. Marvel’s other series, Agents of Shield isn’t the best written show on TV. It certainly has good moments, but feels like it drags at times. What it does very well though is establish itself in its universe. Shield feels like it takes place amongst the movies and has a real place.
I feel like if any of Marvel’s productions can do at least one of these things really well, then I’m happy with the time spend. When it comes to Agent Carter, I don’t feel like this second series managed either particularly well, and it makes me wonder whether Marvel might finally be started to hit a point of overreach.
When Agent Carter first aired I assumed the entire series would go from the character being the agent we saw in the first Captain America to a character instrumental in the state of the current Marvel universe as the creator of Shield. I quite enjoyed the first series of Agent Carter, it had a noir edge to it. There was a heavy focus on gender roles in the first series that is as relevant now as it was then. Being a working woman in the 40s Peggy was constantly being looked over and underestimated.
It was a story about a person overcoming adversity and working against the system. Peggy was the most capable person in the room, despite being held back at every turn. The subterfuge and secrecy of the primary plot line worked in tandem with its themes and was enjoyable overall. However, the second series is a rather large departure in tone and theme. much to its detriment.
Gone is the dark and gloomy side streets of New York, replaced by the bright and sunny Los Angeles. And with the change in setting there is a change in tone. Everything in this series feels much brighter and less interesting as a result. The second series has a much more female centric cast, all of which are very competent and, like Peggy, are the strength of the events in the series.
While I’m not complaining about this in itself, it takes away from one of the many reasons that I enjoyed the first season so much, it was dark and carried tones of espionashe and noir. The second season is a bright and merry jaunt, and airing consecutively with Agent’s of Shield, it managed to blend into the background as the series seems to be cut very much from the same cloth.
The big concern I have is that because there is a familiar trend in tone and writing style of these Marvel productions, things might start to get repetitive and suffer for it. It’s a perception that people who aren’t a fan of the movies will use to criticise the shared universe. I worry that perception is becoming real, and Carter is a very good example of it, containing all of the shallow villain characterisation and smart arse dialogue that has littered the series since the first Iron Man.
The snarky, quippy nature of the MCU is starting to become something of a burden. The tone of the second series feels like such a departure from the first one, and to what end. It took something unique and made it fit the more generic mould that the series is starting to get criticised for. Marvel have varied the genre of their movies, making period pieces, heist movies, space operas and espionage thrillers. Despite this, they do share a common tone and writing style.
My concern is that as the movies go on, there are parts that seem less ambitious than others. As much as I enjoyed Ant-Man, broad strokes of it felt like things I’d seen before in previous MCU movies. It’s part of my major problem with Agent Carter’s second season, it doesn’t feel unique or interesting. It went form being something unique to feeling very similar to the other syndicated show in Agents of Shield. With this in mind, it worries me a fair bit that Marvel felt the need to spin off Agents of Shield into yet another series.
Marvel’s Most Wanted is the latest new show to air and be set in the MCU. It stars two characters from Shield as they break away on their own. As much as I enjoy Hunter and Bobbi’s characters in Shield, I never thought they were strong enough to carry a show on their own. Starring two of the snarkiest, quip spouting characters the MCU has to offer.
The more Marvel reach, the faster they’re going to burn out. At least, that’s my worry. This superhero boom isn’t going to last forever, but it’s becoming so all encompassing that I feel like every company and studio is throwing their had in the ring now to try and make some money from it before they burn us all out completely.