When Marvel fans heard we would be getting a TV show focusing on Peggy Carter, we were ecstatic. Peggy was featured as Steve Rogers' love interest in "Captain America: The First Avenger," and we saw her seventy years later in "Captain America Two: The Winter Solider." She also had a short film called "Agent Carter" (the show has the same name). We were excited to see her backstory; what had lead her to be a part of the secret project that created Captain America? What was is like being a woman in the army in 1944? What happened in those seventy years? With the premiere of "Agent Carter" on ABC last January, we thought we would finally get answers. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
The first season was pretty solid as far as first seasons go. After World War II ended, Peggy (Hayley Attwell) moved to New York, working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (an organization that would eventually turn into S.H.I.E.L.D, the shady government organization from the Marvel movies). Though she was the only woman agent working there and was often regulated to secretarial duties, she wasn't hesitant to knock some of her male coworkers down a peg. The main storyline involved helping Howard Stark (Iron Man's father, played wonderfully by Dominic Cooper) clear his name after he was accused of selling his inventions to America's enemies. Peggy has to carry out this mission in secret (with the help of Howard's butler, Edwin Jarvis, played by James D'Arcy), as the rest of the SSR is convinced that Howard is guilty and they must bring him to justice.
Fans fought tooth and nail for a second season, but it didn't quite pan out the way we wanted it to.
In the first season, Peggy lived with her waitress friend Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca) in an all-female building called the Griffith. There were many scenes where all the tenants interacted, including an entertaining scene where they all discussed how they stole food from the dining hall back up to their room. It was a small scene, but it meant so much. We saw Peggy interact with her neighbors and Angie almost every episode; their bond only added to the show's magic. In the finale, Peggy and Angie move in to one of Howard's expansive mansions together.
One major change that the fans noted, even before the second season aired, was that Angie was no longer in it. In a way this seems right; Peggy's work with the SSR took her across the country to Los Angeles, and Angie staying behind in New York while she tried to make it on Broadway makes sense. However, there's no mention of her at all. Despite the fact that she and Peggy moved in together at the end of last season, there's been no mention of their shared home. It could be as simple as an occasionally phone call, but we've been deprived of Angie's presence and their friendship, and the show suffers from the lack of female characters and friendships.
One thing that has remained consistent is Peggy going up against female villains. In season one, it was Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), a Soviet spy and another product of the Russian "Black Widow" program. She and Peggy were evenly matched in both skill and wit, and Dottie returns in season two, alongside the main villain, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett).
Another disappointing aspect was the addition of not one, but two love triangles. In season one, it was painfully obviously that one of Peggy's coworker, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), was head over heels in love with her. Peggy was friendly with him, but showed no signs of reciprocating his feelings. When he finally got the courage to ask her on a date (in the season one finale), she politely declined, saying she had plans with a friend. (That friend was Angie.)
From the first episode of season two, it was written as if Peggy and Sousa had had an epic romance last season. She looked at him like he was everything, and he acted like she'd wounded him by turning him down. It makes absolutely no sense when compared to how things were left. Peggy never gave any indication that she was interested in Sousa, and when he did ask her out, she let him down gently. It really seemed as if Peggy was more likely to start dating Angie rather than him.
In season two, Sousa was made chief of the LA branch of the SSR, and he had a steady girlfriend to whom he planned on proposing. However, this didn't last long, as she realized that Sousa still had feelings for Peggy. Meanwhile, Peggy began to get close to Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin). A lot of fans were excited to have Wilkes, even if he was Peggy's love interest; one of the main criticisms of the first season was its lack of diversity. However, he seems to be there only to provide another angle in the love triangle, and to be the bad guy (His character has flipped around so much fans can't figure out if he's good or bad anymore).
Even the few things season to tried to do right, it somehow botched. We got to see more of Peggy's backstory, which included an engagement (for those of you keeping track, that means she's had four love interests in the span of about three years) and an older brother who encouraged her to find a way to help the war. The problem with that is it takes away some, if not all, her independence; by having all her choices revolve around the men in her life, the show completely negates what it accomplished in terms of female characters' independence in season one.
We also saw a bit of Whitney Frost's backstory, which actually worked well: her interest in science were continually surprised, and she was frequently encouraged to smile and be nice to men who creeped her out. As she got older, she realized that if she smiled, if she looked pretty, she could more easily manipulate people, men in particular.
We were introduced to Jarvis' wife, Ana (Lotte Verbeek), who is a bright ray of sunshine. We also have more of Lesley Boone's character Rose, who was only seen briefly in the previous season. However, Rose is frequently underestimated by the men in charge (mostly Sousa) and Ana is shot and rendered infertile, for no good reason other than it added to the drama of one episode. Much like Peggy's previous engagement, it did nothing for the overall plot of the show.
We also got to see more of the men in charge; Ray Wise's one time character from the first season makes a few more appearances, and Kurtwood Smith appears as Vernon Masters, the head of a secret council (of, you guessed it, old white men who try to control everything). Chad Michael Murray's character, Agent Thompson, also got more unnecessary screen time. Thompson has proven, time and time again, to be nothing more than another sexist idiot, constantly demeaning Peggy and even going so far as to take credit for her success last season. He's more willing to believe what his male counterparts tell him than what Peggy says, even though Peggy has proven herself over and over to be an agent more than capable of handling herself. Jack Thompson does not deserve redemption, but for the last few episodes, it's been him, Sousa, and Masters (and a completely random SSR agent that somehow became important for no reason) who are helping Peggy, despite her being right all along.
Season two also turned up the comedy. Way, way up. It's gotten to the point where the humor overrides the actual plot; and the plot itself has gotten pretty convoluted. There was a completely random musical number (which normally I would absolutely love) that featured Angie telling Peggy she had to make a choice between her two love interests. The most frustrating part about this was that it was ridiculously out of place; Peggy and Jarvis had just been captured by Whitney Frost's henchmen. Who has time to worry about love interest when the bad guys have the upper hand?
In short, everything that fans loved in season one and wanted to see more in season two of was taken away in favor of cliche, tired storylines. We wanted more female friendships and more diversity, not more men telling Peggy what to do and certainly no love triangles. Personally, I want "Agent Carter" to get renewed for season three. I've been loving watching Peggy's adventures every week, and I've seen this show produce amazing episodes. The season one finale truly had me in tears. What set "Agent Carter" apart was the fact that its cast and plot were female driven; we could relate to Peggy being the only woman in her workplace, and we could relate to the bond she formed with the women around her. The only reason she was an even match for Dottie and Whitney is because they have so much in common, something the male agents who tried to take them down could never understand.
Hopefully, the writers will hear fans' critiques and realize that they need to step it up, or they will lose the fanbase that is fighting so hard to keep this show on the air. Agent Carter won't fail because it's a female-lead show; it failed this season because it took away the most important female relationships and instead chose to make the world revolve around men, just like every other show on television.