Agent Carter and Marvel's Mission of Cinematic Dominance
Unless you’ve been completely ignoring pop culture since 2008, you’ll have noticed that the Marvel cinematic universe has been making the most popular movies since Iron Man, and has stretched its hand further than any prequel or sequel movie genre ever has. This year alone, there will be three new movies, four new shows airing on Netflix, and two shows currently running on ABC. The most recent of these shows, Agent Carter, just finished its first season airing, and the object of this article is to hopefully explain where the show came from, summarize the eight-episode plot, and then show how it fits back into the Marvel cinematic universe and why it has necessary information that can apply to the movies; so, unless you are completely caught up in the movies, there will be SPOILERS ahead.
Agent Carter began during Captain America: The First Avenger with Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) acting as Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans), or better known as Captain America’s, superior in the American army during WWII. After the events of Captain America, when Steve crashes into a frozen tundra and is believed dead, Peggy goes back to America to work for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.), an organization that will one day turn into the S.H.I.E.L.D. we all know and love (and no, it’s not the YU news channel).
On every DVD/Blu-ray release of a Marvel movie, it includes something they call a “Marvel one-shot.” It’s a five- to ten-minute short clip that can tie into the plot of the movie it came out with. For Captain America, it was a one-shot titled Agent Carter. This video followed Carter while she worked at the S.S.R., and since it was the 1940s, women were overlooked and asked to only be receptionists. Knowing that she was a better agent than all the men, Carter decided to take matters into her own hands, so she went out into the field, took down an entire gang, and was then promoted to Agent in the S.S.R.. The TV show follows Carter after this promotion.
The main plot of the show follows Carter working at the S.S.R., where they are trying to capture Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) for treason, while also working with Stark to try and find the people who framed him. To assist her in clearing his name, Stark enlists his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy).
In the beginning of the show, we see that Carter is unappreciated and overlooked as an agent at the S.S.R. because she is a woman. During a briefing, it is revealed that Howard Stark, who had worked with Peggy and Captain America during WWII, has been selling weapons overseas. He is marked as a traitor and everyone is told to find and arrest him. Soon after, Carter gets a call from Stark explaining that his vault had been robbed and that he had done nothing wrong. Carter decides to work as a double agent, messing up the S.S.R.’s investigations of Stark while also trying to find the stolen weapons and clear his name.
Eventually, the investigation leads the S.S.R. to believe that Stark will be selling weapons in Russia, so Carter and a few other agents are sent to investigate and stop the sale. They find nothing of Stark’s in the Russian base, but they are attacked by soldiers guarding a prisoner. Carter manages to get everyone out safely, including the prisoner, Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown).
After returning to America, it is discovered that Carter had been assisting Stark throughout the entire investigation, and she is arrested for treason. During this commotion, Carter realizes that Dr. Ivchenko is a skilled hypnotist who can convince people to kill themselves. Carter convinces the other agents in the office that she is telling the truth about Stark when she points out that Dr. Ivchenko has been communicating in Morse code to another Russian spy. But before they can act, he escapes.
Before he leaves, the doctor takes one of Stark’s weapons; the only issue is that nobody knows what it does. We find out soon enough, when it is released in a crowded movie theater. The gas, created by Stark, turns people mad with a complete bloodlust towards any other living creature. When the S.S.R. finally arrive, everyone in the theater is dead. Soon afterwards, Carter figures out that the doctor’s plan is to release the gas over all of New York during a huge parade, creating pandemonium and a chance for Russia to attack. His plan is thwarted right in the nick of time, and the doctor is arrested.
The final scene of the show is perhaps the most important, and explains many of the events that take place in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dr. Ivchenko, whose real name we discover is actually Dr. Fennhoff, is escorted to a prison cell with his mouth bound shut so that he cannot hypnotize any of the guards. He is shoved into the cell and the door is locked. His new cellmate, however, recognizes him, and tells him that, together, they can take down the entire organization that brought them there. This character is none other than the scheming Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) from the first Captain America.
This one scene explains so much. As we all know, in the second Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D. falls, since for over 50 years it had been infiltrated by Hydra, the terrorist organization that came into power alongside the Nazis. We also see in the movie that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was once Captain America’s best friend, has no memory of being friends with—or even knowing—him, and is now set on killing him. From what we see in Agent Carter, we can make a few assumptions. Drs. Zola and Fennhoff, who we also find out in Cap 2 were asked by S.H.I.E.L.D. to be scientists for the good of humanity (as many Nazi scientists were asked to do by America after WWII), used this freedom to plot their rise back to power. Fennhoff used his hypnotizing ability to erase Bucky’s memories and make him want to kill Captain America. Meanwhile, Zola went around S.H.I.E.L.D. convincing agents that Hydra is the organization that everyone should be working for. We see the fruits of their labor in Cap 2 when S.H.I.E.L.D. is completely destroyed, the Winter Soldier nearly kills Captain America, and Hydra rises again more powerful than ever before. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will pick up with the few scattered agents left, led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who will try to disband Hydra for good.
All this information is necessary to completely understand all the events in the Marvel movies, and there’s a lot to keep up with: twelve movies out now, with eleven more scheduled to come out until the end of 2019, two TV shows, five more series coming out on Netflix, five Marvel one-shots, and thirteen tie-in comic book series. It’s a large commitment, and maybe not all of it is worth it, but for the most part, I’ve been having a great time. Keep ‘em coming, Marvel.