The world adjusts after the end of World War II, Howard Stark is accused of being a traitor to the United States, and Peggy Carter makes coffee.
New York City feels a sigh of relief as society begins to settle back into the swing of things. Jobs once held by women, as most of the men had gone off to war, are being given back to returning soldiers, because, obviously, men just know how to do things better.
This misogyny extends all the way to the secret offices of the Strategic Scientific Reserve. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), once a critical player in the SSR’s fight against Hydra and the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), is finding it difficult to settle back into the old way of doing things. While she was treated as an equal next to Captain America (Chris Evans) and Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) during the war, she is now seen as no more than an over enthusiastic secretary, ordered to answer phones and make coffee, instead of assisting the SSR in it’s mission of locating fugitive from justice, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).
Since assisting the SSR in the war, Stark’s inventions have appeared on the black market and in the hands of enemies of the United States. Instead of waiting for congress to debate his assumed guilt, Howard Stark enlists the help of his friend and comrade, Peggy. Her mission, should she choose to accept it, is to locate the remaining Stark inventions, Howard’s “bad babies,” that are too dangerous for anyone one to posses. While Peggy investigates leads in New York, Stark heads to Europe, following his own leads, but leaves behind help in the form of his trusted butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy).
Peggy is thrilled to be back in action, which she quickly finds, as she hunts down her first target, an explosive chemical formula. Jarvis, on the other hand, while willing to help in any way he can, is somewhat out of his depth in the world of espionage. As the duo find a way to work together, leading their investigation to an implosive ending, their true target is revealed.
Agent Carter’s series premiere effectively captures the tone of the 1940’s, from it’s music and style, right down to the ugly truths of misogyny and prejudice. While the show focuses on Carter’s own issues with the SSR, other examples of the disadvantages women faced spring up in characters such as diner waitress Angie Martinelli (Lyndsy Fonseca). Fortunately, just as there are examples of angels and demons in every society, not all men in this time period held a prejudice for women and feel superior to them. Fellow SSR Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) respects Carter for her service in the war and her abilities as an agent. He often comes to the defense of Carter, even while being ridiculed for his own handicap.
As Carter and Jarvis team up to clear Howard Stark’s name, there is also a fish-out-of-water theme around them. Carter was first seen in the trenches alongside Captain America, but now, behind a desk, Peggy Carter seems almost lost in this man’s world, while Jarvis seems the exact opposite, much more at home with the regular hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, and a bit of a blunder in the world of spies. This outsider theme is pushed even further with both Carter and Jarvis being two British natives in a sea of New Yorkers.
Marvel’s Agent Carter comes out strong in it’s series premiere with the introduction of it’s setting, plot, and leading character, Peggy Carter. While focusing on the idea of equality and proving that women can be just as capable as men, sometimes more so, it conveys this message by showing, and not telling.