owlmoose: (lady business - kj)
[personal profile] owlmoose posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Thursday, May 12th, was a day of highs and lows for fans of television shows that feature female superheroes. First came the news that Supergirl -- an imperfect show, but one with a lot of promise and a strong focus on relationships between women -- was renewed for a second season and will be moving from CBS to The CW. This change is likely a good long-term move for the show, since The CW has a friendlier viewer demographic, and several of the other DC-related shows are already there (allowing for easier crossovers). Unfortunately, I barely had time to be happy about this development before ABC announced that Agent Carter will not be receiving a third season.

Friends, this sucks. In the space of one week, I lost my beloved Peggy Carter twice: once to her canonical death in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (admittedly a timely, touching, and appropriate death that closed her character arc and moved Steve's and Sharon's forward, but still), and once to cancellation. I confess that when I watched Captain America: Civil War a second time last Friday, the day after the show news broke, I got notably closer to tears during the funeral scene than I had the first time around. Unless it's continued in the comics, or the show finds a home on another network, Peggy's story is really over. And while I enjoyed the story that she got, she deserved so much more.

So, let's talk about that story. When I last looked in on Agent Carter, we were halfway through the second season, and I was happy so far, with a few reservations. And in the end, I don't think my opinion changed much -- the show did a few things I didn't care for, but I had a good time watching it. The season held together as a single story, and it ended in a satisfying manner overall. Except, of course, the final scene, which ended the show on a hell of a cliffhanger (which may now never be resolved). But as for where Peggy herself ended up, I'm reasonably content.

If this season has a theme, it's power: who has it, who wants it, what people will do if they get it. In particular, consider the contrast between Jason Wilkes and Whitney Frost. Whitney and Jason are both brilliant scientists who have gone unrecognized because of marginalized identities, and yet they react to being infected with Zero Matter in entirely different ways. Jason fears Zero Matter and the danger it poses, to the point that he utterly rejects it and tries to retreat from it. First he becomes insubstantial, at risk for vanishing from the world entirely. Later, after he absorbs more Zero Matter from the rift, he violently expels it, not caring if he dies in the process. In contrast, Whitney embraces Zero Matter's power and potential, no matter the cost to herself or others. She sees Zero Matter as a route out of her dead-end life: married to an empty-suited politician, movie career fading, her scientific genius left unremarked. Instead, she sets herself to take over the Council, then rule the world. And given what we learn about her history, it's a path that makes sense for her; meanwhile, I get the impression that Jason has always worked to fit into a world that would disempower him, hoping to rise above by staying under the radar. In comparison, I would say that Peggy lies somewhere in between the two, in terms of how she uses her own power -- she's not afraid to take risks, but she makes every effort to see that other people aren't hurt by them, even though she doesn't always succeed in keeping everyone safe.

This tension has always been a theme with Peggy, and never more so than during the mid-season arc with Dottie. One of the most exciting developments was Peggy's decision to work with the enemy of her enemy by calling in Dottie to extract the Zero Matter from Whitney. I had hoped for this exact team-up from the moment Dottie was arrested, and I was not disappointed. Peggy and Dottie make a fantastic team, even while knowing that they can't trust each other in the slightest. And given Peggy's sense of responsibility, there was no way that Peggy was going to leave Dottie either roaming free or in Whitney's hands, even knowing it was a trap. I do wonder, though if she would have behaved differently had she known that Jason was Whitney's real target.

I also appreciated the face-off between Whitney and Dottie. It's rare enough to get even one suitably threatening and well-rounded female antagonist; here we have two, and their interactions are excellent. Up to that point, Dottie had never shown fear or worry, no matter how bad her situation, but she is terrified of Whitney. Which is an effective way of raising the stakes: if not even Dottie is confident in her ability to defeat Whitney, what hope does anyone else have?

All told, I would rank Whitney in the top tier of MCU antagonists. She may, in fact, be one of my favorite villains of all time -- a fascinating character with many layers of personality, clear and even sympathetic motivations, and a real chance of winning. Although more of an enigma, Dottie is similarly excellent, and I'm glad both of them survived to potentially appear again someday.

Other things I liked: Ana Jarvis was a great character, an excellent ordinary person to keep everyone grounded. Rose continued to kick ass. I was amused by Dr. Samberly and his longing to be part of the team. Peggy and Edwin Jarvis have such an excellent friendship, and I thought their fight in the desert was handled beautifully. Dottie foreshadowing the rise of HYDRA within the ranks of the SSR/SHIELD in her jailhouse conversation with Peggy was a nice touch. The dream sequence was a delight, especially Angie's inclusion (though I do wish we had seen more of her).

One thing that surprised me: Jack Thompson. His character really grew on me over the course of the season -- although I don't know that I would go quite as far as Peggy in declaring him "a good man", he's not the obnoxious, violent misogynist we met in the first season. Perhaps the responsibility of running the New York office has matured him somewhat, although there's a clear tension between his desire to move up the ranks and to do the right thing. His machinations were well handled -- I was kept guessing as to his true intentions throughout, and I totally bought that he would have betrayed the team to Whitney for a seat on the Council. Good man or no, Jack is clearly a good agent, able to read a situation and play it effectively to his own ends.

In the end, I'm not quite sure how I feel about Jason. His increasing desperation to get rid of the Zero Matter -- from suggesting that Peggy kill Dottie rather than spending more time on a rescue attempt, to threatening Peggy's life for information, to embracing what he assumes will be his death -- makes sense on reflection (I appreciated Daniel Sousa's comparison to what he might do in order to walk again), it still feels like inconsistent characterization. I was also not a fan of the way the way his romance with Peggy fizzled out, in favor of her long-teased partnership with Daniel. Nothing against Daniel, whom I've always liked (a good man, decent without being too perfect, the rare depiction of a character with a disability who is neither villain nor saint), or the Peggy/Daniel 'ship (I've seen it coming from the beginning of Season One and like it perfectly well as an endgame for her -- there are many reasons why Daniel works as Peggy's "right partner"), but I would have enjoyed seeing stronger development of Peggy with Jason: a real exploration of how these two outsiders might work together to make each other stronger, rather than turning it into an unworkable infatuation -- particularly in the context of what I said in my previous post about interracial relationships.

(Historical aside: of course, if Daniel Sousa is Italian-American, and there are indications that he was meant to be, then in 1940s America he wouldn't necessarily be considered white. When Southern Europeans, including Italians (and Albanians, which is where actor Enver Gjokaj's father is from) first immigrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, they were seen as people of color and suffered from discrimination. Especially in the first season, Sousa is treated as lesser by some of his SSR colleagues, and I've wondered if that was an intentional choice by the show creators -- complicated, of course, by his disability. I am not nearly knowledgeable enough about changing definitions of whiteness in America to attempt a serious discussion of this issue, but I wanted to throw it out there, and maybe hear what other people think.)

The other big thing that bothered me was the near-fridging of Ana Jarvis. The last thing we needed in the MCU was another infertility plot, although at least it was handled better than in Age of Ultron. I have such conflicted feelings about this storyline -- I can certainly understand why Edwin would grieve for the loss of the children he wanted and will never have, and yet I'm so done with the trope that infertility and/or childlessness is the worst fate than can ever befall a person, especially a woman. I was also not thrilled that the narrative centered Edwin's reaction rather than Ana's. Because we don't see her learning the news, we never hear her true feelings about her loss -- all we hear is filtered through her acceptance of Peggy's condolences. Moving the camera away to give Edwin and Anna a private moment was a sensitive choice, but it came at the cost of Anna's characterization. Surely we could have found a way to have both.

The finale did leave us with a number of open questions, which may now never be answered. Official word from Fazekas and Butters is that Jack Thompson's fate was meant to be ambiguous, but I dunno. He looks pretty dead to me, folks. So, who killed him? Was it really just to get Peggy's file, or was some other motivation involved? (Could Vernon Masters have survived the explosion at the waste treatment plant? We never see a body.) What does the key open? What is Daniel's story? He keeps mum about his war record, and we don't find out why he's considered a war hero, or how he lost his leg, or why he won't talk about it. Does Leviathan become HYDRA, and what's the connection with the Council of Nine? (You aren't telling me that those lapel pins aren't connected to the ancient HYDRA logo, as seen Season 3, of Agents of SHIELD. The resemblance is far too obvious.) How does the Agent Carter short fit into Peggy's story and the founding of SHIELD? Lots of meaty questions for future seasons to explore, except now we won't be getting any. Alas.

There is a fan-created petition asking Netflix to save Agent Carter, with over 80,000 signatures as of this writing. I don't have high hopes for it to succeed, but who knows? In the meantime, I will cherish the two awesome, if imperfect, seasons we received, and hope for Peggy's story to continue in some form. I already got more time with Peggy Carter than I'd dared to dream, and maybe my dreams will come true again someday.

Date: 2016-05-19 02:03 am (UTC)
newredshoes: radio tower on top of the world (agent carter | valor is a verb & a state)
From: [personal profile] newredshoes
Stranger from the network, but dropping by to theorize that Sousa is more generally a Portuguese name, and there are some old pockets of Portuguese communities especially on the Atlantic coast, including from the old whaling industry. I'm not certain how treatment would differ between coming from a Portuguese background and an Italian background at the time, but I hadn't considered Sousa's background as a reason for how he's treated in S1.

And I'm an eternal optimist -- people have apparently been contacting Netflix and getting encouraging answers, so it can't hurt to keep pushing. ABC was always a bad fit for the show -- if it had the creative freedom of Jessica Jones, I think a third season would be freaking magnificent.

Date: 2016-05-19 05:20 pm (UTC)
auronlu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] auronlu
For what it's worth, there's over 90,000 signatures and climbing on that petition, it's gone viral and gotten picked up on Twitter and by news outlets (if The Daily Mail and Mic.com may be considered news), and there's that post claiming that many of the cast and crew are retweeting it and that Netflix says that, indeed, "it is possible" they could pick up Agent Carter. That sounds like it's not only fans being pie-in-the-sky, although who knows. (It's not 100% clear to me that Netflix meant "save the show" rather than "stream existing episodes.")

Date: 2016-05-20 10:02 am (UTC)
chelseagirl: (Peggy Carter)
From: [personal profile] chelseagirl
I adored Agent Carter, flaws and all, as I haven't adored anything since Buffy finished its original run. I'm hoping against hope for the Netflix option.

I also agree that the Jason story line didn't live up to its potential -- I was really happy with both Jason and Daniel as potential romantic partners for Peggy, and it felt like he got shifted into another mode fairly quickly. What I really would have liked in subsequent seasons, I think, is for Peggy to be settled into a solid relationship with Daniel (with occasional work-life related tensions), and thus the romantic plot could take more of a backseat to the founding of SHIELD.

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