giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
I've seen a lot of panic (mostly on Tumblr) about how the show isn't getting very high ratings, and everyone should spread the word and tune in so that we can show Marvel our support.

Leaving aside the fruitlessness of that kind of campaign, the basic problem is, I don't think Agent Carter is a very compelling show. I'm watching, I'm mildly enjoying, but it's not very good. And if it had more time it might - like a lot of shows - hit its stride, but it really isn't there yet.

See, the problem is, the show hasn't given us any kind of long term arc/goal to care about it.

The throughline from week to week - the thing that's supposed to keep us tuning in to see what happens - is the overarching story about Peggy clearing Howard Stark's name.

This is just not an interesting story. We know she will clear his name, and, well, maybe it's just me, but there are very few external (as in, external obstacles/action driven) plots that I ever care about. External plots - who the bad guys are, what evil weapons they'll pull out, whether they'll DESTROY THE WORLD etc - are like, MacGuffins. They're excuses to let us see people we care about do their thing - they aren't, themselves, going to be the driving force that gets people - or at least me - to tune in week after week. (Except in perhaps very rare circumstances where you have a Scandal-like set of increasingly insane plot developments.)

What's going to get me, at least, to tune in every week is a sense that the characters and the relationships have some kind of arc of development. I just sat, riveted, through a marathon rewatch of Gilmore Girls because I was desperate to see how if Lorelai would ever be able to settle into a comfortable relationship with her mother. Sure, I cared vaguely if her inn would get up and running, but that wasn't why I was watching the show.

Or to put it another way, I was obsessed with Supernatural not because I actually cared whether the boys would find their father; I cared whether they'd resolve their relationship with each other. And I only cared about Sam and the demon blood to the extent it impacted his relationship with Dean. Later, I cared about whether Cas would learn to understand humanity more; I cared how he'd come to terms with his relationship with Dean. I cared whether Dean would heal emotionally after his time in Hell. What was happening with Lucifer and the Horsemen was a sideshow - it was fodder to advance the characters.

I was obsessed with Person of Interest not because I cared whether Harold and John would save the Numbers or whether they'd get caught by Control; I cared whether Harold and John would be able to open up to each other.

I cared whether Buffy would accept her destiny. Whether Faith could be redeemed. Whether the Potentials could become an army, who they'd choose to follow.

I cared whether Illyria would come to terms with this new world she found herself in; I cared about how she'd settle into her relationship with Wesley.

Agent Carter has nothing like that, and worse, hasn't hinted that it knows it needs something like that. We have no sense that Peggy, as a person, needs to develop further - the barriers to her success are external. We have no sense that she has made - or will make - progress in persuading the men around her to respect her abilities; I mean, we know eventually she'll found SHIELD, I guess, but right now, there's no sense that winning over the men surrounding her is even a goal - the show has set her up to have essentially a secret identity.

She's mourning Steve Rogers, of course, but there's no sense that she has particular emotional problems that she needs to work through to develop as a person.

Howard Stark is at best a guest star; certainly they're not interested in exploring that relationship.

The closest the show comes to giving us any kind of relationship development concerns Peggy and Jarvis - and I love Jarvis but I don't get the sense from the show that they really plan to advance the bond between the two of them in a real way. And part of that is because they hobbled that relationship by giving him a happy marriage that no one wants to see disturbed.

Carter is friends with that chick who was formerly on Nikita, and I'd love to see more there there, but so far, she's background - there's no sense that she's going to be integrated into Carter's life more, and I have nothing to root for there, either.

So the only force that's driving the show, week to week, is the simple external mystery - clearing Howard's name. And I just don't care about that story.

(If Howard were the star of the show, that might be a compelling story - we'd see his angst at being outcast, etc. I mean, I cared about whether Dean would get out of hell because I cared about Dean. But Howard himself isn't the show's focus, so I don't care about whether he's exonerated.)

The show would improve immeasurably if they gave Carter some kind of internal goal/arc to complement the external mystery. An easy one would be a developing relationship with one person - romantic or otherwise. Something as simple as integrating the Nikita chick into her world and enlisting her help, that would do it.

But right now, there's nothing.

So I'm watching like a good feminist fan, but I'm not shocked about the ratings.

Date: 2015-01-29 03:58 pm (UTC)
raine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raine
Agreed. I keep commenting on how the show doesn't seem to have a sense of urgency; others have commented on how we're getting episodes better suited for a 22-ep order.

Date: 2015-01-29 05:49 pm (UTC)
jadelennox: Black Widow in the style of Sendak, holding a "Shield!" flag (avengers: sendak black widow)
From: [personal profile] jadelennox
actually, maybe that's why I have no problem with it. My brain assumes that there will be 22 episodes, so the pace of the character development is working great for me. I'll be disappointed when the season is over, but right now I just feel like we are having slow season one reveal.

Date: 2015-01-29 05:48 pm (UTC)
jadelennox: Black Widow in the style of Sendak, holding a "Shield!" flag (avengers: sendak black widow)
From: [personal profile] jadelennox
Interesting. I don't disagree with your assessment about Peggy not having any particular internal conflict as yet, but I see the show very differently. And I do see *some* internal conflict, namely about her ability to make friends; I see a lot of potential in the hotel, with a woman trying to make her way in a man's world, but also learning how to be friends with and value women. I think the show is doing okay with that, although I think some female writers wouldn't hurt. I think the food-stealing scene was a really good example of this, actually. She thinks she is doing something clever and manly, and then she learns something from all the women around her. I loved what was going on there.

But I also like the other developments. I am enjoying Sousa as the Good Guy who is still an antagonist, and I hope he stays an antagonist. I love that he is a non-asshole cop, and at the same time the show isn't making him the best cop because of that. I am enjoying how the dick 2iC actually seems to be intelligent and not flat, and how there's the slim potential for developing respect between him and Peggy eventually.

So yes, I wish she had more internal development she had to do, agreed. But I'm enjoying the interpersonal development between characters.

(Full disclosure: I got really bored by agents of shield for episodes in and stopped watching. I've tried several times in the interim, but to me it felt like Secrets and Mysteries were taking the place of characterization, and I found that uninteresting. But I know a lot of people don't feel that way.)

Date: 2015-01-29 07:58 pm (UTC)
muccamukk: Edwin leaning back to look at Peggy, who is turning towards him. (AC: Companionship)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
In from the network button.

I've been trying to pin down why this show isn't working for me, and I think what you've said is a big part of it. It's sort of like a cross between, idk, feminist narratives from the '70s and early Spider-man, or something. "Can the one beleaguered woman survive in a world set against her!? How will she keep her secrets safe!?" to which the answers are, "Yes," and, "I don't care." Lone Woman Against the World is the kind of storytelling that was banned from female-character-centred anthologies by about the mid '80s.

Spider-man's secret identity angst always bored me. Plus part of the pull of the secret identity is there's someone they really should tell, but do not because of angsty reasons (and the tension of, "how will this other character we like react!?"), and Peggy doesn't have enough of a relationship with Angie for there to be tension there, and she'd be a fool to tell anyone at SSR, because they're all assholes.

I was pretty invested in her friendship with Jarvis, so that was mostly why I was watching the show, since it seemed like the narrative was that she needed to learn to build a support network and trust people to help her, but NOPE.

And I resented the hell out of Howard from the start, and thought she never should have agreed to help him. Howard has all kinds of resources to bail him out, so why ask her to throw herself on the pyre for him? It didn't make her look like a courageous spy, it made her look gullible and not capable of thinking things through.

However, it's quite possible now that that plot's dead that they'll move on to something more interesting. Hopefully not the Something Something Russians, like I care.

Sorry about the unsolicited rant. I have feelings.

Date: 2015-01-30 12:15 am (UTC)
muccamukk: Edwin leaning back to look at Peggy, who is turning towards him. (AC: Companionship)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
For me, him being married is neither here nor there (except that it will save us a tiresome "will they/won't they?" plot. It did seem to be him reaching out and having adventures, and her learning to have someone to rely on. At least a little bit. Though that seems to be sunk again. Dammit.

Date: 2015-01-30 12:21 am (UTC)
muccamukk: Peggy holds a pencil between her teeth and studies a clipboard. (Cap: Preoccupied)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
You're probably right. I've just been enjoying D'Arcy and Atwell's chemistry so much that it's pretty much why I'm watching at this point. That and swanking around in period costume, and well, it's about three more hours to go, so not a huge time investment there.

Date: 2015-01-29 10:48 pm (UTC)
swizzlespoon: picture of swizzlespoons in different bright metallic colors (Default)
From: [personal profile] swizzlespoon
Yup. All this.

My impression has been that this was supposed to be a miniseries on Netflix that they decided to air on TV after all, so I hadn't given a thought to ratings nor had it occurred to me we might get more than the original order. But I really haven't cared enough to look around to see what the deal really is.

I've found it compelling enough to watch (as opposed to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which lost me after just a handful of episodes), but I suspect that's mostly due to my affection for the period and for gadgets and for Agent Carter herself. Good eye candy but there's really not much there there. I tend to do other things while the episodes are on.

I thought maybe I'd care about her feelings for Steve, but I never felt there was much between those two anyway, he "died" before they really got very far in their relationship. Honestly, I feel we don't know much about her at all which is weird given she's the star of a TV show. And I don't feel we've learned much of anything about her, I feel I've learned more about some supporting players than about her.

Many people are so desperate for a female lead in a comics series or movie that they're embracing this, but thet haven't really done anything with the show to earn any good will or acclaim here beyond the fact that the show exists. Argh.

Date: 2015-01-31 01:55 am (UTC)
swizzlespoon: picture of swizzlespoons in different bright metallic colors (Default)
From: [personal profile] swizzlespoon
Yup. This! So much this!

Mostly we know she liked Steve. Sigh.

Date: 2015-01-31 03:17 am (UTC)
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkemeralds
I'm enjoying the show in a kind of mild, amused way, and I think that, like a couple of other commenters above, I've been letting it play in my mind as if there are 18 more episodes instead of just, what, three? I just assumed, unthinkingly, that we'd be finding out more about Peggy and her past (and how/why she wound up in the US); that we'd see her friendship with Angie bloom, etc., because I was assuming the leisurely pace of a full season.

You're right, though: Howard Stark's Inventions as a reason are insufficient.

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