A couple of months in the past I began the thankless job of recapping Secret Invasion, and now, a month after the collection ended, I’m nonetheless deeply underwhelmed by the predictable blandness of the whole factor. Then, as a result of I used to be hit by a match of nostalgia and since I discover Hayley Atwell absurdly enticing, I began a re-watch of the different grounded spy thriller from Marvel: Agent Carter.


After I completed the second season (the present was unceremoniously cancelled in 2016), I used to be left questioning… how did Secret Invasion handle to fuck up so badly that Agent Carter, a community tv launch with fewer stars, means much less hype, and with out Secret Invasion’s $200 million price range, was higher written, higher paced, and extra satisfying than Marvel’s most up-to-date spy collection?


For some background, Agent Carter was a short-lived Marvel tv collection that ran for 2 seasons on ABC from 2015 to 2016. The primary season noticed Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter making an attempt to determine herself inside the boy’s membership of the postwar spy group, the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), hoping to clear Howard Stark’s title after an arms deal goes sideways. It’s a science-fiction dramady couched within the Marvel universe, however with a important character who has no powers, Agent Carter saved each excessive heels firmly on the bottom.

Secret Invasion was touted as “grounded,” and even though many of the plot was going to undoubtedly circle across the subject of what to do with the aliens that had clandestinely made Earth their dwelling within the ‘90s, I believed the pitch. A lot of spycraft is combining data and alternative—in the precise fingers, the premise of a gaggle of shapeshifting Skrulls serving to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury puppet the Avengers into compliance has potential. What we received, nevertheless, was a messy world political crises exacerbated by a single man’s hubris—the precise reverse of what Agent Carter was doing.

On the floor, Agent Carter shouldn’t have labored. It’s a interval piece starring a comparatively obscure character who was on display for lower than 20 minutes in Captain America: The First Avenger, a film that was already three years outdated on the time of the primary season’s launch. However Agent Carter’s first season’s plot is tight and targeted, and the setting, costumes, and even the truth that it contains an (virtually) totally new solid of characters change into a few of Agent Carter’s biggest strengths.

Agent Carter understood its limitations and labored inside them. It utilized sensible units, restricted particular results, and a few extremely brutal struggle choreography to drag off implausible stunt work. Add to {that a} compelling important character who was an absolute smokeshow and had chemistry with any three characters on display at any given time and you’ve got tv magic. The second season, I’ll absolutely admit, wasn’t as sturdy as the primary, but it surely nonetheless saved up a strong compelling plot and greater than that, I cared. I needed to look at Peggy kick ass and take names, and I didn’t care about what film she could be in subsequent.

With Secret Invasion, the strongest elements of the present got here from the performances. Ben Mendelsohn as Talos and Olivia Colman as Sonya Falsworth had been exceptionally good of their roles, and Jackson’s Fury sometimes had some implausible moments. However these small elements had been price lower than the sum complete of the collection, which didn’t ship a cohesive, tense, and even fascinating story. We—the viewers—merely knew an excessive amount of.

Agent Carter by no means hurried to present away Peggy’s secrets and techniques. Every thing was peeled again slowly, giving us increasingly more of the world as we went alongside. It was paced. A part of this comes from the truth that the MCU was merely smaller seven years in the past. One other a part of that is that it had two seasons to fill, for a complete of 18 episodes; Secret Invasion ran for under six episodes complete. A part of it is because the collection was by no means anticipated to make a lot of an affect on the flicks, by advantage of the perform of Marvel tv on the time and the truth that it was set within the early Fifties. Agent Carter was given a walled backyard and it took benefit of it. Secret Invasion, sadly, was anticipated to fit into a bigger MCU, fill within the gaps between movies which might be already out or are largely finished, and it suffered for that observe. Possibly if Secret Invasion had been in a position to go off the MCU rails it will have gone someplace fascinating.

The issue with Secret Invasion, and actually the issue that has plagued the entire MCU tv collection since WandaVision was launched in 2021, is that these reveals are items of a puzzle. They’re by no means allowed to point out the total image. They aren’t allowed to be an entire story. There isn’t any ending to any of those reveals, simply extra hooks for writers and administrators to select up in one other present—not even, essentially, for the viewers to select up on.

Secret Invasionand most of those different reveals—really feel each meandering and pointless. There may be some enjoyable available in exploring new origin tales like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel, however there’s all the time the expectation that even for those who begin a brand new character’s journey in a Marvel present it’s going to ultimately lead right into a Marvel movie. It’s a cycle of limitless content material that weakens each idea, that disenfranchises writers and administrators, and that turns each ending right into a dozen query marks and not using a passable decision. Secret Invasion is, finally, a cease hole.

The success of Agent Carter as a present is rooted in the truth that it was allowed to face aside from the MCU however nonetheless borrow toys out of its sandbox. It’s familiar, however not stuffed with Easter eggs, winks to the viewers, or flashbacks. It will not affect the flicks and would have little to no impact on the sacred timeline. It had not one of the concerns of up to date reveals and was stronger for it. Secret Invasion had, on paper, every part going for it—nice actors, a beneficiant price range, tons of supply materials—and it struck out. However the universe appears to have reached capability, and the Disney+ tv reveals, which may have been enjoyable, experimental trysts within the Marvel backyard, are going to be the a part of the MCU that suffers most.

Agent Carter and Secret Invasion are each streaming on Disney+.

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