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Agent Carter

Avengers April: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

I have to admit, this is probably the movie I was most looking to watching again in this whole Avengers April, which leads up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I imagine this is due to watching the TV show Marvel’s Agent Carter during Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s winter hiatus.

Agent Carter was really a direct sequel to First Avenger, as we get to look into the lives of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark after the disappearance of Captain Rogers. We learn that Carter is having a very difficult time adjusting to the loss of her love, along with life in the post-war SSR. We learn that Howard Stark’s biggest regret is that he was never able to bring Rogers back to Carter, as it’s that regret that almost spells doom for New York City on the first anniversary of V-E Day.

It’s worth pointing out that in chronological order, Captain America: The First Avenger was the last Phase I movie before The Avengers. In fact, I think the the post-credits stinger is lifted straight out of The Avengers. Following the stinger, there is a condensed teaser for The Avengers.

However, this is not my last Phase I movie I’m reviewing before The Avengers, and the reason is simple – the Tesseract. The McGuffin of The Avengers is introduced in this film, but then makes another appearance in Thor, which perfectly leads right into the plot of the The Avengers.

It’s said that when Kevin Feige was supervising casting, he wanted an unknown to play Captain America. So of course, he picked the guy who had previously played the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies. Although to be honest, I had forgotten myself.

So the plot is basically this. Steve Rogers is a little weakling with an enormous heart who gets selected for Professor Erskine’s Super Solider Serum experience. The serum is a resounding success, as Rogers instantly bulks up and gains impressive abilities. But Erskine is immediately assassinated by Hydra, dooming the Super Soldier experiments to decades of failure, and eventually leading to Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk.

With only one super soldier, Rogers is instead utilized as a propaganda piece, used to help sell war bones and get people on the pro-war side. His routine doesn’t work for a group of soldiers in Europe, however, and Rogers learned that he is visiting the very regiment that his childhood friend, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, recently went missing in. Rogers single-handedly infiltrates enemy lines to rescue Bucky and the rest of the captured 107th.

After that, Rogers is accepted as a member of the 107th, which takes the fight to Hydra, destroying their bases throughout the region. On one mission, they capture Hydra scientist Arnim Zola, although lose Bucky to his apparent death. Finally, they take down Hydra’s main base, and Rogers follows Hydra leader Johann Schmidt (aka Red Skull) onto a plane bound for New York. In the ensuing battle, Schmidt is banished or killed or something by the Tesseract, which burns its way out of the plane and to the ocean floor. Rogers is forced to crash the plane into the Atlantic to save New York City from the deadly weapons on board the plane, but not before a tearful goodbye to Carter onto a radio.

In present day, Rogers is found and revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. An attempt to break the news gently goes very wrong, and Nick Fury to forced to bluntly explain to Rogers while the Captain gawks at present day Times Square.

The movie ended with a few open-ended questions, some which will be answered in later movies, and some which have not. We later learn that Zola gets imprisoned and then brought into S.H.I.E.L.D., where he covertly rebuilds Hydra. The final scene from Agent Carter gives a hint of this, as you can see below (FYI, the only prisoner is Dr. Johann Fennhoff, aka Doctor Faustus, a master of mind control):

The Tesseract is actually found in the end of First Avenger, and apparently sits for 70 years before S.H.I.E.L.D. starts experimenting with it, leading to the events of The Avengers. Carter moves on after Rogers in her own show. Stark expands his empire, and has a son, Tony.

But there are two characters that we don’t know the rest of their story. Colonel Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is initially an obstacle for Rogers, but ended up as a major ally. I would assume he will eventually retire and pass away, but I would love to see him in a potential second season of Agent Carter (although unlikely, given the news of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff).

And then there is Red Skull. Touching an Infinity Stone like the Tesseract has proven deadly, and it certainly looked like that’s what was happening. Then he basically disintegrated into a stream of light to the sky, which didn’t look all that different than when Thor and Loki later teleport across realms. I think we have to assume that Schmidt is alive somewhere, and I wonder when he would return. Avengers: Infinity War, perhaps?

Avengers April

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Marvel’s Agent Carter hits a Snafu

I would consider myself a latecomer to the Marvel universe. I was never a big comic reader, and the comics I have and mostly DC (mostly Superman, actually). My wife and I binge-watched the Phase 1 Marvel movies (Iron Man 1 & 2, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) shortly before seeing The Avengers.

Now, I’ve seen all the subsequent movies (Iron Man 3, Winter Soldier, Dark World, Guardians) and I’m an avid follower of Agents of SHIELD and Marvel’s new show, Agent Carter.

For those who need a reminder, Peggy Carter was Steve Rogers’ (aka Captain America) partner and girlfriend during World War II. After Rogers disappeared in the Arctic and the War ended, Carter took on a role with the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), a precursor to SHIELD.

The new show is set in the late 1940s, as Carter deals with bad Russians and sexist co-workers in the SSR. Despite fighting with the Howling Commandos during WW2, her colleagues view her as vital to such missions as filing reports, answering the phones, and taking the lunch orders. While she has to play the role of a secretary, he works behind the scenes to stop the bad guys. Howard Stark, the father of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, is Public Enemy #1 and on the run. He confided in Carter that someone broke into his private vault and stole several of his more dangerous inventions (his “bad babies,” as he calls them).

I thought this show would turn into a “find a new bad baby every episode” kind of thing, but the lot were recovered at the end of Episode 3 of the eight-episode miniseries. Since then, the SSR has investigated a believed link between Stark and an evil Soviet organization called “Leviathan,” as well as the fictional WWII Battle of Finow, which ended with a bunch of massacred Russians before the Nazis even got to the party. The show has introduced Dottie Underwood, a product of the Red Room (a Soviet facility for brainwashing young women and turned them into spies and assassins (yes, Dottie is the precursor to the Black Widow program).

So here’s where we are now, after the peni-ultimate episode, titled “Snafu” (see what I did there?). Carter and the SSR were able to extract a Russian therapist (Dr. Ivchenko) from a Leviathan prison to SSR HQ, but he’s actually working for Leviathan. Carter’s efforts in helping Stark weren’t actually sanctioned, so not she’s been captured and is considered a traitor.

So Carter is interrogated by her colleagues, but doesn’t reveal anything else (why?). Stark’s butler, Jarvis (who has been assisting Carter all season), tries to save Carter with a forged confession by Stark. While quarantined in an office, Carter and Jarvis witness Ivchenko secretly communicated out the window with Dottie via Morse Code. Carter decided to tell the SSR everything to gain some level of trust. It was a great scene when Chief Dooley, Agent Thompson, and Agent Sousa questioned how she could conduct an investigation without any of them noticing, and Carter rubbing in their faces that sexist views effectively blinded them.

Anyway, Dooley sends Thompson and Sousa across the street to get Dottie, but she gets the slip on them and escapes. Dooley keeps an eye on Ivchenko, who used mind control to hypnotize Dooley. The entranced Dooley locks up Carter and Jarvis, and helps Ivchenko steal a particular nasty bad baby, all while making Dooley imagine he was reconnecting with his family. When Thompson finally frees Carter, they find Ivchenko gone and Dooley wearing a strange glowing vest, another Stark invention. The vest is supposed to warm the wearer up in a frozen wasteland, but has a nasty habit of exploding. Naturally, the vest is securely locked and can’t be removing, so Dooley orders Carter to catch Ivchenko, shoots out a window, and leaps to his explosive death. A sad death.

At the end of the episode, Dottie and Ivchenko set off the stolen invention inside a crowded movie theater. It’s a gas canister that induces rage, followed by death. When some latecomers try to get into the movie, everyone is dead. I think we know what happened at the Battle of Finow.

I think it’s safe to assume that I am eagerly looking forward to next Tuesday.