Agent Carter, episode 1, review: A new TV icon is born as Hayley Atwell channels Lauren Bacall and Jessica Rabbit

But this siren is fighting sexism as well as crime

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The Independent Culture

A dazzling red-hatted beacon in a sea of grey-suited New York businessmen, Hayley Atwell's Agent Peggy Carter still manages to remain hidden in plain sight.

Even when undercover as a Veronica Lake-alikey (ask Wikipedia, kids) bombshell with more winking sass than Lauren Bacall in fancy dress as Jessica Rabbit, Peg's Marvel superpower flies glamorously under the radar of men that couldn't even conceive of her kicking bottoms.

But neither does she need or seek the endorsement of her boorish herd of Strategic Scientific Reserve operatives, jockeying for deskbound positions and refiguring their World War Two work transferable skills - while passing all the paperwork Carter's way.

"I'm grateful. But I'm also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me," she informs Sousa, apparently more sensitive than his chauvinistic co-workers after suffering a debilitating injury in the field, when he attempts to stand up for her.

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Hayley Atwell as British agent Peggy Carter

Away from her suffocating boys' club workplace - where 'going shopping' is hastily prescribed to ward off the details of 'women's troubles' - Carter is less inclined to indulge in tedious banter, promising to twist the insides out of one misogynistic customer at her regular diner with a fork unless he keeps his distance from a put upon waitress. It is the most significant small victory of the first episode, as well as the most violent, even though the threat is not acted upon.

 

Atwell's bountiful charisma, dynamic plot and direction, and some pleasingly pinging noir-ish dialogue have already made Agent Carter a TV hit for Marvel in the US. And she proves more than her superhero credentials while attempting to clear the name of old pal Howard Stark (you know, the father of Iron Man Tony Stark in the Marvel universe) by making quite the thrilling dash atop a car hurtling away from an imminently imploding factory where Stark's dangerously volatile compound is being produced.

Her atypical days at the office should make her a TV icon over here, too.

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