Okay, the second season of Marvel’s Agent Carter is over and it’s time to tally up the score!
We’ll be using a tried and true scoring system I just made up and will be applying with liberal bias. Agent Carter will be assigned a grade based upon a 100 point grading scale in which we begin at 0 and add or subtract points as appropriate. This system is based mainly on Hogwarts’ house points system, because we are nerds, after all.
No appeals will be possible, although dissenting opinions may be logged in the comments section below. (Please note: any dissent posted on this site may be used against you in one of the show trials we PC police like to stage now and then).
From zero we leap immediately to 50 points because I just dig this show. I mean: its premise! How many shows take place in the late ’40s, after WWII? And how many shows at all star a female secret agent, much less period pieces? And how do we love Agent Carter the character? Let us not count the ways ‘cuz we’d be here ’til Sunday. Kickass female lead ftw!
We’ll add an additional 10 points (for a round 60) for a female villain, and an additional 5 (65!) for a lead female villain motivated entirely by her own lust for power — inspired by her experiences with sexism, natch, but out of her own free will; unlike poor little put-upon-and-ruled-by-evil-men Dottie from season one, who would have taken a points hit for this if we’d been doing this last year.
Add another 10 points (75!) for an additional three (3!) major female characters, one of whom is a) a woman of a certain age, b) a receptionist suddenly elevated to active agent, c) not traditionally attractive, and yet d) kickass. A second one, however, is the aforementioned Dottie, who has gained somewhat in agency, but spends pretty much all her time in captivity and even, at one point, requires rescue by our hero(es). Dottie’s a draw.
But the third one, Mrs. Jarvis, whose first name I’ve forgotten (bad sign), loses the show five points (down to 70) for being a big-eyed, adoring wifey who gets minorly fridged to give Jarvis’ character some complexity. In fact, she’s there at all to make the entirely helpmeet Jarvis (seen in the first season in an apron, cooking, as well as cleaning house) more “manly.” As charming as the actress is (and she is) we didn’t need to see Mrs. Jarvis at all — ever — if she wasn’t going to be her own brand of kickass.
And no, I don’t mean she has to fight and be active, but really. Jarvis does all the housework, so all the Mrs. is capable of doing is sewing and styling. She’s useless! And her major tragedy when she gets shot-not-killed? That she loses the ability to have children! ARGGHHHH! And then, and then Jarvis doesn’t tell her what happened to her own body and nobody points out how not okay that was and he never apologizes to her for taking it upon himself to make decisions about her body for her and she never says anything about it either… Okay, I have to stop talking about her before I get worked up and take off more points.
Where were we? Oh, right. 70 points.
So, 20 points for adding a major character of color, Dr. Jason Wilkes, a genius physicist and Peggy’s new love interest, for a nice, round 90!
Five points off immediately for this.
Ten points off, I’m afraid, because Wilkes is the only character of color in the second season.
Yes, there were a few shadowy black people in the background of one scene, but we’re only counting as “characters” speaking people who actually do stuff. By this criterion, there are actually four characters of color in season one, although none of them major, all of them men, and three of whom are killed off within an episode. So the diversity quantity actually decreased, although the quality increased.
And another 5 points down for the six (count ’em, 6!) other new major characters who are — yes — all white.
Villain Whitney Frost, with some slight alterations to her circumstances, could have been a character of color. Her senator/industrialist husband, Chadwick, could have been a COC who was passing as white, and would have been a lot more interesting as such. The SSR’s scientist dude, Samberly, as well as the new receptionist-turned-agent Rose Roberts (who, yes, was in season one, but just barely, and didn’t have to be the one in her position) could both have been OC without any adjustments or sleight of hand. Only Vernon Masters (the evil power player) and Joseph Manfredi (the mafioso) were really locked into their ethnicities.
Ah, how sad! All of Jason Wilkes’ points got knocked off and we’re back to 70!
And we’re not done yet! I’m gonna have to take an additional 5 points away for the way they portrayed Wilkes. I mean, really. He and Peggy are into each other, but the first time his life is in danger, he threatens to shoot her in a convoluted plot to save his own life? What’s the point in having a character of color if you’re just going to have a white dude (Sousa) show him up? I mean really! White dude brave, black dude cowardly?
Yes, arguments can be made against this interpretation (Peggy makes some of them) and Wilkes is also a geeeeenius and does also help fix things at the end. But then, being a geeeenius ain’t what it used to be in a world with four — count ’em: FOUR! — certified geeeeeeniuses who are clearly ranked in order of intelligence: Whitney Frost > Howard Stark > Jason Wilkes > Samberly. Again, why have a man of color who is beaten out by both a white man and a white woman?
And can we just talk for a moment about how Peggy chooses the white dude over him? No? Okay. Moving on.
Also, from 65 I’m gonna have to take an additional 5 because no LGBTQIA characters are even hinted at. But then 5 will be added back in because a major character (Sousa) is disabled — although his disability is nearly entirely glossed over in season two, unlike season one where we could really see his limitations, while also seeing how kickass he was.
Where does that leave us? 65?
That seems low. Does that seem low? Well, if we compare this show to other superhero/comix shows, it doesn’t seem like such a low score. Arrow and Jessica Jones have lone POC characters isolated in a field of white, but all of those characters are brave and heroic and have agency and individual arcs. Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have multiple major heroic and complex characters of color, each with their own arc. Daredevil and Supergirl each have two major characters of color, in varying states of independence and heroism. And I don’t watch Gotham, so you’re going to have to tell me in comments. I’m guessing that an ensemble show like that will show up better, tho’.
So yes, I think 65 points is more than fair. A solid D? And, in fact, I will add on 3 extra points for effort. Wilkes was evidence of effort, if not of mastery of… well… anything.
Which means our final score is 68, or a D+.
Agent Carter I still love you and will still watch season three if there is one. But you better step up your game because, in this day and age, you’re not keeping up.