ABC finally canceled Marvel’s Agent Carter last week. The short-run winter series, which spelled the fall and spring halves of Agents of SHIELD these past two years, had been a ratings disappointment. Once star Hayley Atwell was cast by the network in a potential regular-season legal drama, now picked up to series, writing met wall.
You can’t entirely blame ABC, who clearly wants to be in business with Atwell.
SHIELD itself hasn't exactly been a ratings bonanza — due in part to ongoing identity crises, tensions between Marvel’s film and television enterprises that leave the big-screen blockbusters bereft of nearly any reference to (and, thus, what should be no-brainer promotion of) the show, and the general demands that “peak TV” has put on viewers’ time. I’ve enjoyed both SHIELD and Carter, however, even as what they do well makes my frustration over what they could be doing better all the greater.
Atwell has played Peggy Carter on screens large and small, delightfully, since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger — in a direct-to-video short film that led to the ABC series, in SHIELD flashbacks, and in subsequent movies. Her show has brought us Jarvis in human form, a Soviet predecessor of the Avengers’ Black Widow, and so-called Zero Matter, a.k.a. Darkforce, seen on SHIELD and in the upcoming Doctor Strange. Carter’s fate in the present-day MCU — the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the shared live-action world of Avengers, etc. is known — was referenced in last week’s Agents of SHIELD and current box-office hit Captain America: Civil War, but Agent Carter has always been a period piece, and she’s as much a part of MCU history as Howard Stark.