Agent Carter just ended its eight-episode run with a high-flying finale that left enough threads dangling (and Toby Jones!) to leave fans hungry for more, which leads to the question: Will ABC give us more next season?
Much like its sister show, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter came in with a lot of hype and high expectations. It’s delivered solid but not spectacular ratings, regularly finishing second in its time slot to Scott Bakula’s Cajun accent on CBS. Although some metrics are pointing to Agent Carter heading for the chopping block, most signs are pointing to at least a second season, possibly more of Peggy Carter’s adventures.
The biggest reason, of course, has been the emergence of Hayley Atwell, who is up there with Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin, as this television season’s breakout star. She has a great handle on the character and the material paired with a charisma that is in the sweet spot of being bigger than TV but not quite leading lady movie actress big.
Atwell showed the full depth of Peggy Carter by chucking Dottie out a window one moment then seeing Peggy’s heart break when she realized she was talking as much to herself as to Howard Stark about it being time to let go of Cap and move forward the next. While it has happened before, it would be hard to believe that the network would let a talent like Atwell loose to join another show.
Agent Carter has, for now anyway, satisfied many fans’ desire for a strong female lead in this current crop if comic book inspired fare. The show has sparked conversations about misogyny past and present without painting Peggy as a stereotypical battle axe. Instead Peggy Carter is as real a woman as there is on TV. She’s tough, witty but has a warm vulnerable side when the right heart strings are pulled. Her relationships with the men in her life feel genuine. From Stark to the crazy rapport with Jarvis to the fellow agents of the SSR, Peggy is a peer, even if some are too set in their ways to realize it.
ABC and the other networks have taken notice. The most recent promos for the March 3 return of SHIELD has centered on the “women of SHIELD” and have been bolstered by the elevation of Adrianne Palicki from guest star to series regular. It can’t be coincidence that CBS’ first foray into comic book TV is going to be a version of Supergirl, either.
It’s hard to imagine ABC would give up the moral high ground it has earned by being the first to feature a strong female in this popular programming genre by dropping the whole thing after only eight episodes.
Finally, it’s not like they are going to run out of Peggy stories to tell. There are potentially five decades worth of adventures from each era rife with that signature mix of super-spy stories and modern commentary. Mix that in with the continuing saga of the Finishing School for Black Widows and the infiltration by HYDRA we already know is coming, and it leaves plenty of fertile ground for more satisfying TV.
ABC will likely leave fans hanging until May before it makes its decision about Agent Carter. Agents of SHIELD built a lot of narrative momentum (and about a million additional viewers) before its winter break so the network will wait and see its progress before making renewal decisions.
In the best case scenario, ABC will give each show 12 episode orders with Agent Carter airing in the fall and SHIELD airing in the spring. That alignment would give Agent Carter fans more Peggy without the need for filler episodes about Angie’s Broadway auditions and it would give SHIELD a cable series sized order that would help tighten its storytelling while still dovetailing with Marvel’s summer movie slate.
However, if SHIELD adds another ratings point or so in the coming months, then it would get another full 22 episode order next year and Agent Carter deserves at least another eight episode story. As this initial run has shown, some Peggy Carter is better than no Peggy Carter at all.
Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.