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A Quiet 'Agent Carter' Episode Doesn't Stifle Atwell's Rising Star

By Craig Wack | TV | January 14, 2015 |

By Craig Wack | TV | January 14, 2015 |

After a rollicking start to the miniseries, Agent Carter favored cloak and dagger over fistfights and explosions in its third episode, but the one part that didn’t change was star Hayley Atwell’s ability to effortlessly shoulder the load of the series.

What she’s done so far is harder than it looks. Atwell is being asked to deliver sci-fi superspy dialogue that’s been passed through a post-WWII filter without making Peggy come off as wooden as Agent Ward. She routinely nails the fight choreography as well as she hits the right emotional tones with Jarvis discussing his treasonous heroics that saved his Jewish wife from the Nazis.

The more she’s in the public eye; the more Atwell’s growing star power smacks us in the face. So why hasn’t Atwell been in more stuff?

Her career resume has been a mixed bag. She’s done a variety of secondary roles in TV and movies, but has rarely landed a role that is set in this century despite working fairly steadily for about a decade. Her 1940s costumes for Marvel must feel like yoga pants compared to the wigs, corsets and layer upon layer of fabric she’s put on for her previous period roles such as The Duchess, The Pillars of the Earth and Mansfield Park.

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Since we’re all living in the age of instant gratification, there’s got to be a way to get our burgeoning crush on screens of all sizes more often because as fun as it is to see her fight on top of moving milk trucks, it should be just as enjoyable finding out just how deep Atwell’s talent runs.

Is it too late to add Atwell to Mad Men as Lane Pryce’s sister who comes to the States to fetch her brother’s Mets pennant but has a fling with Roger Sterling instead? Can’t George R.R. Martin write a character in his next book that’s a strong female who is deadly with a crossbow that can be brought aboard Game of Thrones? Atwell has already handled a True Detective style role in the British mini-series Life of Crime, so she should be able to handle anything Nic Pizzolatto throws at her.

If her Twitter or talk show appearances are any barometer, Atwell has some pretty good comic timing, too. Maybe send her to Greendale as an age-appropriate foil for Jeff Winger or a guest shot on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as an Interpol agent.

Fortunately for now, Atwell seems to be having fun exploring the many facets of Peggy Carter and Marvel Studios seems happy to give her scenes to play with roles in both of its 2015 cinematic releases Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.

If the ratings for this current mini-series hold (the premiere drew about a million more viewers than Agents of SHIELD’s normal number and had a very strong digital following), then it’s a safe bet ABC will want to see more from Agent Carter and Atwell. And because we know Peggy lives to a ripe old age, there are decades worth of stories to tell.

Atwell hasn’t quite turned comic-book adventure into Shakespeare, but it doesn’t seem out of her reach, this series still has five episodes to go.

Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.

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