What the ‘Agent Carter’ Cancellation Means for the MCU

Agent Carter. | ABC

Hayley Atwell on Agent Carter | Source: ABC

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is constantly in flux. While Agents of SHIELD soldiers on over at ABC, Captain America: Civil War recently took over the box office, while Daredevil‘s second season made its debut on Netflix. Not to be overshadowed though was Agent Carterthe Hayley Atwell-led series that quickly established itself as the equal (and sometimes superior) to its Agents of SHIELD predecessor. The show’s relative quality wasn’t enough to keep it on the air though.  Agent Carter has officially been cancelled after just two seasons, and the MCU is worse off for it.

When it kicked off back in 2015, the series was the first female-led superhero show in the modern era of the genre. Shows like Jessica Jones and Supergirl soon followed, but there’s no denying Agent Carter‘s place in history. Thematically, it was everything you could have wanted out of a Marvel series: It starred a self-assured, yet also imperfect, lead hero, while digging into carefully constructed storytelling in post-WWII America. In the greater MCU, it contextualized the TV and movie narratives by showing us the history of both.

For what it’s worth, Agent Carter‘s quality didn’t figure in to its cancellation. Lead actor Hayley Atwell had even already been cast in another ABC series before the news ever hit, indicating that the writing was on the wall all along. It was poor ratings that sunk the show in the end, losing 54% of its viewership between the first and second season, followed by almost a million more dropping off the wagon by the time the Season 2 finale aired. Additionally, its departure leaves Agents of SHIELD as the final bastion of the MCU on network television.

Agent Carter

Agent Carter | Source: ABC

Agent Carter wasn’t the only Marvel series to get some bad news recently either. A planned Agents of SHIELD spinoff titled Marvel’s Most Wanted apparently didn’t do well with test audiences, and now finds itself unceremoniously tossed aside. Hopefully, it’s a move that brings Agents favorites Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood back into the fold (the pair were originally slated to star in Most Wanted). More than that though, all this represents a huge shift in the way Marvel treats their TV shows.

As Daredevil and Jessica Jones gather popularity on Netflix, it’s becoming clear that the streaming service is where Marvel Studios is placing their television-related bets. It makes spinoffs like Marvel’s Most Wanted and Agent Carter expendable, especially as budgets ramp up for the Netflix universe, and having just green-lit a Punisher series, things are only going to get more expensive. At the same time, Agents of SHIELD still remains as a necessary connection to the movie-verse, something Daredevil et al generally eschews in favor of more self-contained stories. Basically, Agent Carter‘s cancellation isn’t simply a case of a show with poor ratings going off the air. Rather, it’s evidence of Marvel shifting their focus in the realm of TV on a much grander scale.

All told, it’s sad to see Agent Carter officially end its journey. Of all the various stories in the MCU, this one show managed to stand apart as a story set in an entirely different era, with characters we wouldn’t see anywhere else. We hopefully won’t have seen the last of Hayley Atwell within the greater Marvel Universe, but for now, we’ll have to deal with not seeing her on a weekly basis. There’ll certainly be no shortage of great content coming in the form of Luke Cage, The Punisher, and the rest of Marvel’s various Netflix shows, but at the same time, Agent Carter’s absence will be felt.

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