Warning: This story contains major spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.
When Captain America: Civil War launched in theaters last week, fans of Marvel’s ABC series, Agent Carter, were still waiting to find out whether consummate espionage-fighter, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), would be assigned a Season 3 mission to serve and protect the post-World War II Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show’s fate has now been decided: ABC has cancelled Agent Carter along with a slew of other shows, including Castle, The Muppets and Nashville. The millions of Marvel fans who saw Civil War last week probably had an inkling that Peggy’s career was drawing to a close. As revealed in the studio’s latest blockbuster, the founding S.H.I.E.L.D. agent — and former flame of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America — passed away quietly in her sleep in at the age of 95.
Born in 1921, Carter lived and fought through World War II, and continued to battle nefarious foes (and workplace sexism) in the ensuing years and decades. Seasons 1 and 2 of Agent Carter chronicled Peggy’s post-war career in New York and Los Angeles respectively. Viewers also caught a glimpse of her later in life in the opening sequence of Ant-Man, which found her still working for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside her regular sparring partner, Howard Stark, as late as 1989. Flash-forward to 2014 and the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though, and Steve is seen visiting an Alzheimer’s afflicted Peggy in a Washington D.C. nursing home.
Agent Carter in her twilight years in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (Credit: Marvel)
Steve is informed of Peggy’s passing early on in Civil War via a text message from Peggy’s niece, Sharon (Emily VanCamp), who has kept the Carter name alive within S.H.I.E.L.D. by becoming an agent herself. (Sharon upholds Carter tradition in other ways as well; after an extended flirtation with Cap, she and Steve finally lock lips in Civil War.) After receiving Sharon’s message, Steve flies to London for Peggy’s funeral and sits stoically through the service. Atwell herself doesn’t appear in this scene, but she is memorialized in a picture that depicts Peggy in the prime of her life. And Cap feels her loss throughout the rest of the movie. At one point, he turns to his former friend-turned-international assassin-turned-tentative friend again, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and speaks about Peggy’s outsized importance in his life, both in the past and when he reawakened in the present.
It’s a fine eulogy for Peggy Carter… but did it mean that ABC had to bury Agent Carter? Since the show — unlike most of the Marvel movies — takes place entirely in the past, there were still plenty of stories left to tell. In fact, it’s mentioned in Civil War that Peggy once met John F. Kennedy, which would have given the writers a great excuse to jump ahead to her adventures in the swinging ‘60s.
On the other hand, Agent Carter’s ratings never equaled its critical acclaim, and the fact that Atwell booked a major role on the pilot for the ABC procedural, Conviction, always seemed to lessen the chance of her extending her stay in the Marvel universe. (Although in the Conviction casting announcement, ABC stressed that they would find a way for the actress to shoot both shows should Agent Carter have been renewed.) Fortunately, Marvel has a long memory when it comes to the characters who populate its universe, so It’s likely that Peggy will continue to appear in future movies when there are flashbacks to the pre-Iron Man past. In the meantime, kudos to Civil War for giving us the chance to mourn the passing of Peggy Carter and Agent Carter: a heroine and a show ahead of their time.
Both seasons of Agent Carter can be purchased on Amazon Prime.