Marvel‘s plan for Agent Carter seemed like it was designed to avoid too much risk. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. launched with a typical 22-episode first season, Agent Carter‘s initial run was restricted to eight episodes, with the showrunners making it clear that they were telling a self-contained story. The basic message seemed to be, “Hey, Marvel is finally making something with a female protagonist, but no promises that it’ll last for more than two months.”
Five episodes in, that self-fulfilling prophecy may be coming true. Despite positive reviews and an enthusiastic fan response (because it’s damn good television), ratings are down and the Cancellation Bear is snapping at Agent Carter‘s heels. We may not get to see a second season.
The sad thing is that while it took Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the better part of a full-length season to mature into a decent show, Agent Carter was excellent from day one. It’s kept the pace going for five episodes of Cold War espionage hijinks, giving us plenty of character development for Peggy Carter and her supporting cast and neatly including various Marvel tidbits like Black Widow’s 1940s backstory. Unfortunately, positive reviews and a passionate fanbase do not automatically lead to renewal. Ratings are the most important thing in predicting whether or not a show survives, and right now, Agent Carter‘s ratings are not good.
Fans are already revving their engines for a renewal campaign, with fansite AgentCarter.net suggesting that people bump up the ratings by rewatching episodes on iTunes or other legal streaming services like ABC Go. Sites like Twitter are seeing the inevitable hashtag activism crop up as well.
Showrunner Tara Butters said last week that Agent Carter‘s future wouldn’t be decided until after the first season had finished airing, so there’s still time for ratings to pick up. Actress Hayley Atwell hinted that the initial run of eight episodes included the “seeds” of storylines that could be fleshed out for another three or four seasons.
One thing that Agent Carter does have going for it is its short (i.e. cheap) mini-series format and the fact that it airs during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s mid-season hiatus. That timeslot keeps the audience warm for when Marvel’s more established show comes back on the air, and since ABC is owned by Marvel parent company Disney, the Marvel Cinematic Universe synergy that Agent Carter represents could potentially induce ABC to extend the show.
That Marvel synergy is real and should not be underestimated. This is definitely the kind of show that sells t-shirts and merchandise. However, fans shouldn’t pin too much on that synergy carrying the day for Agent Carter. If you want to see more of Peggy Carter and the SSR, your best bet is to stream it legally from ABC or another outlet that actually helps the show’s ratings.
Photo via ABC/Agent Carter