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Warning: major spoilers from tonight’s episode of Agent Carter, only read if you’ve watched the season premiere.
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) has had a lot on her plate since the end of the Second World War. After foiling the Leviathan plot to gas New York City and finally coming to terms with the “death” of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), she spent the interim time between the first and second seasons of Agent Carter hunting down the ever-elusive Dottie (Bridget Regan). Throughout all of this she has had to contend with a world that continues to perpetuate antiquated views towards ideas such as race and gender roles. While the season premiere of Agent Carter handled the balance of these elements and plot threads quite well, it’s the way the show set up the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has us talking. More specifically, the way it seems to set up the coming Doctor Strange solo film starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
This year sees Carter taken away from her interrogation of Dottie and reassigned to Los Angeles by a jealous Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) who fears her growing influence within the SSR. Her journey to the west coast reunites her with Edwin Jarvis (James Darcy) and fellow SSR Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) as they investigate a mysterious noir-esque murder in a local lake. Their sleuthing leads them to a government funded the Isodyne laboratory where scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) has been investigating the season’s true MacGuffin: Zero Matter.
Of course, astute Marvel fans will recognize that Zero Matter has popped up before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In its earliest on-screen appearances, Zero Matter was referred to as Darkforce and had the effect of granting powers to Marcus Daniels, who became known as the villainous Blackout. A similar moment occurred during the final moments of the premiere, as we got a brief glimpse of Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) seemingly about to become Madam Masque due to exposure to the substance. Wilkes explains during the Agent Carter premiere that his knowledge of the Darkforce remains incredibly limited, and that it could very well have interdimensional origins.
Interdimensional origins ring any bells? As many of us know, exploration of different dimensions and tackling all things science cannot explain are jobs for none other than the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Agent Carter appears to be using Zero Matter in a similar manner to The Flash’s use of the particle accelerator in Season 1; it’s a powerful force that can have varying effects on those who come into contact with it. Science could not truly explain the nature of Zero Matter in the episode, meaning that Marvel may have used it as a means of introducing magic into their TV universe. Setting up magic now allows for audiences to be ready for that sort of plotline when Doctor Strange hits theaters in November and not have to write off clearly magical elements as advanced technology (we're looking at you, Thor).
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always done an exemplary job of remembering its fictional history and tying everything together. Peggy Carter’s adventure with Steve Rogers during the events of Captain America: The First Avengers did most of the legwork towards establishing the nature of the Tesseract – the culminating McGuffin of Marvel’s Phase 1 movies. Similarly, the first season of Agent Carter explored the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D and filled in many of the gaps in the events chronologically leading up to films such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant-Man. The Darkforce will very obviously play a key role in the events of Agent Carter’s second season; as such it stands to reason that as the season progresses we will see early versions of plot threads that will come to a head when Stephen Strange finally premieres on the big screen.
Despite the clear set up for magic within the Marvel universe, Agent Carter’s season premiere only whetted our appetite for more. In a similar fashion to the Arrowverse, Marvel TV has finally begun to move away from purely science-based storylines and expand into the world of the unknown and the mystical. Peggy Carter’s adventures in 1947 will take her to never before seen areas of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we are so along for the ride. Agent Carter airs every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.