I wanted to write a review of The Defenders, the new Netflix series that debuted last week. Unfortunately, due to the dysfunctional way the first episode was written I couldn’t make any observations regarding the program. However after the first episode was over I came to one conclusion about Marvel Studios.
Marvel Studios is in trouble.
Lately, Marvel Studios has been having trouble maintaining the high level of quality it established in earlier films like Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger. Since Avengers: Age of Ultron the brand has been in a serious decline. And since the debut of Netflix’s Iron Fist and Spider-Man: Homecoming the brand has been in freefall.
And another textbook example of the brand being in decline is the first episode of Netflix’s The Defenders. Instead of opening the series with a strong episode with a compelling inciting incident, Netflix’s Defenders opens with an entire episode filled with exposition. When you spend your first episode explaining what happened at the end of every other series that’s not a good start for a TV series.
A good start for a TV series is opening with the inciting incident, the main characters, the bad guy what they want, and explaining to us WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
And after watching the first episode of The Defenders I didn’t see much reason to care about anything. Old characters, a bunch of exposition, an old woman finding out she’s about to die and…An earthquake. How does this relate to the formation of The Defenders? And what are they going to defend the city against?
The first episode didn’t do a good job of explaining the story to the viewer. Instead of getting excited to see what would happen next I was left feeling…Meh. The same feeling I had when I was watching the trailer for this show.
Meh is not how you want people feeling when they watch a superhero show. Meh means people don’t tell their friends about your show. Meh means they click out after watching the first episode and go back to watching cat videos on YouTube.
If the first episode is an indicator of what’s to come the writing on this series is gonna be flat, by the numbers and uninspired. Far below the high standard established by Marvel Studios in 2008.
From what I’ve seen in recent projects it’s clear to me Marvel Studios has a writing problem. Their writers just don’t know how to write a script these days. I’ve seen so many first-year screenwriting mistakes in their most recent projects like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Iron Fist and the back six episodes of Luke Cage it’s not funny.
A good Superhero TV show gives you a reason to watch it in less than 10 minutes. By the time the first ten minutes of the first episode of CBS’ Supergirl was over I was HOOKED. Why? Because it opened BIG with a HUGE inciting incident. In it we saw the main character, what she wanted and was given a reason to care about her.
But with The Defenders we got NOTHING. No inciting incident, No main character, no reason to know what they wanted, or to care about them. Even the bad guy was an afterthought in that opening episode.
It’s clear to me that the writers at Marvel Studios are becoming too emotionally attached to the characters in the MCU. They see these characters as their friends not as integral parts of the stories their adventures are featured in. So instead of giving the audience compelling action adventure stories they write exposition filled stories to ensure they don’t have to deal with any sort of serious conflict or the consequences from it. So we see them hanging out mostly instead of taking on the challenge of overcoming bad guys.
It’s also clear to me that Marvel is trying to apply the same story model that they use for modern comics for their movies and TV shows. Where they drag a story out with expository sequences for multiple issues to make it long enough to fill a trade paperback. While that approach may work for selling comics it’s not what works on TV. On TV when an episode takes an hour to set up NOTHING in a first episode it’s the KISS OF DEATH for that show. Because viewers aren’t as patient as comic fans. They’re not going to WAIT for a story to set up. If nothing happens in the first ten minutes of a show they’re going to LEAVE.
Marvel Studios is IN TROUBLE. And if they don’t get their shit together they’re going to be in the same place that Warner Brothers is right now. There’s no defense for what was presented onscreen in that first episode of The Defenders. If your writers can’t start out strong then there’s no reason for viewers to finish watching a series.