Marvel’s cinematic universe has an angsty, brooding cousin on television. While the MCU flits about with interdimensional beings, ancient gods and big green men in torn shorts, the TV world of Marvel prefers to hang around in dark alleys, flipping coins and biting toothpicks. With the arrival of The Defenders later this month, Marvel will tie some of its most compelling on-screen characters together into a single storyline, and truly establish its TV output as a universe in its own right. However, might they have bitten off more than they can chew?
The Marvel workhorse is putting in overtime now, filming a record 135 episodes before the end of 2017. The episodes will be spread among five franchises: The Defenders, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher. Compared to previous years, this mammoth schedule marks a clear and striking acceleration of ambition for Marvel.
Before 2017, Marvel has been satisfied with bringing viewers two titles in a year. 2015 brought us Daredevil and Jessica Jones, with 2016 seeing the debut of Luke Cage alongside Daredevil’s second season. This year has already seen the release of Iron Fist and, with The Defenders on the horizon and an undated Punisher series expected by the year’s end, this should be the first triple-bill year for Marvel on Netflix.
Then, 2018 should then follow suit, with second seasons for Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
It’s not a move which necessarily fills us with confidence. After a flying start with Daredevil that just went from strength-to-strength with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Iron Fist showed us the disastrous results that rushing a production can have. Lacklustre “tell-don’t-show” storytelling and tepid fight scenes were not what we’d come to expect from Marvel’s other TV output, but with Iron fist’s scheduling woes, they were the inevitable end result. We hope that this increase in output won’t mean that Marvel’s TV universe sees a general decline in storytelling quality, but we’ll see…