MARVEL NETFLIX FRANCHISE AND THE SERIAL DRAMA FORMAT
So far, I have only viewed only two shows from the Marvel Netflix franchise – both seasons of “DAREDEVIL” and “JESSICA JONES” Season One. Overall, I enjoyed both shows, but . . . I have noticed a flaw regarding both of them. I have also noticed that other bloggers and television critics have noticed, as well.
There are times when I feel that the writers for the Marvel Netflix series franchise do not know how to write a television serial drama very well. It seems a good number of television viewers and critics seemed to share my feelings. Many have complained that these shows are “too slow”. Let me put it another way . . . many viewers and critics seemed to feel that the franchise’s thirteen (13) episode format might be a deterrent to the shows, leading the latter to come off as being too slow. Although, I believe that these shows might be flawed, I find this argument that the franchise’s 13 episodes format might be a deterrent as bullshit.
There have been television shows in the past that utilized the serial drama format – especially in the science-fiction/fantasy genre or the comic book genre (which might be more or less the same thing). But many of these past shows have more or less aired a season long story arc within twenty-two (22) episodes. Remember shows like “BABYLON 5”? Or “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”? Arrowverse shows like “ARROW” and “THE FLASH”? Shows like “AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “GOTHAM” managed to utilize a twenty-two (22) episode format. However, with their cancellations on the horizon, both shows have been ordered to cut down to 13 episodes for their last seasons. ABC’s “LOST” had utilized a 22 to 23 episode format for its first three seasons, until a writer’s strike had limited their fourth season to sixteen to seventeen (16-17) episodes. The series used the same amount of episodes for their last two seasons. The “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA” reboot, their episodes seemed to veer from ten (10) episodes per season to twenty (20).
However, I have noticed in the past few years that many viewers and critics have become increasingly critical or intolerant of any television series with a serial format that includes more than 12 or 13 episodes per season. So, what happened? When did television viewers and critics stop tolerating longer story arcs in television serial dramas? More importantly, when did TV writers stop knowing how to utilize the serial drama format? When did it become difficult for them to balance action and drama, while writing a season long arc within 13 episodes? And why are so many viewers and critics demanding that the Marvel Netflix franchise reduce each season for their shows to less than 13 episodes?
Although I enjoyed Season One of “DAREDEVIL”, I can recall at least two or three episodes that seemed to feature a lot of talk and very little action. I found myself thinking about one episode in particular called (1.10) “Nelson v. Murdock”. In this episode, attorney Franklin “Foggy” Nelson had confronted law partner Matt Murdock after discovering that the latter was dark clad vigilante (and the series lead called Daredevil), who was wanted by the New York City police at the end of the previous episode, (1.09) “Speak of the Devil”. At first, I found Foggy’s confrontation with Matt rather interesting. Eventually , I found it somewhat boring to me. If it were not for the plot lines involving characters such as the pair’s legal secretary Karen Page, journalist Ben Urich and crime boss Wilson Fisk sporadically interrupting the Matt-Foggy interaction, I would have ended up regarding “Nelson v. Murdock” as a two-man stage play between actors Charlie Cox and Elden Henson.
Look, I am not advocating less drama and more action for shows that use the serial drama format. I still have bad memories of Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, in which the addition of more action, at the expense of drama, nearly ruined that season for me. Marvel Netflix’s solution to their problems – at least as far as their fourth series, “IRON FIST”, is concerned – was to shortened that series’ 13-episode arc to 10 episodes for its second season. Some have claimed that this action may have been a matter of budget in order to provide more funds for the show’s CGI effects. Perhaps this person is right. Then again, I have yet to see Season One of “IRON FIST”. And yet . . . the seasons that followed Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” managed to provide a better balance of drama and action without shortening Seasons Three to Five.
Balance. Perhaps that is the true problem with the Marvel Netflix shows. There does not seemed to be any real balance between the use of drama and action for each episode within their shows. Or it seems rare when one of their episodes do provide any real balance. If that is the case, I do not see how limiting the number of episodes from 13 to 10 will solve the problem for the shows other than “IRON FIST”. Judging from the criticism, this lack of balance seemed to be a problem with all five shows. If the show runners and writers of the other four Marvel Netflix series do not want to reduce the number of episodes per season, perhaps they and their staffs need to learn to balance the use of drama and action in their narratives.