When Marvel wanted to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe's reach to a larger audience on the small screen, Netflix became the perfect partner. Allowing them to create more mature content for heroes set in Hell's Kitchen opened up a new corner of the MCU, and has had a near-perfect start. Both Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 were met with high praise across the board - and next year, those eponymous superheroes team up with Luke Cage and Iron Fist to round out Marvel's The Defenders.
Bringing these four characters together, among other players from the Netflix corner of the MCU, will make the Defenders mini-series the biggest Marvel TV crossover event so far. It won't be easy to handle that many characters, but Marvel and Netflix have chosen Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie to do just that. Following their work on Daredevil season 2 (which they served as the showrunners on), they are ready to tackle this new adventure.
During the Television Critics Association event a few weeks ago, /Film was able to sit down and talk to both men about the process of creating and managing The Defenders. When the series airs next year, it could be the first time a few of our characters meet each other. The great thing about the team up is the differing styles the heroes have in bringing about justice. If you are hoping to see the conflict within the group as they work out the kinks of their new partnership, there will be plenty of time for that:
Petrie: You have time over the many episodes, exactly, to spread out the characters, let them breathe, let them expand and let them get to know each other, so they don’t have to love each other right away, but we’ll love them by the end.
Ramirez: [Somebody] asked earlier about whether or not The Defenders is going to feature more spectacle, more explosions, basically, was the question. [I] don’t know. I really think what the focus of these shows and what makes a show like Daredevil and a show like [Jessica Jones] and I’ve seen Luke [Cage], it’s fantastic, is that they’re really sophisticated character stories. So I think the thing that excites us the most going into The Defenders and writing these scripts is just to tell character stories and interaction between them, watch them bump up against each other.
As the newest team up in the MCU fights its way to being a cohesive crime stopping unit, comparisons to the way the dynamics worked in The Avengers will be hard to avoid. This team might not have the god of thunder or a Hulk, but they will definitely have their disagreements along the way, before ultimately learning how to work as a team:
Petrie: Of course. It’s fun because it’s just like any other family. They have to fight.
Ramirez: What’s been fun is we have a lot of time to tell his story. It’s not a two-hour movie. We’ll have eight or however many episodes so really everybody gets to interact with everybody. It’s been one of the great joys of watching something like The Avengers or The Dirty Dozen, any movie like that. Any of those stories feels like people are going to watch people grow, bump heads, fight along the same side. We want to watch all that.
The Defenders will be similar to The Avengers only because they are bringing different characters together for the first time. This will not be the last time the comparisons are made between the two, but the Defenders showrunners do not look at it like that. Instead, they are focused on doing something that has not really been done before on the small screen. There are many cases for two shows crossing over for an episode, but there has never been something to this scale before as far as they are concerned:
Ramirez: I think it’s easy to just sell it as TV’s The Avengers but I really think it’s different. I was trying to think about it the other day. There aren’t many projects in TV that have ever done something like this. You often feel like people sometimes splinter off a show and do a spinoff, but you never kind of have them spin in. You never kind of have four different properties overlap and come into each other.
The series may start with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) not seeing eye to eye - but when the threat arrises, they will learn to set aside their differences. Netflix has so far made quite a few memorable action sequences in their Marvel shows, but this time around, things will be even more complicated. The important thing for the showrunners has been keeping the characters true to who they are, regardless of how many of them their are in a single action sequence:
Petrie: Oh my gosh, yes. The fight scenes are exponentially more complicated, but also there’s an opportunity too that’s much more fun.
Ramirez: If anything it’s been a great challenge because it makes you feel like I have to stay true to who these characters are. Luke has to be Luke. JJ has to be JJ and Danny has to be Danny. Same with Matt. If anything, it’s been a real exercise almost in restraint. These people are all so strong headed, so I’ve taken it as a learning experience. They’re all so strong willed and so smart and so capable that sometimes, this was something I experienced writing for Frank [Castle, a.k.a. Punisher] last season, sometimes the page screams back. It’s like, “No, no, this is what I’m doing. I don’t care what your plans are.”
If the heroes are all fighting together, there must be a threat bigger than anything they have seen so far that forces them to cross paths. The first teaser for The Defenders seems to strongly hint at The Hand being that threat, but if that is the case, they are not ready to confirm it just yet.
Petrie: Interesting. We never really think of them as antagonists, first of all. We always think of everyone having their own agenda.
Ramirez: Without giving any spoilers or anything, I can say it’s been a challenge because now that they’re all four together, it feels like they’re so powerful. How cool is this? We get to use all four of these people but I think we’ve found something that feels great.
Production on The Defenders is set to begin near the end of the year, so any confirmation on the villain's (or villains') identity will hopefully come in due time. There is also the chance for the likes of Kingpin, Elektra, Nuke, Cottonmouth and/or Mariah Dillard to appear - depending on how Luke Cage ends. Either way, there should be no shortage of people for The Defenders to take down.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. The Defenders and Iron Fist arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, The Punisher and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.