While the arrival of Marvel Studios' The Defenders miniseries on Netflix remains about a year away, production will begin before the end of 2016, and fan anticipation has already built to a pretty high level. Essentially the Marvel TV equivalent to The Avengers movies, The Defenders unites the titular street level New York City heroes from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist into a powerful combined force for justice. Naturally, successfully combining four disparate heroes from four tonally different series into one cohesive whole is no easy task, but will nevertheless be absolutely required for The Defenders to be a satisfying experience.
Accepting the large responsibility for accomplishing that task are showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez, fresh off of their stint running Daredevil season 2. Whatever one's opinion of their work so far, the duo having already steered one Marvel ship for Netflix should certainly be a good primer for their transition into the world of superhero team-ups. Still, writing for one hero is vastly different than balancing four, plus the supporting characters each are likely to bring along for the ride. Luckily, Petrie and Ramirez seem to be taking the pressure in stride, and embracing the challenges inherent to making The Defenders a reality.
During a recent interview with IGN, Petrie and Ramirez - along with Marvel TV boss Jeff Leph Loeb - discussed their massive assignment, and some of the difficulties they've faced working out the kinks of the story. For his part though, Ramirez actually sees some bright sides to working within an already established framework:
"In the room we're talking about this character A and character C, and we're like, wait! Have they ever...? Wait, have they ever met each other? And then we'll be like, oh, they have so-and-so in common, and we're like, 'Oh, that's right.' There's weirdly a family tree in our heads and also on the boards. We're like OK, so this person has crossed paths with this person, this person knows who this is and what this person is capable of, and keeping it all accurate has been one of the bigger challenges. It makes our jobs easier because we don't have to even worry about creating a new character. So that's really fun, kind of thinking about being able to pull from the canon that already exists, even just in the three years these shows have existed."
On the other hand, Ramirez admits that the issue of ironing out what creative tone The Defenders will take has been one of the toughest to work through:
"The tone question is probably one of the most challenging and most exciting parts of this project because we get to overlap the four tones of the four shows and get to see what it looks like when a bit of a 'Daredevil tone' overlaps into a Jessica story and vice versa, or what happens when Luke Cage is suddenly in a scenario that feels kind of like it would have happened on Daredevil instead. The tone has really just been about organically blending those all together so that it feels like they're all cohesive and all of a piece. And of course, we're improvising to a certain degree. We're writing these things, and there certainly is a plan in place, and Marvel and Netflix and Jeph Loeb have all had very smart framework for what everything kind of looks like."
Expanding on the tone issue, Loeb added the following comments:
"The tone of the story is how do we best tell a story where Matt, Jessica, Danny, and Luke can interact with each other no matter what they're doing, and whether it is that they're going to be sitting around talking or whether it is that they're going to be fighting side by side. And what are those pairings like? What is Matt like when he's talking to Danny? What is Jessica like when she has to re-encounter Luke? Or meet a blind attorney who for some reason has the ability to be able to do things that make no sense at all, and who can call bulls**t on anybody that's in that group? So, that's really the challenge and the fun."
As any Marvel movie fan knows, one of the biggest criticisms of the post-Avengers MCU has been the question of "Why doesn't [solo movie hero] just call for help from the other Avengers?" Petrie believes that fans will understand the answer to any questions like that regarding The Defenders fairly quickly.
""It's not about physical proximity; it's about what is that character need at that time. Jessica is not going to ask for help, you know? And if she does, why would she ask a lawyer?"
While Petrie and Ramirez seem to have their heads in the right place regarding the development of The Defenders, actual details regarding what exactly the plot of the series will entail, or what event sparks the four heroes to assemble as one unit are still frustratingly vague. Also unclear is if The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) will make an appearance, now that he's officially getting his own Netflix series. Of course, the waiting and wondering is just part of the Marvel experience at this point. Thankfully, their final products usually live up to the hype.
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.