It’s no easy feat seeing several characters from their own respective series cross over in a rewarding and meaningful way. Director Joss Whedon may have made the entire thing look easy when he released The Avengers back in 2012, but between the conflicting personalities, seemingly-contradictory superpowers, and clashes in movie styles, there was a lot that could have gone wrong there.
This year, Marvel Television is set to accomplish the same mammoth task when they cross over four of their street-level superheroes in The Defenders. The Defenders will serve as a continuation of the story of our New York-based supers Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron First — all of whom will have received at least one season of television by the time The Defenders hits the streaming service. As expected, this is a plan that’s set to have just as many difficulties as The Avengers did, as revealed by showrunner Marco Ramirez, when speaking with EW.
“On paper, it seems like such a crazy challenge, because they’re all so different,” Ramirez told the outlet. “How do you put Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist in the same room and give them the same goal?”
That’s definitely the crucial question. At the end of the day, all storytelling is are a series of circumstances where characters’ goals either coincide or conflict with one another. How would you make these four wild cards agree on everything? The Avengers were able to come together due to the world-ending circumstances they were up against. But what about these street-level characters? Would they be able to agree on anything? More importantly, would the filmmakers actually be able to juggle each of these characters’ arcs and motivations?
Ramirez continued, discussing the difficulty in making the series feel like more than just an order from the top brass at Marvel:
“We were talking about where we would even begin with it, how to make this feel as organic as possible and not like, you know, a corporate mandate or something that we were just doing just because we had this project that we had to fulfill in any kind of way. It was like, “How can we make this feel earned and real and grounded the way that all these shows feel earned and real and grounded, and also topical and important, the way that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones did? If we tell this story, what is this story?”
Of course, Marvel Television isn’t the only one doing these ambitious crossovers. If you’ll recall, The CW did a four-episode crossover between all their major shows that included Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. However, the differences between the two are too numerous to cover. With the CW shows, it’s almost as though these crossovers are fun little side adventures with very little to do with the main plot. With the upcoming Defenders, it seems they are making deliberate attempts to make sure the characters are still going through an emotional journey.
“…What’s really important to all of the writers on this was we were basically telling a version of Daredevil season 2.5, a Luke Cage season 1.5, a Jessica Jones 1.5, and Iron Fist 1.5, so it felt like we had to tell the story that came after their immediate seasons and before their next ones.
“This should feel like a continuation of all the shows. Not that I’m trying to be cagey, but yeah, we will feel like this is the next step for all four of the shows… This will be a serialized story that feels like it is about one kind of contained event and story in our world. It’ll be one satisfying, self-contained piece.
“But in terms of their individual character arcs, it was basically taking the questions that were posted. This was something I told the writers: It’s taking the questions that were posed in the finales of each of their shows. So the last times we saw them, where are they, and what are they going to need to do in order to grow up? What do they, as they come out of their own seasons, need?… We never wanted anyone to feel like they’re a guest on anyone else’s show. It’s weirdly about all four of them. It’s about all of their collective stories finally folding in on each other.”
This all brings us to the ultimate question: what threat can be so big that it would require the attention of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist? For the Avengers, the threat was literally an alien invasion, and while that sort of thing works for a set of characters who are always fighting world-ending circumstances, the same can’t be said of the Defenders, who spend their time combating city threats, along with their own personal demons.
“I can’t describe too much, but I can say that we knew it had to be something big. We knew it would take something massive to pull these four characters from their individual worlds to work together, but also small enough that it felt like it existed in our world. It needed to be a crisis that brought these people together, but it still needed to be a very street-level crisis. That’s the world we’re dealing with, so it couldn’t be anything too sci-fi or too supernatural or big. That’s the stuff of the movies.”
Are you looking forward to seeing how this all pans out? Be sure to tune in this summer when The Defenders premieres on Netflix. And, of course, we can’t forget about Iron Fist, the final show in this lead-up that will also hit the streaming service this March.