Remember when Michael Bay’s Transformers came out in 2007? Everyone over the age of 30 said: “I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on in the robot fight scenes!” Well, that’s how I feel about Marvel’s writing for their last couple of outings.

After a two year wait and five series drumroll leading to this assembly of Marvel’s street-level heroes, The Defenders finally hit our screens. Couchpotato called it a “Modern Storytelling Triumph”, Noel Edmonds called for an end to all telly awards as “nothing will ever top this” and… it was a load of old rubbish… oh no, what am I saying, my wife’s gonna kill me.

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While it may not stand up to repeat viewing, I thought Daredevil, Season One was something really quite special at the time, mostly thanks to Drew Goddard’s involvement as showrunner. Though he stepped down after developing the show as a labor of love, Drew’s paw prints were as evident as Greg Mitchell’s. Through Matt Murdock’s soul-wrenching inner conflict and Catholic guilt, Goddard had created one of the most realistic and relatable superheroes ever, despite his radioactive blindness and radar sense.

Jessica Jones, too was something special. A deeply flawed, suffering, three dimensional, alcoholic female character dealing with her rape and subsequent post traumatic stress disorder at the hands of Killgrave.

Elektra joining Daredevil made Season Two enjoyable (if a little long) but not spectacular and then… well, something changed down at the Marvel Television Studio writer’s rooms. They became conveyor belts.

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Luke Cage had its moments – some good performances, some killer music and a style and feel of its own amongst all the telling not showing and black history month. Not that there’s anything wrong with educating people on black history – quite the opposite, it was just the heavy-handed way Cheo Coker et al executed it; pulling the story over in a layby for a three-minute university lecture maketh not good telly and yet, Luke Cage was still just about enjoyable.

Iron Fist was where it all started going wrong.

Unfortunately, The Defenders falls into the same, 300-foot hole under New York. Not only is Finn Jones still not an actor, the writing is so terrible that I’ve decided it’s impossible to analyse it in the normal way. Like Michael Bay’s too-quick-to-be-seen robots, this is not meant to be writing as we know it but instead cue cards for Millennials’ short attention spans.

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As such, lines of dialogue in The Defenders are limited to one of two modes: clunky, spoon-feeding exposition or “I don’t understand… What’s happenin?” Yet despite the fact our heroes, their sidekicks and the bad guys spend days explaining what they are doing, what they’ve just done and what they’re about to do instead of just fucking doing it, I’m still lost.

And that’s with our four heroes each answering everyone’s favorite line “What’s going on?” to their sidekicks, to cops, to each other and even explaining their enemy’s own plans to them.

I can only assume the Marvel TV Studio’s writer’s room bible insists every few pages of the script must resemble this:

INT. POLICE PRECINCT. NIGHT.

FOGGY ENTERS, STILL LAUGHING INTERNALLY THAT HE GOT THE PART DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE TOO CANNOT ACT. JESSICA, MATT, LUKE AND DANNY HAVE BEEN FORMULATING A PLAN.

FOGGY
The Hand? Dragons? Chi? I don’t understand. Will someone please tell me what’s going on…

DANNY
I’m the immortal Iron Fist. The Hand is a thousand-year-old shadowy cabal and we think they’re going to blow up New York. How are we going to stop them, Matt?

MATT
Well, despite the fact that we Defenders are street-level heroes who have been taking down drug-dealers and racketeers for decades on account of the fact we leave city-levelling, Armageddon-type shit to the real superheroes that begin with A and contractually, we’re not allowed to mention, I don’t know…

DANNY (HIS FIST GLOWING AS HE GETS ANGRIER AND ANGRIER)
I. Just. Don’t. Get. Anything. Ever. Luke, do you?

LUKE
Jessica just told me that Colleen thinks we’ll stop them by beating them up then blowing up a hole. I think I agreed.

DANNY (SNIGGERING)
You said “a-hole”.

EXEUNT JESSICA, MATT, LUKE AND DANNY, CHASED BY A BEAR.
DETECTIVE MISTY KNIGHT’S CHEST ENTERS, FOLLOWED BY THE REST OF HER.

MISTY
The Hand? Dragons? Chi? I don’t understand. Will someone please tell me what’s going on…

FOGGY
Danny Rand, the billionaire, is the Immortal Iron Fist. The Hand is a thousand-year-old shadowy cabal and we think they’re going to blow up New York. Jessica said Colleen thinks they’ll stop them by beating them up then blowing down a hole. Luke thinks he agreed. I think I agree, too.

INT. HOLE. NIGHT.

JESSICA, MATT, LUKE AND DANNY fight thousand-year-old shadowy cabal, The Hand in an underwhelming fight scene, then blow up the hole.

INT. POLICE PRECINCT. NIGHT.

MISTY’S HANGRY BOSS APPEARS.

HANGRY BOSS
The Hand? Dragons? Chi? I don’t understand. Will someone please tell me what’s going on…

MISTY
Danny Rand, the billionaire, turns out he’s the immortal Iron Fist…

HANGRY BOSS
Danny Rand, the billionaire, is Iron Fist?

INT. HOLE. MINUTES LATER.

MATT
I can’t believe we came up with a plan to beat up thousand-year-old shadowy cabal, The Hand and blow up their a-hole, just like Colleen ex-posited.

LUKE
And then we just did it. We beat them up good. Did Everybody see what we just did?

MATT
I didn’t. 

JESSICA
You played a blinder. Gettit?  

DANNY
Yeah, cos… he’s blind. Wait, we did what?

JESSICA (SNARKILY)
We definitely just beat up The Hand and blew up Elektra’s A-hole.

ENTER FOGGY AND MISTY.

FOGGY
Hey, guys! Wait. What? A dragon was buried under an a-hole… I don’t understand…

MISTY
Yeah, will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on…

INT. LAUNDROMAT. NIGHT.
Rinse and repeat for eight hours.

I mean, Jesustittyfuckingchrist, if I hear “They’re called The Hand and they’re a shadowy cabal…” one more time, I’m gonna shove Danny Rand’s iron fist up his non-ferrous ass. Sideways.

This overuse of exposition at one point even sees Danny Rand walk into The Hand’s lair (well, board room) to explain to Alexandra – The Big Bad who wants to kidnap him and use his powers specifically because he’s the Iron Fist – “I’m the immortal Iron Fist, yadayadayada…”

“Yeah, I fucking know!” I thought, channelling Little Britain’s Lou and Andy.

“I know, She knows, The Hand knows, everyone fucking knows CAN EVERYBODY JUST STOP FUCKING TALKING!”

And then it dawned on me.

I fucking know, but the rest of the audience does not fucking know.

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The fact that everything is explained thirty-five times cannot simply just be down to unskilled, improper, heinous writing. Nope, this isn’t coincidence, it’s quite, quite purposeful. It’s as if the writers know that their audience of pituitary retard teens will have missed something when they were texting or Tindering or whatever it is the kids do nowadays. The legend of K’un L’un must have been told a dozen times.

I think one of the main troubles is that Marvel Television Studios know that people are going to binge-watch these Netflix shows regardless of the quality – therefore the writer’s room develops a quarter of a story – enough events perhaps for a movie and then stretches it over a series like butter spread over too much bread.

I thought, in making The Defenders just 8 episodes long, Marvel may have learned a lesson from Iron Fist’s 13 episodes but no – the same padding persisted. In these eight episodes, my interest really only piqued during the earthquake and one (now obligatory) hallway fight scene. Or when Elektra was onscreen.

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To make matters worse, there’s also an improvised, malaise feel to proceedings; not just amongst the actors but the whole crew. It’s traditional for re-writes or tweaks during shooting but this feels like the writers, directors and actors really were just making shit up as they went along.

I get that one theme of Iron Fist and The Defenders is that, as superheroes, they are naïve, unprepared and don’t have all the answers. At one point Luke and Misty sum up the audience’s relationship with the writers and the series in two lines.

LUKE
There is no plan.

MISTY
I can tell.

This exchange is too perfect an analogy to be accidental – the story is never naturally pushed forward, there’s never any throughline,  just a collection of scenes that don’t cut well together and layers and layers of exposition… about exposition.

TALK IS CHEAP. CHEAPER THAN STUNTS.

Scenes that not even heavyweights Sigourney Weaver and Scott Glenn could glue together. Huge logic gaps appear when the plot demands it – one moment, the world’s most beautiful woman, Elektra is invincible, the next Matt Murdock easily grabs her in a headlock so they can have a chat. Minor characters are completely forgotten about, Foggy and Karen show up and the writers expect us to care as they explain what we’ve just seen. Again.

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And then there’s the unbelievable character choices – Detective Misty Knight holes Claire, Foggy, (still can’t act) Karen et al up at the precinct for their protection then gives Colleen, who she just met, her sword back… because that’s the internal logic of this show’s cop’s minds. There’s never any common sense, just nonsense line after nonsense line.

The show features no cliffhangers, no excitement, very little action, badly choreographed fight scenes complete with missed punches, no toying with expectations, no detective work, no chemistry, no camaraderie. Just. Fucking. Talking.

When Daredevil, Luke and Jessica are rushing to the building, under which Danny is about to die at the hands of The Hand(!) they stop to look at the building for more unnecessary and confusing exposition. If I’m repeating myself, it’s with good reason…


But as well as a litany of failures, one of The Defenders’ biggest mistakes is a complete lack of emotion or internal conflict for any of the characters. Without these building blocks, you end up with no character motivation and a bunch of disparate scenes. One throwaway line about Killgrave does not take care of things – Jessica’s whole persona was dictated by what that monster did to her. As it is, these character’s lives are just words on a page.

It would help for The Hand’s plan to be made known before the final episode, but they didn’t know because the writers didn’t know. I’ve seen better internal logic in children’s shows. Shit! The Red Hand Gang would have done a better job defending New York… from their home in L.A.

By the penultimate episode, I genuinely think the writers had given up or worse, are writing in sarcastic dialogue by way of protest. This is evidenced when Luke asks how she and Matt impossibly happened across a clue in a piano, Jessica turns narrator, saying what we’re all thinking “Ohh, don’t ask” and “This is the dumbest…” (plan/series/script/paycheck)

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Save for a few scenes where Matt fought Elektra – a complete rehash of Daredevil Season Two – the series is devoid of emotion. Charlie Cox tried his hardest as Matt/Daredevil, Mike Colter was just Mike Colter and Finn Jones should do the world a favor and give up acting, but the award for turning up and not actually giving a fuck goes to Krysten Ritter.

In the overlong denouement, Luke encounters Jessica in a bar, they share a drink and I realise that Krysten Ritter has suddenly remembered to portray Jessica Jones as the flawed, abused woman she is instead of sleepwalking her way through her lines.

But it’s not Krysten’s fault. When the perversely low quality of a script does that to an actor and creates a crew so disinterested, well… let’s just say The Defenders is an abject lesson in how not to write the Marvel way.

Marvel Studios should be embarrassed and ashamed of that shit-show. And as for the final tag – that’s not how you bring a character back from the dead. Tags are meant to be shocking or heartwarming or terrifying, not eye-rolling.

Oh, and one last thing… please don’t market the fact that The Punisher appears in The Defenders when it’s a bare-faced lie. Rant over. Now, fuck off back to NYU Film School to learn How to write The Drew Goddard Way.

Next up, The Punisher. Lord help us.