The individual seasons of Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Care, and Iron Fist were all 13 episodes each while the first season of the crossover series only consisted of eight episodes.
“It was actually also a lot about schedule, which is another thing that eludes people,” Ramirez said. “We knew that we needed to have Mike [Colter] in the chair in his own show, and we knew we needed to have Krysten [Ritter] on her own show by a certain date, so we knew that we had this much time to shoot, no matter what we shoot and no matter how many episodes we needed to shoot. That was one factor.”
Ramirez added that the production company and the distributor were open to whatever plan the showrunner came up with.
“Netflix and Marvel were both very flexible, in terms of how many episodes I pitched them. I actually had the writers’ room for awhile before we came up with the number eight,” Ramirez said. “And then, we went in and said, ‘We can do this in eight episodes,’ and they were all systems go on it. That was really a testament to them, to be honest. There was never a quota we were trying to fill. We just wanted to tell a story that was satisfying, and I think these eight episodes are satisfying.”
Writers and producers are usually going to toe the company line, but Marvel and Netflix know they have a cash cow on their hand with these series. Though they might have preferred a longer series and would have fronted the money to do it, schedules are important for actors who are only increasing in demand with these roles.
Ramirez also had to deal with creating a narrative with high stakes knowing the characters would all return to their own series. Basically, everyone was “safe.” Other than making it in eight episodes, that was also a challenge for the writing staff.
“It’s tricky. It’s one of the tricks of cable TV,” Ramirez said. “I don’t know. It’s hard. How does one watch the whole run of The Sopranos and think that Tony is actually in danger? It’s a very tricky storytelling device.”
But the showrunner relied on past experience to tell a story that made viewers question the safety of the characters they’ve come to know and love.
“I cut my teeth working for two years on Sons of Anarchy, and it was about making sure there’s always blood in the water, so that the audience knows that there’s always a lingering possibility for everybody,” Ramirez said. “Whether that’s a realistic thing or not, it’s always about making sure that people actually get hurt in this world and that people’s lives can be changed in an instant. That’s the magic trick of dealing with a show like this.”
The Defenders churned out a solid arc over the course of eight episodes and left the door open to return for more adventures. Let’s hope Marvel and Netflix are able to capitalize on that goodwill.
The Defenders is now streaming on Netflix.
Marvel’s The Defenders follows Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones). A quartet of singular heroes with one common goal – to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together.