TV Crimes and Punish(er)ment: Comic TV with Dan

Filler Characters

Hardly Quinn, as discussed earlier, is a waste of time that could have been spent on Pilgrim’s past transition from white pride thug to a man who kills out of devotion to an ideal, rather than hatred. Her scenes are bad, her character one-dimensional, and she’s a full regular who appeared in nearly every episode.

She says she wants to “save” or “fix” Billy, but we never get a real sense of what that’s even supposed to mean, what a “fixed” Billy would look like for her. What it seems to mean is “help him be a more stable mass murderer,” because she has no problems helping him organize murders. Her motives are unclear, her backstory has a serious flaw and doesn’t make her less awful, and all that would happen if you cut every scene she had after Billy escaped custody is that you’d have more time for Pilgrim or you could just make the season three episodes shorter.

Sadly, there were a lot of these characters in the Marvel Netflix shows over the years. Examples…

  • The biggest offender prior to Hardly would have to be rat-faced Lewis from Punisher season one, a one-episode filler villain that they spent nine damned episodes building up for some damn fool reason I do not understand and will not respect.
  • Pryce Cheng just gave Jessica Jones someone to dislike and us someone to boo for the Seven. Damned. Episodes it took for JJ’s second season to find its way out of first gear. He’d lift right out, but will probably be back, gods damn it.
  • There is no reason Iron Fist season one needed Madame Gao and Bakuto if Howard Meachum were going to be the surprise final villain. Just use one, and make Howard’s 11th-hour betrayal come less out of nowhere.
  • Does anyone look back fondly on Jeri Hogarth’s marital issues from JJ season one?
  • Does anyone remember that Trish even had a boyfriend in JJ season two, and that he seemed like he was going to be important right up until he vanished completely?
  • There was nothing really wrong with DA Hightower, I just don’t understand why he was a main-credit regular on Daredevil despite being a very minor recurring character, while Detective Mahoney wasn’t a regular on Punisher.
  • What was even the point of that wanna-be gang from Iron Fist season two? I was amazed they kept showing up to fail at being competent criminals. Every time they showed up I thought “Not these idiots again.”

In the end… Marvel Netflix added a bunch of filler characters because they consistently found it a real challenge to fill 13 episodes, but only twice considered shorter seasons. Which brings us to…

Those Eternal Pacing Issues

Remember when I described Amy’s whole deal and why Pilgrim was out to get her? It takes four or five episodes for them to fill us in on that. Until then, people keep asking Amy why she’s being hunted, she lies and says she doesn’t know, then tries to run off on her own, despite the fact that every time she tries to go solo she immediately gets caught by mercs or bounty hunters, and has no plan for when that happens. She does not learn. Now… on the one hand, that actually makes sense given her backstory (her Artful Dodger mentor taught her to run when the job goes bad, and why would she trust cops or brutally violent vigilantes), but on the other hand, we also want to know why this is happening. There’s a difference between a slow-burn and just deliberately withholding information. If we were in on the secret, maybe her “I don’t know why this is happening, just let me go” act wouldn’t have worn thin so fast.

But do you know what’s sad? The fact that the long wait for Rachel/Amy’s backstory and Billy and Hardly Quinn’s repetitive “therapy” sessions aren’t the worst case of a Marvel Netflix show running in circles. As I have said, time and time again, Marvel Netflix was bad at pacing, bad at understanding episodic narrative. Most of these are obvious examples… Marvel Netflix shows always tended to drag a little between episodes eight and eleven. I’ve rarely made it to episode ten of a Marvel Netflix series and not thought “Oh goddamn, there are three hours left?”

Specifics…

  • Jessica Jones season two threw so much padding into its first six episodes. Trish’s boyfriend, Pryce Cheng, the endless series of hoops Jessica had to jump through to reach that pivotal confrontation at the end of season six… all because the post-confrontation plot had no chance of being stretched past six episodes. Hell, even then, they had to do one too many rides on the “She can’t be saved/she must be saved” roller coaster.
  • Luke Cage had pacing problems throughout. Season one spent four episodes building up Luke vs Cottonmouth and then killed Cottonmouth in episode seven. And season two wasn’t better: Danny Rand’s guest appearance in episode ten didn’t progress the main story even a little, and episode eleven was filled with flashbacks about Bushmaster that contained no new information. Both episodes reeked of filler, and were way too late in the game for it.
  • The season finale of Iron Fist season one, which paid off plot points set up earlier in the season finale of Iron Fist season one, seemed very much like the writers wrapped up the season in episode twelve, remembered they needed to shoot thirteen, then panicked and hammered out a thirteenth script on their way to set.
  • And our biggest offender… the four heroes of The Defenders weren’t in the same room until the final three minutes of the third episode. It took nearly half the season for them to team up. That sort of lethargically paced nonsense would never happen in an Arrowverse crossover.

Basically, Marvel Netflix wanted to be binge-watched to the point that they never learned to think of their shows as 8-13 individual episodes instead of one long movie. Then they gave themselves enough plot for a longish movie, not 13 episodes, and padded themselves out to the requisite run time.

Next page: Final thoughts

Thing they did well: Hey, I have one more! Frank’s combat buddy Curtis actually works well as a character. He’s the only vet on this show who isn’t one bad day away from shooting up Brooklyn, and he works great as Frank’s surrogate conscience. Much better than Amy convincing Frank to kill fewer people because she finds it squicky. I especially like how calmly he reaches his breaking point in the finale… no angry rants, no fights, no big speeches, just a quiet, simple resignation of “Nope, this is too much,” then arranging a meet-up with Detective Mahoney to say “Frank kidnapped this guy, I don’t agree with it, can I just give him to you and go home, please?”

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