What keeps you hooked to a television series? What keeps you tuning in every week or binge-watching every day? What keeps you constantly talking about that show with your friends? Ultimately, it’s the characters. Television brings us on long journeys with our favorite characters, immersing us into their lives. We see their rises and their falls. We root for them, we choose who we want them to date. We are fully engaged with TV characters, relating to them and growing with them. 14 years later, there’s a reason why we still talk about Monica and Rachel from Friends. We’ve invested time with them over their ten years on air and then some. Sometimes a TV show isn’t even that great narratively but still thrives because of thoughtful characters.
Take a show like Grey’s Anatomy, ABC’s longest-running primetime drama. Grey’s Anatomy may be excessively dramatic and oftentimes unrealistic, but it still draws viewers in to see what would happen to the characters’ they’ve been connected to for 15 seasons. From the get-go, Grey’s Anatomy crafted emotionally compelling and strikingly relatable characters that have kept audiences along for so long. They hooked viewers with emotion, growing and developing their characters around the arduous melodrama. Amidst the ridiculousness of the show, audiences always wanted to see where these characters would go next.
Last week, Netflix announced the cancellation of Iron Fist. Clearly, the most disliked show in the Marvel Netflix Universe, Finn Jones’ Danny Rand was bland, annoying, and entitled. There was no main character to connect to, nothing to draw us into a long adventure spanning multiple seasons. Furthermore, the action sequences in the show, which should be its main draw, were boring and thoughtless. Its cancellation was inevitable. As the first canceled show in the Marvel Netflix Universe, Netflix has made it clear they have no plans to cancel any of their other Marvel shows. But maybe they should.
These shows started with such promise. Daredevil presented a tight, interesting story with a conflicted hero and real, engaging relationships. Jessica Jones brought us down a dark road of mind control and abuse, introducing a damaged heroine with real issues. They started this television universe with characters worth watching, with characters worth engaging with. But since then, the Marvel Netflix Universe has mostly regressed. Most of the subsequent shows are just trudging along and have become overwhelming, boring, and arduous. It’s evident that fatigue has set in, as viewership declined with The Defenders. Few of them are even worth watching anymore. That’s because most of these characters are thin, uncompelling, and have hardly developed. There’s no reason why we would stick around with them through multiple seasons.
Daredevil and The Punisher may be the only shows that still have promise. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has always had the most interesting arc as the Catholic boy who slowly moves closer into darkness as he cleanses the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Season 3’s trailer puts the devil in Daredevil, hinting that Matt will put an end to evil for good. Moreover, Jon Bernthal’s Punisher presents an interesting antihero who draws our sympathies from the pain he’s faced. Sure, his show may be too convoluted, but he’s a compelling character whose past is as fascinating as his future. These two shows may be worth delving further into because these characters have drawn as much empathy as they have intrigue. The same, however, can’t be said about the rest of the heroes.
The rest of these shows have characters that have stagnated or even regressed. Luke Cage’s righteous agenda never feels authentic, Jessica Jones took major steps backward after her incredible first season, and Iron Fist has already been canned for all the reasons stated before.
The point is, these aren’t characters interesting enough to follow for 15 seasons. There’s not enough depth in each character worth unpacking any further. Along with Iron Fist, Netflix should probably cancel the rest of the shows and focus all their attention on developing Daredevil and The Punisher. These shows are exhausting enough that no one should seem to care.