Best Marvel Defenders Season So Far

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Unlike their Avengers brethren on the big screen, the Marvels Defenders on Netflix don’t get all that much attention. This is probably partially because these Netflix Original series are more “adult,” which limits the audience to a more “mature” viewers. They also don’t have the advertising budget of the blockbuster films.

However, if your parents say it’s okay for you to partake in the Defenders’ heavier use of blood, sex, and substance abuse, you should give the Marvel-Netflix Originals a chance. Here’s a mostly spoiler-free break down of how I’d rank each season of that’s out so far (as of May of 2018):

Last Place (Unfortunately)

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Iron Fist, Season One

Sorry, to kick a show when it’s down, but—

Although I like Danny Rand’s positive attitude, the first season of Iron Fist is easily the weakest of the Defenders series. The most glaring problems are the fight scenes. The Iron Fist is supposed to be a kung fu master. He should be fast, fluid, and visceral. While I applaud Finn Jones’ effort and fitness, the show fails to deliver a punch in its fight choreography.

With the public’s years of exposure to Jackie Chan’s stunt work and Jet Li’s more-authentic skill, it’s hard to watch Iron Fist‘s snail-slow choreography and buy Finn Jones as an elite kung fu master. They should’ve used more camera tricks and worked the Foley stage to mask Jones’ inexperience in martial arts.

I read somewhere that Jones was rushed through training and filming, so he and the stunt team couldn’t get the fight scenes done right. I hope that’s true, so after however many months, Jones can have a fair chance to make a better showing in the second season.

Overall, I’d still watch this season if you’re enough of a Marvel Cinematic Universe nerd (or simply love the Knight of Flowers).

Fourth Place: 

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Daredevil, Season Two

While watching this season, I found the two “parallel” story lines to be drastically different in tone and quality. In short, the bits with the Punisher was good while the parts focusing on Elektra was not so good.

With a quick Google search, I found the likely reason: The season had two showrunners who, I can only assume, worked with too much independence. They weren’t careful enough with pacing and cohesiveness of the season overall.  The story with Elektra, however, leads into the Defenders crossover, though. So perhaps the showrunners were being pulled in too many directions.

If you ask me, the flashbacks concerning Elektra’s past were shown too late. They should have built up sympathy for her much earlier so the viewers would not be so annoyed with her. As it is, Elektra’s tossed into the story in a very slapdash way, and we’re force fed some kind of supposed chemistry between her and the Daredevil. It didn’t quite work.

Third Place:

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Jessica Jones, Season One

To put it bluntly, I think Jessica Jones kind of got screwed over in terms of budget for the first season. Although I can’t find any clear evidence, I found some circumstantial evidence: The first seasons for all four superheroes plus the crossover were supposed to split a $200 million budget, and Daredevil ate up $56 by himself. The variety and quality of the sets on Jones makes it seem like an indie film in contrast to Daredevil, which came out first, and Luke Cage which came out a little later. A huge number of the scenes and property damage in Jones was limited to her one-bedroom apartment (which, by the way, is much crappier than Daredevil’s big ass loft/studio).

So despite having a solid story about Jones getting over some serious trauma paired with strong performances by the actors, I think the budget (although maybe the production was also rushed like Iron Fist) made Jones’ first season lack the luster it deserved.

Although, David Tennant does a great job playing a character whose face I want to punch whenever he shows up. Pft. Kilgrave.

Second Place:

I’m going to cheat and go with a three-way tie: Jessica Jones, Season Two; Luke Cage, Season One; and The Punisher, Season One

The pacing and apparent production value for the second season of Jessica Jones totally outshines the first. The story has more hooks and barrels forward with more momentum than the first (despite or because of the general lack of David Tennant’s character; I guess Kilgrave, and what he does, makes me uncomfortable).

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Luke Cage is awesome, due in no small part to his much-more-impressive superpowers. However, the soundtrack, plot, and tone all work together to make the series very engrossing.

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The Punisher, although he’s not technically a Defender, has a great first season. It, like the other second-place seasons, hooks you from start to end. They provide some great action while building a lot of sympathy for the hard-ass protagonist.

All three of these shows touch upon subjects that, outside of fiction, may be difficult to discuss. Jessica Jones is a survivor rape and tons of other sources of trauma;  Luke Cage is wrongfully incarcerated and, as many have noted, is in a show about a bulletproof black man released in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement; and The Punisher deals issues veterans face (e.g., PTSD, being and feeling discarded after their service). However, the shows don’t harp too much on these social and political issues. It’s all subtle enough that you can simply enjoy entertaining stories about over-the-top heroes (and anti-heroes).

First Place:

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Daredevil, Season One

The first season is leagues better than the second. I think it’s because it doesn’t have to worry so much about leading into the Defenders crossover as its second season (AKA one of many problems Iron Fist had to deal with). The action in this season is arguably the best in all of the Defenders, with a prime example being the should-be-famous one-shot fight scene from the very first episode.

This first season also benefits from having characters who are smart. They generally make decisions which are well thought out and they speak in a manner that exudes some measure of intellect (this contrasts with the first season of Jessica Jones where people make decisions without thinking and communication is almost non-existent). The season also leans heavily on the charismatic Kingpin, played by Vincent D’Onofrio (I lay most of this out in my so-called review of the season from way back when).

Apparently, I like violence followed by pretentious dialogue.

Full disclosure: I may have a bias for Daredevil because I’m also a handsome attorney who spends too much time in a side hustle. He fights crime with his superhuman senses, and I sit around writing crap no one reads. It’s the same.

Bonus Note: Each Defender show uses the character’s designated color throughout their scenes: red for Daredevil, purple for Jessica Jones, yellow for Luke Cage, and green for Iron Fist. Although the colors are noticeable in Daredevil and Jones, I feel it’s not overdone. Yellow lights are pretty common in real life, so it’s all but unnoticeable in Luke CageIron Fist, however, totally flushes too much out with green. C’mon, Fist team.

 

 

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Bronn: 1, Drogon: 0—Game of Thrones, Season 7, So Far

Game of Thrones Spoiler Alert! (With that out of the way—)

Dany and Jon Snow

I sincerely hope this doesn’t turn into a romantic relationship. The Onion Knight needs to mind his business.

As I watched Drogon bearing down on Bronn and the ballista, I found myself rooting more for Bronn than Daenerys. Actually, I was more on the side of Jaime and Bronn for the entirety of the battle. Given Dany’s insistence that Jon Snow bend the knee in the last two hours of GoT, I’ve been somewhat annoyed with her.

This season, Dany has been acting rather entitled to the Iron Throne and the whole of Westeros, and it’s gotten tiresome. The first Targaryen to sit on the throne had taken the continent through conquest and threat of violence. Robert Targaryen took it back by the same means, relieving the people from the whims of the Mad King. So, though it’s fair game for Dany to say she’s going to take the throne by the might of her dragons and her army, I find it a bit lame for her to so strongly rely on the argument that it’s her “right.”

Jon’s retort to Dany on episode 3 was on point. He basically said he didn’t acknowledge her right to the throne because her father gave up the throne when he went ballistic on the people of Westeros. Overall, I’m not a fan of monarchies and (governing) power-by-inheritance. As a person who grew up with Hollywood films touting the values of Democracy, I kind of want Daenerys to unite Westeros and then put down her crown—as cheesy as it my be.

So after Dany spent two episodes basically clashing with my beloved King in the North, and insisting that she is entitled to the entire continent and all the people’s allegiance, I wasn’t quite in support of her flying down to Highgarden and laying waste to Westerosi.

The showrunners (and, perhaps, George R.R. Martin) intended for these late-game clashes to leave the audience conflicted, and it was done well. I didn’t want anyone to die in this fight. Sure, the Lannisters have a history of being jerks, but all the lives lost in this episode are warriors who should have united to fight against the true enemy.

By the end of the episode, when Jaime told Bronn to use their secret dragon-slaying weapon, I was both hoping and expecting for Drogon to be shot down (sorry, animal lovers). I wanted the dragon to fall, somewhat selfishly, because Dany needed a reality check. I also expected it because, like most folks, you could see this coming a mile away—more lives and resources need to be wasted, from a writing/show-running standpoint, before the good guys can finally band together.

Bronn being awesome

Take that, Drogon.

So the postman may hate Bronn, but he has my support. As for his and Jaime Lannister’s fates on the show after they dodged the flames and fell into the water—

They’re probably okay. They’re not shown in teasers for the next episode just to screw with people. The showrunners seem to be going in the direction of The Walking Dead and leaning a bit too much on cliffhangers to jerk the audience around (which, if true, is a mistake).

Kyle from Last Man Standing = Jeff from American Dad

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A few episodes into Last Man Standing, I realized the character of Kyle Anderson reminded me a lot of Jeff Fischer on American Dad!. They’re both super-nice and kindhearted, have similar amounts of facial hair, are loyal partners to their women, have a noticeable lack of wit, are partial to Hackey Sack, and are more likable than most of the people around them. Oh, and I guess they’re both twenty-something white guys.

Of course, they’re not exactly the same, but listing differences doesn’t seem as fun.

After pointing out the similarity of these characters to my girlfriend, I jumped onto Google to see if anyone has written about it. Finding nothing, I decided I’d write this myself. My best guess as to why no one else has noted this (in an easily Googled space) is because the shows seem to appeal to different demographics (or, you know, something to do with American Dad!‘s recent ratings).

American Dad!, like other Seth MacFarlane shows, leans liberal and has a mostly “young” male audience. Last Man Standing is a bit closer to center thanks to a balance between Tim Allen’s conservative views and a somewhat-left writing room, and it’s probably more appealing to “older” folks (I watch it because I loved Home Improvement as a kid—whether or not I’m “old” may be up for debate). Ironically, the “liberal” American Dad! is probably less PC than the “conservative” Last Man Standing.

Back to my point: People who know Jeff Fischer have probably never heard of Kyle Anderson, and vice versa. Then there are weirdos like me who enjoy both shows and use Google to see if people notice the same crap I do.

Luke Cage! I’ll binge-watch you soon enough.

luke-cage-netflix-premiereDespite the somewhat disappointing Jessica Jones and second season of Daredevil, I’ve been looking forward to Luke Cage. The trailer they dropped a while ago did its job hyping me up to see Cage become a Hero for Hire (and beat a bunch of bad guys up in the process). So much bulletproof awesomeness.

Still, I somehow managed to forget about the launch of the series until NPR, of all things, reminded me it was available for streaming TODAY. When I heard the piece on the radio (discussing mostly race, the creation and evolution of Luke Cage, and how his bulletproof skin brings up certain thoughts in relation to current events), I was in the midst of running errands. I was too busy to rush home and watch.

I’m about to go out right now, too, so it doesn’t look like I’ll  get through a single episode tonight. I’ll probably burn through half of the episodes tomorrow, though. Then, perhaps, I can find some time to share my thoughts about the Defenders shows (Cage, Jones, Daredevil). Hm—I also have to finish blogging about my previous travels before I start traveling again.

Eh, one thing at a time. Luke Cage!

Note: I enjoyed Daredevil‘s second season and Jessica Jones but they weren’t as good as the first season of Daredevil (I really liked it).

Mini life update: I’ve been fairly busy working on re-writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project; I signed up for a writing class with UCLA Extension; and I’m setting things up to work abroad in 2017.

What’s this WB Writers’ Workshop?

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I realize I’m setting myself up for an unnecessarily public failure by posting this, but last Tuesday I submitted an application to the WB Writers’ Workshop.

The WB Writers’ Workshop is a program which takes writers looking to get into television, teaches them pretty much everything about being a TV writer and ultimately tries to find staff writings positions for the program participants. As I understand it, the program gets over two thousand applications a year and only has ten seats; it’s highly competitive.

The central piece of the application is the writing sample. At minimum, they want one spec script of a show on their approved list; and, optionally, you can include a second script (i.e., either an original pilot or a spec of another listed show).

When I decided to apply to the program in April, I set forth a plan: binge watch the second season of The Flash and write a spec about the adventures of Barry Allen; and, simultaneously, consider other shows for my second writing sample.

Weeks went by, and thanks to work (and my one-hour-each-way commute), I’d only watched five episodes of The Flash and hadn’t written a single word. On top of that, I had yet to choose a second show. At the start of May, I looked at the program’s website again and realized the list had been updated.

Marvel’s Daredevil was an option.

I changed my plans. Rather than attempt to catch up on The Flash, I went with Daredevil, a show I enjoyed (well, the first season more than the second) and was entirely caught up on. Also new on the list was another Netflix Original, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, and I had that queued up to be the subject of my second spec.

My first step in writing a Daredevil spec was re-watching the latest episode and reading up on the character’s comic book rogue gallery to find a proper villain. It took me at least a full week (again, thanks to work and other obligations) to finally decide on a villain. When it came to the weekend before applications were due, I only had ten pages of script: less than 25% of what I needed. So writing a second spec was out of the question, and I focused entirely on Daredevil.

Around 11:30 P.M. on May 30th, the night before the submission deadline, I had twenty pages done. As a break from writing, I logged onto the writing program’s submission page. There, the submission deadline was stated to be at 11:59 P.M., May 30th.

I was screwed. I had less than half my script finished, and only half an hour until the cutoff time. I gave up.

Within minutes, I received an email from my supervising attorney for whom I’m doing contract work at a fancy high-rise office in Downtown Los Angeles. He wanted me to come in the next day to handle a quick assignment. I told him I’d be there.

As I sent the email, I tried to reconcile the different deadlines on the program’s website. The login page said it was due before midnight on the 30th, and the information page said it was due at 5:00 P.M. on the 31st. I decided one of these was a mistake, and it was likely the earlier deadline was wrong. If so, I could sleep, go to work, and finish the rest of my script before 5 o’clock.

Sure enough, the next morning, I checked the program’s Facebook page which reiterated that the submission deadline was at 5:00 P.M. on the 31st.  I still had hope. However, I couldn’t start writing again until I drove from Orange County to Los Angeles and finished my work assignment. I got to the office at 7:00 A.M., did my job, and finally got back to my script.

Five or so hours later, at around 3:00 P.M., I had an unpolished spec script done. In order to submit my application to the program, though, I needed to print and sign a release form. And, in order to even print the form, I needed to upload my script. So I uploaded the damn thing as it was, emailed the release to myself and headed down to the nearest FedEx to print it. There, I was informed that this particular FedEx did not have a scanner. So then I had to run to the next nearest FedEx, two city blocks away in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. After scanning the signed release, I picked up my first meal of the day from McDonald’s and went back into my office and submitted my application at around 4:30 P.M.

All of that, and I am 99% sure I am not getting into the WB Writers’ Program.

Yep.

My script is slightly shorter than average and barely more than a first draft, it would be a wonder if I beat out 2,000 other applicants. Still, I learned a lot about writing television scripts, and a valuable lesson: get $@#% done early. Time to plan for next year.

Flash VS Arrow (Season 1 VS Season 3)

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A few days ago I finished speeding through the latest Netflix-available seasons of The Flash and Arrow, seasons one and three, respectively. I enjoyed both but found The Flash‘s freshman efforts to be more enjoyable than Arrow’s third year antics.

Here’s my courtesy *SPOILER WARNING* (though they my randomly ordered topics below probably won’t reveal anything major).
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Don’t Worry (or Rejoice) Just Yet, I’m Still Here

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I’ve been distracted for a while, and I’ve been busy with non-writing work for the last two weeks. Though I haven’t been writing and posting as much as I’d like, I’m definitely not throwing in the towel yet.

Novel #1: Still working on polishing the first novel. After the last revision (which, as I may have stated elsewhere, was the final major revision until I get an agent or professional editor), I sent the manuscript out to beta readers: two re-readers and five new folks; all writers. Waiting to get feedback from at least half of them before I apply some changes and make a final Hail Mary pass for traditional publishing; if no one has the hands to catch the damn ball (perfect spiral and all), I’ll finally invest in going indie by hiring an editor.

Short Stories and Breadth of Style: Starting in June, I’ve been trying my hand at short stories and have churned out a bunch of crap and several pieces which I think are pretty darn decent. For some of these, I deviated from the PG-13-esque style of writing I use in Novel #1 in favor of something darker. This came about from a mix of influences, including but not limited to: On the Road which I’m rereading for the first time since college, bits of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the unfiltered language of the television show Californication (Hank Moody’s writing seems a bit on the purple side, so I’m trying not to pick up too much of that).

Other Novels: I should update the “My Novels” page. The so-called Urban Fantasy novel I was outlining has changed drastically, and the original intended title no longer makes sense. I’m about 6,000 words into the first draft (i.e., “zero draft” or “junk draft”) and I’m hoping this novel will be more of an obvious high concept work than Novel #1. The superhero project is on the back burner; and I’ve gotten several thousand words into a contemporary (non-genre) novel. Notably, none of these projects are YA (whereas Novel #1 is).