Marvel TV Has a Pacing Problem

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Marvel TV Has a Pacing Problem

Some spoilers for the Moon Knight finale are below.

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the television side of things have always been a bit rough. From the ABC dramas to the Netflix shows to the latest endeavors on Disney+, Marvel’s TV shows have never really hit the consistency that the movies they’re derived from did.

It’s not like Marvel had a great start when it came to the small screen, either. Marvel Television and Marvel Studios were not a joint venture under Kevin Fiege’s control until October of 2019, and with Ike Perlmutter in charge of TV until then, there weren’t a lot of cohesive ventures between the movies and TV outside of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It wasn’t until the Disney+ slate of shows that were announced at Disney’s 2020 Investor day started to premiere that Marvel managed to get a solid hold on TV.

Wandavision ’s success as Marvel’s first foray into an MCU canon TV show on Disney+ was followed by what seemed to be a less and less positive reception for every show that followed it. Sure, people who like everything Marvel does liked Hawkeye, but that doesn’t mean that it was actually good. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, and the recently concluded Moon Knight all certainly exist as TV shows and are presented as such to consumers, but they (and the series previously mentioned) all share one thing in common: terrible pacing.

There is a solid argument that Marvel Studios simply needs to make their shows longer. Six episodes isn’t a lot of time to introduce and wrap an entire story up and still have it be profound, but this unfortunately ignores the fact that WandaVision’s longer season (and half-hour format) is a victim of Marvel’s poor pacing as well. The issue fluctuates from show to show, of course. WandaVision and Moon Knight drag for their first two episodes, Loki and Hawkeye are almost painfully slow in the middle (but somehow feel like they’re missing something at the same time), and all of them have finales that feel like a rushed third act of the movie these shows should have been instead. WandaVison’s finale, in particular, felt so slapped together after being a show that was more character based and introspective than action-centered. If the tone was supposed to be consistent, there never should have been some huge battle in the sky that was barely built up to over the course of the series. The pacing being wonky bled into the feel of the show and ultimately led to the series fumbling its final episode.

No show has been worse at balancing itself than Moon Knight, unfortunately. The first two episodes might have been a slow start, but had the show followed a similar path for the rest of the series, the storytelling would have at least felt consistent. Instead, we are drop-kicked into a completely new part of the story in the third episode and left feeling like we’ve missed at least an episode’s worth of plot. Sure, the implication is that Marc Spector took over fronting from Steven Grant and went to Egypt to take down Arthur Harrow, but it feels so sudden, as do a lot of things that happen in the back four episodes of the show. Things just seem to happen to Marc and Steven over and over, and then the show is over and it feels like nothing has happened.

Even the smaller elements of the Moon Knight lack balance. The presence of a third personality—Jake Lockley—is set up the exact same way several times throughout the show, and when we’re finally given our reveal it’s rushed. Sure, this is a miniseries, but Jake Lockley’s existence (specifically the reveal of his name) felt like something that should have been in a Season 2 premiere, not a post-credit scene in the Season 1 finale. The same went for Marc and Steven’s adventures in the psych ward afterlife. Instead of tacking the introduction of that concept onto the last 10 minutes of the show’s fourth episode, it could have been the start of the fifth episode. The final scene of Marc and Steven after they’ve finished their work with Khonshu feels equally as misplaced. They wake up back in Steven’s apartment, Layla nowhere to be found despite the fact that their relationship with her is at least somewhat repaired, and that’s it. There’s no real closure for Layla either. I’m not one to argue that a limited series should actually have a second season, but it really seems like if Moon Knight was always planned as a six-episode endeavor, it needs one to wrap up its loose ends.

At the end of the day, this problem could be solved if Marvel Studios wasn’t dead set on their six-episode formula. Instead of shoehorning grandiose stories into a format that doesn’t work for them, it would be a better practice to let the showrunners and writers figure out how many episodes they need to tell these stories before they’re put into production. That’s not a guaranteed solution to the pacing issue, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. At this point, Loki has the best chance to redeem itself of this issue because it’s the only show that was given a second season, and hopefully that fate will come for some of the other Disney+ shows in the future. Even better, maybe Marvel will decide that some of their television productions actually warrant being movies instead, and we’ll be able to stop telling our friends to “just wait until the whole series is out” when we recommend these shows to them. Either way, the pacing of these shows is far from an impossible problem to fix, and if the next 12—yes, 12— shows don’t at least attempt to be better, there’s no telling how long even the most dedicated Marvel fan will stick around before they’ve had enough.



Kathryn Porter is the TV Intern for Paste Magazine. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter

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