Ms. Marvel Proves The MCU’s Six-Episode Format On Disney+ Is Too Short

The following contains spoilers for Ms. Marvel Season 1, Episode 5, “Time and Again”, streaming now on Disney+.

Mrs. Marvel goes into his final episode with a bang, but oddly doesn’t feel ready to go out with it. Like most shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mrs. Marvel is the victim of six episodes – a format that still persists due to the MCU’s inability to understand the medium of television.

Mrs. MarvelThe fifth episode, “Time and Again,” shows that (over and over) MCU series facing the same problem with the six-episode formula. Moon Knight pulls the audience out of the action for a slower backstory in its own fifth episode, and Mrs. Marvel strangely repeats this tactic. As for one episode, Mrs. Marvel gives his villain an origin story, kills his villain, all while playing a family history flashback. Somehow the story feels both wrapped up and underdeveloped, knowing there is still a finale due to the air. It’s a mystery how the MCU can get television wrong so often, but there may be an underlying answer: the lack of a showrunner.

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In 2019, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige . presented The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s lead creative team at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, “I’d love to see you meet our lead writer, Malcolm Spellman.” Using the term “head writer” wasn’t Feige’s mistake — there’s no showrunner for an MCU show, because Feige is the showrunner. It’s a radical method in the television world, as showrunners are traditionally in charge. But no showrunner means it’s still Feige’s world, and in his world, movies dominate. He’s determined to change the storytelling frame of television to fuse it with making franchise movies — and it doesn’t work.

For reasons no one can explain, the MCU is unwilling to change the six-episode format for its TV shows. WandaVision and What if…? had nine episodes, but other series like Mrs. Marvel suffer from the six-episode format. It’s a valid argument to make the shows longer. The shows are sometimes poorly paced and the tone is barely consistent. Some episodes are painfully slow, leaving others packed at the last minute with exhibits and action-packed third-act finales. For this reason, an experienced showrunner could act as a second opinion and make it clear that these shows deserve more episodes and that TV requires certain tools and techniques that film does not provide.

Perhaps the best way to describe this problem is through the lens of what the MCU is essentially: a dingy, hard-working assembly line in a factory. Kevin Feige, the CEO of the MCU factory, wants to expand his brand (let’s just say Feige knows how to make a damn soft cotton T-shirt for this example). Feige wants to stay in the same clothing area, so he chooses jeans to compete with Levi. The problem is, Feige isn’t that experienced in making and designing jeans, and neither is anyone in his factory. But denim is technically cotton, so it can’t be any different from shirts, right? wrong. The jeans sell well because it’s a big name, but they’re starting to fall apart because Feige’s employees didn’t use a twill weave that differentiates denim from cotton.

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Obviously comparing movies and TV shows with shirts and jeans is not an apples to apples, but it is a similar principle. Movies and TV shows are in the same realm of entertainment screening, but are still vastly different media. They both have different story structures, with the recognizable “twill weave” of television being more written in the long run and less focused on visuals and cinematography.

Feige’s MCU formula may be predictable, but it’s a billion-dollar successful movie formula. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t translate well to television because of its brevity (meaning it has a clear beginning, middle, and end). Because unlike movies, television doesn’t really follow a formula. But Disney+’s MCU shows want to have their beginnings, middles, and ends — the lead writers just don’t know where to put them in their split six-hour movie.

Of Mrs. Marvel Suffering from review bombing and a criminal case of contagious cliffhangers, the six-episode format will only make matters worse in the finale. It’s no wonder the rocket-powered speed show is going downhill, but it doesn’t deserve it. The MCU shows are meant to be a spotlight for the underrated and minority superheroes of the larger world of Marvel. How can they tell their rightful story if Marvel doesn’t give them a commendable amount of time in the spotlight?

Watch Episode 6, Wednesday on Disney+ to see if Ms. Marvel can break the six-episode curse.

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