The Defenders sees Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist working on solving various mysteries that lead them all into an encounter with the villainous organisation known as the Hand. Having already attacked in the previous series of Daredevil and Iron Fist; the Hand has now assembled all its leaders in New York to conduct a grand scheme that will leave the city in ruins, and only ‘the Defenders’ and their friends can save the day.
Unlike most of the Marvel/Netflix shows, the series only runs for eight episodes, making it more focused and to the point than the likes of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage – or so you would think.
Bizarrely, in a show where everything is created to be more focused, it’s a lot more drawn out than it should be. Obviously, Jones and Cage have met previously, but in this series, none of the Defenders meet until the very end of episode two, and they don’t all come together until the end of episode three. Two-and-a-half-hours in, and ‘the Defenders’ still aren’t a thing. And then when they do get together, they have the whole ‘will they, won’t they (stick together)’, only to resolve that and then be separated in later episodes.
What we’re left with is a whole series about four heroes coming together, and for most of the six-and-a-half-hour run-time (ish) they’re not even all working together. Furthermore, while Matt Murdock is in the show from the get-go, he doesn’t suit up as Daredevil until episode five.
The problem with all of this is that the show is clearly made as a continuation of the previous five seasons of shows. This is not a good jumping on point for new viewers, as it’s written with the understanding that you know who the heroes, supporting characters and returning villains are, and what they’re all about. In fact, the first episode (rather nicely) feels like it could have been taken from the characters respective series and edited together into one.
And yet, the show still takes time to set everything up and introduce the characters. We know who the characters are. We know what they can do. We know what they’re up against. Even worse, one of the supporting characters, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), has been popping up in each series with the understanding that she will be the element that unites these heroes. But apart from a quick call to Iron Fist to set up a failed meeting with Luke Cage, she really lacks any point here.
If you’re that character, and you know there’s something amiss; the first thing you should be doing is calling all your super-hero friends; Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jessica Jones; hell, why not try and track down the Punisher? But instead, she just stands on the side-lines, sprouting wisdom and getting her obligatory miniature action sequence towards the series end.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the villains. For this show, Netflix brought in some serious star-power in the form of Sigourney Weaver, who plays Alexandra, one of the immortal heads of the Hand. And you know what? She’s a pretty bland character. She sits out the action, doesn’t really do much and you can see how her story ends a mile off. Furthermore, the Hand is an unfortunate choice of foe to bring the Defenders together, because their last two appearances (Iron Fist and the second half of Daredevil season two) have been the weakest Marvel/Netflix productions of all. Fortunately, the mystery and bad-ass-ery surrounding the other four heads of the Hand makes them seem more like pretty threatening characters, and worthy adversaries to boot. It’s just a shame that when they finally throw down with the Defenders, it’s lacklustre.
Now, that’s not to say the action isn’t good. The fight scenes (with that exception) are generally very well done, and the choreography is a big step up from Iron Fist. There are some strange choices made when it comes to the fights – such as randomly inserting a Wu-Tang song over one in the final episode, after six episodes of orchestral music only – but overall, it’s at a much higher level.
But even the improved fight choreography doesn’t help elevate the character Iron Fist, who seems to be no better at fighting than half the other people in the show, and outside of his fighting, is continually called and shown to be dumb and childish; never learning any lessons or making steps to become a more complete character.
Some people may blame Finn Jones’ acting for this; I simply think the writers don’t know how to properly write the character.
But Jones makes the best of what he’s been given, and he along with the rest of the cast, do a great job. Their chemistry is perfect, even if some of the character choices aren’t.
And while I have made a fair few complaints so far (and indeed, I still have a lot more, good and bad, that I could say – but we could be here for a while if I continue), there are a lot of very cool moments in this show that justify it’s existence and act as a culmination of everything we’ve loved so far in the Marvel/Netflix shows.
But ultimately, The Defenders, while fun, is mostly just eight episodes of the writers tying up stories and plot-lines that should have been finished off in previous series.
Created by: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
Scr: Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich & Drew Goddard
Dir: S. J. Clarkson, Peter Hoar, Phil Abraham, Uta Briesewitz, Stephen Surjik, Félix Enríquez Alcalá & Farren Blackburn
Prd: Evan Perazzo
Cast: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Eka Darville, Elden Henson, Jessica Henwick, Simone Missick, Ramón Rodríguez, Rachael Taylor, Deborah Ann Woll, Élodie Yung, Rosario Dawson, Scott Glenn & Sigourney Weaver
The Defenders is available on Netflix now.