The Defenders Review – A Fine Team-Up

After two long years of build up and anticipation, The Defenders is finally here. Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and the Immortal Iron Fist (Finn Jones) all converge to take battle and save their city of New York. Marvel television wanted to mirror the success their film studio sister had with The Avengers, so they took the same approach in building hype for their big culmination project by establishing each hero in their own respective series. I have to say it would be ideal to watch each series to get a better understanding of the characters, but really the essential shows to watch are Daredevil Season 2 and Iron Fist as they both have some big ramifications on the events in Defenders. With that out of the way, let’s see if the two year build up was worth it.

To start off, the main heroes do a great job in playing their respective roles, as Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, and Finn Jones all transform into their characters. Daredevil is struggling with the thought of becoming his alter-ego again after the events of Daredevil Season 2, Jessica Jones is looking to get past her personal triumph seen in her series, Luke Cage is “moving forward” after his undue time in prison, and Iron Fist is seeking retribution for the evils of the criminal organization known as “the Hand”. I feel the series did a very good job at bringing each of these heroes together, as each character had their own motivations and connections to the Hand, and the convergence of the Defenders felt very organic. The supporting characters were also well represented, with appearances from Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Claire Temple, and others. Just about every character was presented in the show organically and were a welcome sight that made this world even more connected. There are some exceptions though, with Colleen Wing and Claire Temple, as I thought they were kind of unjustly sidelined in the show. We’ve seen Colleen hold her own in battle before and Claire is shown to be a very reliable medic that could have been of really good use. Even though they’re utilized a bit later on, I thought they should have been a bit more involved in the show as a whole.

While the heroes were well represented and did a fine job throughout the series, the villains left a lot to be desired. The Hand was built up to be this treacherous, unstoppable force that struck fear in the city of New York and the world as a whole, but in this series they’re reduced down to a council of paranoid, disorganized fools. The Hand is comprised of the familiar Madame Gao, Bakuto, Sowande, Murakami, and the “big bad” in Alexandra Reid portrayed by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is a very fine actress and does her best with what she’s given, but isn’t really given anything to do at all. Marvel’s Netflix shows have been known to create some really great villains in the past with Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave, and Cottonmouth as they all showed both signs of vulnerability and pure terror with their actions and backstory. With Alexandra though, we never get a sense of her being villainous at all; my guess is that the writers wanted her to be a villain akin to the Emperor in Star Wars where she isn’t in direct conflict with the heroes, rather she is the one behind the scenes pulling the strings. With the Emperor though, he had evil written all over him with his vile appearance and malicious actions when he’s revealed in Return of the Jedi. But with Alexandra, she just appears to be this normal person; she doesn’t really plot anything evil either, with the worst event orchestrated by her being a “seismic” event in the beginning of the show.

The rest of the Hand is pretty lackluster as well, as Madame Gao is a shell of her former self, bending to the whim of Alexandra when in the past she was this really mysterious and commanding force throughout Daredevil and Iron Fist. We also see the return of Bakuto which seemed a bit unnecessary and only a means to give Colleen Wing some sort of conflict that seemed to have been resolved in Iron Fist. The newcomers to the Hand were pretty “meh” as Sowande and Murakami seemed to be used more as plot devices rather than characters. The villain that was actually somewhat interesting though was Elektra. After the events of Daredevil Season 2, we see the return of Elektra and this creates a pretty interesting conflict with Daredevil (the next few sentences are a bit spoilery for the Defenders and Daredevil Season 2 so proceed with caution). SPOILERS HERE He has to process her resurrection from the dead and prevent his comrades from killing her, as he still has affection for her. Elektra also has an interesting story as she has to gradually regain her memory of her past life and her relationship with a man she is ordered to kill. SPOILERS END Elektra also looks great, as she has this commanding and powerful presence whenever she’s on screen. She is also a logical threat to the four Defenders as she has the skill set to challenge the powerful Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and the martial-arts proficient Daredevil and Iron Fist.

The overall series feels very tight and no episode seems unnecessary, something some of the previous series fell victim to. I initially thought the series needed the 13 episodes because I thought the “event” called for it, but the writers did a really good job in keeping everything concise and compact. While I thought just about every episode was enjoyable, the highlight of the series was with the episode “Worst Behavior” where we see the ultimate “hallway fight”. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all come together to kick some serious ass and I have to say I got some goosebumps. The fight choreography in this scene was absolutely phenomenal, giving each hero their chance to shine. The later fights range from pretty good to kind of standard though, with the final fight being a bit anti-climatic in my eyes, but the “ultimate hallway fight” will reign supreme and is the one that people will remember.

The show also does a pretty good job in peppering in some clues as to where this universe is headed in the future with winks and nods to “Heroes for Hire” and “Daughters of the Dragon” team-ups. While the “Heroes for Hire” build up with Luke Cage and Iron Fist seemed a bit awkward at times, I thought Colleen Wing’s and Misty Knight’s relationship felt organic and genuine. Cage and Iron Fist did have some genuine moments that did make it seem like they could be good friends, so I’m excited for what may be in store in the future. I was not aware of too many easter-eggs in the show aside from the now expected Stan Lee cameo, but there were a good amount of call-backs to previous shows to provide some fan-service. There is a bit of fan-service/good marketing in the end credits of the last episode, so be sure to check that out for a look into the future of the Marvel Netflix world.

Overall, The Defenders does a pretty good job in uniting this universe of heroes together while also preparing audiences for what may come in the future. The series does stumble a bit with its weak villains and some uninteresting action at times, but it triumphs with its likable heroes and the interactions they have. I had a pretty good time with The Defenders and am fairly excited for things to come.

Rating: 7/10

Favorite Scene: The ultimate hallway fight

Images courtesy of BleedingCool, Joblo, and MoviePilot

 

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