A Review of Marvel’s THE DEFENDERS! (SPOILERS)

8 Sep

Stewart here…

 

SPOILERS for the whole thing below…

When this big Marvel/Netflix plan for original shows was announced a few years ago, there was one signpost that seemed ambitious: to bring the leads of their four new shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) into a team-up series of their own after their respective first seasons. As each show has premiered to varying degrees of success and failure, The Defenders was always something on the horizon. And now that this 8-episode team-up event is here, what is the verdict? Let’s break it down:

Group Dynamics. Part of the novelty of this whole event is bringing these four heroes together for one big adventure. Of course, novelty means nothing without actual chemistry, and the series wisely plays up the awkwardness of these damaged people as they interact with each other. For the first two episodes, we don’t really see them interact with each other, but once we start getting their individual stories start crossing into another, it starts getting interesting. In fact, the only person that’s all for this team-up is Danny Rand, who becomes the overeager little brother of the group (and the revealed lynchpin of the Hand’s scheme).

The rest of the group has little to no interest in fighting an army of ninjas, but eventually get past their ambivalence once the real threat becomes clear. You got the sarcasm in Jessica Jones, the actual dressed up tortured hero in Matt Murdock/Daredevil, the moral center in Luke Cage, and the impetuousness of Iron Fist. It’s a nice combo that clashes and compliments each other really well.

 

What You Do (and Don’t) Need to Know. This miniseries definitely has its links in the preceding Marvel/Netflix shows, but are they essential to enjoying this? It depends. You do have to know a bit about what happened in Daredevil (specifically season two), but the rest of the shows are touched on so briefly it’s more a note that the other characters had stuff happen to them before this. Even the supporting cast of all the shows appear briefly if to suggest the same thing, but a few of them (like Misty Knight from Luke Cage, Rosario Dawson from all the shows, and Colleen Wing from Iron Fist) do have things to do other than be potential targets for the Hand.

Who’s The Real Villain Here? One of the great anchors for this series was its villain in Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, who actually has a legit reason to jump start the destruction of New York. That and her decision to revive Elektra creates some tension with her fellow “fingers” of the Hand, along with her trying to mother Elektra to her true calling. Unfortunately for her (and maybe for the rest of the show), Alexandra succeeds in nurturing Elektra, only to have Elektra deciding to murder her surrogate mom and take over the Hand for her needs. And really, Elektra becoming the main baddie by default seemed a little too out of the blue for the climax (but then again, most of the climax itself seemed too out of the blue).

The Ending. Really, the last two episodes is where the biggest leaps of logic take flight. Now while the idea of the Hand taking their immortality serum from a dead dragon under New York will eventually destroy the island, it did deflate the imminent threat that had been built up since Daredevil season two. And obviously the big event of Matt sacrificing himself to save his fellow teammates was a surprise, there was the nagging feeling that it would be negated somewhat (or unless you wondered why an already then announced Daredevil season three seemed premature), and sure enough, in the final scene, it is. While there are some permanent injuries from this whole thing (like Misty’s severed arm and Stick being killed), this seemed more like a detour from those respective shows than the event it could have been. Imagine if Phil Coulson was killed in The Avengers and in the final scene, was shown to be alive. That’s kind of what we’re talking about here.

A Little TLC. Where The Defenders had succeeded was in fixing some minor issues with this whole TV universe. One big fix was making Iron Fist a better character than the one that was anchoring his own show! That comes with the fact he’s forced to deal with characters who can see his flaws, are incredulous about this guy’s mission, and force him to confront those flaws. Even Luke Cage gets out of prison (which is where he was left at the end of season one) rather abruptly, but at least it wasn’t as convoluted as anything more than he got good legal representation.

Short, But Sweet. One common problem I’ve had with the Marvel Netflix shows is the length of them. It always feels like there is an episode or three that seem unnecessary, like padding not needed. The length of this miniseries actually works, since unlike the shows that fold into it, there is only one major plot fueling the whole thing. While I think there’s still padding here, at least it’s barely there and obvious to fill out screen time.

All in all, this was a decent capper to a lot of what these shows set up and with any luck, a springboard to better things with each of these shows. But hey, what do you think?

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