It’s hard to say what, exactly, I was expecting going into The Defenders. The show was kept under the tightest wraps that Marvel could get. I named some hopes for the individual characters in our recent podcast, but I couldn’t say what I really wanted out of the show.
It’s still something that I couldn’t quite define as I worked my way through the first eight episodes of The Defenders. But I know that I pretty much got what I was hoping for: a show that weaves between character and action presenting an atmospheric story of four not-quite-heroes trying to find a place in the world.
Overall, I think the show succeeded. Unlike the first season of Iron Fist, I wasn’t screaming at my computer for someone to do something.
While most other reviews or critics have complained about the show’s slow start, I found that the slower moments allow for characters to breathe and grow. I found that the characters coming together at the end of episode three made a lot more sense. While I’m certain people would have preferred them to be together from the get go, I like that the characters individually reach the same point in their own ways and through their own avenues. I feel like it makes more sense then just showing them in a room together at episode one.
Some people may not enjoy the slow start, but I can safely say that I never lost interest. It’s nice to see where the characters have gone since the end of their respective seasons. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is on a break from her PI business, grappling with being a hero when she isn’t one. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has been released from jail and has returned to Harlem. Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is still on his revenge quest against the Hand. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has hung up his suit and is trying to focus on his legal career instead.
Watching these stories weave together, it feels natural even down to the pairings. I know many hardcore comic fans have been waiting to see Power Man and the Iron Fist on screen together. It’s frankly amazing to see their rocky start (and Luke calling Danny the hell out over his inherent privilege as a straight, white, rich guy) turn into something resembling friendship. I would like to see some crossover come in either season two of their respective solo series. Jones really does some of his better work when paired with Colter.
Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock? Now that’s something I would like to see continue as well. Ritter and Cox have a really great rapport and chemistry with each other. There’s something just amusing at seeing Jones, who could care less about people knowing what she can do, partnered up with the mask-wearing Murdock.
(I would also be remiss to not mention that Ritter and Colter still have really great chemistry together. While I definitely enjoy Cage and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, part of me still hopes that Luke and Jessica end up together. Some of the best quieter moments of the series come from the two of them.)
The best scenes of the series, naturally, come when the four are together as a group. My personal favorite episode is “Royal Dragon” (episode four) because it has some really great time compression and character banter. It’s great seeing them bounce off of each other and the chemistry feels natural. Each performance from the main cast is really solid and enjoyable to watch. Hell even Finn Jones, who I was lukewarm on, showed that his true talents rely on (much) better material and the strength of the performers around him.
The supporting characters could feel more like a perfunctory rolodex of appearances rather than actual purpose to the plot. Still, their actors turned in solid performances with major focus going to Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). It was good seeing those women at work together. Scott Glenn’s Stick also got some good moments as well. Depending on how you feel about him, however, it could be a bit much at times.
Élodie Yung, who trips between villain and kind of anti-hero(ish) tendencies, gives one hell of a performance. Elektra doesn’t talk much through the first six or so episodes, but Yung puts her entire body into it. (Although the Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes are so real and there.) It’s easy to see why Matt is so deadset on trying to save Elektra as Yung toes the line between the Black Sky and an actual person.
As for the villains of the series, we can only hope that the Hand has come to an end. Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra proved to be a menacing force to be reckoned with. Alexandra is easily another villain to come out of the Netflix/Marvel collabs that proves with time and care great villains can be made. She’s menancing and conniving, speaking soft and carrying a big stick. She’s the kind of boss that Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) aspired to be (outside of the whole uncontrollable bouts of rage).
The rest of the Hand, however, they’re just not that interesting. As much as I like Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), I am just so done with the Hand. I prefer seeing the street level heroes tackle antagonists with actual faces rather than a faceless kind of crime syndicate.
Ultimately, however, The Defenders was well worth the wait. With the cliffhangers presented by the miniseries’ end, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen when everyone returns to their individual shows.
The Defenders: B+