Written by: Mathew ‘JJ’ Simoes and Nick Poulimenakos
Well loyal MCU fangirls and boys, Netflix has finally released their Defenders miniseries that brought together the street level heroes of the Marvel Universe, and it was… good. The Defenders was a fairly well paced adventure filled with twists and turns. It’s not the best Marvel’s had to offer from their Netflix arrangement, but it’s definitely not the worst (looking at you Iron Fist).
A general overview of the story, our four heroes were assembled as they each got involved in the Hand’s larger plans for New York City. The four protagonist must learn to trust each other, protect their loved ones and defend New York from the ancient ninja organization’s evil machinations. The Defenders finally made sense of the Hand’s presence in Iron Fist and Daredevil, as the organization’s nefarious plan is finally revealed. The five fingers of the Hand, some of whom we’ve seen in prior shows, were of the original visitors to Ku’n-Lu’n. They were expelled for the ideas and now seek to return to Ku’n-Lu’n, the source of their power. They panned on doing this through mining the bones of a Ku’n-Lu’n dragon to extend their lives, which was an interesting wrinkle in the story. This is an interesting back story that connects the various Hand related plot threads and characters introduced since Daredevil season 1. In doing so, The Defenders provided a nice conclusion to the Hand’s role in the MCU.
The dynamic between the four main characters was great, with each character playing well off each other. Jessica Jones’ dynamic with Daredevil was amusing, though Daredevil’s interactions with Danny Rand were more interesting. Danny and Daredevil are both a little bit lost, so seeing them find a path through each other was an engaging aspect of the story. Luke and Danny immediately bonded (after fighting of course) and their growing bond was a great part of the miniseries, especially when it was tested. This friendship really worked because of Colter and Jones’ onscreen chemistry. It’s a shame Iron Fist’s connection with Daredevil came to overshadow their newfound bond. The Jessica Jones and Luke Cage reunion wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be, though they seem to be on good terms following the events of Jessica Jones season 1. The two knew each other prior to The Defenders, and at time it seemed like the series was focused on building new relationships between characters than old ones. This is a shame considering how great Colter and Ritter’s on screen chemistry was in Jessica Jones. Their heart to heart in the final episode was one of the miniseries highlights, though I wish The Defenders did more with their relationship.
Alexandra, one of the main villains, is dying as her body is finally breaking down after centuries of immortality. She now moves forward the Hand’s plans so as to prolong her life, and this should make her a great antagonist. The miniseries plot is largely driven by her actions, but the series never goes in depth enough into the character to make the viewers care. The closest we come to getting to know Alexandra is a throwaway line to Elektra about having a daughter before Ku’n-Lu’n, which makes it seem like the writers are treating Elektra like a surrogate daughter. Though later developments make this thematic thread pointless. All that being said, Weaver did an excellent job with what she was given and was an excellent casting choice. The other five fingers of the Hand were essentially glorified henchman, despite being essential to The Defenders story and the motivations of the Hand. While Madame Gao and Bakuto at least had some background work done in prior Netflix shows, the two fingers of the Hand introduced in this series were as one-dimensional as any character could get.
That later development is that Elektra kills Alexandra and takes over leadership of the Hand. This is a repeat of CottonMouth in Luke Cage, except now it’s even worse. Elektra was never a fully realized character in Daredevil’s second season, and The Defenders didn’t do much to change that. Elektra is barely explored beyond her relationship with Daredevil, and the entire season, up until that twist, set up a redemption arc for her. While that was a twist I didn’t see coming, it was incredibly jarring because it felt so out of place. Elektra was a pawn for most pf her appearances in the MCU, but her character was so underdeveloped than when she did finally take control I honestly don’t care. Add to that her lack of character development in the miniseries, she made for a weak antagonist. The Netflix series have failed to do the character justice The one good thing about Elektra this season was her costume change, being more faithful to the comics while also being practical (a red ninja bathing suit just wouldn’t look good on screen). Elektra’s death was also dull, and that’s because it’s been done already. There are only so many time you can kill a character. Hopefully Elektra stays dead, as bringing her back kinda sticks the middle finger to death in the Netflix side of the MCU
The Defenders tried to through in a number of it’s heroes supporting characters, and they aren’t all necessary. While Claire Temple is essential as she knows every single hero and Colleen Wing is just as invested in the fight for the hand as Danny, many of the other characters are not necessary. There inclusion in the series was essential, but Daredevil’s supporting cast felt out of place. Karen Page and Foggy Nelson appear infrequently and when they do it’s to talk Matt out of being Daredevil. A brief aside on that subject, that’s all they’re there for, and they even want him to stop when the entire city is at stake, which makes no sense. Back to my point, they and the supporting characters from Jessica Jones should have been left out of this series. They took up valuable screen time that could have been spent on more significant characters to the story. Misty Knight was a welcome inclusion and seeing her with Colleen was a treat for comic fans. It was a shame to see Stick go, but he died beg true to his character, committing morally questionable actions for the greater good. Glenn’s performance was great, and his presence in the MCU will be missed.
The series’ pacing was slow to start, as the characters were kept apart for two episodes before slowly coming together to defeat their common foe. While this slow pacing became aggravating at times, it allowed the writers to give each of the protagonists personal motivations for battling the Hand before they found out all of New York City was at risk. The miniseries pacing sped up once the heroes were gathered together as they rushed to stop the Hand’s plan to mine the bones of a Ku’n-Lu’n dragon. The tension really built in the last five episodes as our heroes finally united to battle the Hand. The forth episode took place for the most part in a restaurant, and though the characters didn’t move for most of the episode, their characterization and the looming threat of the Hand kept my eyes glued to the screen. In general the show had a lot going on and had to juggle far too many characters, and this contributed to the slow pace of the first three episodes.
The character’s individual journeys from their respective solo series are continued in the crossover, and this adds an excellent layer of depth to The Defenders. Each character has a pre-established concept arc, so nothing has to be set up. Rather it’s just a continuation of four stories that viewers are already invested in (except maybe Iron Fist). Matt is struggling to escape the violence that’s consumed his life up until this point, while Jessica Jones and the Iron Fist seek direction in their lives. Luke Cage isn’t really seeking anything personal, but is rather continuing his role as Harlem’s protector now that’s he’s served his time. The final episode brought changes to each of the protagonists, and this started with Daredevil’s ultimate sacrifice. This felt like a natural extension of Matt’s arc, as he had to take responsibility for what happened to Elektra, rather than running away and hiding from his problems. This also allowed Iron Fist to enter into a new phase of his life, as Danny must take the reigns from Matt as New York’s new defender. Jessica is getting her life post-Kilgrave back on track and Luke has returned to Harlem, ready to be the defender it deserves.
The action sequences were well choreographed, more reminiscent of Daredevil than the other three solo series. The action scenes were fluid and well executed, as the characters had a level of grace and brutality to every blow they struck. The two standout fights were the battle sequence in the finale and the Defenders battling the three remaining fingers of the Hand. These sequences were exciting to watch and it was easy to understand how each characters was contributing to the battle. The series did include a hallway fight scene (as all Netflix shows seem to do), and it was… brief. It wasn’t terrible, but a lot more could have been done with it. The cinematography and use of lighting was fantastic, especially in the tenser moments of the series. This created darker atmosphere that added to the thriller nature of the series.
The Defenders tied up many ongoing plot threads in a concise and engaging story with a great team dynamic, though it did suffer from some less than stellar antagonists.
Mathew’s Score: 7.5/10
Nick’s Score: 8/10
What did you think of The Defenders’ first season? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.