The Defenders (2017)

“You think the four of you can save New York? You can’t even save yourselves.”

All roads in the Marvel TV universe have led to this moment. What started with an outstanding inaugural season with Daredevil has continued with Jessica Jones, a second season for Daredevil, Luke Cage and ending with the utter disappointment of Iron Fist, all four have come together in a culmination type event where their true strength will be tested. Could season 1 of Iron Fist be skipped? Absolutely, The Defenders in its first episode does a complete course correction with Danny Rand (Finn Jones) that makes him instantaneously more likeable as a character. No more whining about being the Immortal Iron Fist or having to validate himself by it. His character is still not on the level of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) or Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) or Luke Cage (Mike Colter) but it’s an improvement – and it came when the character needed it the most. 

The Defenders breaks away from the norm of having a 13-episode season, it is considered a mini-series after all but whomever decided to cut the season length down to 8 episodes must have listened to the complaints of a 13-episode season – especially after Iron Fist. 8 episodes is a breeze to get through, especially with all 4 main heroes on screen kicking ass and getting their asses kicked together. But the series itself starts slower and more concentrated on the individual heroes and their partners-in-crime. It takes 4 episodes for all 4 to finally have a scene together. 

Leading up to that 4th episode involves a lot of exposition – Danny and Colleen (Jessica Henwick) are in Cambodia searching for The Hand (a villainous organization that hides in plain sight but does business in the shadows), Luke gets out of prison to be greeted by Claire (Rosario Dawson) and Misty (Simone Missick), Jessica Jones is refusing to go back to work at the protest of Trish (Rachael Taylor) when a case falls into her lap and Matt Murdock is a public defender while Foggy (Elden Hensen) works for a major law firm and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) is a full time reporter.  

The Hand has been around since season 2 of Daredevil, popping up in that season’s second half in a storyline that brings Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung) back into Matt’s life and continues in Iron Fist. Both Luke and Jessica are privy to the Hand’s existence and are reluctant to join as a team to fight something that they don’t care about nor see in out in the open until it affects their homes. So, when the Hand is the main antagonist in The Defenders, it all feels rushed. Maybe it’s the shorter season (which I loved the change). 

We as viewers are made to believe that this one singular person named Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) is the leader of this organization, but her name is only just being brought up now. To date only 2 of the supposed 5 fingers have been introduced in Gao (Wai Ching Ho) and Bakuto (Ramón Rodriguez). Introducing three new villains over a shorter period already sets the show back a few paces having them play catch up as far as motivations and development is concerned.

I still don’t know why the Hand wants to destroy New York.

And wouldn’t that destruction be on the radar of The Defenders big screen cousins? I think so, but Kevin Feige clearly doesn’t want the two universes to co-exist even when one mentions the other. 2017 MCU timeline would have Civil War breaking up the Avengers so it’s not likely that Captain America (who is on the run) make a pit stop in his “Disguise” to help The Defenders stop the Hand by any means necessary. 

If not for the story, The Defender’s works when all 4 heroes and their partners are on screen working together. The dynamic between all is truly special with all the working parts and different personality types but the standout dynamic comes from Jessica and Matt with both characters being the more stubborn of the 4. All 4 are stubborn in their own right but none more than Matthew Murdock and Jessica Jones. 

Performances across the board are all solid with Finn Jones giving an upgraded Danny Rand more personality. Getting the Heroes for Hire tease is something to look forward to with Power Man and Iron Fist’s blossoming friendship happening before our eyes. 

The true stars of The Defenders are the women. The women who have carried the limp, broken, bruised heroes over 5 seasons and have carried the shows on their backs at points are all outstanding. Rosario, Jessica, Deborah, Rachael, Simone all deserves their flowers. Each actress lifts their characters to new elevations that the male counterparts just couldn’t accomplish. They’re the backbone of this miniseries giving more significance to their roles in the larger universe. 

Stylistically, all four unique characters color palettes and series are blended into one. It’s done brilliantly with transitions from one character to the next that highlights the red, yellow, purple, and green that are associated with each character. Characters talk about New York so much that the city itself has become a character with each neighborhood having its own personality shine. Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen are given emphasis as they serve as the two biggest neighborhoods in the series. Before Daredevil only Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy presented New York as a living, breathing character – something no other property has done since then.

Don’t go into The Defenders expecting the Avengers. Though the characters in this miniseries have high notoriety and have worked with the Avengers in the comics, any hopes of seeing both teams on the big screen is a far-fetched dream that will never pan out. Improved writing for the main cast and led by strong dynamic character relationships and the women (The women cannot be emphasized enough), The Defenders is a culmination that the Netflix Universe needed to keep viewer interest after the first Iron Fist season left a sour taste in our mouths. Each character is improved upon and given new layers to explore in future seasons. A weak centralized villain, and poor writing throughout keep The Defenders street level despite what the ambitions promised. 

a spectacularly shot recreated hallway scene with Run the Jewels blasting can’t add much to the bottom line. The Season 1 Daredevil still has the best action sequence as far as hallways are concerned.

Created By: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez

Music By: John Paesano

Cinematography: Matthew J. Lloyd & Jim McMillan

Starring: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Henwick, Simone Missick, Deborah Ann Woll, Rachael Taylor, Elodie Yung, Sigourney Weaver, Scott Glen, Elden Hensen, Ramon Rodriguez

Where to Watch: Netflix

Release Date: August 18, 2017

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

My Score: 3.5 out of 5

Based On: Daredevil by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, Jessica Jones by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Luke Cage by Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr. and Iron Fist by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane

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