The Marvel Netflix shows have been building to the team-up between its four heroes over the last two years. Unfortunately, THE DEFENDERS didn’t really live up to the hype.
The 8-episode series is basically a continuation of both DAREDEVIL Season 2 and the most reason Marvel Netflix series, IRON FIST season 1. New York City is threatened by a plot by The Hand to steal a precious substance that will help the leaders live forever.
The key to the organization’s evil plot is to capture Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist (Finn Jones), and force him to use his powers to unlock the substance. Having just watched the first season of Iron Fist, I found Rand to be the worst of the heroes involved with The Defenders, so having the show revolve around him was a red flag right from the start, though it’s unfortunately not the show’s only flaw.
This is the third time we’ve seen The Hand as the antagonist in a Marvel Netflix show. While it may have made sense to use them as the catalyst to bring the four heroes together, after being ostensibly defeated twice, it’s hard to get excited for whatever threat the organization can muster. Just because you bring in a fairly big name to serve as the group’s secret leader (Sigourney Weaver) and raise the stakes to destroying the whole city, it doesn’t make The Hand any more of a perceived threat.
The showrunners must have realized this, as they tried to boost the organizations profile even further by resurrecting the deadly assassin Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) – who died at the end of Daredevil Season 2 – as their main tool. But her inclusion in the show does little to increase the threat level. She is, however, used effectively to eventually bring the four heroes together, but even that takes longer than I think was necessary.
The Defenders was given an 8-episode run, unlike the four other shows, which all had 13-episode seasons. Taking three or four episodes to bring Daredevil Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist together would make perfect sense when you have 13 episodes to fill, but with just eight, it felt dragged out.
When the team finally does come together, the show spends way too much time in a New York Police Department precinct house in Harlem, explaining why they should be allowed to go and fight the battle instead of the NYPD without going into the whole, “We have special abilities” thing. In a universe that knows of the existence of the Incredible Hulk and Thor, you’d think that would be a pretty easy thing to explain. Instead, we’re treated to several scenes with Det. Misty Knight (Simone Missick) demanding to be told what’s going on. She’s already dealt with some weird shit in the first season of Luke Cage, so she comes off pretty terrible when she acts like the police can handle everything.
Just because I hated the antagonist of The Defenders doesn’t mean I hated everything about the show. The interactions between the main characters was certainly a highlight, especially the way they built the respect between Rand and Cage, who frequently partner up in the comics. In fact, I really hope that we eventually get a HEROES FOR HIRE Netflix series highlighting the budding friendship between Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Colter is great with everyone, but my favorite interaction is with Daredevil, as he, Cage and Jones are descending into the hole beneath the Midland building.
Daredevil expresses that, despite the circumstances, he’s happy the team found each other. Cage shoots right back, “I’m not hugging you, man.” And Daredevil just slouches his shoulders and sighs.
I also enjoyed how the show wasn’t afraid to poke fun at itself. While the series’ have all been more grounded in reality, Daredevil is the only one of the heroes to wear a costume. The looks Jessica Jones gives him throughout the series – like when he uses her scarf to cover his face early on or when he finally shows up in full costume to fight – are priceless. It makes Murdock look a little like a goof, but it’s humanizing enough that it’s endearing and not insulting.
With a better villain and a more compelling story, I think a second season of The Defenders could be really great. All of the stars work really well together. When the show allowed them to be the focus – like when they start to get to know each other in the restaurant in fourth episode – everything clicked.
The Defenders is far from the worst of the Marvel Netflix series, but it was the most disappointing. Hopefully they can bounce back with a second season.