It’s all been building up to this, the gigantic crossover on the small screen, where Marvel’s street level heroes face their biggest challenge, in a rumble that will stretch across all five boroughs. Each character got their own series to establish themselves, and Daredevil was special enough to get a second season before all of this, but now is the time to make that Avengers magic work, and do it in only eight episodes instead of the normal thirteen. Netflix was banking hard on its success, but personally, I just wanted to see a few of my favorite Marvel characters share the screen together and chew some scenery after Iron Fist reminded me that these things could be less than thrilling. So, let’s talk about the climax for each of those efforts in, The Defenders.
This is a horrible jumping on point for anyone starting out with the shows. I may have even confused myself trying to explain certain things to others, but there are small exposition pockets to help out, meaning that no one should be completely lost. The pacing is awkward at some points, but I like that each episode starts with something cool and interesting or ends on a high note. The characters are thankfully not thrown together immediately. When they do finally collide at the end of the second episode, it is in pairs, and the whole team doesn’t fight side-by-side for a little bit longer still. I enjoyed that, not rushing, but I know some others didn’t appreciate the slow start. The first few episodes catch viewers up with what has been going on with our heroes and there are many quality character moments offered; little bits that ease us into the harder scenes where they are chewing on lines with tough vocabulary later.
I ate the banter between them up, with Jessica Jones having some of the best moments, “Don’t put this shit on me!” Opposite of that is anything Danny says, dialogue that would be tough for most, but that is simply boring and unconvincing here. I won’t knock on Iron Fist too much, but he is the worst part, and though they fixed his choreography a bit, the producers need to re-think the approach for their immortal weapon next season. Daredevil was cool and stole a few scenes. I liked that he was the holdout at first, knowing better than to blindly get involved with a group dynamic against such strong enemy. I thought his nonsense with Elektra was going to be too trite, and it almost was, but nowhere near as bad as it could have been. I was honestly irked when Foggy and Karin kept giving Matt shit for wanting to still be a hero. Also, as much as I adore Colleen Wing, her personal plot needed some sprucing up—and screw Bakuto. The group dynamic almost clicks so well, and each main character has brought their friends along, making sure all of the players are present when the drama begins. I love the web it is creating between the characters and corresponding boroughs.
Overall I like the general plot. It feels like something the comic would do and loosely links some of the previous events from other shows in to make everything feel tighter. It can be a little by the numbers at some points, but a few moments did surprise me, and a couple of the twists will make some comic book fans quite happy. I knew as soon as I watched Stick cut off his own hand to escape that the show wanted to have an impact on the universe they created. Each of the Defenders feels like they have an established motivation of why they need to be a hero right now (it’s literally in the title of the first episode), and those reasons are explained well while fitting where the character is in the path of their individual shows. The big bad was given a bit of their own reasons for moving up the timeline and coming at New York so hard, enhanced mostly by Sigourney Weaver putting in some solid work, especially when interacting with the other bad guys. The Hand feels like a threat, even though they seem to be focusing less on the whole ‘mystical ninja’ aspect from the comics, which is kind of their only dimension.
The presentation is exactly like the previous shows, so for those who like that kind of structure, this is a good thing. For many though, a shorter number of episodes and a bigger event like this warranted a larger budget, but it doesn’t feel like the show received one. Each of the different Defenders gets their own color scheme and transition sequence, which is a nice light touch, but the rest of the sets are still kind of plain or drab with new—but similar—hallways to fight in. That doesn’t bother me but I know it did some, and even I wouldn’t mind a small visual upgrade. I also enjoyed some of the song selections, but they felt more forced in certain moments. This may not have turned out quite as well or profitable as Avengers, but Disney and Netflix could cough up a little more cash.
The stakes are big, repercussions are felt, and the ending needed some tweaks, but this was overall enjoyable. I believe the first four episodes are much stronger than the second half and the pacing takes a sharp turn, while it relies too heavily on Daredevil’s personal struggles and Danny Rand forced to be a McGuffin something fierce. Undoubtedly, Defenders is most likely getting a second season to bring the same—or hopefully a slightly adjusted—roster together for another big event, but I want this to be a stepping stone. The studio can learn from these eight episodes and do a lot better. It did, however, setup some interesting groundwork for new seasons of the solo series, giving each character something to be miserable about. This is a good thing. Some clever writing will use this to their advantage and I haven’t lost any momentum in carrying on with their individual adventures. I even came close to caring more about Elektra now—almost. I can’t wait for the first season of The Punisher, and there is now this awesome huge block of television—with its ups, downs, and weak points of course, but fun as hell—waiting for new viewers on Netflix.
I think the best way to end this is by putting the pre-existing shows in order of my favorites.