TV Show Review: The Defenders
A non-stop bonanza of fight sequences and clear good vs. bad story. ..
Aight so boom…
Our longing for the next phase of the Marvel-Netflix universe was fulfilled; “The Defenders” sees the unification of New York’s local superheroes: “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage”, and “Iron Fist” — all of whom have had their own series’. As they are tasked with preventing the destruction of their city by The Hand, led by Alexandra (portrayed by the enigmatic Sigourney Weaver).
Whilst we witness the mass production of superhero content, both televised and cinematic, the storytelling remains a top priority for both audiences and creators. Frankly, they did a good job, of course there are some issues like the cheesy one liners that make you roll your eyes, managing to keep the suspense alive and float between the characters worlds until they meet in a corporate building hallway as they simultaneously take out henchmen.
The first episode gives us a mini-summary of our enhanced-sensed, ultra-strong, bulletproof, incandescent-fist wielding foursome have been up to. Matt Murdoch/Daredevil is seen putting away his costume and focus on pro bono work, Jessica Jones is… uh… Jessica Jones-ing, Luke Cage is fresh out of jail thanks to Foggy (Elden Henson), and Danny and Colleen (Jessica Henwick) are back in New York, after spending months chasing The Hand around the globe, just in time to witness a strange event that leaves New York asking for answers, yet again. Their worlds intermingling right away but the focus is on allowing the foursome to separately develop their case and find their way to problem that eventually binds them together.
My first reaction at the beginning of the series was hurry up, this initial reaction may be the result of having watched so many superhero tag-team shows/films that delve head first into action with all the characters fighting together, maybe I was expecting the things I had seen the trailer such as the hallway fight to happen straight away or see Jessica ridicule Daredevil earlier on, however, I came to appreciate the slow-paced nature of the show as it seemed to inhabit a sense of realism that allowed all the characters to develop in such a short amount of time.
One of the great things the show offers is the fresh narrative it provides for the female characters it distances them from the ‘damsel in distress’ narrative, that has plagued TV and cinema. Although, we have a female lead with Jessica Jones the other female characters contribute to the story and fight just as much as the super-powered four, whilst taking just as much damage. Colleen, Misty (Simone Missick), Claire (Rosario Dawson), and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) are well-defined characters who offer more than enough to the plot and often even steer it.
It is clear the creators have learned from their minor mistakes from the previous four series’; fighting sequences are much more cohesive and well executed, episodes have been shortened, and Finn Jones’ “Iron Fist”, well its better.
A stand out moment for me would be a scene between Luke Cage and Danny Rand in Colleen’s dojo where the two have been tasked with getting to know each other, whilst doing so they debate whether it was right or wrong for Danny to have hit a kid for working for The Hand. Luke says, “You were gonna beat that kid within an inch of his life” Danny replies “Come on, I wasn’t gonna kill him.” Luke’s problem is with Danny not being able to distinguish between the kid trying to earn some money and working for The Hand without any knowledge of what they were doing. Danny goes on to accuse Luke of hypocrisy, saying Luke has probably done the same and that there is no difference between that and what Danny did. Luke exclaims that, “The difference is I’m not some billionaire white boy who takes justice into his own hands and slams a black kid against the wall because of his personal vendetta.” Danny becomes defensive and says money doesn’t define him and Luke doesn’t know him, to which Luke responds “I know enough… And I know privilege when I see it. You may think you earned your strength, but you had power before the day you were born.”
This scene is brief but significant, nonetheless. Its decision to call out ‘white privilege’ explicitly was intentional, because of the different backgrounds these two characters come from, in fact, speaking to Vulture co-showrunner Marco Ramirez said. “I think with any one of these characters it’s really easy to just think about their superpowers first, and when they meet, what does it mean when their superpowers clash,” Ramirez tells Vulture. He wanted to avoid that simplicity. “Anybody can watch and make action figures just mash up against each other and have a good fight, but actually having a good, emotionally satisfying fight was even more important.”
Ultimately, the show presents itself as a well-played off tumble one makes when they are too busy multi-tasking, and its cliché ending is upsetting, but when it focuses on the characters rather than the storytelling there is no debating its greatness.
“Marvel’s The Defenders” is streaming now on Netflix.