This week’s Netflix Pick is The Defenders! I’m sure most of you saw this coming, but I was actually unsure if it would be. I’ve had mixed feelings with the Marvel/Netflix series since they seem to have been on a steady decline. The Defenders brings the big four together and gives the supporting characters some time to shine as well. Let’s dive in.
Daredevil S1 was perfection. Jessica Jones was a fantastic follow up. Daredevil S2 was good but suffered some of the same issues that Iron Man 2 had. Too much responsibility to focus on one story. It gave us Jon Bernthal’s Punisher which was astounding but also plagued us with the incredibly annoying Elektra (Elodie Yung) who chipped away at the hero we all loved.
Luke Cage was a pretty solid series once it finally got going. Sadly it was four episodes too long. Iron Fist was the latest Marvel/Netflix endeavor and by far the most disappointing. The story was blah, the acting… eh, and the choreography a flat out joke.
You can read my past thoughts on the series:
Daredevil Season 2
I didn’t do a write up on Iron Fist but you can give Episode 137: Iron Fist Review/Reaction another listen to hear Joey, Markellus, and Aubrey discuss.
The Defenders hit Netflix last Friday with a modest 8 episode order. The relatively short run time did the show a lot of favors since there was no time to meander around and put too much importance where it shouldn’t be. Looking at you Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The first two episodes kick off catching you up on where everyone stands and wastes no time setting the stage for what you’re in for.
Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is having an identity crisis. He puts his hero days behind him after the events of Daredevil Season 2 and focuses on pro-bono law work. Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) are being kept at arm’s reach. The subtlety of these characters strained relationship is the emotional backing of the series. Because we got to spend the most time with this trio we feel the most for them. It also helps that all three actors are very talented. They look and feel natural in the skins of their respective characters.
Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is fresh out of prison. A voluntary stint given his abilities, but the honorable man wanted to put his past behind him. He rejoins with Claire (Rosario Dawson); the glue of the Marvel streaming universe. Cage knows who he is, he knows what he wants to be. He just doesn’t know how to get there. Claire and Cage do great when they get to share screen time but the time is sadly limited by the time the story is in full swing. It doesn’t detract from the overall series much since we tuned in to see some heroes and not a romance.
Danny Rand/The Immortal Iron Fist (Finn Jones) is an integral part of the story. This is a little off putting at first since his role seems to be dumping exposition in ham fisted (no pun intended) ways. He bounces the exposition off Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) who is back and still the best part of the Iron Fist part of the story.
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is, of course, the most reluctant part of the team. The hero who doesn’t want to be a hero. Her best friend and voice of reason, Trish (Rachael Taylor), makes an appearance but is also sadly under utilized. Also returning from Jessica Jones is Kilgrave’s former lackey Malcolm (Eka Darville).
Stick (Scott Glenn), a resurrected Elektra (Elodie Young), and Misty (Simone Missick) all get to return to their roles as well. Stick is up to the same pushy agenda against the hand. Elektra is totally reborn and rebranded as The Black Sky. Somehow in her undead villainous role the character is far less irritating. Misty Knight was the best part of Luke Cage and she is a great asset to The Defenders. Playing something of a Commissioner Gordon role Misty has a foot in each camp, police and vigilante.
Along with returning heroes we get some returning villains. Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), who has been part of this world since the very first series, is bigger than ever. Her character has grown a lot and the actress has really embraced the role. Colleen Wing’s former master, Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez) is also back, but sadly Rodriguez’s acting hasn’t improved.
The big newcomer to the series is the powerfully present Sigourney Weaver. I don’t want to jump into spoilers on Weaver’s role but knowing Sigourney Weaver is part of another geek centric franchise should be all you need to know.
The four heroes all run into each other through the first couple hours and by episode three you’ll be glued to your screen not wanting the ride to end. By this time you get exactly what you tuned in for.
All doubt in the Marvel/Netflix universe is erased and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
The story doesn’t need a ton of explaining since it was set up through some of the past series. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage didn’t dive deep into The Hand but the currents run all through the city. Stick is there to catch the audience up who may have missed some of the series in the past. Stan Lee always said every comic was someone’s first comic and in good movie/TV making every entry is someone’s first as well.
The banter between the heroes is exceptional. It’s just as strong, possibly stronger, than the back and forth in the first Avengers movie. Joss Whedon is a master of dialogue so having the show be on par with, or possibly better than, is high praise.
Luke Cage and Danny Rand butt heads over mysticism and the physical world they can see. Jessica Jones’s constant pessimism is a perfect contrast to good Catholic boy Matt Murdock’s idealism. Not to mention her distaste for the fact that he’s the one of the four who plays dress up.
The action of the show is fantastic. The fight choreography is back to Daredevil S1 quality. The lack of care found in Iron Fist is all but forgotten. With four heroes kicking ass it must have been a massive undertaking to get any kind of fight scene going. To execute so many of them so perfectly is a miraculous feat that overshadows every other aspect of the series that may not be perfect.
Lucky for us, The Defenders is everything we want it to be.