Sep 18, 2017

[TV] Marvel's The Defenders: Season 1 Review

When we began our Netflix journey with Daredevil back in 2015, they had already announced that they had bigger plans in mind. Given the relative success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the folks behind the show wanted to create a TV version of that focused on more street level crime.

It's 2017 the work behind four different Marvel shows on Netflix has finally culminated with The Defenders, a team name familiar to Marvel fans but with a completely different composition this time around. There's been so much hype around this show and after all that we get...this.

It was a little unusual that the show that incorporates characters from four different shows ends up with a season shorter than what those other shows got. You'd think we'd at least get a season of relative parity since they had to tell a bigger story that brings these four characters together to save the city or whatever.

The end result wasn't too bad, but could have been better.

Synopsis: The Defenders is an American superhero television series created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez. The first (?) season ran for 8 episodes on Netflix.

Some time after Iron Fist and the second season of Daredevil, Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) is working with Madam Gao (Wai Ching Ho) to dig up something secreted away by K'un-Lun somewhere beneath the city. This activity causes seismic activity in the city, making the residents of Hell's Kitchen wonder what is going on.

The show starts with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), having given up his mantle as the Daredevil and focusing on being a lawyer. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is busy on another case but things seem to pointing to something brewing that is bigger than anything she's willing to handle. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is finally getting out of prison and he returns to find young men in Harlem being recruited into a gang of some sort. And Danny Rand (Finn Jones) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) have been trying to hunt down operatives of The Hand and their journey is bringing them back to Hell's Kitchen.

What I Liked: There are a lot of great moments between the different characters that feel like a lot of great fan service, but the sort of writing that still supports the larger narrative. Jessica Jones is pretty much the voice of the audience as she reacts to everything with practicality and snark while Murdock manages to get in a few barbs of his own as a witty enough lawyer. There's a lot of great banter that really gives this show a great voice.

Sigourney Weaver was an interesting addition to the universe and I was nice to see her bring her unique acting skills to the fore. She had some killer moments in the series and it was easy enough to understand why the other members of the Hand deferred to her leadership. I just wish making her awesome didn't have to diminish the role of Madam Gao in the overall world of the show no matter how awesome Gao's fight scenes were.

Oh, and a big kudos for how the different characters ended up working together by following their respective story arcs and unraveling the mysteries of the series in their own way. It was a great coming together journey.

What Could Have Been Better: The Iron Fist show wasn't all that great due to a problematic lead character and having him in the show didn't exactly make things better. He was a major bummer in this show and still bumbled through scenes and was mostly dragged around to where the plot needed him. The fact that he actually became a sort of damsel in distress sort of character later in the show just reinforced how bad he was. And no, having characters remark that he's the worst Iron Fist ever isn't the sort of references that will make the audience forgive him for his flaws.

The overall story was a little flat, admittedly. The whole driver behind the show was to get to that buried K'un-Lun McGuffin and needing the Iron First to do so (as pretty much established in the first ten minutes of the series) felt like a weird way to try and make Iron Fist relevant and essential to the plot. He really had bad writing tied to his role in the story and characters constantly cited how bad this was in the series as well, further driving the nails in. We deserved better than that.

And man the other fingers of the Hand felt rather homogenous and superfluous. What are their unique abilities exactly other than being different people? Only Madam Gao stood out.

TL;DR: The Defenders was not quite as epic and awesome as hoped to be but it was still a great moment in television for fans of the other Marvel shows on Netflix. Not sure if they have enough to commission another season as they are positioning this as mini-series, so we'll see how that goes. For now, this first adventure gets a decent 4 odd moves by The Hand to execute their plans out of a possible 5.

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