For the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a break from the Arrowverse retrospective due to a very special television event. After years of waiting, the Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have finally come together in an Avengers-style miniseries: The Defenders. Oh the amount of hype this show has been building. Will it live up to the hype? Well, let’s find out.
Episode 1: “The H Word”
Alright, let’s get the biggest issue out of the way first. The beginning of The Defenders is STAGNANTLY slow, this episode in particular. It’s basically an hour of exposition with barely any cross character interactions. The only one that occurs actually is Luke Cage meeting Foggy. This can be pretty disappointing to fans that were expecting the heroes to immediately meet up. Couple that in with the fact that there’s only one fight scene, and we’ve got a very disengaging episode. However, if one were to go into the series without that expectation, then it really isn’t a bad episode. It’s mostly a prologue/where are they now episode. Though honestly, it doesn’t do much to expand the story.
Danny and Colleen are traveling the globe to hunt the hand? No real surprise there.
Luke is out of prison and is helping the kids of Harlem? It was only a matter of time before he got out and of course he’s going to be helping the people of Harlem. That’s his shtick.
Jessica is still drinking and investigating as per usual? Okay, that’s not entirely true. It’s evident that Jessica still isn’t over what happened with Kilgrave. She’s even shut down her private investigation services. Though she quickly pounces back into action when threatened to investigate, which makes sense for her character. When she’s challenged, of course she’s going to take action to prove someone wrong.
If anyone has the biggest change, it’s Matt. He’s stopped being Daredevil and has switched over to pro bono work. We can only assume that this was a decision influenced by a mixture of the reaction Karen must have had to learning his identity and the grief over Elektra’s death. While he does clearly miss it, he tries to compensate by helping others through his law skills.
It’s actually a nice parallel to Jessica’s situation: two heroes have hung up their capes after traumatic experiences. It’s even more interesting because these two will tend to have more interactions with each other in later episodes.
And then there’s Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver. Her first scene doesn’t do her justice. However, we get a great sense of how intimidating she is based on her scene with Madame Gao. Gao has always been a great, mysterious, soft-spoken yet incredibly intimidating character. I’ve always thought of her as the true puppet master. But to see her taking orders from Alexandra makes Alexandra much more threatening, especially when she requests Gao to do something so pointless like feed the birds.
While it is a slow episode, I do have to give it props for this: every main character’s scene looks and feels like a scene from their respective shows, almost as if we’re getting a bunch of mini-sodes. The little things like how the shots are lit and what music is being played really helps showcase this. For example, most of Luke’s scenes are lit with yellow lights as music similar to that from Luke Cage is played.
Overall, if you’re more looking forward to the character’s meeting up than the story itself, you’ll be disappointed. It’s not a bad episode per say, it’s just slowly paced and suffers for it.
Episode 2: “Mean Right Hook”
Alright, so the next episode is picking up the pace a little bit, speeding up greatly towards the end, but we’ll get to that.
One has to appreciate how well these characters are coming together. It’s not some cop out like Claire wanting to introduce all of her friends at some potluck dinner. Every move they make is natural yet all still connected. Jessica is investigating a shady architect (who’s working for the Hand), Luke is trying to help a couple Harlem boys similar to what Pops did (who are being hired by the Hand), Danny is investigating the hand, and Matt is assigned to Jessica’s case as Hogarth’s method of legally helping her while not having Hogarth’s law firm involved. It’s written well.
Jessica is very driven this episode, showcasing a lot of dedication to solving this investigation (as seen going through a plethora of public records), even ignoring Jeri’s warnings to stay out of it. Again, this is very much Jessica’s character. When challenged, she springs into action, as if it’s a matter of pride.
Matt is still yearning to go back to being Daredevil, especially after entering the fray once again. Foggy, like the great character he is, immediately picks up on this and tries to pull him away from the vigilante life by giving him some cases. You have to appreciate the irony though. If it hadn’t have been for Foggy and Jeri’s interventions, then Matt and Jessica would never had met and they wouldn’t have thrust themselves deeper into the vigilante lifestyle and investigation respectively. I look forward to seeing these two interacting in the future.
Alexandra doesn’t do much this episode, but we get a better sense of her character. First off, she’s a very private person, as seen when she got a private concert yet refused a larger event in her name. Future episodes will further provide evidence yet it’s unclear as to why this is important. More on this later. Second, she’s either a history buff or she’s much older then she appears. She seemed to have known the fact about Bach’s piece as if she was there when it happened. It certainly provides more mystery to her character and perhaps there’s more to her then the wealthy woman we see.
Danny and Luke are having some great scenes with their respective love interests. While Danny was suffering from uncertainty, Colleen was the one motivating him to find others to help and was the one to find the lead for their next mission. It’s nice to see that the best character from Iron Fist is stilling doing a good job. While she seems to be coming off as a typical supportive girlfriend, it’s counterbalanced with her actually doing things.
Speaking of doing things, there’s a great scene of Luke and Claire just helping people after the earthquake, with Luke cleaning up debris and Claire tending to wounds. It’s nice to see them working together and doing more then just beating up bad guys to help the city.
Arguably the best scene in this episode is the fight between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. It is everything that a fan could want. Luke resisting every crazy martial arts move, Danny punching Luke with his iron fist, it’s just a good fight to get the crossover fans excited and I enjoyed every second of it.
Overall, the second episode is a vast improvement from the first, thought I could see a version where the first two episodes were combined into a better paced episode. Its best moments are towards the end, which should be expected from a Netflix show. Netflix loves to promote binge watching. By having lots cliffhangers at the end of each episode, it encourages viewers to immediately watch the next episode. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a trend that continues with the next several episodes.
How will the show fair once everyone is in the same room? Well find out next week as our heroes work up a mighty appetite. Until next time, this is Xander signing off.