REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS
Firstly I normally do my reviews spoiler free. While I won’t be dropping anything major, I feel I can say a bit more as its only eight episodes and all the die hard fans would have consumed it by now. Plus this review is coming well after its release as I got a bit anal and had to have my big X-Men piece as my milestone fiftieth blog. I hate how geek websites assume just because all episodes drop at once everyone has the time to watch it all on one sitting. They then proceed for the next two days dropping click bait headlines and ruin everything. Luckily I am strong willed. I was able to avoid headlines like “The Defenders ending explained!” and “Misty gets her big scene!” It might seem a bit righteous of me moaning about websites then semi spoiling it myself. Most of the beats of the trailer happen in the first two episodes so I don’t feel I’m spoiling much.
I got more of a kick out of the first episode reacquainting myself with familiar faces than I did seeing The Avengers assemble for the first time on the big screen. They is just a personal thing as I lean more to the street level heroes than the heavy hitters. When I say familiar face I don’t mean Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny. I’m talking Colleen, Malcolm, Claire, Foggy, Patsy, Misty, Jeri, everyone and the kitchen sink basically. To keep with the theme of re familiarizing the first episode is this glorious genre mish mash. We don’t spend much time with each character as the episode is a serious of scenes cutting between our four protagonists. If you took the scenes and put say all the Daredevil pieces together it could essentially be the opening episode of season three. Thats how natural everything feels here. Most of the character cross interaction in the first two episodes comes from say Luke and Foggy. So in this regard the pace might seem a little slow but I didn’t have a problem with it. The title team finally come together at the end of episode three. Naturally in a hallway fight scene! From there on it is pretty high octane stuff. Episode four was among my favourites.
It seemed right that they ran from a fight straight into a Chinese restaurant. It felt like a moment right from the comics. The rest of the episode is a fantastic character piece examining the quartets thoughts on the scenario they are in and the pros and cons of team work. Danny shows a exuberant naivety, Luke is opening to helping everyone and Matt is against it, he knows The Hand. While the disappointments of Iron Fist are still fresh in the mind these opening episodes remind us of the brilliance of Jessica Jones. It is great to see Krysten Ritter back in the role and we need season two fast. Jessica is not far short of being the best thing about The Defenders and this comes from a very different set of motivations to the others. Sticking with Iron Fist I can happily report the rapport with Luke is perfect and doing one season of Power Man and Iron Fist makes so much sense. Also the one positive of Iron Fist was Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing so again positive to see her get plenty of screen time in this series. One negative is probably the weakness of The Hand. They fall down a familiar trap of all Marvel movie/TV villains. Their goals and motivations are largely unclear. Sigourney Weaver acts well with what she is given but arguably it could have been more. In early episodes she was reminiscent of Wilson Fisk in the first season of Daredevil. A quiet calmness. Her power and influence goes unspoken but you get a sense of it by how other characters react/interact with her. Elodie Yung is at her smouldering sexy best as a villain. But where are the red ninja lackeys from the comics and season two of Daredevil?
However I did like the additions of Yutaka Takeuchi and Babs Olusanmokun as Murkami and Sowande. They gave The Hand a more multi cultural feel, just needed to see more of them. My biggest complaint with Luke Cage and Iron Fist seasons was the length. They would have benefited from being shorter. I loved everything about The Defenders I could have easily sat through more episodes. I understand why as an ‘event’ season if you will they went with less episodes. It means the story had to be tight though it did mean we didn’t get as much as we wanted. More Murkami would have brilliant he had a creepy evil vibe to him that didn’t get explored too deeply.
Also the supporting cast from the respective series kind of got shelved after episode three. The did however provide one of the best moments in the final episode. I have previously stated how I hate it when the ‘human’ characters end up saving the day. Pepper Potts and Lois Lane are the biggest culprits of this in recent comic book movies. We don’t get this with The Defenders. The Hand has threatened the heroes about their connections being their undoing. Anyway in the final episode there is a great scene that shows how truly helpless and ineffective they can be when the going gets tough. (Colleen and Claire exempt of course). Other positives. Scott Glen was close to stealing every scene he was in! The opening credits were amazing! The best of any Marvel Netflix series. Daredevil set the bar high but The Defenders left is standing. It starts as a generic noirish theme in line with the previous series before building to an epic theme to match the high stakes of the series. It use of colours associate with the characters and some NYC maps bring the whole thing together.
All the time the action slows for a moment my head is doing mathematical equations relating to fornication and how said fornication deviates from the comics. It’s not far short from a trashy soap opera. I should judge clarify everyone is not tapping everyone in The Defenders. I’m talking about all that has gone on in their respective solo series and my end can’t get around the deviation because I’m a loyalist and I always believe somewhere down the line it will line up with the comics. Which would create a Marvel six degrees of penetration.
I suppose the biggest question is is The Defenders better than The Avengers? Really it is probably an unfair question, but is going to be asked so I will have a stab at answering it. Like I said I prefer the street level stuff so I’m being bias. Obviously each character has had their own series of thirteen episodes to grow and evolve. Then we get eight more episodes of them growing and evolving as a team as opposed to the one movie then two hours teamed up we got with The Avengers. But then again Daredevil season two wasn’t as well reviewed as the first, Iron Fist had strong haters and I felt Luke Cage was only so-so. So it’s swings and roundabouts when it comes to the amount of episodes being paramount to good development. To me the way the foursome came to together was more fluid and believable compared to The Avengers.
It even had the classic comic trope of two heroes fighting before coming to a mutual understanding. Episodes three to five, especially four are a blueprint for bringing teams from comics to life on the small screen. While the action was brilliant as expected, episode four felt like a comic it was nothing short of perfect for me. The way they went about their business once they teamed up was much more grounded in reality. One big strength of the series is that the threat level and stakes were high and the viewer was constantly reminded of this without it growing old. One last big question. Do we get a Defenders season two or was this a one off? It would be more gratifying that now all the characters know each other if they just blended into each others series taking it closer to the source material.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
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Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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