The Buzz: 'The Defenders' Defy and Satisfy
Daredevil. Jessica Jones. Luke Cage. Iron Fist. Each with their own individual series, coming together to unite against the unified force that has directly or indirectly caused them each physical, mental and/or emotional pain, in “The Defenders.” While it’s not a groundbreaking series, everything you love or hate about each individual superhero is implemented in the long-awaited collaboration.
Marvel’s Netflix original series’ began with "Daredevil" in 2015 to rave reviews. It was everything the 2003 film of the same name failed to deliver. Dark and edgy with an appealing storyline and engaging characters. Marvel added on to that with the success of "Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage," both of which brought their own style and presence to the developing world. Then Iron Fist entered the picture, putting a wrench into Marvel’s seemingly seamless strategy. Unlike the three series released prior, Iron Fist was not very well received overall, and for good reason. While I was not as hard on Iron Fist as many other critics were, enjoying some of the supporting storylines such as the Meachum family, there was definitely validity in its negative reviews (most of which surrounded Danny Rand himself). Rand’s background was much less relatable, the story of his mythos was even more complicated than its counterparts and Finn Jones’ dialogue delivery was weak. With that being said, going into “The Defenders,” it’s vital that all pieces of the show’s foundation are taken into consideration when viewing the superhero collaboration.
“The Defenders,” picks up months after all of the individual series’ first seasons (and Daredevil’s second season) ended. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is trying to leave the suit behind and focus on doing good through his law practice. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), free from the controlling clutches of Kilgrave (David Tennant), is continuing her work as a private investigator. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is finishing up his prison sentence for crimes he didn’t commit and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is traveling alongside his girlfriend Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) to fight the seemingly indestructible and corrupt force known as The Hand. The important thing to know before watching “The Defenders” is that it is crucial to know the backstories of all four superheroes. Based on its reviews, Iron Fist was ignored or written off by a lot of fans of the television universe. Yet the core of the story in ‘The Defenders” focuses on the legend of The Iron Fist and how The Hand intends to use him for their purposes. It’s how Murdock, Jones and Cage are brought into the story that makes this series worthwhile.
The combination of all of these different storylines coming together is very satisfying for those that have been watching since Daredevil’s first season. Though you don’t get the exact style of “Jessica Jones” or the specific vibe developed in “Luke Cage,” "The Defenders" has its own approach that focuses on the characters themselves. Through the individual series', there have been a few physical but mostly roundabout connections amongst the cast of characters. Luke Cage was of course in some of the Jessica Jones series, while attorney Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) can be seen in “Jessica Jones" “Iron Fist” and an episode of “Daredevil.” Then of course, there is Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who appears in all of the individual series and is dating Luke. Up until this point, however, Murdock and Rand are unfamiliar with any other people with super abilities, while Jones and Cage haven’t seen or spoken to each other ever since Cage departed for Harlem. The way that showrunner Marco Ramirez brings the four vigilantes together throughout the first few episodes of this series is clever, well timed and gratifying.
What you expect from the individual characters in their respective solo series’ is what to expect in this joint venture. Matt Murdock brings his leadership, heart and darkness to the show and serves as the main, significant draw to the Marvel Television Universe. His relationship with his now reincarnated sweetheart Elektra (Elodie Yung) brings an interesting complexity to the show, as she now unknowingly fights for the corrupt organization that originally caused her death. Jessica Jones once again strongly delivers her sarcasm, quick wit and individual fortitude, while Luke Cage provides the likable, moral ground and bulletproof weapon of the alliance. The new look at Jones and Cage’s relationship following their past experiences is well developed. Then there is Danny Rand. Rand’s dialogue still seems like it belongs in a Disney channel original movie, but it’s not as terrible considering he isn’t the focal protagonist. He serves merely as a piece to the greater good of the show and his backstory is the one that gives Jones and Cage purpose in this series. Finally, the addition of Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid, leader of The Hand, is a great compliment to the show’s returning antagonists (Gao, Bakuto and Stick).
Overall, “The Defenders” delivers on the expectations it has built over the course of the show’s four-year development. It certainly has its moments of cliché storylines and considerably weak dialogue, but it succeeds in continuing to build off of the successful ground that the Marvel Television Universe has created. Intense action, well-developed characters and good writing make the “The Defenders” worthwhile, even if its not as good as some of the individual series. “Jessica Jones," “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” will all be getting a second season, while “Daredevil” moves on to its third. Meanwhile, Jon Bernthal’s “The Punisher,” is set to premiere its first season sometime in 2017 following his appearance in Daredevil’s second season.
All eight episodes of “The Defenders” are currently available to stream on Netflix.