If you’re a fan of anything related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whether it’s the Iron Man or Captain America films, you might be familiar with the MCU’s angst-ridden street level shows. The ones that sit over on Netflix and are all released in one go, spoilers plaguing those who can’t quite binge thirteen hours of heavy vigilantism at once.
The Defenders, thankfully, has only eight episodes – a refreshing length compared to the other Marvel Netflix series that have culminated in this epic partnership. It’s been a long-awaited build-up to the collaboration of Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones), who have all had their own individual series set in various crime-ridden neighbourhoods of New York.
If you haven’t watched any of them, I would highly recommend at least watching the two seasons of Daredevil before you read the rest of this article since it will make much more sense.
“the fast-paced style of storytelling in The Defenders is welcome”
After the mild flop that was Iron Fist earlier this year, the fast-paced style of storytelling in The Defenders is welcome; even though the ensemble doesn’t actually unite until the third episode, it’s still cool to anticipate and watch as the separate leads start to intersect, ending in a fight that is packed with both violence and humour (mainly between Daredevil and Jessica, who exchange banter throughout the show). Each hero – even the childish Danny Rand, whose one-liner “I am the Immortal Iron Fist” is ripped apart by his more rough-around-the-edges colleagues – brings something new to Marvel’s newest series that was lacking earlier: more than this, the side characters from each show combine to give the MCU a more realistic edge that is lacking in the Avengers films.
Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple is again a stand-out character that brings together all four protagonists and deals with their saviour complexes with so much patience and pure common sense that she herself is really the most heroic of them all. When combined with the supporting female characters from both Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Claire, the cop Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and martial arts pro Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) form a trio of women of colour who drive the plot at the forefront of the show, rather than laying in the background.
One of the most interesting parts of the Marvel Netflix series are definitely the villains. After Daredevil’s Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave (David Tennant) acting as two very different but equally as terrifying antagonists, the bad guys off Luke Cage and Iron Fist were lacking in the same level of menace. Despite positive reviews of her performance, I actually found Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, leader of evil organisation “The Hand”, quite irritating – although she’s meant to be a morally ambiguous immortal mastermind on her deathbed, the trope seems slightly overdone as the other members of The Hand struggle between agreeing with her and wanting to murder her: her servant/bodyguard (spoilers!) undead Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung) is a much more compelling and developed character. Yung’s performance of Elektra was, for me, a stand-out part of the whole production as she flips between looking like a lost puppy to becoming a weapon-wielding assassin with her own agenda.
“what Marvel does well is to give their fans exactly what they want”
Characterisation aside, there are also parts of the plot that are fairly predictable (i.e. evil secret organisation has been alive for thousands of years, surviving behind the guise of successful capitalism), but what Marvel does well is to give their fans exactly what they want: four misfit super-powered people who reluctantly come together to save their city. On top of that, the relationships between the four heroes are presented with a gratifying combination of solidarity and humour, although the writers have left in some underlying issues to be resolved in later seasons.
Unlike The Avengers, The Defenders shows real life characters (OK, you have to suspend a little disbelief!) who are a lot less willing to lead or be led, leaving viewers with a fond appreciation for their teamwork, even when they do spend a lot of time bickering in shady alleys and a Chinese restaurant. Gritty as its predecessors and just as awesome with its fight scenes, The Defenders is one to watch – just hope you can keep up with the sheer number of characters in the show.