I was anticipating Marvel’s ‘The Defenders’ so much, that on the day of the premiere, I readied myself in my bed, brought out food and stole my friend’s Netflix account (I’m sorry I’m cheap) and proceeded to not move for 8 hours as I consumed and digested what was going on. ⅓ of the day in and a massive neck sprain later, The Defenders left me a little bit on the short end of the stick. I wanted something more to chew on, more to absorb, but ultimately didn’t get quite what I was looking for.
Of course, for comic book fans and I, the series is phenomenal, and I was willing to overlook bits of the rough edges just so I could fully immerse myself into the story, but in the end I can’t help but feel wanting for a little bit more.
In typical Netflix/Marvel fashion, the show starts off slow. In The Defenders, the build up is consistent till all 4 characters intersect, despite their obvious disagreements and conflicts with each other. The series imbues a feel of convergence, in the sense that all 4 shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) run parallel together. Part of the reason this works is that the level of urgency and emergency of the danger rise simultaneously for all the characters, not leaving one behind to bite the dust. That’s no mean feat, considering the depth and complexity of 3 other series (except Iron Fist, because duh), melding all the plot threads into one without screwing it up is pure script writing masterclass.
It only takes a villain more powerful than Madam Gao to unite these 4 together, as Alexandra (played by Sigourney Weaver) reveals herself as the leader of the centuries old cult, also pushing boundaries further from the Hand’s comic origins as a predominantly Asian villain group. But after making Gao look like a little bitch in what was a strong first impression, Weaver rapidly fades away into to the same level as the other fingers of The Hand – not so much as a strong leader but one that cracks very easily in the face of danger. Which is a terrible waste, because Weaver managed to put so much onto the table but her full ability is not explored in the series.
Not only that, the plot revisits each character’s motivations and principles during their downtime, almost all the time. Colleen feels underwhelmed and powerless when it comes to fighting her sensei, Iron Fist cannot move on from leaving K’un Lun, and Daredevil can’t stop beating the shit out of thugs. The only suggestively new progression to the plot is Luke Cage, who is just out of prison, and adjusting to life after that. The problem with putting narratives like these is that Marvel doesn’t seem to know who to cater to, a new audience who are just beginning to watch the series, or long time fans who originated from the original Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and (unfortunately) Iron Fist.
Despite running all characters simultaneously, the significance placed on each of them suffers from favouritism. It’s very clear in the series who takes the front seat in the episodes, having gone through several epiphanies and life-changing moments, while other characters are just there, in the background, being themselves. Another problem arises that in tying all four to The Hand – some characters are roped in, not knowing what to expect of the scale of the fight, like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, both of whom fight very different enemies, and are suddenly thrown into a much larger conspiracy. Credit where it’s due, as gluing the already torn relationship between Luke and Jessica gives some semblance of closure, and their characters adaptability to fight something much larger than Harlem and taking on PI cases is commendable, but it’s just not enough to patch up the other mistakes in the series.
Maybe one could argue that The Defenders is actually good, but with Daredevil and Luke Cage setting the bar a bit high, it’s hard for the series to live up to the expectations of many. There are many unplugged holes, and they’ve somehow managed to make Iron Fist even more annoying in this one, but if you want to know the secrets that they’ve been hyping all this while, The Defenders could just be worth a shot.
FINAL SCORE – 65/100