The Defenders Season 1 Review

By
x
TV:
Robert Yaniz Jr.

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On July 23, 2017
Last modified:July 23, 2017

Summary:

The tale at the heart of The Defenders isn't particularly strong, but seeing these characters finally share the screen is an experience that makes even the low points of the Marvel/Netflix partnership well worth it.

Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.

Five years have passed since Marvel Studios changed the face of franchise filmmaking with The Avengers, the culmination of four separate superhero stories into one epic team-up. Since writer/director Joss Whedon’s film popularized this serialized narrative for big-budget properties, seemingly every studio has begun creating its take, with everything from Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe to Universal’s Dark Universe vying to match Marvel’s critical and commercial success (with incredibly mixed results). Now, the company that made shared universes the next big thing is applying that same approach to the small screen with The Defenders.

The series finally unites Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) onscreen, with the quartet of heroes taking on a common threat that could destroy the whole of New York City. Since the marketing to date has only alluded to the true nature of this elusive enemy, we’ll appropriately remain vague. Needless to say, Sigourney Weaver’s mysterious Alexandra and Elodie Yung’s Elektra — the latter of which returns from her debut in Daredevil season 2 — factor prominently in the Defenders’ fight, representing both the massive scope of what they’re up against as well as the personal stakes involved. And, of course, Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple (who has appeared in all four shows) plays a role in the team’s formation.

Unfortunately, The Defenders does open with an underwhelming and poorly edited fight scene that feels ripped right out of Iron Fist, the weakest of the Marvel Netflix shows to date. But it soon recovers in weaving together the until-now disparate story threads of the previous series.

Much like The Avengers, The Defenders takes its time re-introducing each of its heroes (as well as key members of their supporting casts) and laying the connective tissue that drives them to form an alliance. For the most part, this cross-cutting approach works in establishing each character’s motivation and their distinctive perspectives on the events befalling their beloved city, though there’s a bit of a disconnect in where we find Matt Murdock. Late in episode 3, however, the team-up does finally occur, and when it does, it’s pretty glorious. Needless to say, a hallway fight is involved.

Although only half of the show’s eight episodes were available for review, the indistinct plot of The Defenders thus far seems like little more than a serviceable excuse to tie all four Marvel Netflix series together, as if the writers opted to revisit previously established plotlines rather than devise a bold new threat. Perhaps this aspect of the show evolves in its latter half into something more memorable, but as it stands, the characters and not the story of The Defenders are what truly make it worth watching.

Ritter in particular is at the top of her game, serving as the sarcastic naysayer and resident cynic of the group. Her chemistry with Colter — who himself brings the same charm and altruism as he did on his own show — has, after all, been well-documented on Jessica Jones, and she shares a surprisingly strong connection with Cox, no doubt buoyed by the pair’s more brooding approach to heroism. The Defenders even pulls off a small miracle and makes Jones’ Danny Rand a welcome fixture, with not a Meacham in sight.

The petulant character is buoyed here by not only Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing but by his presumed future Heroes for Hire partner Luke Cage. Amidst such inherently dark personalities as Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, Iron Fist’s relative naïveté offers a fun counterpoint, one which The Defenders uses to its full advantage. The show even features an exciting retort to Iron Fist‘s tiresome boardroom scenes in a move that feels designed to redeem the lacklustre response to this year’s previous series.

All in all, The Defenders is a solid addition to the Netflix branch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While not as revelatory as The Avengers (that kind of a game-changer can really only occur once), the show likely presents everything fans have been hoping for. From a narrative and thematic standpoint, The Defenders feels like a turning point for each of these characters, as their four paths intertwine in the face of their biggest challenge yet. From a production standpoint, the show has flaws — bizarre camera angles, inconsistent fight choreography, etc. — but none of that’s a deal-breaker, especially when you’re dealing with characters as complex and fascinating as those at the center of The Defenders.

While the show starts as something of a slow burn, once the heroes come together, it more than lives up to the promise fans have been clamoring to see realized. It may not be the strongest Marvel Netflix series thus far (that would be a toss-up between Daredevil and Jessica Jones), but The Defenders splits the differences between its leads, creating something that even casual fans of these shows shouldn’t miss.

The Defenders Season 1 Review
Great

The tale at the heart of The Defenders isn't particularly strong, but seeing these characters finally share the screen is an experience that makes even the low points of the Marvel/Netflix partnership well worth it.

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