The moment all Marvel Netflix fans have been waiting for has finally arrived. After a total of five seasons The Unbreakable Luke Cage, the perpetually pissed Jessica Jones, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and the Iron Fist finally meet to form the team that will save New York. After the mixed reviews Iron Fist got for its fight scenes and acting quality, lots of fans were worried if this was indicative of what to expect from Defenders. Luckily, Marvel actually put together a decent show despite some pacing and plot issues.
The first episode doesn’t inspire confidence by opening with a confusing fight scene completely in the dark. However, after the slow build up for 2 ½ episodes, each character, and the series itself, work far better when the whole team is assembled. Each character became more clearly defined because they were surrounded by people with sometimes drastically different priorities. Iron Fist is even more clearly a kid trapped in a man’s body. While Danny’s intentions are good, by the end of the series you’ll really wonder how in the world did he ever get picked to be Iron Fist. Luke didn’t really go through as much of a personal change as the other characters, they did an excellent job of showing the development of his relationship with Iron Fist. (That speech Luke gives him about privilege in Episode 3 was everything) Daredevil gets positioned as the rational leader since really Danny can’t be trusted with it. Jessica just barely commits to the team and pretty much acts the way you would expect someone who’s never heard of mystical ninjas and coming back from the dead. She has the best lines and the funniest out of pretty much everyone on the show. By the end each character is in a different place, some literally, than where they started. Their growth and banter is one of the most enjoyable parts of the series.
Our sidekick characters also get good development, even though some of their interactions are basically repeating the same concerns over and over again. Without spoiling too much, Misty and Colleen still have some things to figure out but it looks like they are slowly moving toward being their own hero team up. Claire is pretty much Claire, except for doing something stupid during their final showdown with Hand. It’s not obvious but if you’re watching closely her future with Luke is potentially in question as he very clearly still has some unfinished business with Jessica.
It’s a good thing our characters are interesting enough on their own because the plot is probably the weakest point of the show. Sigourney Weaver is simply fantastic as Alexandra, and does a great job as the main villain. (Personally, I thought the end of her arc was rushed and she deserved better) We get it beat over our heads that the Hand wants Iron Fist but the eventual reveal of why is so underwhelming you’ll most likely go “that’s it?” Also, there were some inconsistencies with the power level of the Hand leaders. Sometimes it gets implied that they are uber level warriors, yet then they get beaten too easily by our heroes. If they are as old as it is implied they are, they should have no problem handling a team with only two trained martial artists on it.
Even with these missteps though, the amount of action lets us give the plot a slight pass. You can’t really tell from the first episode, but there has been a vast improvement from Iron Fist. They actually managed to make him look like a highly trained martial artist. Once the heroes finally meet there is nothing but action everywhere. Pretty much if the Defenders are all together it’s basically to kick someone’s ass, there’s really no other purpose for them. This isn’t a bad thing! (Personally, I wish this level of action would carry over into Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ series) The mega fight scene between the Defenders and the Hand in the last episode was exactly what a team vs army of villains should look like. (Even though Luke’s plan to surprise them was weak and deflated the initial impact of them finally facing the Hand for the final battle). The end is pretty emotional and sets our heroes a little more firmly on their individual paths as they go their separate ways.
All in The Defenders is an enjoyable superhero team-up. 8 episodes feels a bit short but it’s better to leave us wanting more than wishing they hadn’t bloated up the storyline to fill 13 or more episodes. You’ll not only be looking forward to Season 2, you’ll be really excited for the next seasons of Luke Cage and Daredevil especially.