Well its been a long time coming, and there are only eight episodes, so Louis Turfrey thought it might be worth reviewing the latest offering from Netflix and Marvel – but is Defenders worth the wait? There will be spoilers ahead.
I have been a fan of the Defenders comic since I can remember, but in all the comics issues that I have, none of them feature the same line-up as that on the new TV show. In fact, despite the fact that he has appeared as a member of the team in the new series, to my knowledge Daredevil never had anything other than a guest part in the comics. I’m not so sure about Iron Fist and Jessica Jones either, although they have been members of the Avengers at one time or another. Despite this, I held out great hope for the new series and I am glad to say that it has proved to be an interesting and brilliant ride of character driven plot and action – with a few reservations.
Despite being called Defenders, this new series never see’s the team created under that name. In fact throughout the series, they officially never exist. However, this isn’t a bad thing. There are no silly costumes, (sorry Iron Fist fans), and Jessica Jones never really reveals the true extent of her super powers, (no flying here guys and girls), but the writers seem to have generated a plot that gives all of the characters, side characters and villains a fare share of screen time.
Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid makes an excellent villain and as the leader of The Hand she adds a great deal of character, and at times some kick ass moves, to the story. Finn Jones returns as Danny Rand / Iron Fist and does a far better job than he did in his own series. He’s still the frustrated single minded hunter of The Hand, but thanks to Colleen, he is starting to temper his tendency to rush headlong into battle. Colleen Wing is both his sidekick and his girlfriend. Played by Jessica Henwick, she gets to show her own sword fighting prowess and helps the Defenders in the final battles of the series.
Charlie Cox also returns as Matt Murdoch / Daredevil and plays a man tortured by the loss of the woman he loved, Electra Nachios. She in turn is played by the lovely and amazingly intense Élodie Yung. Her return as the resurrected former assassin allows her to show just what she can do with a couple of swords and a decent story line. If she survives this series, I can see her getting her own.
Both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are back too, and are played by Mike Colter and Kristen Ritter respectively. From the moment these two meet there is an underlying tension that seems to be a result of what last occurred between them and the fact that they were also lovers. Ritter is great as the still damaged and doubtful Jones who has give up being a private investigator. Her interactions with the other members of the team are informed by what has gone on before and ultimately they don’t really get to see how tough she is until the last few episodes.
Mike Colter’s return as Luke Cage is relaxed and intense all at the same time. His reunion with Clare Temple, played by Rosario Dawson is both intense and initially sexual, although this isn’t dwelt on for more than a few minutes in the first episode and is sort of assumed in the ones that follow. Colter is the perfect man for this role as the slightly laid back but single minded ‘hero of Harlem’. He prefers to let his reputation do the talking rather than fight, but is more than willing to mix it with the best when he has to. The first time he meets Iron Fist, there are more than a few sparks of antipathy and the fight they have is more to do with their personalities than anything else. Clare Temple brings the two of them together and is in her own way the part of the glue that helps keep the team from falling apart at times. Her characters ability to fight, which was shown to some effect in Iron Fist, is hardly touched upon in this series and it’s a shame.
There are many other returning characters within this series including Madame Gao, (played by the venerable Wai Ching Ho), Elden Hensen as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, Ramón Rodríguez as Bakuto, Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker and the lovely Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. Also featured is Simone Missick as Misty Knight who has a great role in this series and who I feel will be popping up in future episodes of Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Finally, I should state that having Scott Glenn reprise his role as Stick was a great idea. His exposition helps explain who The Hand truly are and offers up an alternative set of extreme solutions to some of their problems. He is also one of the instigators of the team idea.
I am not going to spoil any of the major plot lines any more than I have already, but I will add this little conclusion. This is not an MCU movie and there are no capes or colourful costumes, unless you count Daredevils and that’s blood red. Instead, there is a gritty character based story based upon what has come before. The characters jump between consensus and downright hostility at times and trust is pushed to the limit. In the end though, we get what we wanted – a Marvel team up that pushes each of the featured characters, and some of their sidekicks, to create a team of heroes that together is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
I would have liked to have seen a ten episode series, but it seems that 8 is the ideal number in this case. It’s not a perfect rendition of the comic books, but that doesn’t matter because in it’s own way this series kicks ass – literally.