That’s a question I have been hearing lately. It’s like people are just assuming that it will be pretty bad, especially after the way so many were disappointed with Iron Fist season one. So how bad is it?
The first review I saw included the complaint “it’s so boring. It’s all talk and no action.” The second review I read mentioned how “it’s hard to connect with because there isn’t enough story between the constant fight scenes.”
Later, I came across a review by someone who was upset that the characters weren’t presented very well and that “Defenders undoes everything that the characters accomplished in their own series.” That was followed by a review that said the best part was that the series built upon what went before and actually had a significant impact upon the characters.
So… what did I think?
To me, this was one potentially the best Netflix Marvel series yet. I won’t say it was without flaws, but it was quite enjoyable, It was a good culmination of the previous series’s storylines and did a good job of involving the many characters. I’ll try and tackle a few of the key complaints and give my views.
I think everyone was pretty well-presented. I thought that they were all consistent with their previous appearances and each character was impacted by the story, which was nice. Often in this type of thing, there is no real character development because that is saved for the character’s own show, but each character had at least some growth– though Iron Fist and Daredevil obviously benefitted the most from the storlyine, as it tied in directly to their origins.
On the topic of Danny Rand, I never personally had any issue with him. Yes, he’s dumb at times… well, fairly often… but he is well-meaning and I think he is representative of how a lot of people might react in his situation. Remember those days when people liked Marvel heroes because they tended to be flawed, “normal” people?
I like Danny because he is a good person, who manages to screw up, but wants to do the right thing. He has been through a lot, and I personally think it makes sense for him to suffer from PTSD given the loss of his parents, the training/ beatings he received in K’un Lun and the mystical, possibly rather-mindbending experiences he has had. He is deeply flawed, but it leaves a lot of room for growth, and he experiences some of that here.
Matt Murdock has his own arc involving his desire to stop being Daredevil and live a normal life at the start of the show, to realising that “this is my life” later on. He accepts his role as Daredevil and seems to come to terms with it, at least for now.
Jessica Jones starts the series in an even darker frame of mind than in her own series, but likely because of the resolution of her enounter with the Purple Man (Kilgrave). She is even harder-drinking than before (if possible) and seems to have abandoned any concern for anyone outside of her immediate circle of Malcolm and Trish.Her attitude and nasty quips are what make her fun in this series, however, as she continually mocks both Danny and Matt– especially when he’s in costume. It’s actually the interraction with Matt that gives her some development however, as she starts to show some respect for him and by the end of the series, genuine concern. By the last time we see her, she is ready to start being part of society again.
Luke Cage probably has the least development, but even he has some nice moments with Jess, a brief nod toward the comic book relationship he has with Danny, and he gets to act in a couple of scenes as the moral compass of the team. I may or may not be the only one who is hoping to see him back with Jess at some point, so I was happy to see that there remains real affection and caring between them. Jessica even suggest that perhaps they will “have coffee” again sometime.
Even the supporitng characters have roles to play, to one degree or another. The big winners here are Colleen Wing– whose story wraps up her experiences from Iron Fist nicely– and Claire, who continues to be a voice of reason and a grounding force for the team.
I know that some people are pretty sick of the hand, though honestly, we haven’t seen that much of them, when taking all 4 series (now 5) into account, and the fact is that they are supposed to be massively influential and integrated into all parts of society, so it kind of makes sense that they would be, you know, present.
I happen to really like Madame Gao. I find her interesting, quite possibly due to the portrayal by Wai Ching Ho, but also due to her mysterious past, which is elaborated on here. Despite being one of the primary villains, I found myself constantly hoping she would survive the series.
There seems to be some difference of opinion about Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra, though most of the negative views are centered around the character as written, not her portrayal. I thought she was great in every scene she had, though I agree that she never really exuded the sense of menace that the writing tried to portray. She had one brief physical encounter with Stick, which was meant to show her fighting ability, but I had a hard time taking it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a geat actress, but I am glad they didn’t try to do too much of the physical stuff with her.
Rounding out the villains were the other leaders of the Hand: Bakuto (last seen in Iron Fist), Sowande and Murakami. Each of them, like Alexandra and Gao, had once studied in K’un Lun, but eventually turned their thoughts from healing to immortality and were cast out. Having lived countless lifetimes, they build the Hand into a global organization with massive influence, all while remaining hidden.
Then there’s Elektra, Matt’s former lover, brought back from the dead by Alexandra to somehow help the Hand fulfill their goals in New York. I put Elektra somewhere in between the heroes and the villains because even though she is definitely much more on the villain side, there is still good in her, as Matt keeps trying to convince her, and she continually passes on opportunites that she has to kill not only Matt, but one would assume the other Defenders as well.
Elektra is not my favourite character in this series, but she is clearly the most effective physical presence on the “villain” side and thus one of the biggest threats throughout.
Ok, so, let’s be honest: the story is not spectacular. It certainly isn’t as bad as some are implying, but it is a bit weak and does have it’s share of illogical moments and inconsistencies. The entire Black Sky storyline with Elektra is fantastically anti-climactic, and the ultimate goals of the Hand remain somewhat nebulous. Their stated intention of returning to K’un Lun is all well and good, but the focus of their efforts is entering a sealed dome under New York, where they expect to gain more of the substance, which is responsible for their longevity and ability to resurrect their members.
It’s implied (at least, I took it this way) that the Hand has undertaken this sort of endeavour before in places like Pompei and Chrnobyl, resulting in mass destruction. This time, however, they encounter a new difficulty in that the dome beneath New York has been sealed by a previous Iron Fist. Gao says that this is the first time that they have encountered such a thing, and all implications are that this one particular location will be the ultimate culmination of centuries of work by the Hand… The only problem is, they never say what’s so special about it. Once the seal on the dome is boken, there doesn’t seem to be anything that they haven’t encountered dozens of times in the past.
At the end of the day, I didn’t complain too much about this because the story was basically just a means to get the characters together, but if too much time is spent contemplating it, it becomes increasingly frustrating that they didn’t follow through on years of build-up.
I am not going to be too negative about the Defenders. I enjoyed it. I loved seeing the characters together, I liked the hints of what could come (Heroes for Hire, Daughters of the Dragon), and it did manage to set up the characters for their respective series’s returns.
It may not have been everything we hoped for, but overall it was fun and enjoyable. It was the only Marvel Netflix series to date that made me gasp audibly at one event, and shed a few tears at another.It has given me renewed hope for the Marvel Netflix universe.
At least until Disney pulls out. But that’s another story for another time.
What did you think about The Defenders? Let’s talk !