Hoping to regain some lost goodwill after the stunning mediocrity of their Iron Fist series, Netflix and Marvel’s The Defenders series launched to much acclaim. Just like what The Avengers before it did for superhero movies, finally there is a team-up of everyone’s favourite television heroes! The eight-episode miniseries continues the fight against the criminal organization The Hand from Daredevil and Iron Fist.
After a slow start establishing the status quos of each main character (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) and their supporting cast, the show gets going once the characters meet and start interacting. The character dynamics are what shine throughout the season – from grand differences in morality to smaller personality clashes. In one scene, every character’s supporting cast is brought together into one room to protect them and the interactions on display were great.
The plot feels like they made it up as they went. Unlike the integration of the Marvel movies, The Defenders feels haphazard. Exploring the world of each protagonist leads the beginning of the season to have a fragmented feeling, and the cast does not even come together for the entire first episode. However, once the plot points start getting collected the end result is well done. The implementation of fight scenes were also well done – definitely much better than Iron Fist’s, but no single scene matches the heights set by those in Daredevil.
The villains were another point of weakness. Returning from previous shows were Madame Gao, Elektra, and Bakuto, joined by new Hand founders Murakami, Suwande, and Alexandra. Instead of the generic ninja stereotypes that characterized their previous appearances, this miniseries decided to add some generic corporatism to the mix. Alexandra, Elektra, and Gao receive the most attention – the other villains are interesting when they appear, but don’t contribute much. Newcomer Alexandra seems to be the supreme leader of The Hand, but fails to portray herself as a menace and rather, appears as an archetypal evil businesswoman. Madame Gao went from a random drug dealer in the first season of Daredevil, to hints at greater power in Iron Fist, until in The Defenders it is revealed that she’s one of the original five leaders of the Hand and has Sith Lord-esque powers of telekinesis.
Elektra returns and is referred to frequently as the ultimate weapon “Black Sky”. Characters frequently talk about how powerful she is, but despite carrying herself well in fight scenes she fails to live up to her title.
All-in-all, the action is worthy of the franchise, but the plot and villains draw too heavily from Iron Fist and suffer from its shortcomings to a lesser degree.