Created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez for Netflix, The Defenders is a US online miniseries which stands as finale for the Marvel-Netflix phase one, incorporating the heroes of the four previous shows in one unit: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. The show follows these enhanced beings, a quartet with a common goal, to protect New York City. This is a story about four lone figures and the people around them. These superpowered beings have their own personal challenges and when The Hand reveals itself once again in the city they all love, it takes them some time to realise they would be stronger together than going it alone as is their custom.
I’ve always been more of an advocate of the miniseries / limited series model than the model for regular shows. I enjoy shows with four to eight episodes more than those of twelve to twenty-two episodes per season. And it stops people dishing out the term “Netflix bloat” for the Marvel shows. Each show had thirteen episodes apiece, with Daredevil having twenty-six spread over two seasons. Each of the shows had great stories to tell, including Iron Fist which I enjoyed immensely. Eight episodes for The Defenders was enough. This was enough time for our characters to meet, introduce a good villain, and implement stakes that we as an audience actually care about.
Despite the whole city going to the dogs with ninjas running around the place, we are still witness to things of beauty. With each character in their previous shows, they’ve always been well-lit. And The Defenders follows this tradition. However, the lighting is more prominent in the show they have together than any of their solo projects. Matt Murdock / Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is in dark blue / purple. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) are in yellow and green. I also noticed that series villain Alexandria was in white much of the time. The lighting has become as much part of these characters as the things they do as heroes in the city.
The show is slow to get going. Not slow as in boring, but slow in the way that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones were slow. ‘The H Word’ and ‘Mean Right Hook’ took their time, taking us between Harlem, Manhattan and Hell’s Kitchen, following our respective characters on their own separate storylines before they find each other in ‘Worst Behaviour’ where we are witness to a superpowered beatdown of epic proportions. Though, they’re still reluctant to trust each other. Matt is blind and winning cases. Jessica Jones broods over cases of her own. Luke wants to help Harlem and Danny is set on destroying The Hand on his own because “I am the immortal Iron Fist”.
Their scenes together are flipping great. Fighting sequences aside, when they’re merely talking in social situations, they really gel together. Every scene Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist) share is gold. Their chemistry, along with Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter is one of the show’s selling points. Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor), Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Malcolm DuCasse (Eka Darville) are also great in support. Stick (Scott Glenn) returns. Though, he’s less of a pain in Matt’s ass this time around. And Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) is back from the dead. But you already knew that.
Unlike the movies, the villains have always been a big selling point of these shows. From Kilgrave (David Tennant) to Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’onofrio), the villains have always been great. I enjoyed Diamondback and Cottonmouth in Luke Cage too , with David Whenam giving a good performance as Harold Meachum in Iron Fist. Netflix wins with Hand leader Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) as well. Though, she’s not the equal of Kilgrave in Jessica Jones or Wilson Fisk / Kingpin in the first season of Daredevil. Regardless of that, Alexandra, along with the other fingers of The Hand were well-acted, including Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) who I simply find impossible to hate.
The Defenders is not the best of the Marvel shows. Jessica Jones still holds that mantle, but it’s a good time. Once it gets going, it doesn’t stop and the finale is a good setup for season three of Daredevil (Born Again). With great performances all round and well-shot action sequences, Marvel’s The Defenders is fan service done right.