This article originally appeared on Crossfader.
What seems to be a brilliant method to bring together Marvel’s heroes of the streamable screen unfortunately appears more like a tactic that Netflix executives thought would rival Marvel’s theatrical films. Yes, there’s plenty of fun to be had, but THE DEFENDERS ultimately feels like a puzzle whose pieces weren’t meant to fit together.
This group spends half of their time saving New York and the other half just brooding
Marvel attempts to sell this show by bringing us heroes that prefer to be called anything but. Rather than a much-needed antidote to SUICIDE SQUAD, Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) feel more like a clique sitting in the back of the high school cafeteria poking fun at popular kids (see: THE AVENGERS) while insisting that they are different and unique. However, it only takes the anguished look of New York City in danger for the heroes to finally succumb to their city-saving destiny.
Of course, they don’t become a crime-fighting quartet automatically. In fact, the pilot does everything to emphasize how different the characters are from one another by lighting each of their scenes in a different hue. This is aesthetically nice, but feels like spoonfeeding this difference and only makes the pacing of the first episode feel disjointed and unnatural. THE DEFENDERS builds slowly as it focuses on reintroducing all the characters to bring one up to speed if they haven’t seen the preceding four series. The most exciting development is the reveal of the show’s antagonist: Alexandra, leader of The Hand, an organization that threatens the safety of New York City all while resembling a group of ninjas.
The first two episodes are slow and choppy, as the writers continue to play a weird game of catch up while still trying to tease the intentions of the Hand. The show takes advantage of its binge appeal and it isn’t until the third episode, where the team finally assembles for the first time, that things finally start to catch some steam, including a flashback that shows Elektra (whom we are reminded is Matt Murdock’s ex-girlfriend from DAREDEVIL) reincarnated as Black Sky, as Alexandra takes her under her wing.
Marvel always succeeds in bringing humanity into their villains, but Alexandra feels like a hasty attempt
Although Sigourney Weaver provides a remarkable performance as Alexandra, it is often cut short by the lack of motivation in Alexandra’s writing. She is introduced right as she is revealed to only have a short time left to live, and is now bound to her fruitless motivation to enact her “plan” before her forthcoming death. The most enticing part of her role is her relationship to Black Sky as she becomes semi-maternal. They are only a sample of the wonderful female characters throughout the show, the presence of whom are decent compensation for Jessica Jones being the only woman in the titular group. Not to mention, this show almost deserves a recommendation solely for the remarkable scene in which Luke Cage notifies Danny Rand about all of his white privilege, delivering one of the best lines in the entire show: “You think you may have just earned your strength, but you’ve had power since the day you were born.”
That being said, these rare, beautiful moments can’t manage to keep the show together. Unfortunately, all the promise for the unique characters, conversations, and circumstances are overshadowed by the cliche fight scenes and storylines. The fight in THE DEFENDERS’ climax reflects single-take fight scenes of THE AVENGERS. Even though THE DEFENDERS is arguably very different, it still follows the same formula that the THE AVENGERS had given us, only told from a slightly different perspective. We begin with a group of people that often appear as if the only thing they have in common with one another is their supernatural abilities. Yet, they are bonded together by the mutual desire to defend the public. THE DEFENDERS attempts to distance itself from this as the characters continue to be stubborn, and thereby more human, than their film foils. Most of them prefer not to wear spandex and hardly smile, even through some of their clever, Marvel-patented asides. However, the characters eventually succumb to their fate of being a crime fighting quartet and then the show gradually falls into the shadow of its cinematic counterpart.
If you’re a fan of Marvel comics, then this show deserves a watch. The characters are unique adaptations, but the storyline fails to leave any lasting mark in the television genre as a whole.The tone at the end of the series includes a lot of justice, strength, and hope, but overshadowing it all is its unavoidable redundancy.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend