The Defenders: The Defenders

New York's finest. And Danny.
"This is what we get, isn’t it? For ever thinking we could make it work."
"Who says we didn’t? We’re together."

I was working the day The Defenders was released and didn't get home until late. After tirelessly struggling to get my internet working (a recurring problem in my area), I decided to only watch two or three episodes and finish off the rest the next day. I ended up devouring the entire series in one night and didn't finish until five in the morning.

I was really surprised by this because, overall, I'd say that The Defenders was a good show, but not really a great one. There were many storytelling issues, some of the action sequences left a lot to be desired, there wasn't enough Claire, those scene transitions were annoying, and Danny Rand continues to be the absolute worst. Actually, let me rephrase that. Finn Jones' Danny Rand continues to be the absolute worst. Comic book Danny Rand is an okay guy. His TV counterpart, however, is just so... ugh. The only improvement this show made to him is that he doesn't look completely embarrassing in the fight scenes.

So why did I stay until the early hours of the morning to watch the entire series? Three reasons: Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Of the many, many characters in the Marvel universe these three misfits are without a doubt my favourites. I just love them and I love how perfectly they have all been brought alive on the screen by Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter. I burned through this show so quickly because it has been so long since we've seen Matt and Jessica that I was hungry, ravenous even, for new content. All this show had to do to be a success in my books was nail the interactions between these three very different heroes and it has done that in spades. As others have already said, the pairing of Matt and Jessica has just been beyond perfect. Honestly, if those two don't get to interact in their own shows after this I am going to kick up such a fucking storm.

This entire mini MCU that Marvel and Netflix have put together has followed the pattern of Marvel's Phase One films. Now it's time for the big third act showdown where all the heroes fight together to save New York, the city that is forever in peril. Just once I'd love to see one of these big superhero teams ups where they have to save somewhere less famous like Essex or Portland. The Avengers saving Portland from an invasion of demon monsters, that I'd pay to see. Moving out of the five boroughs would also stop me constantly wondering where all of New York's other heroes are while all of this shit is happening. The Hand is mystical — isn't that the kind of thing Doctor Strange is meant to look out for? Where's your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man? Does Iron Man not come out of Stark Tower unless the sky is falling?

Anyway, getting back on track, the big battle was okay. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. The main problem I had with it was that there was very little in the way of variety. While the four Defenders are all very different in terms of personality, when it comes to powers and abilities, they are maybe a little too similar. Matt and Danny are experts with martial arts while Jessica and Luke both rely on their superstrength to get shit done. So after a while the big fight got a little repetitive for me as all I was watching was just four people doing mostly the same thing. Maybe they could've compensated for that by giving the villains more distinctive powers and fighting styles. Or even personalities. Hell, just more distinctive wardrobes would've done it. The lighting in the cave was so shit I struggled to tell who was who most of the time.

The Defenders we deserve.
The Hand ultimately turned out to be a rather lame adversary. Alexandra was great, but that was mostly because of Sigourney Weaver's undeniable star power. Put that character in the hands of a lesser actress and she would've been pretty vanilla. The Hand's other four fingers (*rolls eyes like Jessica Jones*) were so bland and forgettable you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd all been imported from a Marvel movie. And their plan was kinda disappointing, too. The way Gao was going on about going home I assumed they had found some backdoor to whatever that mystical city was called and needed Danny to open it. Instead we got a dragon and a dead dragon at that. And a dead dragon is officially the worst kind of dragon. Unless it becomes a ZOMBIE DRAGON! in which case it is then officially the best kind of dragon.

Like An Honest Fangirl, I also found Elektra's motivations very muddled in these last two episodes. After everything she had been through it made sense for her to kill Alexandra and take her throne. Like Stick, the other abusive parental figure Elektra killed, Alexandra used and manipulated her into being a weapon in a war she never wanted to be a part of. Usurping her was Elektra ultimate act of revenge and liberation, her way of reclaiming her old life while also finally taking complete control over it. So why did she decide to see Alexandra's grand plan through to its conclusion? Why was she still trying to kill Matt and his friends even though it sounded like she wants to live forever with him? I get the feeling the writers wanted Elektra to be bad so there was someone to fight at the end, but at the same time not completely beyond redemption. Problem is they didn't seem to have a clear idea of what her good/bad ratio should be. They really need to figure out who they want Elektra to be before season three of Daredevil starts.

While the Defenders were downstairs kicking ass and taking names, upstairs an equally awesome, all female team of ultimate badasses in need of a really cool name was doing their bit to save the city. This involved a little bit of domestic terrorism (Colleen must've learned bomb making as well as swordsmanship at Hand summer camp) and cutting the head off the most annoying of the Hand's fingers. Which is a really weird sentence to write. Whoever the villains of Defenders season two turn out to be I hope they have less silly names. I also hope that the awesome team of Colleen, Misty, and Claire gets a substantial amount of screentime. Better yet, scrap Iron Fist season two and just give us a goddamn Daughters of the Dragon show, Netflix!

Matt's sacrifice at the end was completely unnecessary sacrifice, but I wasn't really surprised by that. This is Matthew Michael Murdock we're talking about here. That boy has a serious case of the martyrs and is prone to making really dumb decisions, like walking into a prison Wilson Fisk controls and threatening his girlfriend, or running up the stairs of a skyscraper when there's a perfectly good lift. So of course he was going to stay behind even though he didn't need to. Plus, it's Elektra. He was never going to leave her. He can no more turn away from her than I can turn away from their doomed relationship. I practically squealed with joy when they fell into each other's arms and kissed just as the entire world came crashing down around them. It was so perfect, a part of me wishes this had been the final end for both of them. But this is the MCU and no one truly stays dead in the MCU. Except for Quicksilver, but who cares about Quicksilver.  


Notes and Quotes 

--Even though I really should've seen it coming, I actually gasped when Misty finally lost her arm.

--Luke and Jessica finally got to have the talk they've both been putting off and it is clear there is still a spark between them. Oh, if only they didn't have different shows to star in. Sorry, Claire, but when it comes to Luke's romantic partners, I am strictly Team Jessica.

--I really liked the scene between Trish and Karen and wish we had more scenes of the supporting characters just hanging out at the police station. Now that we've had the big team up series, I hope there'll be more opportunities for characters to crossover into the various series in the future.

Netflix and bored. 
--I don't buy that the NYPD would just hush up what happened and let Luke and Jessica off the hook for blowing up a building in Manhattan of all places. Unless Danny paid them off. Or they covered it up so they wouldn't have to explain how the explosives used were stolen from their own station. Boy, what a world we live in when police corruption is the most plausible explanation.

--I know the empty doorway scene was meant to be sad, but the longer it went on the more everyone looked like dicks for not just telling Karen and Foggy what happened to Matt.

--Alias Investigations has officially reopened for business. I give it a week before the door is broken again.

--I'm really not clear on how harvesting those bones would've destroyed the city. Are they saying the dragon bones are the only thing stopping Manhattan from collapsing in on itself?

--What was with the lack of interaction between Matt and Claire? Considering how close they were it is bizarre that they barely spoke to each other. Not only that, we were denied the super awkward scene where Luke found out they kinda sorta dated.

--Who is Maggie? If you're familiar with the comics you'll already know, as for the rest of you, you'll just have to wait until Daredevil season three. It looks like they are going to do 'Born Again' and with any lucky they'll filter out some of the story's most Frank Millerish moments. I for one can't see Karen becoming a junkie porn star.

--Danny seems to have taken on Matt's role as the crazy white guy in a silly outfit hanging around on rooftops. All he needs is the yellow mask and he'll finally start to look like comic book Iron Fist. But that would probably look silly, which is exactly why it needs to happen so we can have Jessica make fun of it. Also, now that the Hand has been dealt with and his mystical destiny fulfilled (and his solo show has a new showrunner), maybe Danny can finally start to become a less annoying, more likeable character. But I'm not really holding out any hope of that happening. To be perfectly honest, when he first appeared on that rooftop this was literally the first thing that popped into my head:


Matt: “I’m glad we found each other.”
Luke: “I’m not hugging you.”

Jessica: “Let’s go ironclad.”
Danny: “It’s Iron Fist.”
Jessica: “I know.”

Matt: “There is goodness in you. I know ‘cause I felt it.”

Jessica: "Look, I don't give a shit what you guys are doing, down here in your secret cave thing."

A satisfying, but hardly mind-blowing end to a satisfying, but hardly mind-blowing series. Now, when can I have season two of Jessica Jones, Netflix?
--
Mark Greig was dreamin' when he wrote this, so sue him if he goes too fast More Mark Greig

10 comments:

Billie Doux said...

An on point review, Mark -- thank you for taking the finale. All good points. I honestly got pretty frustrated by how dark and repetitive that final fight below stairs was. I kept wishing someone would hit a few spots so that I could see it better. The Claire, Colleen and Misty team was terrific, though. And I did enjoy this installment a lot, and am now looking forward to the next one.

Panda said...

Pretty much feel the same as you, Mark, though I maybe had less of a distaste for it then you did.

I agree with your critiques of the worse parts of the Hand. But I do think Alexandra was a good character, even disassociating her from Weaver. And I love Gao. She's like a cockroach. I really hope she comes back.

But yes, this was almost a stop gap before we see Jessica Jones season 2. Already excited for that.

JRS said...

Great review! I am still not entirely clear what the Substance was or why it provided eternal life. If all we needed to do was taste dinosaur bone essence.... Alexandra's plan felt like it was a little more complicated, as if the thing that killed the dinosaurs - a meteor shard or something - was the Substance. I need guidance on this point! Right now both Matthew and Elektra are trapped with Substance so I imagine them both emerging alive and Elektra then running off to smack someone with the Hand. But I loved the melodramatic kissy finale! I too would make out with Matthew Murdock while a building crashed down around me if it was necessary.

I didn't watch Iron Fist and except for a few moments didn't like Danny in the series and thought the Fist looked silly; it should be reinterpreted as a concentration of Chi which appears when Danny strikes someone with whatever part of the body. But I digress. Like you, other than Danny, I loved these heroes and wonder if we'll see Jessica growing into a new fighting style sometime.

An Honest Fangirl said...

My understanding was that the dragon skeleton was supporting the ground... or something. Take it away, and then Manhattan is essentially sitting onto of an unstable cave that would collapse under the pressure. And, you know, whatever mystical, magical mumbo jumbo you want to throw in in order to explain it would work too.

I was a little underwhelmed by the finale. I expected more. I definitely expected a bigger, better lit fight scene. And I think that they had a few issues with the pacing. I understand that we need to show everyone going back to their "normal" lives, but the longer it dragged on the more annoyed that they were keeping up the charade of Matt's death. Although hopefully Matt's survival means that Madam Gao somehow made it out too. I really like her.

Also, I'm glad that not everyone was immediately on board with being a domestic terrorist. I feel like you don't see that nearly enough in these kinds of shows.

sunbunny said...

What really bugged me is that we spent how many episodes without knowing how the Hand's plan was going to destroy New York only to leave it as "um like if they take these dragon bones away the whole city will collapse I guess?" LAME. Just LAME. The Hand wasn't even out to destroy New York it would have just been an inadvertent consequence. That's not evil. Real evil wants to destroy cities not make more magic juice so they can live forever.

I agree about the doorway scene, someone (probably Luke) should have told Foggy and Karen what happened. Why Luke? Because Jessica isn't great with emotion and Danny annoys me (and everyone else he comes into contact with).

I TOTALLY thought Matt was dead. Totally. Tears streamed down my face. I'm glad he's not dead but at the same time I'm getting a little sick of people coming back from the dead.

William Russell said...

I'm really not clear on how harvesting those bones would've destroyed the city. Are they saying the dragon bones are the only thing stopping Manhattan from collapsing in on itself?

Thanks for saying what I'd been thinking for a week now. Loved 7 EPs of this series but the finale was a complete let down.
I love fantasy but even I don't believe that no one would be going to jail for any of that stealing and blowing stuff up.
Also if your big bad is a dragon, make a "real" dragon and not his bones. Lame.

Genkitty said...

As to when we get the next season of Jessica Jones... They started filming that as soon as Defenders wrapped. We get Punisher later this year and should get JJ in February of 2018.

Josie Kafka said...

Mark, I'm with you: getting to spend time with these characters was definitely a highlight--perhaps the highlight--of this season. If these characters weren't as interesting and fun, it would have been rather dull.

I really didn't like the last bit, though: why did Matt tell Danny Rand to take care of his city?!

I know that's Danny's arc. In the first episode, he teased Colleen about how she's a New Yorker and he isn't. So, hooray, he finally gets to come home or feel at home. But he didn't do anything to deserve Matt's faith.

I suppose you could argue that Luke has other things to do (taking care of Harlem) and Jessica has a business to run, but Danny is probably very busy being wealthy--I think that takes a lot of time.

So, I choose to think that Matt actually said "Tell Claire to take care of my city." And Danny misheard.

I'm sure once Matt comes back he'll clear things up. (So excited about that last scene.)

Patryk said...

To be honest after 5 seasons of the individual shows the eintre defenders felt a bit by-the-book, Stick got Obi-Waned, the Hand got destroyed, one of the defneders is presumed dead but of course alive.

Even the fight scenes can't rival the oner hallway fight from daredevil season 1 and they just felt flat. Being dimly lit definately contributed to the feeling.

But of course the characters were great as usual, but I'd like a bit more supporting characters in the episodes instead of them being stuck in the police station for half the show.

Rumjungle said...

I've been reading Marvel since 1961 and really enjoyed Iron Fist from the comics. This Danny Rand is boring. The Iron Fist show was tedious. The plot of The Defenders had a big build up and was a big disappointment. The first three Netflix Marvel shows were great.