The Defenders: The H Word

"Do not say the H word. I've got enough of a headache as it is."

A good premiere, in an introductory sort of way.

Maybe too much catch-up though, because they used nearly the entire episode to reestablish our main and supporting characters and fling a ton of exposition at the audience. It was like getting reacquainted with a lot of old friends, except for Danny Rand, whom I still don't like. Fortunately, most of the character focus fell on Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, while Danny Rand and Colleen Wing carried more of The-Hand-is-about-to-take-New-York storyline.

It was fun that each major character got their very own accent color from their own preceding shows: red for Matt, purple for Jessica, yellow for Luke, and I think Danny got green, but I wasn't paying that much attention to him. I kept thinking, what happens when they all get together, which didn't happen in this episode? An unsettling blend of tangerine, aqua and chartreuse?

We also got an opening superpower demo: Jessica ripping Trish's car off the tow truck chain, Luke breaking his own handcuffs when the cop dropped the key, Matt superhearing a skirmish on the street, and that confusing opener in the dark tunnel under the streets where Danny's fist glowed when he defeated... whom did he defeat? Was it Elektra? Someone, help, post a comment. I watched it twice and I still don't know.

Moving on from being a hero was definitely a theme. Matt had hung up his horns and was having success as a lawyer (and lunch with Karen Page), but that scene in the confessional made it clear that he is jonesing to go out and save people again. Karen told him that Daredevil made New York a better place, and the priest advised Matt to let God in and let him help his damaged heart. Matt told the priest that he misses Elektra, even though she led him in the wrong direction. I liked the scene outside the courtroom where Matt advised Aaron, his young client in the wheelchair, to take his own life back.


I was happiest to see Jessica again. I liked her series the best of all four, and I just feel a lot of affection for her. She's drinking too much, avoiding work, avoiding publicity. But fortunately, she's not avoiding Trish, and Malcolm is still in her life; I practically cheered when he showed up in her trashed office. Was it Malcolm that did the voice scrambler in that phone call as a way to piss off Jessica so that she would take the case of John Raymond, the missing straight arrow of an architect? And why does this Raymond guy, whom we haven't met yet, have explosives in his hidden apartment?


It was also a pleasure to see Jessica's former honey Luke Cage again, leaving prison, returning to Harlem, and finally having "coffee" with our wonderful Claire. And hey to Misty, who has gotten a promotion and is running a city-wide task force (I bet that will turn out to be important in the coming episodes). Misty wants Luke to help Harlem's endangered youth, particularly young ones like Cole who are becoming rich, and then dead.

While we were catching up with our heroes with an H, we were also introduced to our possible Big Bad played by the great Sigourney Weaver, who always feels like an old friend to me because of the Alien movies. So far, we don't know her character's name, but we do know that she's (1) rich, (2) a big cheese in The Hand, since she gives Madame Gao orders, and (3) dying, with the organs collapsing and everything. And she's dying very soon, so she has decided to speed up whatever her evil plan is for New York City. As she told a blank-looking Elektra, New York is only the first city that will fall.

I'm confused about why Sigourney's character is dying. It's my understanding, particularly after Iron Fist, that the Hand can give their people immortality, and she certainly seems to be important enough to rate that. I suppose we'll find out.

The episode ended with Danny Rand and Colleen Wing arriving home from Cambodia in time for what seemed to be a massive, sustained earthquake rocking New York City. (Maybe it won't be tangerine, aqua and chartreuse; during the "earthquake" at the end, or whatever it was, all different colors were flashing on the walls of Matt's apartment.) It was certainly enough to make me want to see the next episode right the hell now.

Bits:

-- The huge cast in the opening credits did make me smile. Not just because of the leads, but because it included nearly all my favorite supporting characters from all four series.

-- The door to Jessica's office slash apartment is still busted. That made me smile, too.

-- Everyone looked much the same except Danny, who has cut back on the curls, pun intended.

-- On the plane, Danny was having visions of the dead people of K'un Lun that he abandoned and it got all dramatic. I was hoping Finn Jones had improved during the hiatus, but no. Can I get the words "woefully miscast" in there again?

-- Foggy (yay, it's Foggy!) was Luke's lawyer in prison and now works for the firm of Hogarth, Chao and Benewitz. I hope that means we're going to see Carrie-Anne Moss again, too.

-- While the Defenders all had their own assigned primary or secondary color, Sigourney Weaver was mostly in dramatic white power clothes. Interesting choice, white. During the MRI scene, we got Sigourney's hand by itself pressed against the glass, a big and somewhat heavy-handed hint that she herself is The Hand.

-- My favorite bon mot in this episode was Jessica's recorded message: "Wrong number."

Quotes:

Trish: "Only you could turn that big personal victory into a defeat. You know what your problem is?"
Jessica: "Sentences that start like that."

Foggy: "People call me Foggy."
Luke: "And you let them?"

Cole: "It's too late for heroes."
I doubt that somehow.

Jessica: (banging on door) "Hey, John Raymond. It's Jessica Jones. I'm, uh, returning your call. You remember, the one where you tried to scare me?"

Sigourney: (to Elektra) "It's just a city. You'll get used to watching them fall."

The Agents of DOUX will be posting a new Defenders review every day. I also wanted to mention that we've reviewed every episode of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and I did a season review of Iron Fist.

While I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Matt, Luke, and especially Jessica (but not Danny), this episode was a prime example of why bringing multiple main characters together in a superhero extravaganza usually doesn't work unless Joss Whedon writes the script. Too many stories, too much exposition, a spotlight that shifts too much. But it's the first episode, we all needed to catch up, so I'll let it go this time.

Three out of four primary colors,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.

10 comments:

Lamounier said...

I really liked it.

Like you, I was happiest to see Jessica again. She is such a delightful character to watch. Pretty much every line she utters is quotable. My favorite was this gross, yet clever exchange with Malcolm:

Jessica: “Maybe he is knee-deep in some intern.”
Malcolm: “Gross.”
Jessica: “Very.”

I also laughed out loud at Jessica’s “holy shit” at seeing the bombs. Krysten Ritter nails every single line delivery.

I guess the explosives Jessica found are related to whatever the Hand is planning to do to New York. And so are the dead youth from Harlem. These plot points are a neat way to bring the different main characters to the same page while still being faithful to each character’s own book.

Another thing I liked was learning that Jessica has something of a hero status now (which she hates, obviously), and that Harlem still looks up to Luke as their hero. Poor Matt, though, I hope he finds some peace.

I liked the shooting style of the opening fight scene. That is, until Danny joined the fight and things got confusing. The director should have toned down the different shot angles and quick editing.

I LOVED the opening credits. There is something cathartic about them.

Lamounier said...

Another thing:

During the "earthquake" at the end, or whatever it was, all different colors were flashing on the walls of Matt's apartment.

Nice catch there. I rewatched it and it’s such a great visual symbolism for “the heroes are coming together”, just the right way to end this first episode. And I had already liked that final scene for Matt’s internal struggle alone.

Patrick said...

I loved the premiere, and I think taking the time to establish each character's current status, given they're pulling together four separate shows into one. Alexandra's intro was well done too. It all reminded me of the very first episode of Daredevil and the way it established the players while leaving the viewer excited to see how everything would connect. With this premiere, we're left with the sense that all four of our heroes are heading down their own paths that will eventually collide with each other. I'm glad they didn't have any of the main characters meet yet. Even with only 8 episodes, the team-ups need to happen organically. Throwing them together right away would've been too contrived.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I also really, really liked it. It was nice to catch up with everyone, but especially Jessica. Besides the lovely Claire, Jess has to be my favorite character. I just wish that there was a little bit more crossover between our four heroes. They were very separate this episode, and it made it feel very disjointed.

So, I'm probably going to talk about the lighting in every single episode, just because I think it's really, really cool. I loved that everyone got their own color, Sigourney Weaver included. Danny's was definitely green. It made everyone's stories feel distinct, like they were still living their own lives and were part of their own shows. I wonder if this only increased the disjointedness of the episode. It's hard to make everything flow when scenes are lit so differently, especially when the colors get really blatant. (The red was a little overbearing at times.) Still, it was a good visual cue as to which character we're jumping too if nothing else.

While we never saw her face, I'm sure that Danny was fighting Elektra in the beginning. Who else could it be?

sunbunny said...

EEEEEEEEEEE! I am very excited for this team up except for the Danny Rand parts of it. I mean...he's terrible. His character is terrible, Finn Jones's acting is terrible. Just terrible. I loved the way they used the show's individual cinematography styles and signature colors for each reintroduction. The whole giving a character a color thing really pays off for them, especially in later episodes.

FYI I'm livetweeting the episodes as I watch them. I did the first four last night and I'll be finishing them up over the weekend! There's also a Twitter poll asking which is your favorite Defender. Jessica is winning handily and Danny, deservingly, has 0 votes. I try not to post anything too plot-heavy so as not to spoil people but if you're behind me in episodes, just be aware! :)

Panda said...

So happy this is finally here! This was a fairly disjointed start, but I think it was a symptom of trying to tie four shows together that each have their own distinctive tones and segregated plots.

Loved most of the scenes on their own though, and the part of most of them experiencing the earthquake at the same time was pretty cool.

TJ said...

I loved it! It was cool to see Luke and Matt again, but Jessica!, she's something else. Krysten Ritter IS Jessica Jones.

And Sigourney Weaver - perfectly calm, mysterious, determined. She just radiates power.

Have to admit that I really liked to see Madame Gao again too. She's one of those villains I love to hate.

Great review Billie! I've already binged to whole series but I will, of course, follow the reviews here with great interest.

PS. I think we can safely say that it was Elektra in that first fight

migmit said...

Ugh. I love Mike Colter, but the main principle of organic chemistry... No.

Josie Kafka said...

I really liked this. As you said, Billie, it was like catching up with three old friends (and some random curly-haired doofus).

I'm also happy to report that the entire season is awesome.

Patryk said...

Jessica had the longest break between her last episode and the Defenders so yeah it was nice to see her again.

But while the setup was necessary I'm wondering why does Netflix need to adhere to standard tv practices and do all those reminders of how each series ended. After all people can get a refresher anytime they want.

Let's hope for a good season and an epic end to the Hand storyline.