After checking out a surprising reveal of the pilot episode over at San Diego Comic Con, I was super impressed and left with high expectations of what was to come next in the popular comic book series The Defenders. The story of our New York City based street heroes finally brings them all together to fight a nefarious villain that has affected each Defender in a specific way. After reviewing the first four episodes, I will openly admit I’ve come away with some mixed feelings about the Netflix show.
The following is a review of episodes 1-4 and contains mild spoilers.
In contemporary day New York City, this quartet of singular heroes Mike Colter (Luke Cage) Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) Finn Jones (Iron Fist) and Charlie Cox (Daredevil) have one common goal which is to save the city that never sleeps. They are each burdened with their own personal challenges and realize (reluctantly at times) they might be stronger when teamed together.
The series begins with a great deal of exposition for each respective superhero. And each character’s story picks up from where we left off. The pacing of these interconnected stories are done pretty well. With the exception of Iron Fist’s narrative, which consistently drags from one scene to the next the writing is tightly packed. I will say something positive about Finn Jones; which is the fact that his fighting scenes have improved since his solo debut. This makes the choreographed fight scenes less humorous than they were in Iron Fist.
The distinctive part of the story is each hero has their own agenda which works as a Venn diagram since they all inevitably have the same goal. This points us to Sigourney Weaver’s gracefully stylized performance as Alexandra. Her character came off a bit 2-dimensional to me and wasn’t nearly as menacing as I would hope she would be.
The Defenders oddly enough made Danny Rand the comic relief of the crew and several punch lines are delivered by his character throughout various episodes. Given the controversy surrounding Jones’ casting of Iron Fist and the actor being the butt of many jokes in real life though online memes and critical essays, it seemed fitting that they would write his character this way. I don’t quite recall comic book Danny being the comic relief; but for this adaptation of Rand and his role as a Defender among the heroic heavyweights of Cage, Jones, and Murdock his character being relegated as practical joke seemed fitting.
There’s an intense love scene that takes place in the pilot episode between Luke Cage and Claire (Rosario Dawson). Fans have shipped them since Luke Cage had his own series and if you are a fan of these two, you will not be disappointed. The chemistry between Cage and Claire is palpable and their scene sizzles on the screen. As for Colleen and Danny who sadly had a romantic counter in Iron Fist, (not canon by the way) the couple seemed distant in these first four episodes and their chemistry was lacking. It’s almost as if they both mutually agreed to take a step back and focus on fighting The Hand.
Episode 3 is by far the best episode of the first four. This is because it is the first time the Defenders come together. Their encounter is funny, awkward, action-packed and filled with a kinetic energy that connects the pieces of the puzzle that we’ve finally been waiting for since arriving in Hell’s Kitchen when Daredevil premiered in 2015.
Another highlight is the chemistry between Misty Knight and Colleen Wing; it permeates through the screen. If we drop the rest of the characters and focus on these two (which Lord knows I hope so), then our Daughters of the Dragon series may be one of the best stories yet to come out of the Netflix universe. Yes, I know I am getting way ahead of myself here, but I feel like the writing is on the wall with this one.
While The Defenders is not as entertaining as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage; it does a great job of providing some back story and context about these characters as street heroes. There were some opportunities here and there and the character narratives at times felt unbalanced. There was a significant amount of exposition told within the first four episodes of Danny Rand’s character, and Luke Cage’s presence albeit interesting was minimal. Jessica Jones plays detective and Matt Murdock is in lawyer mode. They each felt like supporting characters.
There’s obviously more to unpack with four episodes left to consume, but hopefully, we get more Luke, Matt, and Jessica in future ones to come. Elektra is a force to be reckoned with and is even more compelling as she turns to the dark side and joins forces with Alexandra. The team now has to contend with Alexandra, Elektra, The Hand, Madame Gao and many more antagonists in this series. Is Marvel’s The Defenders worth the hype? It’s worth the watch but misses the mark on its captivating villains and riveting storylines that the solo superhero stories managed to achieve so well.
With the exception of Iron Fist of course.
Marvel’s The Defenders premieres August 18 on Netflix.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online community for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She's the primary film critic for BGN and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critic Association