If Daredevil was the Netflix equivalent of Iron Man, then clearly a team-up was coming. We all knew it was coming, but now The Defenders has dropped and is there for all to see.
So, how was it?
It was, for the most part, fun but inconsequential.
That’s actually fine. I don’t expect big things of consequence for The Defenders. That would come more from the different characters individual series. Instead, what we have here is a team-up show, where the four Netflix heroes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all join forces and fight, well, the Hand. I’ve found the Hand to be a more problematic sort of thing than anything else. Though important to both Daredevil and (on Netflix at least) Iron Fist, as the Hand comes across mostly as faceless minions or individual bad guys not given the sort of screen time and character development of, say, the highly effective and interesting bad guys we’ve seen with Wilson Fisk, Killgrave, or Cottonmouth (and maybe Mariah), we’re instead left with a group that’s vaguely evil and that’s it. The Defenders attempts to make up for this by, first, introducing Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, a high-ranking member of the Hand with some grave concerns of her own.
The problem is, aside from it being Sigourney Weaver, there doesn’t seem to be much to the character of Alexandra. There’s also some Hand leaders we’ve seen before, but the Hand has about as much depth as the average MCU villain that isn’t Loki or Ego. That’s a shame, and a bit of a waste of an actress like Weaver. A bit more is done with a resurrected Elektra, but I find the character problematic at best as she’s been depicted on these shows.
That said, there’s some good stuff to see here, and if you just want to see Matt, Luke, Danny, and Jessica (plus their respective supporting casts!) get some scenes together and fight some ninjas, then this works out just fine. There’s a hint of a future friendship between Danny and Luke before Luke gets to thinking Danny’s making up stuff about dragons, and there’s even some scenes between Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, two characters who are also really good friends in the source material as the Daughters of the Dragon. The series does attempt, in the beginning, to match the individual styles and tones of the separate series, and does depict the different motivations between the different “Defenders” well, with Luke as the mostly altruistic guy, Danny as an idealistic fellow the others wish would shut up, Jessica as a world-weary cynic, and Matt trying to figure out how much he wants to get involved.
The show ends with everyone more or less back where they started with one or two noteworthy exceptions. All four characters have already been announced for a new season, and if anything, the way the other three all seem to treat Danny like he’s an idiot means maybe someone behind the scenes did learn something from the mediocre-at-best Iron Fist. In the meantime, let’s say eight out of ten ninjas tossed through a wall.