Review: THE DEFENDERS Holds The Line For Future Shows


Netflix's rollout of Marvel shows - Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were all very exceptional shows. Despite their own sets of minimal technical flaws, all three programs delivered principal characters that fans could otherwise relate to on many levels, and with some neat action scenes to boot. And then came Iron Fist, a series whereby somewhere along the line, frankly, somebody dropped the ball.

Indeed, I defended that show for the sake of giving it a chance, as well as actor Finn Jones who took so much heat from comic book fanboys for being cast as forbearing billionaire and rebirthed kung fu warrior, Danny Rand, that at one point, he left Twitter so he could focus on his work. As it stands, that series is on deck for a second season whether you loved or hated the show's first, and with a new showrunner which, in the albeit good company of this four-piece superhero culmination from creators Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez, stands to make things more optimistic.

If you're wondering why it is that I'm putting so much emphasis on Iron Fist, well, it's because The Defenders centrally revolves around him and what he's needed for by the elusive, shadowy villains known as The Hand. Picking up where Iron Fist leaves off, the show reintroduces stoic protagonist Danny Rand on a globetrotting mission around the world to avenge his fallen city, Kun'Lun with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).

As the show moves forward, we are introduced once more to our remaining three protagonists - each enduring the aftermath of their own serial events; Stoic blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) still struggles with the reluctance of his calling as a masked hero while private investigator Jessica Jones (Kristen Ritter) keeps herself occupied between work and the occasional bender to stay sane, and ex-convict Luke Cage (Mike Colter) ponders his latest quandry between a self-preserving life with Claire (Rosario Dawson) and his heroic calling in post-Cottonmouth Harlem.

The first three episodes assemble most of the necessary pieces, weaving our quartet together to form the reluctant, titular team now faced with a greater, looming evil with The Hand's newly emerged leader, Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). Scott Glenn makes his re-entry as the grisled, last surviving member of the Chaste and Murdock's long-time bitter frienemy, Stick (Scott Glenn), as do foes and romantic interests in the course of this latest phase of Marvel's streaming serial endeavor.

It's not helpful that oftentimes, the script tends to stagger with existential conversations that tend to make some of the more exciting, transitional moments feel more anti-climatic than developmental, and the emotive appeal just as strained. All of the Marvel shows (or many serial dramas for that matter) are guilty of this - ranging from instances like Murdock's upheaval with long-time friend Foggy (Elden Henson) to Cage's strategical indecision nearing the final act, and Rand's continued self-blame over the massacre of Kun'Lun, which feels like the most egregious example.

What helps in all this, however, is that we have a cast we've already come to know and mostly appreciate, as well as a story that still managed to hold its own save for some filler. Jones is still a terse, sardonic alcoholic with heart who can pack a punch, and as it stands, a lingering soft spot for Cage. Murdock, noble as always in fighting the good fight in the courtroom with the costume's retirement in mind, remains living a loner's path with a tragic sense of longing following Elektra's death in season two of Daredevil.

Surely enough, as much as the first season of Iron Fist left a lot to be desired, The Defenders successfully manages to make up for some of the losses suffered by the character by not only making Rand a key ingredient to the show, but also balancing out the group dynamic in a way that makes the show watchable, and in some instances, lots of fun. This is especially noticeable in key scenes featuring Rand and Cage as they try to break the ice over their differences - an auspicious offering for fans hoping Netflix will leave the door open for a series treatment of one other Marvel property, "Heroes For Hire".

Interestingly, as prudent as Iron Fist became to the show, it's nowhere near as compelling and spectacular as the fireworks surrounding Murdock's own inner turmoil and conflict. It's a palpable prelude to an already-announced third season of Daredevil, especially for fans keen on actress Elodie Yung's fantastic performance as Elektra.

All in all, a lot of what The Defenders invites you into works. I was staunchly curious about how all four characters were going to mingle in this application knowing how things ended on a sour note for many a fan watching Iron Fist. Jones's Rand hasn't won me over yet, but good handling and improved treatment of his screentime as a martial arts fighter who can hold his own next to his co-stars has otherwise piqued my interest and optimism for better days ahead for the rich white kid with the glowing fist.

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