Daredevil. Jessica Jones. Luke Cage. It’s great to see them on screen again, kicking ass and taking names. Oh, and Iron Fist is here too. Hooray, I guess.
The Marvel and Netflix hype hit a major obstacle earlier this year when Season 1 of Iron Fist was released. It wasn’t terrible, but we’d grown accustomed to so much more from Marvel and Netflix. In short, it was nothing less than disappointing, and fans were quick to think that this was the start of a downward spiral. Luckily, The Defenders proves that they haven’t lost their touch, but Iron Fist might still be a lost cause.
The Defenders is the culmination of five seasons worth of story and character development.
The leader of The Hand, Alexandra (played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver) has begun to enact her final play to destroy New York, forcing our plucky underdog heroes to unite and defeat this menace. Win together, or die alone; that’s enough motivation to bring people together.
They don’t come together immediately, mind you, but it would ruin the overall payoff if they did. Each of them have their reasons for forming The Defenders and the first few episodes are spent exploring that. It’s a slow start but a welcome one, as we’re eased back into the world of the individual characters. Still, it’s not long before the chaos kicks off proper, and doesn’t relent until the explosive finale.
The Defenders is a much shorter series than previous Marvel efforts, but that’s actually a benefit here. With the larger cast of characters and shorter overall runtime, it means there’s less filler than the other seasons. None of this “Danny Rand: Corporate Bumhole” that caused Iron Fist to be such dross. Well, helped to cause.
Iron Fist is still the weakest character of all the Defenders as he’s one dimensional; his singular focus on destroying The Hand makes him boring and unimaginative. He’s a boy scout, and a childish one at that. All too often if he doesn’t get his own way, he throws a tantrum like some kind of petulant, bratty child.
If anything, his lines of dialogue often reflect a soundboard used to annoy children in Call of Duty’s game chat. You could turn it into a drinking game; take a shot if Rand says something to the effect of the following:
– I’m the immortal Iron Fist.
– I’ll do this alone.
– My destiny is to destroy The Hand.
There you go. Now you can binge drink whilst you binge watch.
On the bright side, his arrogance is highlighted by other characters in the show. Early on, Luke Cage reads Rand the riot act about how he uses his abilities to fight The Hand’s street level operatives instead of utilising his billion dollar business to go after the head of the snake. It’s a brilliant scene that touches on a larger subject of privilege in society, something that may satisfy those critics who believe he shouldn’t have been white.
If Iron Fist is the lower end of the spectrum of quality, then Jessica Jones is the highlight. Her sarcastic and flippant nature to all the mystical ninja bullshit that’s unfolding around her helps keep the show grounded. She’s still haunted by the events of her series and the things she’s done, and she finds herself embroiled in this conspiracy way above her pay grade. Despite her super strength, Jessica Jones is the most human.
Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Alexandra is also phenomenal. She’s ruthless, calculated and will stop at nothing to accomplish her goals, yet from her first introduction she’s presented with one major weakness: she’s afraid of death. Aren’t we all?
Again, it’s this flaw that makes her a more human and more relatable villain. Yes, she does some despicable things in the name of her goals, but who wouldn’t if it meant they could stave off The Grim Reaper? It’s also this undeniable weakness that leads to her fellow Hand leaders beginning to distrust her leadership, making for one of the more intriguing sub-plots throughout the series.
Special mention must be made of the directing throughout too, particularly the lighting. Depending on the character we’re following at the time, the ambient lighting is changed accordingly. It’s simple things like red for Daredevil, gold for Cage, dark and muted lighting for Jessica and brighter lights for Iron Fist. Ultimately, The Defenders is the coming together of different worlds and styles, and this level of direction helps sell that. That rings especially true during their initial dinner meeting, where these 4 opposing styles meet in one room. It’s hardly subtle, but it is effective.
In the end, The Defenders is a satisfying climax to what can only be considered as Phase 1 of the Netflix Universe. We, as fans, have been gearing up for this war with The Hand, and it’s a joy to watch. Except when Rand is on the screen, anyway. It’s not clear what direction we’ll be heading in after this, or what major plot arc will unite the team once again, but it’s going to be interesting to find out.