Marvel’s Defenders dropped this morning on Netflix, marking the first full superhero crossover between the cinematic universe’s TV titles. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are strung together to fight for the city that they all love and wish to save for different reasons. Featuring other popular characters like Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, Patricia Walker, Elektra Natchios and more, the unlikely congregate put aside the woes of the personal lives to form the most capable team of vigilantes Hell’s Kitchen has ever seen.
The Hand have been gathering since Daredevil Season One. They seek power, influence, and something called the Black Sky. But now they need something more. The Iron Fist. We are introduced to the Five Fingers of The Hand, and their leader, Alexandria (Sigourney Weaver), a woman who has lived lives upon lives. It is she who resurrects the dead Elektra Natchios with the power of the Black Sky, and the last of the substance that makes the Five Fingers cheat death. Falling in line with the other Netflix shows (save for maybe Iron Fist), we are given a villain worthy of her status. With Elektra as her “muscle” we watch the unlikely heroes struggle to match her, even when they have her outnumbered, making every fight scene that much more compelling.
The show takes it’s time to start, and though the pacing feels slow, as opposed to a loathsome drag that stalls getting to the point, it careful lays the groundwork on which the series is built. The characters aren’t pushed into awkward forced introductions and the individual conflicts they start with eventually overlap one another and thread into something that gives them all the same goal. Clever meetings such as Matt Murdock representing Jessica Jones in court, and Luke Cage and Iron Fist going after the same enemies but with different goals in mind, make the meetings organic. Their separate reasons for being involved also create palpable conflict and intriguing character interaction.
Once the plot catches traction, the momentum keeps it moving from there on. There may have been one episode that seemed to lull more than the others (episode 5 or 6) but it quickly gained more velocity when unexpected shifts in story happen to keep us alive. Twists like Elektra’s shift to power and Danny Rand’s stubbornness causing him to turn on his allies save us from those dips. Overall the pacing is better than average, but not quite flawless. There are scenes that seem to be inserted at points just to remind us that some of the characters are there (such as with Patricia, and Karen), but aren’t terribly important for forwarding the plot.
The fight scenes are intriguing, and after watching the travesty that was Iron Fist, it was refreshing to see Daredevil taking the spotlight again in most of the fight scenes. Characters like him, Colleen, and Elektra provide the “wow” factor for our martial arts fights. While Danny is better than he was in his own series with the choreography, it’s still obvious that he cannot hold a candle any of the others in that respect. One issue that I find with many of the fight scenes are the sheer number of things going on at the same time during them. Most of them feature all four of them at the same time fighting two dozen or so enemies, and it’s difficult to enjoy as much as we might the more intimate combat scenes. Still, they were overall better than worse.
The mesh of culture is beautiful and stylistically, the camera work is excellent. The color schemes change from character to character. Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue and gritty, while Matt’s are often red. When they shift to Luke we are graced with urban hip hop and yellow lighting, while Iron Fist’s scenes are green in hue. When they all meet it takes on a new style that honestly may lean more toward Daredevil, when he’s fighting, which was a good direction to take.
If there is anything to complain about the series, it would be Iron Fist. I feel the character is simply ruined. While he’s far better and more bearable in this show, much about him is still cringeworthy. There is a bleed from his horrid solo series that has stained his character. His personality feels mismatched as he’s prone to constant naivete, senseless anger, and unconvincing fighting. Finn Jones’ acting isn’t horrible but it isn’t particularly likeable either. Add that with the portrayal of the Iron Fist power itself and I really don’t like the on-screen Iron Fist at all, which is quite disappointing because he is quite enjoyable in the comics. There are also a few times where Mike Colter’s dialogue for Luke Cage feels a little forced and “read from the page” but aside from these things, the show is still amazing.
Even with the misstep of the Iron Fist series, Marvel successfully completed phase 1 of their “street heroes.” I was not disappointed. Where I felt Elektra was somewhat lackluster before, I was very well pleased here. I loved all of the characters interacting with each other, and am continuously astonished by how well Simone Missick nails comic book Misty Knight as well as how much I love Jennifer Henwick as Colleen Wing. With a coherent, sensible story arc, and solid pacing, and a seamless integration of these unlikely characters into a team, Marvel’s Defenders was major hit.