“The Defenders” | Season 1 Review

defenders-posterThe culmination of the Netflix Marvel Universe is here “The Defenders” season one has arrived. Now this review Will Contain Spoilers so you have been warned. The entire cast is here, the heroes will need to unite to save New York City all while hiding more secrets than you’ll find at a family Christmas party. This is pretty much like “The Avengers” for the MCU so naturally I had a lot of anticipation for this season, and it was one that I had high hopes for.

Before going into this season let’s go back a little to cover my quick thoughts on the projects that led to this team-up of street-level heroes. I thought both seasons of “Daredevil” were fantastic. “Daredevil” was like a big-screen project, with a true R-rating that melded perfectly into a compelling two seasons of action on the small-screen. Then came “Jessica Jones” which to me was one of the better comic book character studies that I have seen. Like in “Daredevil” the casting was excellent. The writing was intriguing and the story peeled its layers back with a psychologically tense result. “Jessica Jones” also did a great job of incorporating Luke Cage into its story-line.

Which then led to the first season of “Luke Cage.” Again, a show with nearly perfect casting. A well written story that was socially relevant. It was a compelling comic-book crime drama until it mildly faltered in the last couple episodes. Yet I still really enjoyed “Luke Cage” despite the issues I had with it. To me though. This series was the turn in the tonal shift of this Netflix Marvel Universe from that of, dark and gritty. To more of a network television series feel. With a bigger budget and a TV-MA rating. Still enjoyable but not as captivating as “Daredevil” or “Jessica Jones.” Despite excellent performances for the most part.

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Then came “Iron Fist.” A series about a character that was in all accounts supposed to be a more skilled martial-artist than “Daredevil.” But we all know that was not what we got to see. The kick off season of “Iron Fist” had its moments but they were few and far between. With Finn Jones, simply not feeling like the right casting choice. Which leads us to “The Defenders.”

With only an eight-episode run. Naturally I was expecting a fast-paced progression to things which was the opposite of what the first episode delivered. I assumed each of the characters to be revisited before things got going. But there was a lot of wasted dialogue. Love was in the air as we get a Murdock/Karen Page scene. We get a Danny Rand/Colleen Wing scene. A straight up sex scene between Luke Cage and Claire Temple that reminded me of the old erotic thrillers from Cinemax in the 90’s. All of which was really a waste of time in my opinion. It was a majority of the episode which was an odd choice given there were only eight to work with. Things do get going a little more in the second episode but overall it thought the story-line took too much time to get going. To the point where once things finally do, it feels a little rushed.

Now I did enjoy the show but it didn’t compel me to ever want to watch it again. There were some good story elements but it felt like it lacked some focus at times. I did like the evolution of the Hand and the addition of Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid. I liked the way the season explored the foundations of the Hand as well. I enjoyed how the film dove into the groups intentions with the substance that can grant eternal life. It gave clarity to the massive hole in the ground we saw at the end of the second season of “Daredevil.” It was all nicely woven together and it also worked well with the addition of Elektra as the Black Sky and her subplot.

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The way the group of heroes came together was also well constructed as the uneasiness of them all being around each other felt realistic and grounded much like their characters were. The Royal Dragon episode was one of the best because I think the dialogue between the characters was very well tailored to the situation surrounding their meeting up and it was exciting.

The evolution of Elektra to the Black Sky and her connections to Alexandra Reid resulted in some compelling scenes as well. I think Sigourney Weaver was fantastic in this role, and she really does leave a lasting impression. As does Elodie Yung who once again, along with Charlie Cox, create the best action scenes in the entire season, with their chemistry still being very strong.

None of the performances were horrible at all. They were all their same personas we remembered from their own shows. Cage was charming as usually creating a naturally likable hero as did Daredevil. Jessica Jones was still salty and conflicted with the acceptance of who she is. Iron Fist was unfortunately Iron Fist, now the character does get a little better as the season progresses. But not much, and as much as I try, I can’t see Finn Jones without thinking Jason Priestly. But I also don’t think he was written very well because he has swings in capability at times that felt like story-line conveniences.

With him being the one who is the key to opening this wall so the Hand can get this substance. He was a little too pivotal to the plot, given he was the weakest of the cast in my opinion. But Jones’s persona and the character overall, do get better by the end of the season but it kicks in a little too late. The action was also a little uneven. We don’t really get a good action-sequence with a wide angle till the third episode with Elektra fighting for Alexandra when she is showing off her talents. There were also some good fight-sequences involving the entire group. The scenes inside Midland Circle, the Royal Dragon and down in the caverns were all well done.

© Marvel Comics & Netflix

But overall the action was the usual close-up camera techniques with some quick-editing and routinely dark or shaded settings that help mask a lot. Not horrible at all. Definitely serviceable. Not bad to watch but still not to the same level we saw in the first two seasons of “Daredevil.” I also didn’t really like the closing of the story with all the time spent on the fight between the Daredevil and Elektra. It was working early on, creating some emotionally tense chemistry as their relationship seems to reach its end. But it went back to them too often and oversold the death of the characters.

Now at the time it was gripping. The scene where Foggy and Karen Page were waiting to see Murdock walk into the room and he doesn’t, was very dramatic. It was well crafted and it without a doubt lands with heartfelt intensity. But they just, couldn’t, do it. After the last episode extended past its third chance to wrap itself up we get to see Murdock in a bed somewhere. It was cute. It leaves the door open to more story. But after that happens and you look back, it was hard not to wonder how the story could have played out had they not spent so much time on the bait and switch.

Overall, I think the eight-episode run made the whole season feel rushed. The story pace didn’t have a consistent flow to it. Some portions would take their time to evolve and others felt rushed. And unfortunately, it was the intriguing parts that felt rushed. It was not bad by any means. It entertains and does have some strong qualities in its corner. Madam Gao and Alexandra Reid leave some lasting impressions. Watching Madam Gao use her version of ‘the force’ was pretty cool and there were some fun scenes were the entire team is kicking ass. But in the end, it was a little underwhelming.

Grade (75%)