The Defenders is an extremely entertaining eight-episode series. It is the fulfillment of a promise made by Marvel and Netflix way back in 2015 when Daredevil first premiered and is an Avengers-like culmination of four heroes with four separate shows. It's worth noting that watching these four shows isn't necessary to enjoy The Defenders, but it certainly helps to enhance the experience and goes a long way in understanding these characters.
The four heroes of The Defenders are the biggest assets of
the show. The best scenes involve the protagonists and are what fans have been
waiting for. I could have watched eight episodes of these guys hanging out in a laundromat and still be entertained.
That said, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were the standouts amongst the group. Jessica's sarcasm and dry sense of humor had me laughing out loud and her scenes with her fellow Defenders were always fun to watch. Her personality provided a unique contrast to Luke Cage's optimism and immovable moral compass; something which wasn't highlighted in their previous encounters in the Jessica Jones series. This dynamic gave life to what would have otherwise been a boring and tedious show.
Matthew Murdock AKA Daredevil's character was a bit bogged down by his more personal connection to the series' events, which is fine as it serves a greater narrative purpose. It was just sad that he wasn't able to join up with his fellow Defenders as his usual crime-fighting self.
Then we have the last Defender, Danny Rand AKA Iron Fist. The thing with Iron Fist's character is that it could work. As evidenced by his interactions with Luke, Jessica, and Matt, he is the center of some of my favorite scenes. His on-screen chemistry with Luke even mirrors the strong relationship they have in the comics. But the problem with his character is that he reverts back to annoying Danny Rand in his solo scenes. Though his personality is supposed to make him come off as an immature hothead, it is brought down by poor writing and sketchy decisions in the character's direction.
With the exception of Misty Knight, I feel that all of the minor characters were horribly done. They are either riddled with terrible character inconsistencies or just weren't allowed to join the party.
Trish Walker and Malcolm from Jessica Jones were almost nonexistent; which is a shame as these two fan favorites could have done a lot more in The Defenders.
Claire Temple was a mixed bag.
I've never been a huge fan of her character, as I see her as more of a plot
device than anything else (which is why I would have preferred to see characters like Trish or Karen featured more prominently instead).
I loved Colleen Wing and the actress who played her, Jessica Henwick, but her character development felt nothing more than a re-hash of her storyline in Iron Fist, which had already been resolved. It doesn't make a lot of sense for her to suffer another identity crisis in the midst of everything that is happening. On the upside, her scenes with Misty Knight were always interesting, and I always looked forward to watching them.
Karen and Foggy's treatment was the most annoying of the bunch. These two characters, who were part of the series that started all of this, are designated to the sidelines. This made them of little to no use while constantly contradicting themselves.
Foggy wants Matt to stop being Daredevil but at the eve of the final battle, gives Matt his suit; essentially telling Matt that it's ok to be Daredevil again. The writers tried to justify this with a later scene, but it still doesn't make any sense. It was just a plot device to get Matt's costume back.
At the end of the second season of Daredevil, Matt reveals his secret to Karen as the masked vigilante. Fast forward to The Defenders and all of a sudden Karen is on board with Matt quitting as Daredevil. That's crazy. She was a staunch supporter of Daredevil and believed that his presence made Hell's Kitchen better. Without any context to go on, her character motivations in this series don't make sense at all. This doesn't even remotely come close to the Karen Paige we once knew.
Characters aside, the action set pieces are great; especially the bigger ones where all four members of the Defenders are involved. The first half-dozen fights were well-made and had a gritty, grounded feel to them, but they start to get a bit old by the time episode six kicks in. I can only watch so many roundhouse kicks before I get tired of them.
The fights also lacked a sense of identity, not only as separate action set pieces but with the individual characters involved. Danny and Matt even do the same moves in the same fight. In a fight that has Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist, four unique skill sets should really be shown to have different moves as well.
What makes the fight scenes seem so repetitive are the vague limits of the main characters' abilities.
I can't understand how Luke Cage is hurt in some scenes while he isn't in others. He gets hurt not only by chi blasts but by people carrying "bigger bats" as well. Jessica should be killing ninjas with one punch but sometimes she hits them with as much power as Coleen Wing. Finally, Danny should not need to charge up to summon his chi. He's not some struggling monk apprentice in K'un Lun. His sparing use of his glowing fist is really annoying.
The biggest flaw of The Defenders is the poor execution of its
story. Don't get me wrong; the decision to create a simple, straightforward
storyline that spans a couple of days was definitely the right decision. But the whole thing was messy, for lack of a better term.
The biggest perpetrators are the villains of the series, The Hand. The villains are weak, unorganized, and extremely boring. They have no clear purpose, no charisma, and are not compelling enough for audiences to give a crap about them.
Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid was a bit of a miss. She definitely has the presence of a major villain, but a lot of it is wasted by the way her character was executed. Most of her notoriety was built up by the characters telling us who she is rather than her showcasing what she can actually do.
This is the same when it comes to her cohorts. With the exception of Madam Gao, the audience is constantly told that these guys are formidable opponents yet the show fails to provide anything that supports this.
The Hand's plan to destroy New York is constantly in flux and seems uncoordinated for an evil underground organization. It shifts between using Black Sky, capturing Iron Fist, levelling New York, not yet levelling New York until they get the Iron Fist, not using Black Sky, world domination, and wanting to return to K'un Lun. No wonder Jessica Jones has a hard time putting the pieces together; the villains aren't even sure of the plan themselves.
I'm not sure whether the decision to cut the usual 13-episode series to eight was a good one, but despite its flaws, I never got bored of watching the series.Even with all the problems this show has, I had a lot of fun with it. I laughed and smiled more than I ever have with any Marvel/Netflix series. I can still vividly remember specific scenes that I loved and will no doubt re-watch the whole thing again soon.