Despite its many flaws, The Defenders’ diverse and compelling characters make it worthwhile
Netflix’s Marvel Cinematic Universe was once an exciting subject for fans of The Defenders. They got to see their favorite heroes’ separate series and Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and even Luke Cage’s stand-alone series were all surprisingly good. People seem to have forgotten that they were the first series to make Netflix a considerable network capable of spewing out high-quality content. Now, with this in mind, it’s rather disappointing that the highly anticipated team up is a sub-par 8-episode limited series only saved by the characters we already learned to love.
Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) team up to save New York City from Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), a very powerful woman head of a very dangerous organization called The Hand. Together they are The Defenders, a group of super powered individuals not prepared for the task at hand.
Continuing to be this Cinematic Universe’s strong suit, the action is well shot and exciting in every way possible. The stripped down choreography of punch and kicks work wonders for such a low-budget series. Thanks to various actors and stunt doubles, they help sell these simple yet engaging fight scenes as well as the more complex prop fighting. Out of all the episodes, the third one’s fight sequence is easily the best of the whole series for the simple fact that it features our heroes working together and cleverly using their powers. The Defenders is at its best when it uses the team as a whole to fight its villains.
However, this idea runs thin throughout the entire series. Our heroes don’t get to do lots of exciting fighting, and for the most part, it’s due to the poor writing. The Defenders‘ entire story is rather uninteresting and it never truly leaves a mark. It’s a story obsessed with the future and fails to bring anything to the present. It feels oddly structured, and it has a hard time incorporating our main heroes into the mix which poses a big problem for a series trying to make 4 completely different individuals feel like a team.
When it does find things to do, it falls into superhero stereotypes that we’ve seen all too much. This is particularly the case during the final episode where our heroes are put in a continuing superhero cliche which makes it predictable and therefore, uninteresting. For a show so preoccupied with delivering the message that The Defenders isn’t about a straightforward supergroup (even going to the length of including it in their dialogue), it’s laughable that they dove into such overused cliche.
Though, the real crime comes when the series directly affects our main characters giving them awkward or cringy dialogue. Some of the times, the series will have characters delivering truly awful dialogue in response to something, and it’s hard to take them seriously. Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra is a major character that is hit pretty hard by the terrible dialogue, and it dilutes the imposing nature that the show so clearly wants to put in place.
Luckily, it doesn’t happen too often to our main heroes who continue to be interesting apart from Iron Fist, of course. It’s hard to hate the show when you have Ritter and Cox who are, with the help of their well-written and compelling characters, charismatic and work extremely well together. Even when Ritter is underutilized in certain moments, it fuels a hope that we’ll get to see both of them in their own crossover series. Either if you accept it or not, it never changes the fact that The Defenders is a vessel for developing these characters’ own future story and not for developing a team story.
Even with its many flaws, it’s hard to hate The Defenders when it truly focuses on the characters, and I’m not just talking about the main characters. Colleen (Jessica Henwick), Misty (Simone Missick), Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), Foggy (Elden Henson), Claire (Rosario Dawson), Trish (Rachael Taylor), and Malcolm (Eka Darville) are all interesting in their own series, and it translates well here. It helps make the world of these 4 superheroes mesh well together, and while some make more of an impression than others, some even get their own arc which will no doubt become important in future series.
In the process, The Defenders make an irresponsible and messy point – a sub par crossover show is only as strong as its characters. With a diverse group of main and secondary characters, The Defenders manage to dodge being the failure it was brushing with. Even if it’s not a failure, Netflix’s anticipated team up is not anywhere near the quality it should have been. Overall, what they managed to create is an opportunity to get back at the level this Cinematic Universe once was.
The Defenders is streaming on Netflix.