The Defenders meets expectations, but no more…

The Defenders is about as good as I expected, although not much better…

I just finished binging Marvel’s The Defenders and it was very entertaining. While it lacks the depth and ambiguity of Daredevil and Jessica Jones in particular, the series follows up on character development extremely well. While I overall enjoyed it thoroughly, I have some thoughts I’d like to share, on what went well and what went wrong. This is a series which could very easily have been bogged down by the sheer amount of characters and fans expectation, but given the obstacles the show faced, the Defenders is a success. It manages to balance the four leads screen time and personalities well, and sets up future narratives with a strong emphasis on the close of a chapter.

This feels like the close of a story begun in the first season of Daredevil. For the longest time, the Hand have been in the background, pulling the strings, and now finally our heroes confront them, led by Alexandra (played by the brilliant Sigourney Weaver). She brings a restrained performance, giving us a strong leader on the verge of desperation, dying and unable to confront it. The first scene, showing her undergoing cancer testing is a vulnerable moment that humanises her as well as giving her firm motivation, and even a believable excuse for being rushed or making mistakes. Weaver plays this vulnerability perfectly, whilst also projecting strength when in the company of others. This is one of the reasons I feel it was a shame the way the show-runners dealt with her character. Beyond this point there will be spoilers…

The decision to kill of Alexandra was bold, but a misstep. If the show had a viable replacement under its belt I would be thrilled, but instead the villain who steps up, Elektra, is just not as engaging. It is the same mistake they made on Luke Cage, where Cottonmouth was bumped off early to be replaced by another snake themed bad guy with a less interesting character and ten times more insanity. Diamond-back was just an angry secret brother with an unstable demeanour, and it was unrealistic for this character to be a crime-lord. The same can be said for Elektra. Elodie Yung gives a smashing performance, but the character is the problem. Her motivation is unclear, does she love Matt Murdoch, does she want to kill him? We don’t know. She just can’t fill the Weaver’s shoes.

On the plus side, the four leads bring their A-game, and even Finn Jones’ Iron Fist, the weakest of the four characters is much more enjoyable here. The way the writers have all four bouncing off each other works very well and it’s interesting watching their different perspectives and ideologies clash. The action is splendid for the most part, except when for some reason the shots are shaky close ups in dark rooms. This happens more during group fights, which makes the one on one moments oddly much better. The one exception is the moment all four first meet, during the fight in Midland Circle, which show-cases all of their differing fighting styles and abilities, whilst leaving room to see clearly.

The show wraps up a lot of loose ends from the previous series and starts new narratives, and many of the side characters get interesting conversations, even in the finale. Honestly the biggest problem with this mini-series is that it never gets better than fine. It is a perfectly fine series that has some memorable and even really great elements, but as a whole, it doesn’t quite reach the level of Daredevil season 1 or even Jessica Jones. It just feels like the story lets it down; it’s too basic, too by the numbers to really impress, and I must confess I hope this is the last of the Hand story-line. I’m sick of ninja assassin cults and immortal criminals, these shows need to embrace the grittiness that makes them so refreshing in the MCU. But for what it’s worth, I probably will watch it at least once again.

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