TV Review: The Defenders

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the MCU, it’s that superhero team-ups are, well, super. With the success of most of the Marvel shows on Netflix, it was only a matter of time before they followed the example of The Avengers, coming together to fight crime as The Defenders. Unfortunately, The Avengers this is not.

Lauren: It’s more Avengers: Age of Ultron: it has all the right parts, but as much as I wanted to love it, it just wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. At least when it came to Ultron I could put a large amount of the blame on Ultron himself for being another villain with the daddy issues of Loki (but with a less interesting personality); here the blame is spread thinner, covered most aspects of The Defenders.

Ben: I’d put an equal amount of blame on some pretty bad pacing and writing. The Hand’s master plan isn’t very interesting, and it doesn’t help when so much time is spent building up to the climax instead of making certain characters more fun to watch along the way.

And giving Jessica Jones, the best part of the series, the least amount of time to shine was not a good decision.

Lauren: Jessica Jones was definitely the best straight man of the straight men. You know it’s bad when the alcoholic pessimist is the one providing the most levity. I loved her reaction to the ridiculous situation they were facing, her reaction to Daredevil being the only one showing up to the party wearing a costume, and this line: “I’ll punch you so hard you see.” Basically I really enjoyed her time with Daredevil overall; I just can’t say the same for the whole group.

When the show starts it becomes a countdown to when everyone will finally cross paths as they work different lines of the same web, but when they finally do come together and get their first team fight out of the way (which was awesome), you’re left with the realization that these are the characters we’re left with (not so awesome). And these characters, who were once more dynamic on their own shows, have been left with one note each to work with: I’ll save my city, I’ll save my girl, I need a drink, and I’m The Iron Fist.

Ben: It’s such a shame because Daredevil, Jessica, and Luke have shown how awesome they can be during their solo outings. Finn Jones was definitely more enjoyable to watch than he was in Iron Fist, but he was still the weakest link by far. While his acting was fine for the most part, he was bogged down (more than anyone else) by something that plagues most of The Defenders: bad writing. Let’s just say I started getting worried during the first episode when Danny said “This is my fight” to Colleen, the person he brought to the fight.

And like you said, Daredevil’s “I’ll save my girl” story really hurt a character that has had, in my opinion, two almost perfect seasons on his own. The way his story played out in The Defenders’ finale was a tremendous mix of disappointment and frustration for me.

In Luke and Jessica’s cases, I felt they had a seen-but-not-heard part in the story because The Hand wasn’t in as much of their previous outings like it was with Daredevil and Iron Fist. The scenes revolving around Jessica’s struggle with coming back to work after her fight with Killgrave and Luke’s return were great in the first few episodes, but those stories quickly took a backseat to fighting The Hand… Which was not as great.

Lauren: I was definitely worried when the show opened on Danny considering I couldn’t even get past two episodes of Iron Fist. I know I can’t be alone in thinking that he’s nothing special, right? I mean, he’s supposed to be this highly trained warrior, but he never seems to be the best fighter in the room. As for Jessica, I wish The Defenders had aired after a second season of Jessica Jones so we could explore her reaction to murdering her nemesis to a much deeper degree. Having that washed over in The Defenders did a disservice to what could’ve been a really interesting storyline for her. Or it could’ve just been months and months of blackout drinking… Guess we’ll never know.

Its the issues like this I have that make me wonder if this would have been carried out better had they been able to do something similar to the crossover events The CW has with all of its DC shows. Obviously this wouldn’t work because these Netflix shows dump full seasons at a time, at different times during the year. But still, I can’t stop wondering…

But let’s stop moping about what could’ve been (psych! I’m totally going to keep doing this). I think it’s time we break out a spoiler warning, cuz it’s time to get into this.

SPOILER WARNING FROM HERE ON OUT!

I think it’s time we get back to talking about The Hand, and how I wasn’t impressed by them in the slightest. What made them such a great opposition for Daredevil is that he can’t hear the foot soldiers, at least not at first; they were the perfect foil to his abilities. But as a criminal organization? Meh. The Hand’s leaders’ main goal in The Defenders is to collect this substance that will allow them to continue to live forever, and looking back I have to wonder why the heroes didn’t just let them have it. Ok, so they’re hurting New York with organized crime and blah blah, but The Defenders blew up a whole building just to stop them! I wouldn’t really call that a win.

Ben: The Defenders even acknowledge that destroying the building is an act of domestic terrorism before doing it! And to make matters worse, Daredevil survived the destruction of that building. If it was such a surefire way to kill the Fingers, people who have cheated death for centuries, how could it NOT kill a mostly normal human like Matthew?

Speaking of killing the Fingers, Elektra killing off Alexandra (which came out of nowhere, and not in a good way) with multiple episodes left in the season was just dumb. The Defenders took a page from Luke Cage’s playbook, and got the same decline in quality because of it. Luke Cage went downhill quite a bit once Cottonmouth died, and The Defenders has me concerned that it might be a trend now. If killing off a potentially great villain and putting in a lackluster replacement didn’t work the first time, why would anyone think to risk doing it a second time?

Lauren: Eh heh… I can’t stop laughing every time you call them “Fingers.” Kinda wish one of them had the catchphrase: “I’m gonna finger you!” It would fit with their intimidation level.

As for Elektra, her story is another that needed a show that could properly explore the emotional weight that I’d imagine comes with returning from the dead. I know season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was rough, but Elektra and Matthew are dark enough that fully exploring her psyche following her resurrection would’ve fit perfectly with that show. Add in Matthew’s Christianity and the Daredevil writers could’ve created something pretty interesting.

See, that’s the main problem for me. There’s just far too much in this to explore anything to a satisfactory degree. Instead of including Elektra as a focus stealer, go all in on The Hand. I’ve always like Madame Gao in her time on Daredevil; why not use this opportunity to learn more about her? Explore how she has force powers when the other Fingers don’t. Explore Murakami’s hunting obsession and desire to dissect the animals he kills. Was he absorbing the essence of that bear? I swear he made it sound like that. And most importantly, explore what it is like for an immortal being to realize they aren’t immune to human diseases like cancer. Let that send her over the edge. Let The Weave go crazy!

Man… talk about disappointing. The Defenders fell short all over the board, wasting so much potential. I think I’ll quote Jessica on this one: “This is the dumbest.” Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not exactly wrong.

Ben: I agree. So much was wasted (build-up, characters, talent) in The Defenders, and as much as I’d like to, there’s no way I can… Defend it when the few good things it has going for it are outweighed by so much bad.

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