Marvel's The Defenders

Jessica Jones, Danny Rand (Iron Fist),  Matt Murdoch (Daredevil), and Luke Cage together in an elevator after beating the crap out of some people in suits.

With the release of Marvel’s “The Defenders” on Netflix Friday, we now see that the cinematic Avengers project isn’t just a good idea on the big screen. It works on the small screen in episodic format, too.

There are only eight episodes, and the unfortunate part is that it takes three episodes to see an actual team form up. However, when they do team up, you get a very good sense that there is chemistry between the characters and the actors. The addition of Sigourney Weaver as a primary villain adds experience and personality that was needed to compliment some of the deficits in character that were noticeable in the individual series.

Warning: Spoilers below.

We start with a bit of fractured storytelling, not unlike DC’s Suicide Squad, as each of the four primary characters returns to their regular life in New York. Luke Cage returns to Harlem after a stint in prison, Matt Murdoch is trying to settle into his life after having “retired” the Daredevil persona. Jessica Jones is trying to make life continue on a diet of alcohol and sarcasm but without detective work she used to do, and Danny Rand has followed The Hand back to New York.

We are also met by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Alexandra, who has some clear ties to The Hand. She is seen meeting with Madame Gao, a villain from both Daredevil and Iron Fist, who seems to fear her.

Then, an earthquake shakes New York, drawing all four characters out.

From then on, we see the fighting. Not too much, but not too little, either – and it includes a scene where the Defenders fight each other.

Daredevil and Luke Cage remain solid characters, as good as portrayed by the actors in their series. Jessica Jones as a character is vastly improved in this series, and Danny Rand is still the idealistic, whiny, and generally annoying, but having the others who balance that makes him a lot more tolerable than he was in his own series.

The biggest challenge when writing this show is managing all the supporting characters from each of the individual series. The series does so by using the fear of The Hand, the overarching villain group, to bring them all together, though it limits their appeal. This problem ends up being alleviated in the closing episode, when Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, and Claire Temple take part in the final battle, and Foggy Nelson hands Murdoch the Daredevil outfit so he can fight and remain anonymous.

The five fingers of The Hand, meanwhile, are wonderfully played, and the organization provides for a great source of constant struggle for The Defenders, only two of whom are actually trained in martial arts – Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are just beating the crap out of people and it is awesome. Cage, I should add, is once again written properly – sure, he’s invincible and super strong, but he can be and was neutralized through various means, giving him the proper balance.

The biggest wildcard here was the re-introduction of Elektra, but this time as almost a zombie for most of the series. When she finally remembers who she is, she has also become a darker form of herself, killing Alexandra (which was very sad, because Weaver was great in her role), and taking over The Hand.

Storyline-wise, the series felt like more of an extension of the Iron Fist storyline than any of the others. As a result, you did lack some development in the other heroes, particularly Jones and Cage. Daredevil is allowed to grow through his relationship with Elektra, and Rand grows through his understanding of what The Hand is, what his home was, and who he is as the Iron Fist.

But, despite some minor flaws, the season was excellent, if not short. It was great to see these character playing off each other at long last, and hopefully Marvel and Netflix continue to put out good content to follow up.