Just over two weeks ago, the moment many geeks had been waiting for all summer arrived: Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) teamed up to form the Defenders. As someone who loves all things Marvel, I was one of those many geeks awaiting the show’s premiere. But after Iron Fist’s lackluster reviews back in March, and a gap of over a year since new Daredevil episodes and almost two since Jessica Jones, the question loomed: would the new series fulfill expectations or fall flat on its face?
Let us begin with what didn’t work in this show. Due to Iron Fist not being the slam dunk that it may have needed to be, The Defenders had to up the game—and mostly, the writers and creators appear to have learned from their mistakes, because there’s not a whole lot that I could take apart. But there were a few things. First, there is a pacing issue: it seems to take forever for the group to finally meet, get on the same page, and become a team. The sense of urgency for them to take down the Hand is lacking, and none of the characters give the impression that they really want to be part of the Defenders; by the time they really come together, the battle is over. My suggestion on this would have been to make the series longer (say, a 10- or to 12-episode series rather than only eight), which would give more time for everything and everyone to come together.
Because of the lack of time spent building the team, the chemistry between the characters also suffers. The only two heroes who truly click are Jones and Cage, but they spent an entire separate season together building a rapport prior to this series. Cage and Iron Fist, on the other hand, are woefully undeveloped. From the second they had their fight scene when first meeting one another, I thought that if the show could do their interaction right, the duo would be fantastic—I got a very comical Skipper-and-Gilligan type of vibe from the two. But despite this potential being there, they never explored the possibilities. A waste, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, one individual character needing improvement on their own is Alexandra Reid (Sigourney Weaver), one of the five fingers of the immortal Hand and their leader. She is never really fleshed out—we’re led to believe she is this incredibly dangerous person, but she never really demonstrates it. I wanted to see how evil she was, what lows she would stoop to in order to get her way.
Now, this isn’t to say the show is all bad. I believe the creators really improved on the characters that needed improvement. Iron Fist, for example, had previously come off as childish and not much of a threat in his own series, but I believe he was a force to be reckoned with in The Defenders; I didn’t doubt his abilities and intentions once this time around. Another strength is all the secondary characters from each of the heroes’ respective shows, which I felt it show a unity in this project. The writers seem to have realized what works, and what works best is Jessica Jones, who remains the hard-drinking smart-ass that we love and provides some needed comic relief in the show. Another thing that is done well is the hinting of a romantic reunion between Jones and Cage. Although Cage is involved with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), there are moments where it’s obvious he and Jones could give it a try again. Maybe they could even go down the comic-book story line in which they have a baby together—what a dynamic that could create.
So, where does The Defenders land in the spectrum of Marvel’s Netflix series? It’s good, but it had the potential to be better. It was definitely an improvement over Iron Fist, but it doesn’t reach the high standard of Jessica Jones. We’ll just have to see whether things continue to improve from here.