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TV Review: Marvel’s The Defenders (Season 1)

Tying together the storylines of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, the eight-episode mini-series Marvel’s The Defenders brings together the four, New York-based, comic-book heroes as they uproot an evil conspiracy in their city. Starring Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, and Finn Jones as the core four and supported by a huge host of characters from their own Netflix/Marvel shows, the heroes fight against the sinister Hand, a centuries-old group of five powerful figures searching for the key to immortality. Sigourney Weaver plays Alexandra, the leader of the Hand who resurrects Elektra (Elodie Yung) as the unstoppable killer Black Sky, and who is willing to level an entire city to get what she wants.

After stellar reviews of previous Netflix/Marvel shows (except for perhaps Iron Fist) for brilliant action, story, and relevance, The Defenders had a lot to live up to in bringing the heroes together successfully à la their movie counterpart, The Avengers. Sadly, the show did not manage to pull out the best aspects of each superhero show—namely Daredevil’s creative fight choreography, Jessica Jones’ attitude and tone, and Luke Cage’s amazing soundtrack—but instead ended up interminably bland. The mini-series suffers as a comic-book adaptation because of its glacial pace, mediocre fight scenes, and rather simple objective. Although The Defenders tries to make up for its transparent weaknesses with overly stylized visuals (so many neon lights and canted angles!), the show still feels flat and airless. Worst of all is the complete lack of humour in the show. With ninjas running around and serendipitous meet-ups aplenty, it is hard to take The Defenders seriously even though it tries very hard to do so for us. When Luke and Jessica, the most grounded superheroes, meet the costumed Daredevil and magical Iron Fist, it becomes painful clear how weird the entire premise of the show is and how it struggles to play to its established strengths. Another case in point: although Weaver is a formidable presence and a rather interesting villain (Alexandra speaks many languages and hints at having met Beethoven and Brahms), the vaguely powerful but relatively easy to defeat Hand that she leads does not live up to its supposed badass-ness. Previous villains from the individual Defenders’ storylines have proved to be far more compelling and difficult to take down, such as Nobu (Daredevil) and Mariah (Luke Cage), while never touting to have nearly as much money, skill, or clout as the ancient, mystical, international organization of ninjas. When the bad guys prove themselves to be no real threat after several seasons of build-up on Daredevil and Iron Fist, it is disappointing.

A few good moments, however, are in the interactions between pairs of characters, especially between Luke and Jessica (who have had a tricky but intimate history) and between Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) as an unexpectedly decent show of supportive female friendship. Within the cast, The Defenders has potential for much more appeal. It’s still up in the air about the upcoming Punisher series, but I can’t wait for new seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage!

Ratings (out of 5):

Directing: 2.5

Story: 2.5

Acting: 3.5

Dialogue: 2

Editing: 3

Visuals: 3.5

Music/Score: 2.5

Overall Average: 2.9

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