Written by Brian Flinchbaugh
Well MCU fans, the superhero television event of the year has come.
On August 18th, Netflix dropped the Defenders mini-series, the culmination of the MCU’s small-screen hero universe that began with the first season of Daredevil. After each of our four heroes received their own solo series, they finally meet in the Defenders.
If you enjoyed the solo seasons (or even if you never saw them) the Defenders will not disappoint. In the opener, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist pick up right where they left off when their previous seasons’ ended. The first three episodes are a bit of a mish-mosh of cramming in supporting characters from the individual seasons (and there are a lot of them). If you haven’t tuned in before, getting introduced to this many characters at this pace may be a bit overwhelming. But for the many of us who have been with this since the beginning, it’s fun to see all these characters take turns on the screen in the same story. We are reunited with Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Trish Walker, Claire Temple, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Jeri Hogarth, Malcolm Ducasse and Stick. Did I miss anyone? Probably, but you get the gist. They’re all in there.
With Colleen Wing being the only of these supporting characters that has a real personal motivation for fighting The Hand, some will say that there are too many of these characters squeezed in, but their presence makes sense later when they need to be protected as a result of their close relationships with each of the Defenders.
Despite the quick-paced reintroductions, the first three episodes are a slow-burn as you sit through four individual mini-stories, establishing each of their motivations for joining the fight, while waiting for them to finally come together. When this happens at the very end of episode three, you’re relieved it’s not a network show when you have to wait until next week for the action to continue. After the big fight scene when they (reluctantly) join forces, the next episode can’t load fast enough.
The next couple episodes highlight the dysfunction brought on by the major differences these characters have in both personality and approach, but we’re also treated to some tasty fight scenes, including the one that starts in the Chinese restaurant to open episode 4 following the cliffhanger of episode 3.
The action scenes were believable and thrilling, with each hero in their particular element. The writers did a fantastic job spacing out the action with character-building narrative. These characters have depth and continued to build on that, which is not something you can say for every superhero series.
Sigourney Weaver played Alexandra well despite being given very little to work with. The biggest weakness in this show was the missed opportunity to give the antagonist the depth she deserved. To no fault of Weaver’s, Alexandra became nothing more than a shallow villain who could have been so much more. Despite being one of five fingers of the hand, her personality clearly dominates over Madame Gao, Bakuto and the other two fingers who are given virtually no fleshing out whatsoever. Alexandra is not flashy and memorable like Daredevi’s Wilson Fisk, but her subtle confidence and hidden motivations under the surface are more frightening in some ways, despite the fact that she seems to be defeated much too easily in the end.
The final showdown is wonderful to watch. They finally come together as a team, using each of their unique skills to defeat the hand, with one even willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the others.
The biggest death was also the most predictable. Since the main four all have new seasons of their own series’ on the horizon, we knew they’d make it out alive. As for Stick, his demise was guaranteed from the start. Somebody had to die in this event, and Stick was always going to be the sacrificial lamb. Though I knew it would happen, I’m still sorry to see the character go, though his death was done perfectly. After preaching to Daredevil that Elektra was no longer herself and thus he shouldn’t pull punches, it is Stick himself who allows his feelings to become his downfall.
There are many nods to the comics, from Luke Cage’s classic yellow t-shirt to Iron Fist’s green and yellow wardrobe to Misty Knight losing an arm (not that losing limbs is something new for the MCU). We know that Misty receives a bionic arm in the comics courtesy of Tony Stark, so that’s something to keep an eye out for in the future.
One of the biggest questions coming out of the series is from the absence of a character. Frank Castle does not show up, even as a cameo, and it leaves you wondering as to why. Is it believable that the Punisher would really sit this out? Taking it to The Hand to defend his city seems exactly like what the Punisher would do, jumping into the fight without invitation or hesitation. So where is he? Hopefully his own series, arriving in November, answers this question.
The Daredevil-Elektra storyline continues throughout the series and though we’re not privy to Elektra’s fate, the final episode does foreshadow a major storyline from the comics coming up in Daredevil’s third season. In the 1986 comic storyline Born Again by Frank Miller, Daredevil is nursed back to health in a church by his mother. Her name? Maggie, as in the Sister Maggie we hear a nun calling for at the end of the finale. A vengeful Kingpin, whom we already have in the MCU, is the driving antagonist in that story. The Kingpin’s henchman? None other than Nuke, who also exists in the MCU but whom we haven’t seen since Daredevi’s season one. Could he make a return? Only time will tell, but the pieces of this narrative are all falling into place.
Overall, The Defenders was a fantastic mini-series event. Fleshed out heroes we care about, an interesting story and well-done fights gives us fans everything we want. Though we’d love more than just eight episodes, cutting it down and not dragging it out with filler was the smart way to go. We’re left wanting more of all these heroes, and the anticipation of their sequel seasons has only been increased. And though there’s been no announcement of a second Defenders season, we have to believe it’s only a matter of time.