'The Defenders' review: A Marvel-Netflix series you’ll actually want to finish
Four superheroes walk into a restaurant and the rest is an unexpected joy.
Caitlin PetrakovitzDirector of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
"The Defenders" is the superhero power-group payoff we've been waiting for. Personal preference and style influence your favorite Netflix-Marvel show, but this one has something for every fan and makes some of the solo stories pale in comparison.
Now streaming on Netflix, "The Defenders" is the latest of Marvel's ever-expanding Cinematic Universe. And before you ask, no, you don't need to have seen any of the previous Netflix-Marvel shows or any of the MCU films to "get" this one. It would definitely help you fill in their backstories, but it's not imperative.
And you do not need to watch "Iron Fist" in order to fall in love with this show. Plus, as an added bonus for anyone who couldn't finish "Iron Fist," he gets put in his place early on (and again, and again) and it is great.
Watch this: 'Marvel's The Defenders' trailer 2: War in New York
"Defenders" focuses on four small-screen heroes who come together to fight a big-bad who showrunner Marco Rodriguez told us they've been headed toward since even before the very first season of "Daredevil." "The Defenders" stars Charlie Cox as blind lawyer/superhero Matt Murdock/Daredevil; Krysten Ritter as super strong, snarky Jessica Jones; Mike Colter as bulletproof strongman Luke Cage; and Finn Jones as the man with the glowing hand, Danny Rand/Iron Fist.
A unique ensemble show bringing together established characters, "The Defenders" doesn't waste time building up who the superheroes are or where they come from. If you want to know more about their backstories, each has at least a 13-episode series to mine, with more on the way. This is probably why after the first episode and a half, the pace of "Defenders" is near frenetic.
Early on, episodes are crammed with supporting cast members: Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), and of course Stick, played by Scott Glenn.
And that's just in the first three episodes.
If you follow along with the shows, you likely know that every major character has his or her own color: red for Daredevil; purple/blue for Jessica; yellow, Luke; green, Iron Fist. These were also reinforced early on in the trailers and marketing for "The Defenders."
When we jump from Daredevil to Luke Cage, the sudden palette shifts are fine and make a lot of sense considering each character's background aesthetic, but they're often dragged down by basic transitions.
Ahead of a Jessica Jones segment in the first episode, you get a fast shot of a subway car zooming by with a shift from Daredevil's red to Jessica's blue palette. It feels forced and over saturated, and not at all helpful. As the show goes on, these awkward jump transitions are less noticeable and cut altogether; and while it doesn't make them easier to watch, in hindsight they're there for a reason.
They begin to blend, and the Defenders meet this season's main antagonist, Alexandra. Our heroes begin to understand that while each is strong in different ways, together they are spectacular.
The villain Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver, exudes a regality not yet seen in Marvel shows -- due in large part to her...well, to avoid spoilers let's just say situation and "talents."
Alexandra's fury simmers beneath the surface, and even previous head honcho Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho; first seen in "Daredevil") seems to defer to the lady in white. While she could easily hold her own in a fight, you can see Alexandra has no need for such trivialities anymore -- not when she has "an army of ninjas," Weaver said.
With just eight episodes, our four meet up sooner than expected to come together to fight Alexandra and her organization's agenda.
The duo and the quartet's banter and interactions drive the comedy, and the best parts of the first half of the season.
"I know enough, and I know privilege when I see it," says Luke to Danny Rand early on. Of course the two butt heads immediately, but their buddy cop chemistry is evident quickly.
Luke is never afraid to put Danny in his place, and he tries to talk some sense into the inexperienced boy billionaire to get him to grow up. "Defenders" makes decent use of Danny, even though you totally agree when he's called a "thundering dumbass."
Each hero brings a fresh perspective to the table and it's those differences that contribute to making "The Defenders" one of the best Marvel shows to experience.
My wishes for the last four episodes: continue the snarky banter; give us more about mysterious Alexandra and the organization's backstory; and keep up the pace. Oh, and save New York.
Meet 'The Defenders' in every photo from the new series