Review: Marvel’s The Defenders

Marvel and Netflix’s The Defenders brings together the protagonists from each of its four previous shows (Luke CageJessica JonesIron Fist, and Daredevil) to form one team of super-powered heroes to defend New York City. They do this to a fairly good degree, but I find them lacking in a few areas.

The show takes its time getting its main characters in the same room, but even though it takes three episodes or so, the pay-off isn’t bad. The actors have great chemistry on-screen and are at their best when they’re interacting with one another, in pairs or in the group. Every actor in the entire show does an admirable job with their character, including Sigourney Weaver as the mysterious Alexandra.

However, despite the well-done way in which they come together, the show seems to cater more towards fans of Daredevil and Iron Fist, as more lore from their shows becomes the focus. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) gets her turn in the spotlight early on in the season, but Luke Cage (Mike Colter) never really gets a time to shine. When the show focuses on each individual character, they make clever use of their respective colour palettes that make for a beautiful scene.

That’s if you discount the questionable cinematography. There were several camera angles, framing, and compositions that had me tilting my head and wondering “why.”

There’s not a lot of action for a superhero team-up show, but what action there is is decent. Iron Fist (Finn Jones) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox) have arguably the best fight scenes, but everyone fighting together looks pretty cool too. The final showdown is fairly impressive.

In terms of the entire show, the story was tightest and most enjoyable in the middle, sandwiched between a shaky start and a vaguely predictable ending that never clarifies the antagonist’s motivations. Throughout the entire season, the villains are clearly villainous, but for reasons that remain mostly unexplained. Their backstories are lightly touched upon, but not enough to find them as interesting as past Marvel Netflix villains such as Daredevil’s Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Jessica Jones’ Killgrave (David Tennant).

The Defenders tries to raise the stakes, but loses sight of the street-level people they’re protecting. The few inhabitants of New York City featured in the show don’t get a resolution and are only shown to drive the plot when they should also be shown to demonstrate the stakes of what the heroes have to lose.

Instead, The Defenders includes quite a bit of fan-service that feels like it might get a pay off, but doesn’t. All of the secondary characters from each of the four shows make appearances in The Defenders, but none of them do anything useful save for Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and perhaps Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). Misty Knight (Simone Missick), in particular, felt like she was supposed to have a bigger role but was relegated to asking the main characters what was going on up until the very last episode.

Overall, fans of the other four shows will likely enjoy Defenders for what it is, but look deeper than the surface and you might start to see the cracks.