Marvel has been building up to DEFENDERS for years with DAREDEVIL, JESSICA JONES, LUKE CAGE and IRON FIST. While not all of these shows were as good as the others, DEFENDERS was worth the wait. From great characters and fun crossovers to great action and some real “Oh sh*t!” moments, the show only suffers from a few minor shortcomings.

The Defenders of New York

Defenders

As a reluctant group of super badasses, these four take a bit to get the hang of the whole “teamwork” thing. But once they get it, they really get it. This team-up is well deserved and so much fun to watch. What’s great about the group is just how balanced they all are. A problem many point out about The Avengers is how Hawkeye and Black Widow are supposed to fit on a team with Hulk and Thor. That’s not the case here in DEFENDERS. They all mesh together in a way that I genuinely didn’t expect to work as well as it does. Hell, even Iron Fist is enjoyable to watch when he’s interacting with the team.

These characters are a match made in Heaven, united in Hell’s Kitchen. Speaking of that, let’s take a look at the individual members starting with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil

When the show kicks off, we finally get to see what Matt’s been up to this last year and a half. He retired as Daredevil after the death of Elektra and has been working hard as a lawyer again. Where we really see the good parts of Murdock’s character shine is in the moment that he talks to a young, crippled teenage boy after he won their settlement case. The development of Matt/Daredevil since 2015 has been some of the all time best to come from Marvel. Charlie Cox is at the top of his game as Matt Murdock in this series.

READ: Will DAREDEVIL Season 3 adapt Frank Miller’s Born Again?

One of the best things about Daredevil in this series as opposed to his own is the humor and fun that these characters bring to him. This change of dynamic could be jarring for a character as brooding and serious as Daredevil, but he takes it in stride. His time spent with Jessica Jones, specifically, is just so good to watch. I really hope it carries over into JESSICA JONES season 2 somehow. Daredevil is strongly written and masterfully acted here, it’ll be hard waiting another year or more for his next solo outing.

Jessica Jones

JESSICA JONES is still, in my opinion, the best overall series we’ve gotten from Netflix. That all comes down to Jessica as a character, and she is just as great in this show as she was on her own. Her lack of a bullshit filter and sometimes excessive drinking are great for comedic moments, but she has such a levity to her that feels so real. She never wants the spotlight, but always steals the scene. Kristen Ritter does something truly special in her portrayal as the super strong P.I.

What works best about Jessica are the moments where she shows real emotion and vulnerability. Luke Cage may be bulletproof, but Jessica is definitely the toughest shell to crack. She’s only there because she has to be, never because she wants to be, or at least she’d never tell you otherwise. The only gripe I have about her in DEFENDERS is that she never tried to fly, or, as she likes to call it, “guided falling.” Other than that little nothing of a complaint, she was one of the strongest things about this show.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage’s solo series was pretty disappointing for me. It started out fantastic and had the potential to be some of Marvel/Netflix’s best, but the end absolutely fell apart. Luke, as he appears in DEFENDERS, is like if someone put a spotlight on everything great about LUKE CAGE season one and sprinkled it on DEFENDERS. Mike Colter really brings it with his portrayal of Luke in this show. He’s the middle ground between Daredevil and Iron Fist’s readiness to go fight an army of ninjas and Jessica’s “I’m so done with all this mystical mumbo jumbo” attitude. He plays exactly how you’d expect him to in this scenario.

Most importantly, Luke and Danny have a lot of screen time together, and it works very well. They really don’t like each other at first, and they shouldn’t. Danny may be on the same side of the fence as Luke, but they’re on opposite ends of it. Watching them find the middle ground is fun to watch, and I’m genuinely excited to see them grow into the best friends we know them as in the comics.

Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist

This is the character I was most concerned with for this show. IRON FIST as a whole was a huge letdown, but Danny Rand himself was the biggest part of that. His inconsistent character qualities and his tendency to make naive and childish decisions made it really hard to like him. Thankfully, most of that is addressed in DEFENDERS. He is constantly called out on his crap and put in his place by the rest of the team. It’s never in a way to punish him for the sake of punishing him, instead, it gives him a chance to learn and grow, which he totally does. The best is when Stick calls Danny a “thundering dumbass.” It gets me every time.

Now, this doesn’t mean the character is fixed completely. Danny still has a long way to go before he, as a character, is as strong and as captivating as the rest of the team. He still does some stupid things that could’ve been easily avoided if he had taken half a second to think about it. He still has a very short temper that gets him and the team into hot water a few times, which shouldn’t be the case for someone who was raised by monks and meditates as much as he does.

The Living Weapon is less than lethal

While Iron Fist’s fight choreography was better, it still wasn’t as good as Daredevil’s. Luke and Jessica just brawl and kick ass with their super strength, but Iron Fist and Daredevil need a lot more work and finesse to keep up. This is also kind of addressed in a short fight between the two where Daredevil absolutely has the upper hand. While that is fun, Iron Fist is supposed to be the greatest martial artist in the Marvel Universe. This is a huge step in the right direction, but it’s not all the way there yet. The ending did genuinely leave me excited for IRON FIST season 2, which I was not expecting. SPOILERS: He does not get a costume or mask, which is very disappointing,

The HandThe Hand

The war with the ancient ninja faction, The Hand, has been building up for years now. First introduced in DAREDEVIL season one, we finally meet the rest of the Fingers of the Hand. And they are…disappointing. They didn’t feel even a quarter as threatening in DEFENDERS as they did in DAREDEVIL season 2, and that’s not because Daredevil has help now. Their motivations were a little confusing, and they hardly felt like they were a real threat. Their endgame on how they actually would destroy New York was very unclear.

The Hand feels completely different from the one we saw in DAREDEVIL season two and in IRON FIST season one. I think The Hand was actually handled better in IRON FIST, which is really not a good thing. Also, if I have to hear another Marvel villain say how similar they and whatever hero that’s standing closest to them are, I might actually throw up.

Elektra

The one standout from The Hand is the resurrected Elektra Natchios. She felt like an actual threat and does prove to be more deadly than all the other members of The Hand. Her arc was okay, but they needed a little more time to develop it. Her endgame was confusing and it’s never really made clear how her mental state progresses over the course of the show.

However, I will say her last scene in the final episode was great. It gave very good closure to the story between her and Matt Murdock that had started in DAREDEVIL season 2. I hope we see Elektra again very soon. On a side note, she also said how similar she was with one of the heroes. How original.

Story

The story for DEFENDERS isn’t groundbreaking, but it totally works. In summary, mysterious events bring heroes of New York together against a common enemy, The Hand. At first, they’re reluctant to work together. But over time, they grow to like one another and work as a team to take down The Hand before they destroy New York.

RELATED: If you’ve seen the show, check out the comics! DEFENDERS #1 Review

Like I said, the story works in this show, but it’s not particularly noteworthy. The show shines brightest when all the Defenders are together and interacting with one another. While this story really began in DAREDEVIL season one back in 2015, it doesn’t feel completely fleshed out here. Although, it does exactly what it’s supposed to and is very tight. There are really only just a few very minor plot issues. It’s about on par with LUKE CAGE but doesn’t reach the heights of the JESSICA JONES and DAREDEVIL series. However, it does open the door for later seasons of all the shows to reach those levels of true greatness.

One Small Nitpick

I was actually not a fan of the tighter 8 episode season as opposed to the classic 13 episodes. I think Defenders would’ve benefitted from 10 episodes, but that’s just because I really do love these characters and want more of them. It’s possible that two more episodes might have been too much to stretch the story over. However, I do think that the other shows could learn from this and keep it at 10 episodes instead of 13. A common complaint is that the shows often lose steam around episode 9, but that’s an issue for another day.

Action

DEFENDERS has a lot of really great and fun action set pieces. Some of the best happen to be when they fight each other. Well, actually when they fight Iron Fist. Watching Danny Rand get smoked around is always good fun. While the choreography is not as good as it was in DAREDEVIL, it surpasses all the other shows for sure.

The action in DEFENDERS has a great, unique quality to it. The variation between fighting styles of all the Defenders is really something to marvel at. Daredevil and Iron Fist are martial artists, while Jessica Jones and Luke Cage just dominate with their super strength. Seeing these four titans fight together is a true feast for the eyes. The fact that it turned out as well as it did makes me very happy.

Crossovers

I really love each of the side characters in these shows, so this is super important to me. Seeing Karen Page talk to Trish Walker or Colleen Wing and Misty Knight gave me butterflies. While all the interactions really were great, they were very few and far between. I would’ve liked if we got a little more interaction between them. I guess that would be a little too much for just 8 episodes, though.

When it comes to Claire Temple, she’s dessert on Thanksgiving. I just can’t get enough of Rosario Dawson in this role, she’s so damn good. She’s the glue that holds it all together. These crazy super powered weirdos, all brought together by one normal girl just trying to do the right thing. The Night Nurse is always a win in my book.

Final Thoughts

“I’m not hugging you.”

DEFENDERS is not perfect, but it is a whole lot of fun. After the failure of IRON FIST, this was a much needed and well-deserved win. Although I still don’t quite understand how The Hand seemed so weak and underdeveloped here as opposed to the last few times we’ve seen them. It is a disappointment, but a forgivable one.

READ: After DEFENDERS is THE PUNISHER! What will they use?

This team is going to be huge for the future of these shows in Phase 2, and I will absolutely come back for more. I really have to commend them for making Danny Rand much more tolerable, as that was sorely needed. Daredevil’s arc is truly some of the best storytelling Marvel has ever done on screen. And I really hope we see Luke and Jessica appear on each other’s show next season. All in all, this show packed quite a punch and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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