The Defenders are finally here. After four separate series on Netflix they have all come together as a team- to battle the Hand for the fate of New York City. Some of the individual series have been better than others, but how would they work as an ensemble? I binged the Defenders and the first thing I can say is eight episodes works a lot better than the longer seasons the individual shows had. Even with eight episodes I felt this was a bit padded at times.
I'm just going to break this down into what I liked and didn't like, and would love to know what you think if you've watched it. This will be a spoilery post.
WHAT I LIKED
The camaraderie, the banter and just the team dynamic- I mean these are four very different people, and to bring them together- I thought it worked really well. Luke Cage and Danny Rand are famously buddies and I thought they did a good job setting up their relationship, starting from a place of distrust and slowly earning each others respect.
The supporting cast- this was a large ensemble, with the supporting cast from each characters' series assembled and having a moment to shine. A rapprochment of sorts for Matt Murdock and his supporting cast was handled nicely, and I also enjoyed seeing Trish as well. Even Jery Hogarth made an appearance! And of course we got the seeds for a future partnership between Colleen Wing and Misty Knight.
The Royal Dragon restaurant. At one point the four heroes take refuge in a Chinese restaurant, and spend several hours there getting to know each other and hiding out from the Hand. And eating. Lots of eating. Can I go there?
The show opened strong with Danny and Colleen in Phnom Penh tracking the Hand. The whole first episode was about set- up, and getting all the characters back into circulation and on a course to meet.
Elektra. She was a high point, and Elodie Yung is fabulous as the assassin with ties to Matt. It helps to really know their backstory, and it quickly became a central theme of the show, as did the relationship between Danny and the Hand.
The fight choreography was good for the most part. A definite improvement especially for Danny, whose own series was lackluster in that department. I thought the earlier fights were a little more impressive, things got more muddied in the later episodes, but it was solid. Nothing like the iconic hallway fights we've seen before, but still good.
NOT SO GOOD
Iron Fist- he's marginally better here than in his own show, but the casting problems of that show are still evident. The actor playing Danny Rand is just not convincing in the role, physically or from a martial arts perspective. They do what they can with staging and camera work, and choreography of course, but he is not a fearsome warrior- and above all else Iron Fist should be impressive. It's not just his signature power move- the actual "iron fist" - it's that this guy is supposed to be the best of the best. When they clash briefly he is more than easily handled by Matt, and Elektra has absolutely no trouble with him.
Madame Gao has lost a lot of her mystique, although to be fair that started in Iron Fist. From a mysterious elderly woman with unknown powers and a tie to K'un-Lun, she is demoted here to a lieutenant role by the arrival of Alexandra, the new big bad. Sigourney Weaver was fine as Alexandra but she doesn't do much, and when we meet the five fingers of the Hand I was not overly impressed. Murakami and the previously impressive Gao were the most interesting to me.
Stick- he was as annoying to me here as he was in previous shows. I just didn't really understand his role- Stick and the Chaste are kind of cool in the comics- but here he didn't do anything for me. In fact I kind of cheered when Elektra killed him!
There was some inconsistency in that Elektra on at least two occasions pretty much defeats Matt, Luke and Jessica singlehandedly- but then at the end her and Matt go toe-to-toe for a long time. And... she handles Danny quite easily, considering he's the "living weapon" and the ultimate martial artist. Also, how is it that Luke is pretty much impervious to anyone hitting him but Elektra easily handled him as well. A little too convenient.
What is the significance of Black Sky? We never really find out why the resurrected Elektra is called this, and why Alexandra wanted her.
We finally find out the meaning of the big hole underneath NYC. I had a feeling it was a Hand project, and it was kind of neat to imagine dragon bones underneath the city. Why are they in that location, and is there a link to Shou Lao the Undying? Also what is the "substance" we keep hearing about?
I thought one of the better fights was between the newly resurrected Elektra and a bunch of Hand goons in episode three. She went up against a lot of people, that must have been tricky to choreograph. Elodie Yung is amazing as Elektra.
We never get a sense of what happened to K'un-Lun.
We need more Trish. I think in some ways I enjoyed Jessica the most in this one, and I'd like to see more of her and Trish.