The latest instalment of Netflix's series of New York based superhero stories, The Defenders, was released over the weekend. It brings together Matt Murdoch (Daredevil), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) to battle The Hand for the survival of their city. The series is a great improvement over the last two Marvel/Netflix instalments, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and goes close to living up to the hype. Here's my spoiler free review.
The eight-episode story begins by introducing the four main protagonists and our villain, Alexandria, played by Sigourney Weaver. This core characters were all solid although I felt the story was largely driven by Daredevil and Iron Fist's previous encounters with The Hand. While all four heroes work well together, the parts played by Cage and Jones could have been filled by almost any metahuman while Daredevil and Iron Fist seemed to be more invested in fighting The Hand.
That said, all the key roles were well performed. In particular, Finn Jones' performance as Danny Rand/Iron Fist was greatly improved from his first outing.
The fight scene choreography and execution was excellent. Many scenes required a second viewing just to see everything that was going on.
There's was plenty of shade being thrown between the characters as well. Matt Murdoch borrowing Jessica Jones' scarf and Luke Cage and Danny Rand duking it out verbally were pretty funny.
I still find it hard to like Danny Rand as a character. He feels like a really whiny version of Green Arrow. And his special talent, being able to summon the Iron Fist is kinda crappy. He needs to focus his Chi for the Iron Fist to "activate" but he isn't very good at getting his focus.
What I really liked was the way secondary characters were given lots of room to stretch in this series. Daredevil's mentor Stick was given plenty of screen time as a key character, as were Claire Temple, Colleen Wing, Foggy Nelson and Misty Night. In particular, the three female characters should really be part of The Defenders line-up as they were crucial in the battle.
Similarly, we got to spend a little more time with the bad guys as well. While Alexandria was the main instigator of the evil plot to destroy the city, her employment of Elektra threw some chaos into the mix.
The most disappointing antagonist was Madame Gao. In each Marvel series, she has been a minor presence and, I think, under-used. There was a chance for us to really see her power but keeping her in the shadows for much of the time seemed like a waste. Perhaps we'll get to see more of her in a future series.
Elektra was a solid character and while her arc in the story was somewhat predictable she made life interesting for The Defenders and The Hand.
One of the things I really dislike about the superhero genre is the lack of consequences for major characters. We'll see Superman return from the dead in Justice League, Agent Coulson survived being murdered by Loki in The Avengers and there have been countless returns from the grave.
There were losses suffered in The Defenders. I hope they were permanent.
So, where does The Defenders rank against the other Marvel series produced by Netflix?
I think there's a strong case for either Daredevil Series 1 and Jessica Jones Series 1 to be ranked as the best two. I'd probably give Jessica Jones the edge as I think Kilgrave was a more interesting villain than Fisk/Kingpin. I'd rank The Defenders in third place behind those two series with Luke Cage and Iron Fist bringing up the rear.
I'd score it a solid 7/10.