The Defenders – Episodes 1 – 3 Review

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It’s finally here! When the MCU Netflix slate was announced I really liked the idea of a “street level” Avengers set up, but it kind of got lost in amongst the great first two seasons of Daredevil and season 1 of Jessica Jones, three TV seasons I consider some of the best I’ve seen. Luke Cage was good, and Iron Fist was average at best, so the past year or so I’ve started looking forward to The Defenders again, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. Thanks to all episodes being released at once the first two and a bit episodes are pretty much entirely set up, seeing what the various characters have (or haven’t) been doing since we last saw them, before the four finally meeting at the end of Episode 3. So let’s take a look at this first chunk of story, shall we?

Synopsis:

Danny Rand and Colleen Wing try to save a man in Cambodia, but they are unsuccessful and the man is murdered by a mysterious assassin. The dying man tells the pair that the real war is in New York City. Back in New York, Jessica Jones is trying to avoid her newfound popularity, Luke Cage returns to the city after finishing his prison sentence, and Matt Murdock resumes his legal career while trying to put his vigilante activity behind him…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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When you have to be a hero and you don’t have your suit nearby…

Matt Murdock / Daredevil (Charlie Cox) – The former Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is now just a lawyer again, and doing well for himself… apart from when he’s alone in his apartment and can hear the outcries of the innocent…

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) – The former Private Investigator, or at least that what she’s been trying to tell herself, has been pretty much in hiding since her victory over Kilgrave. The idea of being a hero doesn’t appeal to her, but she may not have a choice any more…

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) – After finally serving an admittedly unjust prison sentence that had been hanging over his head, Luke Cage is ready to resume his life in Harlem… and that includes helping out the neighbourhood any way possible…

Danny Rand / Iron Fist (Finn Jones) – Danny has been on a warpath since his realisation that he had abandoned his post as the Iron Fist and let the people who raised him die. With Colleen by his side he has tried to fight the Hand all over the world, not knowing that the Hand was actually now closer to home…

Alexandra Reid (Sigourney Weaver) – The head of The Hand, Alexandra has existed for a very, very long time, but now she faces the realisation that she is finally on her last legs. As a parting gift to the world she wants nothing more than to return the island of New York to its peaceful forest ways, she just needs to get rid of all those annoying buildings and people first…

Elektra (Élodie Yung) – Former ally of Daredevil, Elektra was killed in their previous encounter with The Hand. Sadly for her, she has been resurrected as a blindly loyal servant of The Hand itself, and is currently unable to even remember her past life…

Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) – Claire is a former nurse who has ended up helping injured vigilantes like Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, as well as having met Jessica Jones. She is trying to lead a somewhat normal life with Luke as he returns from prison, but she knows it’s just a matter of time before people start getting hurt again…

Stick (Scott Glenn) – A member of The Chaste, a group of people who oppose The Hand and all they do, as well as the man who trained Daredevil. He’s back in New York and well aware of what Alexandra is trying to do…

Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) – Danny’s ally and someone who can handle themselves with a sword. Colleen is following the Iron Fist’s plan to take down The Hand, having a bad experience with them herself, but unlike Mr. Rand she sees safety in numbers…

Misty Knight (Simone Missick) – A friend of Luke Cage and Claire Template and a member of a citywide police taskforce.

Plus many, many more!

The Good:

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“Yeah…. No. Sorry, Iron Fist or not, sod off.”

Given I’ll be cover the series in three parts, this would be the beginning as opposed to the middle or end, and as the beginning it does a great job! As I mentioned in the opening line, thanks to the “all at once” release method, the writers don’t have to make sure something amazing happens to get viewers to come back, and because of that these three episodes set up the story perfectly. All four of the lead protagonists are dealing with the fallout of their respective last appearances, and unlike some of the film team ups in the MCU, all of them have their guest cast with them, making this feel far more legitimate team up than the shorter running time films.

Matt Murdock is still reeling from both the death of Elektra and the loss of his friendships with Karen and Foggy, which leads to some great scenes of him being tempted back to the fight, despite council from his old friends and priest. When a mysterious Earthquake hits at the end of Episode 1, Episode 2 ends with Murdock beating up some people who had gone a bit riot crazy. It’s really well handled, and the fact he meets up with Elektra at the end of Episode 3 leads to some interesting questions going into Episode 4…

Jessica Jones is thankfully still great, given its been a good while since her debut season. She’s still leaning towards “unpleasant” but manages to be a really fun character to follow, even more so when she interacts with other, more pleasant people. I’m looking forward to seeing her go up against the other future Defenders.

Luke Cage still has the whole “gentle giant” thing down to a tee. You get a genuine feel that he just wants to help people and use his forced powers for good, something so pure and superhero-y that he stands out amongst the other members of the cast, who either struggle with the gritty reality or just don’t want to help and would rather be left alone. His storyline involving a poor old woman who lost two of her three children to the mean streets and Luke’s inability to save the last one was not only heartbreaking, but a legitimate reason to see him suddenly arrive at the end of Episode 3 and start beating the crap out of the people responsible.

These reviews are being written after viewing just these episodes, so I don’t know if there is any more to Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra character than what we’ve seen, but already it’s an interesting one. She seems to have lived a rather crazily long time given some dialogue, but has finally reached the end of her life. She tells the child-like Elektra that she has seen the blackness of death and was afraid to see it again, so rather than being immortal because she wants to continue to live, it seems more immortal because she’s afraid to die again. It’s interesting, and unsurprisingly Weaver is great in role, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

The big fight sequence in The Hand’s business tower at the end of Episode 3 was great, Iron Fist actually looked good, and the arrival of the other three leading to a big mass fight was the kind of thrilling team up battle I was hoping for. It gets me excited to see what we might see now the four have met up…

As per usual with these Netflix MCU shows, the guest cast is also great. I’m not going to list them one by one as that would take forever, but they all play their roles well, and it’s great seeing them crossover to other characters as much as it is the key Defenders themselves.

The Bad:

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The glowing hand! The only interesting bit about the character…

Although hopefully being surrounded by the other cast will help and maybe change his character a bit, Danny Rand / Iron Fist still stuck out like a sore thumb, much like his series did amongst the others. He’s just not very charismatic, and it really shows when he’s surrounded by such great other actors in other scenes either side of him. He needs something other than self-pitty and anger to make him someone you want to follow, and at least his verbal sparing session with Luke Cage might have made him realise something… maybe? To be honest his appearance at The Hand’s base was a little stupid of him, he was lucky other three happened to be there!

Overall Thoughts:

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Loved this bit, all the executives around the table just stand up and equip themselves before heading into action! A handy executive crew to have… No pun intended.

The Defenders is off to a great start. Three of the four lead protagonists are all on top form, with interesting quirks and storylines that slowly happen to cross over. Iron Fist is still a weak link, but by the end of Episode 3 you can already see a better fight from him, maybe his character will actually get some development next? Either way, as far as a set up of things to come, this was perfectly done. Can’t wait for more!

4 Star Watch

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