Marvel’s The Defenders is finally here! We give our verdict on the first half of the much-anticipated miniseries…
By Maisie Williams
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
After years of set-up, the culmination of Marvel’s Netflix series is finally here – and it is worth the wait.
The Defenders is the Marvel series hardcore fans of the franchise have been calling out for for years. Nearly three years since the first of Marvel’s Netflix originals, Daredevil, dropped on the popular streaming site in early 2015, viewers were already intrigued to see the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen team up with New York’s other unlikely heroes. Defenders reunites all four of these, Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand (Iron Fist), for the ultimate showdown against a mysterious and dangerous organisation, much like a more mature Avengers-style team up.
This mysterious organisation, or cult being a more accurate description, is The Hand. Whilst not a name that necessarily strikes fear, The Hand were first introduced in the second season of Daredevil last year, as being a group that believed in mystical rituals to achieve immortality and whose members were skilled martial artists. This time around they are led by one of the most iconic actors of science fiction, Sigourney Weaver. Weaver’s character Alexandra is cunning, intriguing and heartless, all the while still being impeccably dressed and softly spoken, automatically becoming far more interesting than most of the villains that have terrorised other parts of the MCU.
The activities of The Hand are also what end up bringing the four Defenders together. Jessica has a case that leads her to an architect who she realises has been forced to do someone else’s bidding. Luke investigates why young men in Harlem are taking mysterious jobs and then ending up dead. This leads him to cross paths with Danny, when these young men are hired to dispose of the dead bodies of members of The Chaste – the good ninja clan and enemies of The Hand.
Meanwhile, Matt first encounters Jessica when is selected to be her lawyer after she commits a minor criminal offence. Matt and Jessica bounce off each other with witty retorts, whilst Danny and Luke have an entertaining love/hate relationship. It’s wonderful to watch these characters finally meet and interact, though my only criticism here would be how long it takes. We don’t get to see all of our main characters play with each other until the end of the third episode, which could arguably be considered too long a wait in a miniseries that consists of only eight episodes.
However, the show does utilise the relationships it has already established in earlier seasons of each spin-off effectively. For example, the friendship between Luke and Jessica that was presented in Jessica Jones. The use of multiple side characters that also appeared throughout each Defender’s respective shows also helps to ground the show and the story world established on the Netflix platform. Fan favourites such as Foggy, Trish and Claire all make multiple appearances in these first four episodes.
One of these characters who has a much more vital role this time around is Elektra. Brought back from the dead by The Hand’s rituals in a gruesome scene where she emerges from a stone coffin covered in a black tar-like substance. Elektra becomes one of the most fascinating characters, as we come to realise she has lost the essence of herself, with no recollection of her identity or people from her past. She is a real threat to the Defenders, whilst at the same time remaining somewhat childlike, relying on Alexandra for guidance. Her new costume is also stunning, by being faithful to the comic original without being ridiculously hypersexual like that of 2005’s Elektra solo film (the less thought given to that the better).
Another stand out element of the show besides its characters, is the cinematography. Whilst other Marvel properties have been criticised for their grainy and dull colouring, Defenders is both dark and vibrant with its intelligent use of lighting and colour. Four different colours have become symbolic to each of the Defenders, red for Daredevil, purple/blue for Jessica, yellow for Luke and green for Iron Fist. Not only have these colours been prominent in the promotional material for each individual series, but they are also present in the lighting of scenes that include these characters within the Defenders. In episode four, we see the Defenders take refuge in a Chinese restaurant, where each corner is lit in the colour associated with the Defender sat in it. It is incredibly aesthetically pleasing to view.
The show is also grittier and harsher than both its film and network TV counterparts. The Defenders does not hold back on presenting violence realistically, which fortunately allows for some flawless fight sequences, that even take it up a notch from the iconic hallway one-shot fight scene of Daredevil season one.
Ultimately in the first half of this series, The Defenders is already living up to many of the expectations fans held for it. Whilst these first four episodes slowly reintroduce us to these characters and build up the narrative arc, here’s hoping that the remaining half of the series is able to conclude the story in a way that’s both exciting and rewarding.