On August 18, Marvel’s The Defenders will combine all four of its Netflix shows into one big crossover event. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will join forces to finally take down The Hand. After 52 episodes of setup, The Defenders has a fair amount of fan anticipation to satisfy, and it won’t be easy. Below are four directions the show should stay away from to live up to the hype.
4. Differentiate From The Avengers
First things first: The Defenders is definitely not the small-screen version of The Avengers; it’s anything but “Avengers Lite.” Since Daredevil debuted in 2015, it’s been clear that the Netflix shows are several shades darker than the MCU movies. Any hope of our heroes lightheartedly eating shawarma together died when Kingpin bludgeoned a guy in a car door. There’s room for humor, but we also don’t need eight quips every minute.
The Hand is obviously a formidable threat, but hopefully they won’t be on the same scope as giant aliens invading through portal. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones aren’t Iron Man and Captain America, and the shows have generally done a great job keeping threats on the street or city level. Conspiracies and massive brawls are good materials for this team, not Thanos or Ultron destroying the world.
3. Avoid The Forced Fisticuffs
Another story beat we don’t need is more superheroes fighting for contrived, petty reasons. It’s been done so many times it’s become its own trope, and in some cases it makes the heroes look less super, and more like kids fighting in a playground. Plus, we’ve already seen several of The Defenders characters fight each other for legitimate reasons after trying to talk things through.
For example, Jessica Jones battling Luke Cage while he was under Killgrave’s control made sense and was memorable, but there’s no reason to revisit that sort of scenario again. Also, if Iron Fist gets his butt kicked one more time, his ninja school should be shut down while they rethink their training regimen.
I’m not saying everyone should be the best of friends the whole time, either. There’s going to be conflict between street-smart characters like Jessica Jones and semi-oblivious people like Iron Fist, but that doesn’t need to escalate to a random fistfight that destroys a city block. Instead, I’m looking forward to the ideological and personality clashes, such as Matt Murdock’s Catholic background and Jessica Jone’s jaded, alcoholic melancholy. They’ll all have to learn to work with each other, and overcome potential distrust of each other’s allies.
2. Stay Away From The Crowd
We’ve already got a core cast of four heroes, plus “sidekicks” such as Murdock’s friend Foggy and Cage’s ally Misty. Once you combine that with members of The Hand and other recurring characters (anyone else expecting Rosario Dawson’s Claire to make an appearance again?), that’s a lot of characters to keep up with, no matter how familiar we are with them.
There are also only eight episodes, so there can’t be some meandering side plot about Trish Walker teaming up with Colleen Wing to help local youths (you get the idea). The Defenders simply needs more focus than the preceding 13-episode shows, which — as enjoyable as they were — tended to wander occasionally. Yes, Karen may know Matt's secret identity now, but that plot thread should be saved for Daredevil's own show.
1. Break Out Of The Norm
The other four shows are set in the same universe, but are completely different in tone. Just compare Luke Cage’s Harlem flavor to Daredevil’s brooding Hell’s Kitchen, or Iron Fist’s corporate soap opera to Jessica Jones’ noir detective world. Each series successfully mirrors its main protagonist. Since The Defenders combines all four characters, it needs to feel different, perhaps even combining elements of each preceding show. Maybe elude to past story beats, but don’t be consumed by them. The plot and tone should feel fresh and exciting, because after all, isn’t this team-up what we’ve all been waiting for this whole time?