"The Defenders" is another made-for-Netflix television series set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it's basically "The Avengers" for the heroes that have been established in these TV shows. You have Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist coming together to fight the Hand, a returning organization set on destroying New York City.
I've really enjoyed most of the Netflix MCU shows at this point with my personal favorite so far being season 2 of "Daredevil" and my least favorite obviously being "Iron Fist". I'm personally not what I would call a "binge-watcher" when it comes to TV shows on Netflix, though. I'll usually just watch one episode, doing something else with my day, and then watch another episode sometime later, so chances are this review is late by the standards of a lot of TV aficionados. But regardless, I've finally finished watching the show as of a few hours ago, so let's review it.
The strength in this show is easily the actual interaction between these heroes that we've grown attached to. It's almost inherently awesome to see them onscreen together for the first time and we get a lot of entertaining moments of just these heroes sharing banter. One of the best best episodes of the season is episode four in which it's mostly just the group sitting down and talking things out. If for nothing else, the one thing in this series that I enjoyed consistently was the camaraderie between all of the heroes.
As much as I love most of the actors in their roles, what with Charlie Cox, Mike Colter, and Krysten Ritter all doing a great job in their respective roles, the problem is once again Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist. He was bad in the "Iron Fist" show, and now he's bad in this show. Granted, he does a lot less whining in this show compared to the insufferable moaning he does in his own show, and it's admittedly entertaining to see him go back and forth with characters like Luke Cage, but on his own, I still find the character uninteresting and the actor about as lifeless and un-charismatic as you can get. He spends a lot of the show with this ridiculous "Take me seriously" pouty face and it's painful to watch. The big bummer is that a lot of this show's plot hinges on you having seen "Iron Fist", so for anyone who skipped that show and went straight to this one, you're going to be lost in a few moments.
The overarching antagonist in this show is the ninja organization, the Hand. They've appeared in other MCU shows and this is basically their big attempt at achieving what they've always wanted. The main leader of the Hand is Sigourney Weaver's character of Alexandra and while I think Weaver did a good job with her material, the material itself is a big problem due to it not being very compelling. Alexandra just didn't have much of a presence outside of walking around, staring out a window, and giving a monologue when the plot needs her to. If anything, her character feels unfinished. You see what the writers are trying to set up with her motivations, but then it seems to get thrown away at a point and there's no satisfying resolution to the character. In my opinion, Alexandra is one of the weaker villains in these MCU TV series.
As far as the action goes, that's an aspect of the show that ends up being a mixed bag. The very first action scene in the entire season (the first scene of episode one to be exact) is a poorly edited mess with bad lighting and choppy editing. I couldn't tell what was going on and that's unfortunately something that carries over into other action scenes in this show. Make no mistake about it, there are some action scenes that are well filmed. The choreography is fluid, you can tell what's going on, and it's all shot very well. But then near the end of the show, you get some fight scenes that are back to being poorly put together. With dim lighting and shots that don't last any longer than a second, it was very hard to tell what was going on in certain fight sequences.
On a positive note, this show is arguably the more tightly paced of all the MCU shows. With the past shows, even if I ended up loving them, my issue was that they dragged on a few episodes too long. Those shows had thirteen episodes whereas "The Defenders" only has eight. There was never really a moment in this show when I felt bored, even in the first two episodes that are mostly just setup. In fact, I actually really liked the first two episodes for simply establishing where the characters are in their respective lives as it leads into how the Defenders come together. This is ultimately a case of the first half of the show being stronger than the second half.
The next thing I'm going to talk about involves major spoilers, so be warned if you choose to read ahead. I normally don't delve into spoilers on my first time reviewing something, but this is one of those instances where I feel that I really have to talk about what doesn't work about the show's finale.
In this show's finale, the climax takes place in the Midland Circle building, specifically underground. After the Hand has been defeated, Daredevil decides to stay behind to try and talk his old girlfriend, Elektra, into abandoning the Hand's plan and coming back to him. Jessica, Luke, and Danny all make it out OK, but a controlled explosion that was planned by Claire Temple and Colleen Wing blows up the building and comes crumbling down on Daredevil and Elektra, presumably killing them both.
My problem with this ending is how obvious it is that they're not really dead. It's like "Batman v Superman" all over again with them trying to convince us that Superman is dead. We all know he's going to come back, so stop wasting our time with this sappy, overly dramatic bullshit. The same can be said about Daredevil's "death" at the end of this show. After the episodes's five endings, we're lead to believe that Iron Fist is now going to be the sworn protector of New York, but the very final scene reveals that Matt Murdock is still alive and recovering in some strange hospital filled with nuns. For me, seeing him revealed to be alive was a "no shit, sherlock" moment and I didn't find myself caring all that much about the show's ending. Granted, I want to see more of these characters in future seasons, but these new seasons have got to step up their game after both "Iron Fist" and the last half of this show.
In the end,"The Defenders" was just OK in my opinion. Most of the actors do a good job and the character interactions are very entertaining to watch, but the second half really switches gears and the show as a whole goes from being a well paced, interesting addition to the MCU shows to an average superhero romp that doesn't live up to the hype of seeing these heroes work together for the first time. I still recommend this show to anyone who's invested in these shows, but I can't bring myself to say that it was as great as it could've been.