TV review: Thoughts on the complete season of Marvel’s ‘The Defenders’

The Marvel/Netflix partnership has, so far, been a winning one. With only one real miss (sorry, “Iron First”), the hype was definitely high when Marvel and Netflix announced a team-up series featuring characters from all the individual superhero shows. Together, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron First would take on the Hand, a shadowy criminal organization hiding supernatural secrets.

Although I posted my thoughts when I was about halfway through the series, I wanted to circle back around now that I’ve finished all the episodes, for a final verdict. As much fun as it was to see all the characters together (the chemistry between the actors was great!), I still feel the parts were better than the whole. It’s probably my least favorite of the Marvel/Netflix shows, aside from “Iron Fist,” which I still haven’t finished.

For whatever reason, the individual Marvel/Netflix shows didn’t blend together as well as the individual Marvel Cinematic Universe films blended into “The Avengers.” Because the separate MCU films have a more homogeneous tone, perhaps it’s easier to pick and choose characters to throw together. “The Defenders” wasn’t able to reflect much on the individual themes that made the solo shows so powerful and relevant, such as the way “Jessica Jones” raised awareness about the trauma caused by abuse and domestic violence. “The Defenders” doesn’t have as much weight to it as the past Marvel/Netflix offerings. Which is a shame, because I think several plot points could have been teased out to have a greater philosophical impact. The show could have reflected more on the concept of immortality and whether vigilantes have the right to operate outside the law if they’re committed to doing good.

As for length, I think the show’s eight episodes were the right amount, even if the time could have been used a little more efficiently. By the end of “The Defenders,” the limited TV-sized budget showed through a little more than in the individual shows, which did an excellent job presenting a polished, stylish product without blockbuster dollars.

I also thought the main villain, Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, was underused. Since Weaver is such a strong actress, I feel she could have been given a little meatier material to work with. The revelation that she *spoiler alert!!!* is the immortal leader of the Hand was fascinating, but I found myself wanting to know a lot more about her as a person and about her history/background. She isn’t as richly layered a villain as, for example, “Daredevil’s” Kingpin. I also thought she was killed off too soon; I really would have liked to see her present for the final showdown with the Defenders. *end spoiler*

However, I don’t mean to dwell too much on the negative, because it really was fun to see the heroes together. I loved all of Jessica Jones’ wisecracks, particular her jabs about the fact Daredevil is the only one in costume. The portrayal of Danny Rand is also much stronger than in his individual show; this made me interested in the character again and will probably motivate me to watch the second “Iron First” series, even though I’ll probably never finish the first. My favorite Defender is tied between Daredevil and Luke Cage; between the two, I think Daredevil had better storylines in “The Defenders” — I wish Luke Cage had been given more to do.

The Hand made for an intriguing adversary, and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them in these shows. I’d like to see even more about the inner workings of their organization and their past, although perhaps some of that was covered in “Iron Fist” and I just missed it. I’d also like to see the Defenders continue to make cameo appearances in each other’s shows, like Luke Cage in “Jessica Jones.”

“The Defenders” was an entertaining team-up, although hopefully the next group outing will be stronger. I’m also definitely looking forward to more of the solo shows, and especially “The Punisher” spin-off.

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