Artwork by JOE QUESADA
BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT I had my doubts about Marvel’s The Defenders. Netflix’s superhero franchises have been a mixed bag at best. Iron Fist disappointed both fans and critics with its poor fight scenes, clichéd plot and a clusterfuck of characters from the three previous Marvel Netflix. The Defenders is also the 3rd season of a Netflix show to use The Hand, an ancient group of evil ninjas who fought in both Daredevil and Iron Fist,as the villain. And it felt like Marvel and Netflix were just trying to redo The Avengers formula. And then I watched seven of the The Defenders’ 10 hours in a row. I expected to need a break after episode 3 but it was actually quite good.
Many of the films take place in different countries. But all Netflix shows take place in New York, mostly in Hell’s Kitchen. To its credit, The Defenders doesn’t just throw a bunch of masked crusaders together and call them a team. Each “hero” — Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Daredevil/Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Danny Rand/The Iron Fist (Finn Jones) — slowly discover their way into a conflict with The Hand. It isn’t until episode 3 where all 4 characters unknowingly walk into The Hand’s headquarters at the same time following their separate plotlines. The series even show relationships building between the supporting characters outside the “stars”. NYPD officer Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and martial artist Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) form a bond that hints to their Daughters of the Dragon relationship (the duo’s iconic name in the comics). Misty bends the law for Colleen and the other heroes as she realizes The Hand is too big for the police department or even the FBI.
We also get to see why The Defenders should not work together. Jessica Jones is still a reluctant hero who only tried to help a single client find her missing husband who was then killed in Jessica’s office/apartment. She grabs a drink whenever she does not need a free hand to fight. Matt Murdock is currently retired from being a superhero, but he is the only one with an actual costume and codename. He attempts to hide his identity from the rest but they don’t trust him until he takes off the mask. Danny Rand and Luke Cage come from opposite side of society. Danny was born white and rich whereas Luke Cage is a black man who was wrongly sent to prison. Luke chews out Danny for fighting low level criminals kids who are only breaking the law to get by and know nothing about the organization that hired them. Danny then realizes he has a multibillion dollar company behind him and uses the resources to walk straight into The Hand’s corporate shell company. We get the juxtaposition of the different heroes but we also see the heroes grow, learn, and (especially in Danny’s case) mature.
But no matter the amount of character development, supporting cast and juxtaposition no one can watch a superhero show for eight hours if the villains suck. Sigourney Weaver almost steals the show as Alexandra, leader of The Hand. Despite only ordering people around and trying not to die Alexandra’s presence is enough to frighten the audience. She always appears to be in charge, even when Iron Fist and Luke Cage are destroying her henchmen in her own boardroom. The only reason she did not completely steal the show is Élodie Yung’s Elektra. The character is back from her death against The Hand in Daredevil’s 2nd season as a villain. And she is more than just the “brainwashed ex-lover who slowly fights the brainwashing to become good again” she could have been. Her fight scenes are the highlight of the show. She made it easy to believe she could beat the super strong Luke Cage or Jessica Jones or keep up with both Daredevil and Iron Fist in a fist fight. She even made it easy to believe she could take down the unshakable presence of Alexandra and hijack the villain’s organization and plan. She is tired of being a weapon either for or against The Hand.
My biggest fear for The Defenders was that it’ll be Daredevil Season 3 or Iron Fist season 2. Both characters had previous experience with The Hand and a lot of their plot lines run through the show. But Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are just as important to this “team.” Jessica’s PI skill helps Matt Murdock figure out The Hand’s plan to dig up the McGuffin buried hundreds of feet underground. When The Hand caused a giant Earthquake trying to get said McGuffin, Luke Cage runs into the street and start moving cars and other debris out of the way. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are also unwilling to blindly accept the insane concepts of resurrection, dragon fighting, or ancient cities in other dimensions that is part of Iron Fist and his mythos. They don’t take a back seat and accept the insanity right away. And all The Defenders are affected by the show. The show actually mattered and didn’t just have them team up and walk around in circles so they can develop in their own series. Daredevil presumably sacrificed himself only to wake up in what I guess is a Catholic Monastery, Iron Fist now feels like New York City is a home he needs to defend, Luke Cage understands he is not alone in a fight and Jessica Jones officially reopened Alias Investigations to the public.