What a time to be alive!
I’ve been saying it for the past three years or so and I’m going to say it again, we have truly entered the second golden age of television. For decades television has always been seen as inferior to the magic of film but the past few years television has really stepped up its game and is definitely giving film a run for its money.
Helping television win the battle is the titan of a force that is Netflix. Netflix has had a string of fantastic original series and a major player in that category is its contribution to the Marvel world with “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.” So what do you do when you have four super hero hits on your hands at one time when the genre is dominating the world? Bring them all together of course.
Netflix’s latest series “The Defenders” is the “Avengers” of television in which the major players from all of the previously mentioned shows come together to form one big super team. Being as how this is still an idea that hasn’t been done too many times, it’s still risky to bring together multiple television shows into one. However, to absolutely no one’s surprise, Marvel strikes gold again and delivers what I consider to be it’s most creative and fun venture into the superhero genre yet.
After a major earthquake hits New York City, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage ( Mike Colter) and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) each find themselves caught up in their own individual mystery that winds up bringing the four of them together. When they realize each of their problems are all connected to an organization known as The Hand and run by a woman known only as Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver looking FANTASTIC in all white!), they each decide to set their egos aside and come together to save the city before it’s wiped from existence.
If you look into everything behind the scenes that had to happen in order for the series to come to life, it sounds like an absolute nightmare and a constant headache for everyone involved. Lucky for them though, all their hard work pays off for the most part — minus a few bumps.
For starters, the narrative is strong and what it really has working for it is how short it is. Coming in at only eight episodes, the show wastes no time getting to the main plot of the story, bringing these characters together and giving us what we all really want — to see these characters fight side by side together. The four of them never share the screen together until the end of episode three but until then, the four of them pair off in doubles and they combination the show puts them in is golden. Some of the strongest scenes are when the team is divided and the story centers on a particular duo interacting with each other. Who meets up with whom first isn’t who you would expect to partner up, but when you see it happen you can’t deny how right it feels.
I really do believe that TV shows everywhere need to start cutting their seasons in half and stop dragging them out. When we have shorter seasons, we waste less time and can enjoy the story a lot more than we do when there’s 24 episodes in a season. “The Defenders” is a prime example that less really is more.
As strong as the narrative is, I am a little disappointed that they had to follow the same old super team formula where each of the characters meet, hate each other and by the end start throwing out words like “family.” From a plot point of view, I understand why you’d want to do it. It provides for more drama and makes the stakes feel higher. But the entire time I kept thinking to myself, each of these characters has verbally acknowledged how dangerous their situation is and yet when they meet other individuals with special abilities of their own, they dismiss them. And when they do give them the time of day all they do is argue about why they don’t need each other. Just once, in a situation like this, I’d like to see a scenario where multiple people with superpowers look at each other and think, “Hey, I think we could make something happen here.”
The problem with having these characters be so reluctant to ban together is it makes the characters, particularly Matt and Jessica, extremely annoying. They spend the first half of the show not only arguing with their team, but they also spend an equal amount of time throwing pity parties for themselves and pulling the whole “I never asked to be a hero just let me be” card that frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing in superhero films. I feel like there is so much more we can be watching on-screen if we weren’t spending so much time watching these characters play the martyr. I mean come on Daredevil, you did kind of choose to make yourself a costume and fight crime. No one was holding a gun to your head telling you to put the mask on.
Take out the character cliches though and the show’s biggest bright spot is still the titular characters themselves. Like I said, we don’t get to see them all together until episode 3 but when it finally happens, it’s a major pay off. It’s a small battle, but it serves as a preview of what’s to come. Whether it’s having dinner together or walking down the street, the chemistry the four characters have with each other is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time, at least in the superhero genre and it’s loads of fun seeing these characters finally share a screen together.
That being said, no matter how hard it tries to be, “The Defenders” never quite matches the level of excitement you feel when the “Avengers” first came together on screen. As cool as the fight scenes are, they never quite reach the epicness that the “Avengers” had even though they try REALLY hard! They give us plenty of solid money shots of the four heroes standing side by side but when they break out into a fight, something feels a little off. Still, it’s not enough for you to feel bored or disappointed when watching the final climax come to a head.
A quick shout out to Sigourney Weaver to her standout performance as the show’s main villain. It seems like with every year she’s alive her talent keeps getting better and better. She rarely gets to play the villain in her career so it’s obvious to see how much fun she had making this show and even as a woman in her 60s, she still looks cooler than you ever will in a hand-to-hand combat battle.
“The Defenders” isn’t the “Avengers,” but that’s okay. Because, it’s still a cinematic achievement in its own right and I’m confident in saying that fans of these series will not be disappointed in what they see unfold in front of them on their screens at home and I guarantee the ending will leave them on a cliffhanger that will have them yelling at their screens for just ONE more episode.
The bottom line: Even though it falls prey to a lot of the genre’s cliches, “The Defenders” will still stand out as the strongest television series to premiere all summer and the perfect way to end your summer vacation.