The Defenders Delivers, But Doesn’t Amaze: A Season 1 Review
It seems that, as so often happens, I have a contrary opinion about the first season of The Defenders. (At least compared to other critics, that is.)
Did I *Absolutely* *Love* every moment of it? Hell no – it has more than a few flaws. But I also disagree that the slow and steady pace of the first five episodes was bad, and I have high hopes for the way the end of The Defenders season one set up other stories.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for all eight episodes of Netflix’s Marvel’s The Defenders.
I’m serious about there being spoilers. If you have not finished watching the series, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Yes, it was surprising that with just eight episodes, the show still took three of them to bring our four heroes together, and I do think that with less exposition (or just, in general, a lot less Iron Fist), they could have moved those chess pieces into place a bit faster. However, in the end I think that doing so would have caused the paired-off relationships – Jessica Jones and Matt Murdoch/Daredevil and Luke Cage and Danny Rand/Iron Fist – would have then suffered. And that would have been especially hard on the later scenes between Luke and Danny – in my opinion, the only reason Danny was some semblance of palatable in this show was because of his interactions with Luke.
And speaking of Danny Rand…while the events of The Defenders made it obvious as to why Netflix [apparently?] rushed to put out the first season of Iron Fist, that doesn’t mean I have to like the fact that this character was the driving force behind the season one Defenders plot. Did Netflix expect Iron Fist to have a better reception? Did The Defenders showrunners – who were both involved with Daredevil – ever question their decision to spend the very first season of this show focusing on two white men?
I suppose we’ll never know, but the fact remains that as much as I loved what we did see of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, there were two major issues with their appearances. First, there wasn’t enough of them. I haven’t figured out exact screen time, but even if they were all about even – which I highly doubt – no one can argue that they were as important to the plot as a whole as Daredevil and Iron Fist were.
Second, I was especially frustrated with the horrible inconsistency of Jessica Jones’ powers. One minute she’s punching ninjas and yet they’re jumping right back into the fray; the next she’s holding up an elevator car with two adult men inside by a single cable. And those are just two opposing instances – I could write an entire article just about how all over the place her powers were. The fact that were similar issues with Luke Cage’s depiction makes me wonder whether the Defenders writers didn’t ask for much (if any) input from the folks who headed up the first seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
Getting back to the plot as a whole, of course I realize that Daredevil and Iron Fist were front and center because their stories were both centered around The Hand before The Defenders – but while Luke’s steadfast nature and Jessica’s quips were amazing to behold, even with all of the buildup in the first half of this season they still seemed to switch tacks (regarding how they felt about the situation in general and how involved they were going to be) a little too quickly.
But enough of my complaints – as previously mentioned, I really did enjoy these eight episodes. Even their slow moments didn’t rival the episode 8-ish to 10-ish doldrums that both Daredevil season two and Luke Cage season one suffered from. (The first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones had them to a lesser extent; Iron Fist season one was just bad all around.)
While I wish we’d seen a bit more of Trish and a bit less of Karen (y’all, I want to love Karen Page like I did in the first season of Daredevil but she has been badly written for a while now), overall the secondary characters were stellar. Foggy and Claire won every scene they appeared in (as per the usual), and as annoying as the back-and-forth between Misty and the others was from time to time, her arc is still one of the most interesting of these secondary characters. And dare I say it – even Colleen Wing was starting to win me over by the end of The Defenders…at least so long as she was interacting with characters like Claire and Misty rather than Danny.
Introducing Alexandra as a brand-new big bad seemed odd at first, but how can one not love Sigourney Weaver? And while I’m not usually fond of red herrings, I feel like The Defenders did a good job utilizing that trope without, well, being overly trope-y.
As for the true big bad, Elektra? I can’t say that I loved the flashback scenes involving her – they often seemed misplaced timing-wise, and sometimes it even took me a moment to realize we were in a flashback – but I think the show did as good a job as it could (given the time constrictions) showcasing her internal struggle.
Getting back to those ‘other stories’ that this show set up (or seemed to be setting up) – Misty Knight lost her arm! She’s got to get her bionic arm now, right? Will she get her own series (OH MY WORD PLEASE LET NETFLIX ORDER A SERIES WITH A BLACK WOMAN SUPERHERO AS THE LEAD)…or will we at least see more of her in other Netflix Marvel shows?
And hey, Alias Investigations is back in business! Although Jessica Jones season 2 has been filming for a while now, it was still great to see her reveal her business sign again. And finally, yes, Matt Murdoch is still alive, and hopefully Daredevil season three will give us some sort of explanation as to how that’s the case.
What did you think of the first season of The Defenders? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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