Last week I gave my first impressions of The Defenders on Netflix having watched the first three episodes. Having now finished all 8 episodes, what are my final thoughts? By the way, there’s a few spoilers below.
If there is one thing that will kill a story for me very quickly it is when the writer’s are too lazy to make me believe in the threat or the danger facing the characters. The Defenders suffers very heavily from this problem. All the way through we are told The Hand are crazy terrifying. Scary. Far reaching. Unstoppable. But we’re told this by a handful of characters based on previous encounters (that kind of proved they weren’t that unstoppable) and because the characters repeat this fact a lot.
But what do The Hand actually do?
They use the last of their ‘resources’ to resurrect Elektra as The Black Sky. And that sounds really impressive. They brought someone back from the dead. But why, as someone watching from the audience, am I supposed to think this is a real issue? They don’t have any more of these ‘resources’. The main villain has been dying from the start which you might think would mean she had nothing to lose and would do something reckless and crazy but instead she continues her methodical and fairly undramatic approach to her plans. Elektra spends most of The Defenders as a slightly buggy android and then in the final two episodes decides to gain a personality but has no grand plan. Nothing.
So again, why are The Hand so scary?
Because the other four fingers are impressive?
One of them is killed early on after a fairly standard round of ask the captured villain for answers moment where of course he escapes and is then cut down fairly unspectacularly. The other three spend a lot of time complaining about Alexandra’s leadership but don’t actually have the guts to hold a coup and come the final fight, other than one or two moments, essentially just amount to screen filler.
So The Hand killed Stick’s group? Again, Stick’s a bit of a jerk and to be honest, his group wasn’t doing such a bang up job so maybe they just had that coming. They used kids from Harlem to clean up bodies and then disposed of them? Really? That’s meant to be scary? Admittedly, it is scummy and I am fully backing Luke in his desire to see them stop this behaviour, but it hardly screams criminal mastermind. There’s an earthquake early on? Okay, that could have been impressive, but they didn’t do anything with it.
Basically our league of mysterious vigilantes are up against a fairly non-threatening threat. You can tell me that I’m supposed to worry about the city and that people are in danger. You can tell me that as many times as you like. What this show didn’t do was ever actually make me believe it.
Partly the blame for this is that the only two villains we spend significant time with are Alexandra and Elektra. While both of these characters had the potential to be quite interesting, instead the writers chose to focus on Alexandra having some kind of bonding experience with the pseudo daughter she brought into the world and then Elektra went through some kind of teenage rebellion thing. It wasn’t particularly well done and seriously undermined any threat you may have felt from the organisation. Not to mention, Elektra went into the final battle with very murky motives and basically you just had to wonder why she didn’t just walk away. I know they gave her a lot of lines trying to explain why she was there, but they weren’t particularly good explanations.
So as an overall narrative, The Defenders falls pretty flat in the second half. The first three episodes, and even the next couple, where we get the gang together and introduce the threat, and go through the usual banter and the like are all good fun, but without a culminating point for the drama there’s just nothing to invest in. Certainly the play between the characters continues to be genuinely well done and even Danny and Luke were growing on me by the end (it helped that Danny had less screen time toward the end), but mostly it didn’t feel like there was a big enough reason for these four to be brought together.
And then the final fight sequence just needs to be cut and started over. Between the camera and sound direction as well as the sheer repetition of the action, not to mention how that fight ends, everything about it is dreadful. How you make an underground ninja fight with four superheroes dull and almost painful to watch I still do not know, but the evidence is right there in episode 8 of The Defenders.
That said, I’d still recommend this series as a watch for people who like their super heroes. The villains are ordinary, the plot ultimately unable to hold its weight, the heroes do all the heavy lifting and for the most part they do it well. While I think I’d still prefer a third season of Daredevil or more Jessica Jones, this wasn’t a bad series to sink some time into.
I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve had a chance to watch The Defenders.
Thanks for reading.
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9 thoughts on “The Defenders Series Review: Wait, New York is in Danger?”
Like most the MCU, their villains are usually the weakest part of the stories, which is the same with the Defenders! I agree with all your points you make about them. I’m still so irritated we never get old why The Hand wants to destroy New York City, or why they have destroyed cities in the past. There’s no point in it except to be evil and raise the stakes.
I believe the biggest problem with this show is the writing, which you touched upon in your review. The story did not make a lot of sense. But it was fun to see the characters interact and get some major easter eggs! Aka. Misty’s arm being cut off!
Agreed with all of this. For as much as I disliked Iron Fist, Defenders was not much of a step up from that. I honestly didn’t care about any characters this time at all. Nothing about The Hand made them formidable as villains compared to all the hype surrounding them. It even downplayed their scary factor in previous series (Iron Fist, especially and to a smaller degree Daredevil). They were more like petulant children fighting for reasons that no one cared about.
I just keep thinking how much better this show would have been if the villain had managed to seem menacing, or if they’d just made me worry about the outcome at all rather than just telling me they were bad all the time.
i was a little disappointed in the defenders but it wasnt the worst thing i watched. great review.
That’s a good summary of it. A little disappointing but not terrible.
I was kind of bored most of the time I was watching it, to be honest. I only enjoyed the scenes with Jessica Jones in it and I agree that I preferred another Jessica Jones season. The Hand is supposed to be this scary and powerful organization but it looked like there were more boring meetings than anything (maybe instead of Alexandra, I would’ve suggested the Japanese guy take the lead because he looked like he could be much better at it). And those are my thoughts….I didn’t like the Luke Cage and Iron Fist shows either so I wasn’t expecting that much of this, though.
I think that was my issue initially because I only liked Daredevil and Jessica Jones with the other two not being really to my taste. Putting them all together was always going to be a bit of a mixed bag. Still, Daredevil and Jessica Jones worked well together and I did enjoy some of the banter and the earlier fight sequences.
I’m currently still watching Luke Cage (which for me started off pretty well, but has now turned quite boring), and after that I will be headed to Iron Fist. The Defenders will be up right after that. I am going to lower my expectations for it quite a bit as most of the reviews I have read so far for it, pretty much say the same as yours. I’m also looking forward to the new seasons of Jessica Jones and Daredevil…although the Punisher is now the series that I am looking forward to the most. He was just awesome in the second season of Daredevil!. Great review 😊
It isn’t that The Defenders is bad, but it just doesn’t really have any wow factor to it and it doesn’t really draw you in other than your predisposition to liking or not liking the main characters.