We’ll be doing individual episode reviews for The Defenders which will culminate in a final season review. Although Netflix has released all episodes, some viewers may still want to savor the show one episode at a time. Each review is written as the episodes are seen without knowledge of any future episodes and as such, all theories presented about what lies ahead are pure speculation. The episode reviews may contain spoilers so discretion is advised while reading them.
After a build-up preceded by three of its own episodes along with several episodes of its individual leads, The Defenders gains full steam in its fourth hour. The premise of the episode revolves around the four heroes seeking shelter in a Chinese Restaurant after their tussle with The Hand at the end of last episode. Quite amusingly, I thought for a moment that the episode’s title could refer to the Dragon that Danny Rand keeps talking about having fought at K’un-Lun to gain his position as The Immortal Iron Fist. By the time it ends, I realized why it was befitting to title the episode on the name of the restaurant that plays host to The Defenders. It gives The Defenders their own Shawarma moment reminiscent of The Avengers although it doesn’t go as well.
What’s immediately striking about the team is how dysfunctional they are as a unit (at least initially). Jessica doesn’t want to have anything to do with the team at all and even leaves mid-way to do her own thing. Matt Murdock does not find anyone trustworthy enough to reveal his identity to them by unwrapping the scarf and uncovering his head and later on trusting them with information. And all Luke cares about is ensuring the kid Cole gets justice by doing whatever it takes, somewhat reluctantly agreeing to be a part of the team if it means furthering his own mission, a viewpoint he tries to explain to Jessica who just wont listen.
Ultimately, its Danny Rand who, despite the squabbles he keeps getting into with everyone still warms up to the idea of working together as a team and begins addressing themselves as “We”. After having acted like an immature billionaire blessed with powers for most of his own show, it’s nice to see Danny finally coming around even though he may possess a childlike excitement about them working together and an innocent curiosity about knowing things he didn’t previously know. He and Luke bounce off words nicely setting up a future Heroes for Hire spin-off should the show ever feel like doing one (something tells me a similar interaction between the Daughters of the Dragon Colleen Wing and Misty Knight is forthcoming). It’s some of the warmer moments the show shares and definitely among the Marvel-Netflix line-up’s most lighter moments.
Matt Murdock is definitely not in the mood to play team member, after having suffered devastating losses in both his seasons. He’s probably gone through the most brutal stuff only matched to some extent by Jessica. The loss of Elektra is still fresh in his minds even though she brought out the worst parts in him. And so, when Stick resurfaces in the restaurant, it triggers old betrayals and the fights he has fought with The Hand and The Chaste. Understandably, he exercises caution on joining the team outright and is even more hesitant to reveal his identity after having revealed it to only a handful of people.
Stick’s arrival triggers off some much needed expository dialogue giving context into the show’s going-ons. And while we’ve begun to put the pieces together, stick helps clear some of the gaps. The Hand is an ancient organization that has been operating since centuries under the guise of different shell companies. It moves from city to city, causing catastrophic destruction in the form of events that change the landscape altogether and yet manages to cover up its acts. It should follow then that the earthquake seen in Episode 1 would’ve been some sort of a test in preparation towards a much more dastardly act set to follow.
What’s not clear still is Alexandra’s desires. She seems to want immortality and has made Elektra into the deadly weapon named The Black Sky (even though Elektra simply seems like a highly trained and cold assassin at this point) but what exactly is her play is clouded in mystery. We also see her converse with a Japanese guy, (supposedly her husband?) with the two being part of the five fingers of The Hand – five members initially a part of K’un-Lun who were exiled because they wished to use the power of the Chi for purposes other than what it was meant to do (to heal). She, the Japanese guy, the White Hat, Madame Gao and Bakuto (who Danny believes to have gotten rid of) are the five fingers of The Hand then? And what’s with the pills? I understand it certainly will play out in the future episodes but with all she’s done so far, Alexandra is coming off as a bit underwhelming.
At this stage, the show also seems to have done away with some of the gimmickry that was seen in the earlier episodes. No longer are the color palettes so distinctly different even when the members are separate and those tracking shots have made way for more stable and static camera sequences in true Marvel-Netflix fashion. The writing seems a lot more fluid and the character interactions seem to come across more organically than forced. And while the episode was almost negligible on action, it ends at a high-point that brings the team together to face the deadly Elektra that Alexandra has brought with her to the Royal Dragon. In the course of the episode then, the heroes have gone on from Disparate to Defending.
We’re now mid-way into The Defenders seeing as this is an 8-episode mini-series with as many episodes to go as have gone by. To be honest though, this is a show that could’ve certainly gone with a 13-episode run as against some of the other shows like Luke Cage and Iron Fist which could’ve and probably should’ve been 8-episodes in length. Regardless, the show has hit its stride at this stage and is now starting to feel like the Netflix outing we’ve come to expect from Marvel’s shows in the platform and I can’t wait to see how the four of New York’s fend Elektra off. It’ll be interesting to see whether Matt fights or defends her given the history between the two.
Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10.0