TV Review: The Defenders (Season 1)

While overall entertaining, it doesn’t quite feel like the proper payoff of the hours of television from the individual series that were supposed to set up this miniseries.

The plot for the most part here is pretty tight. There’s a slow start to things as they catch us up on all the main characters and start moving them to a point where they can meet. This feels like it drags on a little longer than it should, but it’s worth it once it happens. Things move relatively straight forward from there, without too many detours. The climax is a bit underwhelming, and it does its best to make up for lowering the stakes to a more personal level.

The action is a major letdown. Too many fights take place at night or in dark catacombs. And even dark catacombs at night. With quick cuts and a lack of light, the fight sequences are just too muddy. Even what should have been the show’s crown jewel, the “hallway sequence,” happens too fast and features not much more than each character getting in a few good punches.

The characters are what make the series worthwhile. As it was with their individual series, Daredevil and Jessica Jones are magnetic. Krysten Ritter’s snarky and reluctant hero is still fun to watch, and she has some great interaction with her more heroic associates. Charlie Cox does an excellent job of bringing the emotional weight to the show with his conflicted Matt Murdock. Mike Colter is solid once again as Luke Cage, although they don’t give him much new ground to break. Finn Jones still struggles to make his Iron Fist likeable. He hasn’t matured at all since his show, which admittedly just ended as far as his character is concerned. Word was that he would be the more lighthearted member of the team, but he still spends most of his time sulking and pouting. It’s when the four of them interact where the show shines. Their banter, their team ups and even their arguments work well because of the history they have from their individual series.

The villain’s side of the equation is also intriguing. Sigourney Weaver as the main antagonist is quite complex. While her being the brains of the operation is believable, I never felt like she was a physical threat, despite what they implied. Elodie Yung returns as Elektra, who is a like a force of nature, whirling around with kicks and swords. It takes a bit longer, but she also goes through an emotional arc of her own. With the exception of Wai Ching Ho’s Madam Gao, the rest of the bad guys are just kind of there so the heroes can fight someone besides random henchmen.

In the end, the show is fun to watch, but just doesn’t deliver the way it should have in the end. The eight episode run reduces the filler, yet there’s still a bit too much of that. The action falters, but the character interactions shine.

Season’s best episode: “Royal Dragon” (Episode 4)
Season’s worst episode: “The H Word” (Episode 1)

*** out of *****