Published on August 22nd, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
The long awaited team up series from Marvel and Netflix hits the wall with a thud. The Defenders is a boring, convoluted mess of lameness.
We’ve finally gotten to the Netflix crossover event we’ve been waiting for with The Defenders, the team up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Some of these shows have been a great deal of fun, some of them much weaker (Iron Fist, I’m looking at you), and some of them have been downright uneven — brilliant in spurts, but also draggy in other moments. Sadly, The Defenders winds up for a death punch, but lands with a resounding meh. I would go as far as to say that it’s probably on par with Iron Fist, the weakest of all the series. It might even be less entertaining than Iron Fist.
One of my issues with all of these shows, even the best ones, is that they always feel too stretched at 13 episodes. By the ninth or tenth episodes, I start to get fatigued over some of the ancillary characters and unnecessary plot points they’re using to justify the length. I thought it was great that The Defenders was only doing eight episodes. And yet, I quickly found, they still couldn’t fill that properly. Or at least, none of the stories they told were compelling enough to see them through. It took too long to get going and then it meandered around for eight hours.
They’ve assembled an impressive number of background characters, but it’s a sign they don’t know what to do with them when they stuff them all in a police station under the guise of protection. It’s really a forced holding pattern to keep everyone out of the way. Including poor Colleen — you know, the highly capable woman who spends the Iron Fist series having Kung Fu mansplained to her by a visibly inferior fighter? Colleen is probably better in a fight (and a more interesting character) than at least two of the Defenders but gets relegated to Chumpsville for a good chunk of the story.
They try to hang a lampshade on Finn Jones/Danny Rand/Iron Fist, trying to pretend that he was always meant to be an inept buffoon, and while they get a bit of good mileage out of making fun of him, it makes very little sense. Sure, I can see some hubris built into this character so he has an arc to undergo, but it was bad writing in the Iron Fist show that made him look so stupid all the time. It wasn’t on purpose. Why would you make a show about a guy no one likes? And to add insult to injury, the lack of martial arts skills on behalf of actor Finn Jones that made Iron Fist look like a total kung fu poser in his own show are doubled down on here, especially as Iron Fist becomes so integral to the kung fu-ey plot. (Or, is that kung phooey?).
Our main characters do go through story arcs, sure, but none of them are that interesting, including Daredevil, who should be the most riveting. His girlfriend came back from the dead, and I still found myself glazing over whenever the story leaned in that direction. Luke Cage, one of my favourite characters here, stands around with nothing to do much of the time. Though, I did like the fan service of he and Danny together, and their conversation about white privilege was the highlight of the entire series. While I like Jessica Jones, I was wincing at a lot of Krysten Ritter’s delivery. You could really feel her ‘acting.’ Sigourney Weaver was badass, but she gets harshly undercut eventually.
Visually, the colour coding of certain characters (yellow for Luke Cage, red for Daredevil, etc) was interesting but heavy handed at times. And the fight scenes were especially bad. They were often hard to see, like watching two Michael Bay Transformers wrastle with each other. In fact, the fight scenes themselves were mostly uninspired — where were those insane, intense hallway fights we’ve come to love? I mean, it doesn’t actually have to be in a hallway, but there were some gritty, visceral fights in the build up shows. If you’re going to make a show about kung fu, please, wow me.
Speaking of the wide world of kung fu, let’s address The Hand, an enemy that seemed cool for a while in the lead up shows, but proves to be boring and tepid in The Defenders. Think about the villains we’ve seen so far in this universe — David Tennant as Kilgrave and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk were downright scary, so well written and acted that they made you cheer for them sometimes. Even Mahershala Ali was great as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage. But The Hand?
And am I a dummy (don’t answer that) or was their whole plan a bit of confusing nonsense? They had to destroy New York because they need goo that makes them immortal, even though they wasted the last of it to turn Electra into The Black Sky? And why did they need The Black Sky? How was that supposed to help their plan? It’s not the first convoluted on screen Marvel plot we’ve seen, but it was quite messy. In the end, they seem like a lame, weak enemy because we get too much insight to their inner workings instead of keeping them mysterious — and all they do is fight with each other like teenagers. Madame Gao goes from badass to groveling sycophant. And none of these knucklehead immortals can take out Danny Rand, who is worse at kung fu than me. The stakes were very low here.
As I said, it wasn’t so terrible that I’m demanding my time and money back from Netflix. But it was a horrifying testament to mediocrity, which sometimes, is more of a crime than being downright terrible. At least terrible can be hilarious or fascinating.
Please, let Punisher wash this all away in a hail of bullets.