Starring: Charlie Cox, Mike Colter, Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Sigourney Weaver, Elodie Yung, Scott Glenn, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick
Runtime: 50 min p/ episode
Marvel's The Defenders is here! In case you haven't been alive for the last couple of years, we've had two seasons of Daredevil and one season of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, each.
In this new Netflix-Marvel partnership, our "heroes" finally get together to team up against a common enemy and save New York City.
So, before I start my review I just wanna say that I love every single season of every hero, except for Iron Fist, which isn't exactly good. As for the rest, Daredevil has two awesome and emotional seasons, Jessica Jones has a terrific villain and a great origin story, and Luke Cage has a lot more depth to his story and a realistic environment around him. This is probably going to be one of my longest reviews yet, but it's still SPOILER-FREE as always. Let's start then!
I love this debut season of our heroes teaming up! It's far from perfect, it still has a lot of flaws, but the whole show is elevated due to the extremely well-known and well-developed characters, plus the amazing performances from the cast. If there's one aspect that this season nails supremely is each character's soul and personality during the "pre-team-up". It's not like "hey, we're all superheroes, so let's form a superteam".
Everyone has troubled origins that made them either quit their job, go to prison or simply give up on being a "hero". All of this is really well executed with the characters and it sets a grounded and genuine feel to something that can be easily transformed into nonsense.
I'll start with the one that I think stole this season: Charlie Cox as Daredevil. The actor portrays Matthew Murdock as if he really is him. It's one of those roles where you can watch and FEEL how much the actor delivers in every single scene, it's just absolutely remarkable. It doesn't matter if it's an awesome fight sequence or a dialogue scene, he nails it! As for the character, I love that he's the one that "fights" the most the idea of forming a team since he does have the most tragic and emotional past of them all. Daredevil also has the most amount of (great) action and he gets a much more deep connection to the main plot, which pays off in the big finale.
Elodie Yung also has a great performance as Elektra, who has a much better script than in the solo seasons of Daredevil. She finally reaches a purpose that's very well transmitted to the audience and I really enjoy her presence on-screen. Scott Glenn also appears as Stick and he's great as usual. As for Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), I'll discuss their roles in a minute.
Mike Colter "badass-ly" portrays Luke Cage, who keeps his love for Harlem and his people, intact after leaving prison. He wants to help underprivileged people without getting anyone hurt and that feeling is consistent throughout the whole series and very well explored. I also love his funny side after joining The Defenders, which I find both surprising and extremely entertaining.
Rosario Dawson is impeccable as Claire Temple! A character that has been one of my favorites in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) finally receives an important role as she's the one that starts uniting our superheroes. She gets a lot of screentime, not only on dialogue scenes but also in some cool action sequences where she, even if briefly, shines. Rosario Dawson is able to be very compelling and captivating, which helps the not-so-great writing.
Jessica Jones is probably my favorite of the four due to her quirky personality. However, in the first couple of episodes, she seems kind of lost, she's just getting drunk and doing nothing. After those chapters, she's one of the standouts of this season, together with Daredevil. She's freaking awesome! Her one-liners are very funny and she's usually the main source of fun, entertainment and also of plot development since she's a PI, so she does a lot of investigation (duh). Her action scenes aren't that great, but Krysten Ritter does an excellent job by being incredibly captivating with her distinct facial expressions and she also takes the best script out of the four heroes and raises it on her own.
As I said above, Iron Fist is my least favorite show of the pack and I didn't really like neither the character or the actor. I don't think Finn Jones does a good job representing Danny Rand, but I also don't think that this character was given a reasonable script in his own series. This last thought holds up in The Defenders since I find them way more tolerable than before, they've finally loosened up! Finn Jones still has a lot to work on, but in the scenes where he has to deliver, he does ... Enough.
As for Danny, he's better explored since the writing stops from reaching those levels of absurdity it did in his solo season. However, until our heroes get together, he's still a bit reserved and that bogged down the show. He's still a very dumb and naive character, which is smoothly taken care of by joining the team and becoming more lighthearted.
Jessica Henwick continues to be a badass as Colleen Wing. She spends most of the series not doing much, but she gets the well-deserved action near the finale. Jessica is notably compelling and Colleen is one of my favorite side characters in the MCU, so it all pays off in the end.
Finally, the remaining side characters. These are a big negative for me, especially Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Karen Page and Foggy Nelson. These three are super frustrating and annoying! They keep standing in front of our heroes' work and even though I understand that that's needed for some parts, it's simply too much. Even in the season finale, they keep nagging and slowing down The Defenders from saving the city, which holds the plot from moving forward, causing some episodes to drag a lot. I love all of them in their respective shows, but in this one, they're just horrible characters.
Switching to the dark side, Sigourney Weaver is amazing as Alexandra, The Hand's founder. Her motivations clear up throughout the episodes and I consider her a great villain that has a very efficient effect in this show. The Hand is an organization that left a lot of questions on each of the previous solo series of our heroes and I dare to say all of them are answered. Which leads me to the overall story ...
The main plot is very mysterious and intriguing, something I truly love about this season. I watched the whole series in a day mainly due to the very captivating story, which I find most TV shows nowadays to keep forgetting. If a show has a great story, cast and characters then we just got ourselves a good show, at least.
Something that I rarely comment on is the colors of each shot. Usually, I don't have the "eye" to appreciate that sort of technical features, but in the first couple of episodes, each hero gets a unique color that we can also see in the opening credits, which are also exceptional. It's one of those little details that make everything better.
Now, I'm gonna start going into some real negatives here. I already mentioned some annoying side characters, but they aren't my main issues. The action is mostly well-filmed and enthusiastic, but too many of them are in dark backgrounds and with too many cuts. I can't really see what's going on and that's something I can't understand when there are two entire seasons of Daredevil with flawless fight sequences!
Of course, we get some excellent one-takes of fabulous choreography, like in the finale or in that scene shown in the trailer, but it simply isn't enough. It lacks both the quality and the intensity/tension that some scenes need. The finale's fight sequence is ruined by a terrible soundtrack that doesn't even have the volume balanced and the fight itself falls flat. Iron Fist barely uses his fist and Jessica Jones looks so ... Uncoordinated.
The writing is good, but not great. Not at all. It goes from cheesy to pure nonsense in a second. It's better than on Iron Fist for sure, but sometimes the characters say stuff that just bothered me like hell. There are also a couple of episodes that drag too much, becoming boring for a while. Thankfully, it pays off, but they are still hard to go through.
Ok, now the big thing. Before I watched the final episode, I read my notes and I already knew it was going to be between a B+ and an A-. The finale is the thing that separates those two. I'm sorry, but I leave this show just a little frustrated. Without spoiling anything, of course ... They decide to go for a bold ending. They do everything right, story and emotion-wise, everything is absolutely amazing. Ten seconds (!) to the end of the episode and they give up. I can't say anything else, but I can say it let me down, even if it is a pretty solid finale.
All in all, Marvel's The Defenders is a great debut season of our favorite TV team of superheroes! With remarkably strong and captivating performances from the cast and thanks to the very well-developed and well-explored characters, plus a mysterious story and some cool moments of action, Marvel gets back on track after a not so good season of Iron Fist. It has some flaws, like the writing, some annoying side characters or some not that well-filmed fight sequences, but the big letdown of the last seconds in the finale just leaves me floored in a bad way. Still, I love this season and I can't wait for more, especially from Daredevil and Jessica Jones!