The First Episode of The Defenders Doesn’t Break New Ground, But It Effectively Sets the Table for the Series

Marvel's The Defenders
Photo Credit: Netflix

A little over two years, four individual series, 65 episodes, and we’ve finally reached the grand culmination of Marvel’s Netflix plan: The Defenders.

It’s pretty amazing to think how much ground Marvel and Netflix have covered since 2015.  The promise of the Netflix and Marvel team up was a very exciting one to me.  A more “mature” and “grounded” version of what we’ve gotten from the Marvel movie seemed like a breath of fresh air. Plus, Daredevil has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters, and was a natural choice for the first street level Avenger. Daredevil as a TV show turned out to be a pretty unique as a Marvel property. It was violent, relentlessly grim, and had a great lead in Charlie Cox and a near transcendent villain in The Kingpin played by Vincent D’onofrio.   

The rest, sadly, has been rather hit or miss. These shows lean heavily into the Netflix binge watching formula and suffer for it in certain ways. Season are too long and thus feel padded or slow. Individual episodes suffer because they are looked at as just a small piece in a larger puzzle.  However, what Marvel and Netflix have done really well with these shows, is give them all their own unique flavor.  To put is very simply; Daredevil was about the violence, Jessica Jones was about trauma, Luke Cage was about the music and Iron Fist was about….Danny Rand being a lousy Iron Fist?  Each show operated very independently while laying some groundwork for the promised team up to come.

In the premiere episode of The Defenders, through some not so subtle color-coded segments, we catch up with our heroes…I mean, main characters (best not to use the H word) and find out what they’ve been up to since we last saw them.  Matt (Charlie Cox) is working pro-bono and trying to put Daredevil behind him. Jessica (Krysten Ritter)  is still day drinking and getting annoyed at everyone. Luke (Mike Colter) is fresh ( and quite conveniently) out of lock up and looking to finish cleaning up Harlem. Danny (Finn Jones) is globe trotting with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) trying to take down the Hand.  

Little exposition is given about each character or what their specific powers are. The series rightfully assumes you’ve seen the previous series or at least have a basic understanding of each character.  We also meet the mysterious Alexandra, played by the always enjoyable Sigourney Weaver.  Little is divulged about her in the first episode but Weaver plays the role with a strong, authoritative presence nonetheless.  Her plan seems quite similar to that of Ra’s Al Ghul’s in Batman Begins, but only time will tell.  Not much in terms of plot happens in this episode. It’s more table setting than anything else. Each character (aside from Matt, really) is aimed in the direction of the inevitable team up. The main question is how and when it will happen.

Writing a review for the first episode of a Netflix show isn’t an easy thing to do.  These shows are designed to be a movies streched out over 10-13 episodes. This formula isn’t very conducive to creating stand out episodes unfortunately These kinds of shows require patience on that of the viewer for better or worse. That being said, the first episode of The Defenders does what it needs to pretty well. It’s not a great episode of TV (who are we kidding though? This isn’t TV.) but most of the actors have enough charisma to help remind me why I’m watching in the first place. The promise of these characters coming together and seeing how they mesh (or don’t) is the real motivator but sadly that doesn’t happen in the first episode.  

If you’ve liked the Marvel Netflix shows up until this point, odds are you’re a captive audience for this one. Episode 1 of The Defenders doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means but it does do a good job of contrasting the characters.  Here’s hoping that when they eventually get smashed together, the result is a burst of color and not just a muddled cacophony.   

Rating: 7 out of 10

–Taylor Bowne

The Defenders First Episode (and the entire series) is currently streaming on Netflix.

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