The Good, The Bad & The Danny Rand: Breaking Down Marvel’s The Defenders

Ok. It has been a week since Netflix premiered Marvel’s The Defenders. So, I apologize, but this review is going to contain SPOILERS.

Now if you choose to continue reading, it is at your own risk.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been waiting for this show for a while now. I wasn’t a fan of Iron Fist, honestly, I didn’t even finish the season. That’s how not interested I was. However, I was incredibly please with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. My favorite of all of these shows though would have to be Jessica Jones (Krysten Rutter). So I was the most excited about her character and her interactions with the rest of the team, especially Luke (Mike Colter), given their history and that they haven’t spoken since he left. In my opinion, Jessica did not disappoint. Can’t say that with 100 percent accuracy when it comes to everyone else though. It’s not that the others were disappointing, but they didn’t live up to my expectations either.

Allow me to explain:

Throughout their individual shows, there are members of an organization known as “The Hand” causing problems in their respective areas of New York. [I don’t think any of them are in Jessica Jones though, but it’s been a while since I watched the series.] They are involved with drugs and gangs as a mean of getting money, but also keeping attention away from what they’re really up to. The members of The Hand; Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), Sowande (Babs Olusanmokun), Murakami (Yutaka Takeuchi – my favorite), and Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez), have all been alive for a VERY long time, and they want to keep it that way. To the displeasure of the other four, Alexandra uses the last of their revival resources to bring back Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) in order to mold her into “The Black Sky” — a lethal, killing machine to serve The Hand.

However, The Hand has discovered enough of this “source” beneath New York City that they would never have to worry about being brought back ever again. But in removing this source from the Earth, New York City will collapse and everyone in it will die. Obviously, our heroes aren’t about that.

Speaking of, while our heroes have been dealing with their individual problems, they all eventually make their way to New York City where they basically all just bump into each other. Figuratively and literally. And it takes three episodes just to get them all in the same place. For a show that’s supposed to be about The Defenders, it’s a bit annoying to take three out of only eight episodes just to get all of your characters in the same room. It takes another two and a half for them to agree to fully team up.

So really the show is Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil (Charlie Cox), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) sometimes hanging out with one other person, oh and at the very end we get The Defenders. I can overlook that though because we do get a lot of character relationship building and plot development. Obviously, Luke Cage and Iron Fist end up side by side a lot, leaving Jessica and Daredevil to be their own little duo. She’s a P.I., Matt’s a lawyer, they get a lot of useful investigating done. They are definitely the more productive duo seeing as Luke just ends up saving Danny’s ass and/or keeping an eye on him. In fact, let’s break it down from there.

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/Netflix

Luke Cage and Iron Fist

If you read comics, you know that “Power Man and Iron Fist” are a pretty big duo in the Marvel Universe, so them being together is hype. At least, it SHOULD be hype. Luke Cage has some great lines and moments. He’s a character that is not only viewed different because he’s super-human, but he is also black. This allows the show to deal with real-life current issues, like white privilege. One of the most powerful lines Luke delivers is to Danny when he says:

“You may think that you earned your strength, but you had power the day you were born. Before the dragons, before the chi … you have the ability to change the world without getting anyone hurt”

How fucking powerful is that?

One of Luke’s first acts out of prison is trying to save Cole (J. Mallory McCree – wonderful character), from The Hand, who Cole is unaware he is working for. Like his brother, Cole got mixed up with working for the wrong people. Luke wants to save him from the fate his brother and others have experienced (a brutal death). Why? Because Luke is a hero. It’s in his heart to help people in need, no matter how much he doesn’t want to get involved. On the negative side, Luke Cage, the crazy strong and bulletproof man, gets his ass kicked a LOT — which is really frustrating because, I get he doesn’t know kung-fu, but come on. He gets taken out by a couple ninja punches. Also, I get it’s part of his character, but his whole “I don’t want to hurt anyone even people who deserve it because talking clearly works so well every time” bit gets pretty old.

Then there’s Danny, a.k.a Iron Fist. Oh, where to even begin. Danny has his moments, but they were few and far between. He was definitely the weakest character in the show. And the most annoying. Despite him being at the center of the plot, I think the show would have been better without him.

His character is just…so…whiny. I mean, I get it. Parents died, people he was supposed to protect died, blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure he mentioned these things at least once in every single episode. Ok, first episode he appears in, fine, give us a recap because not all of us (myself included) watch his entire solo season. We don’t need to hear your sob story every five seconds. Jessica murdered someone, Elektra died in Matt’s arms, Luke just got out of prison. Do you know how many times they mention it? Once. ONE TIME.

Oh, and he falls for Elektra’s OBVIOUS trick to get him to unlock the big special door because she insulted him. Boo hoo. You have a fucking city to save. Get it together. On the plus side, Danny gave us some really awesome fight scenes.

Jessica Jones and Daredevil in The Defenders
Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Jessica Jones and Daredevil

Definitely the stronger of the two teams. While Jessica is snarky and pessimistic as usual, Matt isn’t afraid to call her out or dish it back. Plus, as I said before, you have a P.I and a lawyer going around asking questions and gathering intel, which honestly makes a lot of sense and brings a lot to the table. Matt does the talking, Jessica does the snooping. They have real-life skills that are applicable to this situation that they can use to their advantage.

Jessica Jones in my favorite of the four. While she has a pretty damn dramatic backstory, Jessica doesn’t whine and complain. She drinks, which isn’t a healthy solution, but it honestly makes her more genuine in my opinion. How many of us have a shitty day and just want to have a drink after its all said and done? That’s basically Jessica except its been a shitty life. I also love her retorts and overall sass. She is the most genuine because she is her honest to God self at all times. She also gets to deliver some great lines at her own expense, like when she complains about being the only one who doesn’t know kung-fu.

Matt Mudock a.k.a. Daredevil, while not as central as Danny, is still very central to the plot because of his relationship to Elektra and (let’s be real) because he’s totally going to be the leader. He isn’t brash like Danny and Jessica, but he also isn’t afraid to make the tough calls, which Luke still struggles with. Watching Daredevil fight is like watching a dance. Just. Kudos to the fight choreographers, but Matt’s abilities blow everyone else out of the water, even Danny who is supposed to be special and trained by monks and shit. My issue with Matt is he doesn’t become Daredevil again until THE 5TH FREAKING EPISODE.

While the annoying complaining doesn’t come from Matt, it comes from his friends. They don’t want him to get killed, ok, but he’s fucking Daredevil. He’s a hero. He can’t just stand by when he can do something to help. And them making him feel like shit every five seconds because he clearly misses it is ridiculous. Like, I honestly felt like they were being really means and unfair to him. He made a difference as Daredevil and they treat him like he did something terrible and should be ashamed. And he just lets them.

Claire and Luke Cage in The Defenders
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/Netflix

Finally, the leading support group: Misty, Claire, and Colleen

They may not be core members of The Defenders but that doesn’t make them any less important or needed. In fact, the Defenders wouldn’t survive without them.

Honestly, Colleen (Jessica Henwick) is the best part about Iron Fist being in the show. I would rather her be on the team than Danny right now. She lost her parents and her people just like Danny did, but she does something about it. She isn’t “The Immortal Iron Fist” but yet here she is, kicking more ass and putting her life on the line without fear or question in order to stop The Hand. Plus, she carries around her katana pretty much at all times and that’s super badass.

Claire (Rosario Dawson) is Claire. She is the glue that binds these shows together. Through every season of every different show, Claire has shown her worth. She has developed. She has become stronger as a person. Everyone else may be doing the fighting, but Claire is the one keeping them alive. And she isn’t afraid to try and step in either. She’s not an experienced fighter, she has no super-human abilities or weapons, but she still isn’t afraid to fight. I felt like they could have given her a much bigger role in this show than they did.

Misty (Simone Missick) is possibly my favorite of the trio though. Every time she’s on screen. Misty is a cop. Misty is the law. And she will protect the law even if it means going up against super heroes. She has worked and continues to work her ass off to keep the city safe. When the team tells her about The Hand and what they do, she doesn’t bat an eye. Even mystical shit doesn’t phase her. May seem weird to her, but she isn’t afraid to go up against it. Shit, she charges into that building at the end knowing what is waiting for her in there. She goes against Bakuto to save Colleen and gets her arm sliced off (P.S. SO EXCITED FOR HER ROBO ARM!!! Seriously…I was upset it didn’t happen in Luke Cage).

Sigourney Weaver in The Defenders
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/Netflix

Finally, the bad guys.

It’s sad to say, but Alexandra was the least interesting out of all of them, and she is supposed to be the leader! Sigourney Weaver was severely underused and her character suffered for it. Pretty much every member of The Hand has some sort of special skill, I couldn’t tell you what hers is. The leader, the one who is supposed to be the strongest and most intimidating, you never even see her fight. I wasn’t afraid of her, I wasn’t afraid for anyone’s life when she was in a room with them.

I was however, afraid of Murakami. To me, he was the most intimidating. I mean, shit, the first time you see him, he’s casually gutting a goddamn bear just having a casual conversation with Alexandra about murdering people. He also has that stare. That unwavering killer’s stare, that anyone could be a victim at any time. That stare that says he isn’t afraid of you and he knows he could kill you without breaking a sweat. He should have been the leader in my opinion. But then we wouldn’t need Elektra. Well, we didn’t NEED Elektra anyway. Her character’s plot was confusing and also not that interesting. They basically brought her back so that Matt would have some kind of emotional dilemma that he really didn’t need either. It did nothing for the story and it did nothing to improve upon Matt either.

Whew. That was a lot of content to cover.

OVERALL SCORE: 7.8 / 10

There was good stuff, there was bad stuff. Even so, it’s definitely worth watching.

–Rachel Freeman

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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