I’m up to episode five with the Defenders, and I’m enjoying it so far, except for Iron Fist. But let’s leave that until later. Let’s heap some praise on this before I unleash the disdain. One word of warning: if you haven’t seen the other series, you’ll like get lost among the relationships, motivations, and dynamics. You could certainly muddle through if you are focused, but it’d be rough going through parts.
It was great seeing all the characters again, and I have to give major kudos for how well each character is followed, their essential inner conflict illustrated and their relationships highlighted in very succinct but full vignettes. It was great reconnecting with the characters and they were all true to their own series. Well, most of them, but I’ll get back to that later.
The events that happened between the characters individual series and this are communicated mostly in either quick visuals or asides. We thankfully see very little of Basil Exposition. This is just a part of the generally strong writing that understands most of these characters and gives us more of what we initially loved. The only problem with all the re-introduction is that there’s also a lot of stage-setting happening in parallel, and most of the first half of the eight episode series was pretty slow. There were a few action scenes, but not much and nothing too impressive. Things pick up after the heroes unite late in episode three, but that’s a long wait.
And then there’s Iron Fist. I am absolutely biased in that I love the Iron Fist of the comics who is absolutely not the Iron Fist of the Netflix series. I guess expecting four for four was too much, but it saddens me that the character I love the most is the one they fucked up (in my opinion). Iron Fist is the first character we meet, and the attempt to address the general failure of the Iron Fist series to make Finn Jones credible as the greatest martial artist on the planet failed due to the complete incomprehensibility of that first fight scene after he gets involved.
What is most frustrating is that there are glimpses of the Danny Rand of the comics – enthusiastic, flippant, friendly, optimistic – and I think Finn Jones captured that really well. The angry, angsty Danny of the Netflix series just seems as petulant here as he did in his own series. What’s worse, Colleen Wing, who came off pretty good in Iron Fist, is inconsistent here, almost like the writers didn’t know what to do with her so when they wanted someone to react in a certain way, they could always get Colleen to do it.
On the plus side, there are a couple of fights which better showcase Danny as Iron Fist, as a master martial artist, but this again is tragic to me because it illustrates the failed potential. There could have been a good Iron Fist series and we could have had a good character in the Defenders, but I guess the showrunners figured angst sells.
And to them I would point to Wonder Woman. Diana in that movie is much more like Danny Rand in the comic books than what we see on the small screen. She is not conflicted, though she is sometimes confused. She is a warrior par excellence and she revels in that. She revels in her ability to help, to protect people. That’s Danny in the comics. And he’s not perfect. He’s a tactical genius not a strategic one. That’s why he and Luke Cage make such a good team in the comics – they complement each other.
Anyway, if you aren’t as invested in Iron Fist as I am, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of the Defenders. It’s a good series,but not the best. Still, it gets back to the quality of the pre-Iron Fist shows. Iron Fist and Colleen Wing are, unfortunately, the weakest links. I haven’t even gotten into the villains, who are all interesting and presented pretty well, but that can wait until I’ve finished watching and have a more complete idea of the show and its arc.
I give the first five episodes of the Defenders 4 daring power fists of Jones out of 5. If you liked the other Marvel Netflix series, you’ll like this one. It’s slow to get going, but it’s nice to be able to spend time with most of these characters again. Iron Fist remains (sadly) the weakest of the characters but (thankfully) even he has some bright spots.