The Defenders

defendersLast month, we finally got to see Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) come together in Marvel’s The Defenders. The first 2 seasons of Daredevil and the initial seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the Iron Fist all led up to the events that brought our heroes together. With all the success of those shows, there were high expectations for this series. Overall, it was a good series. All the elements that made those shows great were present. Unfortunately, the elements that I did not like were also present.

The Defenders definitely answered some major questions involving the series. First, we finally found out who the Hand is, where they came from, and how they have lived for so long. The Hand is a criminal empire that has been around for centuries and they are made up of 5 individuals (fingers).  They are Madam Gao (Wa Ching Ho), Sowande (Babs Olusanmoku), Murakami (Yutaka Takeuchi), Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez), and Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), who we find out, is the leader. These five individuals were monks of K’un Lun that believed in another way of life. They decided to leave K’un Lun with a substance that stopped the aging process resulting in a type of immortality. They would use this substance to resurrect each other if they should ever fall. We learn at the start of The Defenders that the Hand has enough substance left for one resurrection. Finally we get to see who the Hand is!

Alexandra finds out that Father Time always wins and learns that her body is failing her. With only enough substance left for one dose, she knows the only way to survive is to return to unlock a gate sealed long ago by the Iron Fist at that time. In order to open the gate, she needs the current Iron Fist. She sets a plan in motion to capture the Iron Fist and force him to open the gate. The other members of the Hand are weary about setting her plan into motion so quickly. Without the approval of the other members, Alexandra uses the last of the substance to resurrect the Black Sky, a powerful weapon of the Hand, who happens to be Elekra Natchios (Elodie Yung), who we saw die at the end of Season 2 of Daredevil. With this weapon, Alexandra believes she can lead the group back to K’un Lun and obtain the substance once again. Though Marvel finally answers the purpose of the Hand, it also creates and ultimately does not answer other questions. For instance, if the Hand only had enough substance left for one resurrection, how did they resurrect Bakuto, who we saw perish in the Iron Fist? Also, did each member have access to the substance? Or as leader, did Alexandra have sole control?

With this plan set motion, it is up to our heroes to stop the Hand from getting to K’un Lun. Our heroes are brought together by happenstance. Jessica Jones takes a case that involves the mysterious death of an architect that happens to have worked on the building that is housing the gate to K’un Lun. Luke Cage meets Danny Rand when Cage was trying to protect a kid from his neighborhood from the criminal Sowande. Luke begins fighting the group he knows is working for the Hand; Cage steps in to defend the kid from the neighborhood: Indestructible Cage meets Rand’s Iron Fist.  Finally Murdock is brought into the group when he is requested to defend Jessica Jones, as she is named a person of interest in the mysterious death of the architect. Following along so far? The full meet up happens in a Chinese restaurant when the Hand attempts to kidnap Rand. This is also were the team meets Stick (Scott Glenn) and Elektra for the first time. Another lingering questions is also answered here: who exactly is Stick? He is the leader of The Chaste, an organization sworn to stopping the Hand. We also learn that Elektra was a member of the organization and that Matt was being trained to join. The group does not see eye to eye and lots of smaller conflicts ensue. It isn’t until each of them sees what the others are fighting for that they finally come together as a group.

The interactions between the four heroes were great to see. The fight between Luke and Danny highlighted Luke’s strength but also showed the power the Iron Fist can bring. Also, the ensuing meeting between Luke and Danny set up by Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Colleen Wing (Jennifer Henwick), as each tried to persuade the other to see the fight from their perspective, resulting in a farther divide between the two. The moments between the initial meeting between Matt and Jessica at the jail, where she shines as the loner who doesn’t need anyone’s help. And subsequently her following her mysterious lawyer around to see him perform impossible feats that a blind man should not be able to perform. We also get to experience the reunion between Luke and Jessica, Matt and Elektra, and Stick, Elektra, and Matt. The reunion between Matt, Elektra, and Stick was important as it showed that Elektra was the Black Sky as she executes Stick in front of Matt. Afterwards, Matt tries to humanize Elektra and give her glimpses of her past. The subsequent reunions between Matt and Elektra were pivotal to the series as they forever changed the Black Sky, but more on that later.

This is where the Defenders starts to go off the rails. After the various meetings between the Black Sky and Matt, Elektra is starting to remember her old life and is developing her own ambitions. She is constantly told by Alexandra that she is a weapon and her own fears about death and the nothingness she felt really starts to affect her. She decides that immortality is her best way to beat death and takes Alexandra’s words to heart. She kills Alexandra, assumes control of the Hand, and continues there mission to get the substance. This was more than disappointing as Weaver was shining as a villain at this point. Also, the shift seen in Elektra was not developed well and seemed sudden. She spent time revisiting her old life, which made it seem like she was going to rekindle her relationship with Matt. Elektra uses the Iron Fist to open the gate and take control of more substance. With the Iron Fist captured, the others must work together to save him. Matt and Jessica go to the architect’s house to learn what he knows about the building. There, they stumble on plans that involve collapsing the building above the gate. They decide their best option is to go through with this plan.

Matt, Jessica, and Luke respond to the building above the gate and begin there descent to the gate. Plenty of action sequences and some great fight scenes follow. The group makes it to the bottom floor to find that the gate is open and Danny passed out.  During the fight sequence we see Madam Gao and Murakami trying to get to the substance, which we learn is the bones of the great dragon, Chiantang . Matt knows Elektra is here and want to save her. He tells Danny and the rest of the group to leave as the building is starting to crumble. Danny, Jessica, and Luke escape. Matt and Elektra battle each other to exhaustion. In the final moments, we see an explosion, the building collapses, and we see rubble fall on Murakami, Matt, and Elektra.  And the last scene is Matt waking up in a convent. Again, in a series, Marvel leaves more questions than they answer. Where is Elektra and did she survive? Did Madam Gao survive? And did she get the substance?

The Defender series was entertaining but it is but no means the best Netflix and Marvel have produced. The characters that shine in their respective shows, shine here; and the characters that are lacking, are also lacking here. I was hoping that Danny would gain more depth and personality when paired with Cage, like the start of a possible “Heroes for Hire.” Unfortunately, that was not the case. Hopefully, the events in The Defenders will perpetuate that change, but I am not betting on it. Overall, if you are a fan of the Marvel Netflix series, than the Defenders will not disappoint.

-Roy

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