This past Friday, fans of Marvel’s Netflix series were treated to an event two years in the making—Marvel’s The Defenders was finally released. In April 2015, Marvel’s Daredevil dropped on Netflix and the show became a runaway hit. Not only did Daredevil garner a second season, but Netflix created an entire universe of second-tier, New York based heroes (although a good case can be made for Daredevil being a top-tier superhero). After Daredevil aired, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all received their own series—giving fans an insight into not only their origins but a solid foundation of who they are and the people around them. Even with the mixed reviews of Netflix’s last Marvel series, Iron Fist, audiences were brought back full circle into The Hand storyline, which started everything off in Season 1 of Daredevil.
Marvel’s The Defenders brings together all of New York’s Netflix finest (the aforementioned Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) to unite against the forces of darkness. The Hand is now ready to bring New York to its knees, finally conjuring the Black Sky, and only these four super friends can stop them. The series doesn’t disappoint. After much anticipation, The Defenders delivers—being the action-packed, highly entertaining Marvel team-up fans dreamed it could be when the series was first announced.
So, what made The Defenders work?
First, it is the successful culmination of all four series synergizing into one. Following Marvel’s cinematic formula, getting to intimately know all four heroes in their own series before The Defenders was essential. Each character had their own lives, their own villains, and their own personal struggles audiences could connect to. Much like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America all had their own solo films before Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all set up their own worlds, giving us an intimate character study before clumping them together in a team-up series.
Second, The Defenders was only eight episodes in length. All individual series ran thirteen episodes. One would think a series that houses all four heroes would have at least thirteen episodes, yet, when The Defenders plays out over its eight episodes, the tightness of its pace doesn’t warrant anything further. In fact, at times during a number of Marvel’s stand-alone Netflix series, there has been a slightly bogged down feel over the thirteen episode run. Here, The Defenders comes out of the gate hard and fast, and only relinquishes its hold a few moments throughout, usually with some plot heavy and less frenetic character backstory.
Thirdly and most surprising, The Hand hasn’t out worn its welcome fighting our heroes for the heart of New York City. The addition of Sigourney Weaver keeps the story fresh, as well as the crescendo of The Hand storyline. Madame Gao is entertaining as always, being the only member of The Hand to have lasted from Daredevil Season 1 to The Defenders.
Finally, the chemistry between the cast is terrific and what fans of these Netflix series had dreamed it could be. The differing personalities clashing and coming together furthers the show’s enjoyment, especially during the dinner scene at a local Chinese restaurant. One of the most pleasurable exchanges is between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. This is a clear homage to their successful comic book run in the 1970’s—Power Man and Iron Fist. And it works, setting up possible team-ups between the two in the future.
While The Defenders is a strong series, there are a few issues. One of the most cringe worthy parts comes from ‘the stump.’ A character (who will remain nameless should you not have seen the series) has his/her hand cut off, and only a stump remains. However, as the series moves forward, the stump appears to be the same length as the hand that was not chopped off. Further, the stump actually changes in length in a number of sequences, and looks extremely awkward—appearing more like a poor man’s Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back than an A-list television series.
As well, there are also a number of slow plot segments, which border on the boring side. This mainly has to do with The Hand and Elektra. However, these drawbacks never detract from the overall series. On the whole, The Defenders delivers as both a culmination of all Netflix Marvel series and as an enjoyable series on its own merit.
So, with The Defenders complete, where will Netflix go from here?
Well, The Punisher is scheduled to be released in 2017. Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, played a major part in Daredevil Season 2. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all have been greenlit for second seasons. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen will be getting a third season. As for The Defenders, no word has been given yet on future episodes. But perhaps after the next seasons of the other shows, it might be high time for the band to get back together.
However, moving forward for Marvel’s Netflix series, there needs to be a shake-up with their villains. As The Defenders was the culmination of The Hand’s influence on New York City ever since Daredevil Season 1, it would be in each series’ best interest to bring about a new evildoer.
It is clear that Marvel and Netflix have created something special with these series. Whether that continues in the long term remains to be seen, as Disney wants to create their own online streaming service. But for now, fans of Marvel’s Netflix shows can be rest assured—more seasons are on the way and if Marvel’s The Defenders is any indication, they will be worth watching.