Very few television programs, if any, can claim to be four shows in the making. However, that’s exactly what Netflix and Marvel set out to accomplish when they first released Daredevil in 2015. Two years later, this goal has been actualized, but does The Defenders actually deliver?
The first episode of The Defenders felt more like an epilogue to the preceding individual shows, rather than an introduction on its own. I think at this point, Marvel just assumes that everyone has seen their other series. I’d say it’s a pretty safe assumption to make.
Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist
The episode starts off with Danny Rand’s story arc, a continuation of the most recent solo Marvel series, Iron Fist. While one may have doubts about kicking off The Defenders with the weakest link (read my negative review of Iron Fist here), it makes sense because Danny has the strongest connection to The Hand. Since we last saw Danny, he’s been plagued by the guilt of having left K’un L’un undefended and vulnerable. This is an internal struggle that I felt was rather lacking in his own show, where he came across as entitled and self-centered. Hopefully, this is a turning point for the character, and will bring about more depth in Iron Fist Season Two.
The next Defender we’re reunited with is Jessica Jones. Drinking heavily and trying to keep to herself, she’s no doubt still attempting to move forward from her past. Her showdown with Kilgrave has given her a reputation, so despite her attempts at isolation, she somehow finds herself involved in a new case. Meanwhile, her confidant and childhood friend, Trish, tries to convince Jessica that she’s a hero and should lean into that role. Jessica, however, still isn’t ready to embrace the ‘H word.’ By the way, you haven’t seen Jessica Jones yet, watch it immediately. It’s by far the strongest show of the four. You can check out my review of the first episode of Jessica Jones here.
We catch up with Luke as he’s leaving prison. This time after having served his full sentence, and also to applause from the other inmates as he walks out. This is in stark contrast to his first prison stint, in which he was wrongfully sentenced, met with violence from prison guards, as well as contempt from other inmates for his former job as a cop. The audience also discovers that Foggy, now on Hogarth’s payroll, is Luke’s lawyer. Luke tells Foggy that he’s “moving forward,” which is a reference to Pop’s mantra from the Luke Cage series.
I’m curious about the overall timeline of this show relative to its predecessors. Luke mentions that Claire’s letters got him through tough times in prison, so it’s assumed that he’s been there for a good length of time.
Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil
Matt Murdock has been working alone ever since he parted ways with Karen and Foggy. Foggy, as previously mentioned, is now working for Hogarth while Karen is working as a reporter. Matt is in court representing a paralyzed boy who lost use of his legs due to dangerous chemicals. Matt obviously takes this case to heart because of his own background, having been permanently injured by a chemical accident when he was young too. The scene where Matt explains to the boy what life will be like from that point on, is powerful and demonstrates the good Matt can do even without putting on red tights. Despite that, it’s still clear that Matt wants to put on his gear and go back to fighting crime, as much as he tries to deny it. On top of all this, Matt is still reeling from the loss of Elektra.
Matt can literally hear all of the pain and suffering happening around him, so it’s taking every ounce of self-control to not return to vigilantism. The way he’s become separated from those he loves, and also the way he and his former colleagues refer to Daredevil, it’s rather reminiscent of someone who is getting over an addiction.
Closing Thoughts on The Defenders Episode One
It was interesting to see our protagonists being “heroes” outside of beating up “bad guys.” Matt doing pro bono work, Jessica taking on a case to reunite a family, and Luke trying to mentor a troubled young man in his community. Danny is the only one playing hero, but it makes sense in his case because he spent his whole first season already dealing with identity crisis.
I really appreciated the stylistic differences in filming throughout this episode. Each of the four Defenders came from very different shows, so it was interesting to see these elements mix. The colder colors and blues in the neo-noir Jessica Jones contrasted nicely with the warmer, throwback colors of Luke Cage. The music varied between the separate scenes as well, signifying a switch in perspective.
I don’t know how I feel about Alexandra (Signourney Weaver) yet. We know so far that she is someone with means, criminal ties, and a stone cold robotic ability to talk about her mortality without even batting an eye. Also what struck me was how Madame Gao speaks to her; almost with deference. This is the most audiences have ever seen Gao speak, and she almost seems to fear Alexandra. This is confirmed by the fact that Gao and the “others” are willing to change their arrangements for her.
I’m very interested to see how the rest of this show develops. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.
- I got chills during the intro credits. These minimalist intros that are popular in television today are so well done. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all had similar intro credits. Outside of Netflix and Marvel, this seems to be the general trend with other shows as well (see Hannibal, The Leftovers).
- The interaction between Foggy and Luke in the prison was great. When Foggy says, “People call me Foggy,” and Luke immediately comes back with “And you let them?” Instant classic.
- Claire and Luke got “coffee” again.
- Honorary mention to Matt Murdock for his Arthur-clenched-fist moment.