Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Mixed opinions on the Marvel/Netflix series The Defenders, the first major crossover event joining together their previous series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Spoilers follow.
– Your mileage may vary, but I adored the multichromatic production design, which saw the individual heroes’ and villain’s scenes playing out in shades of red, yellow, blue, green, and white. I particularly enjoyed the way that this design would herald the ways that characters began to cross paths–a noticeably red door in a Jessica Jones scene through which Matt Murdock will first enter, for example.
– Speaking of Murdock and Jones, it was a breath of fresh air to see Matt behave like a committed attorney again, instead of a vigilante who is so beat up and exhausted that he can’t make it to court; and to watch Jessica do genuine detective work between pulls of whiskey. These get more or less dropped as the major crisis takes hold–with slight nods to their talents throughout–but for a few episodes, it’s important to see them as people with jobs, not just as superheroes.
– I found I enjoyed the completed mythology of The Hand as a group of five people so personally terrified of death that they created a world-spanning shadow organization solely to keep themselves from ever experiencing mortality. The plans and tools that they used to achieve this aim were less impressive, but otherwise made sense for their motivations.
– There were such tiny flickers of intelligence and awareness in Danny Rand that I thought maybe, for a second, he might be salvageable. But by series’ end, he remains Dumb as Hell, especially the moment in which he deduces that his magical gift is what opens the locked door, and then proceeds to fight Elektra right next to said door with said magical gift fully activated. There is only so much mileage you can get out of a guy who can’t stop proclaiming that he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, and by the time Colleen Wing is complaining to Claire Temple about how Danny is still a lost little boy you get the impression that everybody’s just throwing up their hands on what to do with the property they committed to adapting.
– The fights seemed better, at least. The face-off between Danny and Luke was enjoyably one-sided, the fight between Danny and Matt particularly dynamic. But nobody’s going to walk away from The Defenders believing that Iron Fist is the MCU’s foremost martial artist. I suspect that Agent May, for one, would wipe the floor with him, chi or no chi.
– I enjoyed Scott Glenn as Stick but I’m okay with having the character finally meet his end. He’d long since stopped being trustworthy, and being killed by his former student, right before making a typically brutal and pragmatic decision to execute Danny felt like a fitting die-by-the-sword ending.
– It’s not as bad as replacing Cottonmouth with Diamondback, but Elektra taking over as leader of the Hand from Alexandra fails to deliver on its promise only because it’s given such little time in the arc as a whole. And I’m not sure the series earns Alexandra’s death in the way that it plays out.
– I’m really confused about some teasers I saw: Were we or were we not expecting a brief appearance by The Punisher in this series?
– There are a handful of times that Murakami’s Japanese subtitles didn’t kick in, and I couldn’t tell at first if it was a production glitch or a dramatic effect. That said, I genuinely enjoyed that all five of The Hand understood each other and spoke freely in their chosen languages without missing a beat. It made me rather wish that they’d committed to it further, and shown us a sequence in which the five of them were all speaking something besides English. I would watch a two-hour movie or some other media that gave us the history of these five, who were in many ways a more interesting family than the one The Defenders resisted forming.
– It’s a bold decision to end the series with one of the most iconic panels of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Born Again, but I’m not sure it’s as easily translated between the two stories. Matt awakening in Sister Maggie’s convent after having his life pulled apart, his sanity wrecked, and being nearly murdered by his greatest enemy is a moment of great catharsis in Born Again. I’m not sure that finally reaching the goodness in Elektra’s soul and having a building fall on them is quite the same thing.
– I ended up so frustrated with the way Karen and Foggy continued to treat Matt’s heroism as an addiction he couldn’t kick, even in the face of a crisis that required somebody with his abilities. Trish, Colleen, Claire, and Misty all had concerns about their friends, but few of them judged them as harshly. And it’s hard for me to gauge that their time spent together in protective custody helped anybody else gain a better understanding of the world they’re on the periphery of.
– It was great to see Claire go toe-to-toe with Budokai. I was sad that we didn’t get to see the claws she grabbed from Colleen’s dojo at the end of Iron Fist.
– Overall: I enjoyed it. It didn’t disappoint me quite like Iron Fist or the second season of Daredevil, and for as much as we get of her, Sigourney Weaver makes as interesting a single-minded villain as either Wilson Fisk or Kilgrave. There are some enjoyable moments and some annoying ones, which I’ve come to expect from any Marvel Netflix show. My hope is that now that they’ve built to this series and removed The Hand as an overarching enemy, they each have room to explore their own stories further again. I want to see Luke Cage going back up against Mariah and Shades, and Jessica Jones getting in too deep with a case she’s not ready for. and Daredevil fighting garden variety, old-school mob crime more than I want the next team-up series.
– And I can still live the rest of my life happily if I never again hear the words “I’m the immortal Iron Fist.”