‘The Defenders’ (Season 1): Team Dynamics Worth Waiting For

Last Appearance Daredevil

I distinctly remember being in an evening college class surfing the internet when news first broke that Disney was shopping an entire package of series based on Marvel characters to several networks. The goal was 65 episodes of television, with four solo series building up to an Avengers-styled crossover season. Following several years of development, a deal with Netflix, and an extra season for one of those characters, the day has finally come: The Defenders have united to protect New York.

My excitement for The Defenders was sky-high, and no amount of terrible Iron Fist solo series could deter my excitement at seeing Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and their supporting casts come together. And much like their big-screen counterparts, the sheer fun and spectacle of it all makes for a fun, fast eight-episode season. Also like Avengers, though, the basic and straightforward storyline doesn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Really, the biggest issue with this team-up series is that the plot never becomes all that enthralling. Just as they were on Daredevil and Iron Fist, the Hand never becomes a truly gripping threat. Make no mistake, Sigourney Weaver does fantastic work as the group’s head Alexandra, but their motivations and exact goals remain as murky as ever. We finally learn what’s in that hole at Midland Circle, but it never really seems like the city-ending threat it’s claimed to be. The story is ultimately serviceable enough, though, and it does do a good job of bringing elements from past shows together in new and interesting ways.

Beyond that, the show hinges a lot of its importance and weight on Danny Rand, and he’s only slightly more likable here than he was in his solo series. A major highlight, though, is that there seems to be some self-awareness about just how terrible the Iron Fist is; our other heroes are constantly making jokes at his expense or giving him a much-needed talking to. And though there’s still plenty of room to evolve, it’s clear by the end that Danny has grown somewhat from his interactions with the other Defenders.

That joking rapport that the team develops, however, is ultimately the main draw of these series. It’s possible it won’t hold up as well on multiple viewings, but all of the great interactions between the characters – from Matt using Jessica’s scarf to cover his face to seeing Danny ineffectually try and beat on Luke – make for great laughs. It’s comic-book moments come to life, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Everyone has their role, from Luke as the sensible voice of reason to Jessica as the no-nonsense wisecracker. And supporting characters also get their time to shine, from Misty Knight helping provide protection to the varied loved ones to Claire Temple getting her long-overdue opportunity to help bring these various superpowered individuals together. The show’s plot may not be riveting, but it thrills in the moment-to-moment action.

If this is the only team-up of these characters we ever see in such a major way, it would truly be a shame. Sure, we’ll likely see more crossover in solo shows along the ways, but it would be great to bring everyone together again down the line, possibly in a bit of fair turnabout when Jessica uncovers more about the genetic experimentation that gave her and Luke their powers. In the meantime, I’m glad to have the miniseries I first excitedly learned about in college a reality, and I’m excited to see what Netflix’s corner of the MCU gives us next.