TV Review – “The Defenders”

Marvel’s latest Netflix series has been out for just over 48 hours. How does it hold up? Note: there is a scene after the credits of the final episode.

Cast and Crew Information

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock / Daredevil
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Finn Jones as Danny Rand / Iron Fist
Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing
Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra
Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios / Black Sky
Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple
Babs Olusanmokun as Sowande
Elden Henson as Franklin P. ‘Foggy’ Nelson
Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao
Simone Missick as Misty Knight
Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker
Yutaka Takeuchi as Murakami
Ramon Rodriguez as Bakuto
Eka Darville as Malcolm Ducasse
Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth
Peter McRobbie as Father Lantom
Rob Morgan as Turk Barrett
Stan Lee as a face on a bus stop in the background of an early street scene

Created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez.
Written by Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Lauren Schmidt, and Drew Goddard
Directed by S. J. Clarkson, Phil Abraham, Farren Blackburn, Uta Briesewitz, Félix Enriquez Alcalá, Peter Haor, and Stephen Surjik

Availability Information

Currently exclusive to Netflix, although their most popular titles find their way to home video 1-3 years after digital release.


The leader of the Hand has been given a terminal diagnosis, so she pushes forward into the war that Stick has been trying to prepare for. Only Matt, Jessica, Luke, and Danny are able to prevent the Hand from destroying the entirety of New York.

High Point

The end of episode three brings the four together in a way that actually makes sense, and is highly entertaining.

Low Point

I have yet to see makeup effects that make a missing hand actually look like a missing hand, and not a hand wrapped in cloth. This is surprising, given how effectively they can depict things like missing arms, which you’d think would be harder.

The Review

This is an original take on “The Defenders,” where by “original” I mean “not one of these four characters have ever been on the team in the source material.” They used the name of an entirely unrelated property, but the only team roster they were a part of was the New Avengers, and that’s not a name these characters will be comfortable using at this point in their character paths. Three of them appeared in the “Marvel Knights” anthology series before Jessica Jones had been created, but that was never a name for the team on the page. As for the story, it’s not a wholly original story, but is rather an appropriate culmination of the series that have fed into it thus far, but there are plenty of twists and surprises along the way. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are very well done, with the one exception in the Low Point. The street level characters don’t need something as extravagent as putting Robert Downey Jr.’s face in CGI armor, but some of the environments later in the series are not entirely physical. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story naturally brings the team together, which was my greatest concern coming in. The characters are well represented, with the formation of some of the relationships that are so well known in the source material. In fact, Iron Fist is so accurately represented in the Netflix shows he has the same problems he has in the comics, where he struggles to work as the lead character, but works extremely well as a part of an ensemble. As I said, there are also plenty of surprises to be had, while ending in a way that opens the door for a number of possible stories to adapt. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is great. In my opinion, this proves that the casting choices were all good ones, and the issues with the Iron Fist solo series were largely a result of rushed production schedules combined with the constraints of feeding into this miniseries, rather than the intrinsic talent of those involed. The chemistry between Luke and Danny feels genuine, which is important to this comic reader. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is great. We’ve already seen how well it can look in previous series. I am not qualified to judge martial arts action, but I can identify the way scenes are shot. The martial arts in the Iron Fist solo series were filmed with quick cuts abbreviating motion. Sometimes that’s a stylistic choice born from the North American technique of making the action feel faster by removing frames between cuts without fully undercranking the camera, and sometimes it’s a necessity to mask the fact that the performer’s martial arts skills are significantly less than those of the character portrayed. This has a lengthy sequence in episode three with a more Asian style of filmmaking, with long, continuous shots allowing you to see the performer’s motions from start to finish, which is a technique used when the performer is capable and worthy of some spotlight. In short, it seems that Finn Jones got his wish to spend a LOT more time learning to turn his undeniable athletic ability into martial arts skill between filming seasons, and that’s all on display here. That just kicks off the latest in a history of Marvel/Netflix impressive hallway fights while really bringing Luke and Danny together. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. That wasn’t just my reaction to seeing four characters I’ve enjoyed to varying degrees come together in this. My girlfriend usually finds 3-4 hours to be her limit for continuous TV/movie watching, and she was just as hooked as I was when we binge watched all 8 episodes on Friday. All she’s seen of these series so far was the first two episodes of “Daredevil,” which she watched less than a week before this release, so she had no particular attachment to most of this cast, and was just as hooked. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a culmination that feels like more than the sum of its parts. I may enjoy it less on repeat viewings when the “wow” factor depletes a bit, but as it stands, it’s the Marvel TV equivalent of the first “Avengers” film. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, The Defenders receives 40 out of 42.

4 replies on “TV Review – “The Defenders””

  1. I basically agree. This was hugely engaging, and I must express my sheer joy with seeing Jessica Jones and Karen Page on screen again.

    I think the most pleasing thing that I was also worried about going in was how well Iron Fist worked. He’s still awkward, out of his depth, very confused and far too preachy, but that’s the character – the portrayal and use of the character was far better, and Colleen got a decent look-in as well.

    That said, I don’t think I’d mind if he was never on my screen again. Iron Fist is just not a good character – in this context at least (I’ve got no familiarity with his comics appearances).

  2. I noticed that low point myself. It mostly shows as the abbreviated arm being too long. It may well be easier to hide an entire arm, too, since clothing helps there.

    That said, I think they could do much better with that, but choose not to in many cases as a budget saver. I can see how it would be especially difficult to get it “right” in extensive action sequences. Considering the relative screen time between the missing hand and the missing arm, and the different dynamics of that screen time, it makes sense they were able to do the latter better.

    On another note, I noticed they carefully avoided showing several characters actually dying, and given the scene just before the fade to credits, we can reasonably assume that at least a couple of them survived one way or another.

  3. The style for the music in the last episode’s big fight scene felt incredibly out of place.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed how well they meshed not just the characters, but the tones of their respective shows.

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