Spoilers for the first season of The Defenders inbound!
So… I watched The Defenders. I had been looking forward to the show since the announcement was made, feverishly consuming the individual shows knowing that it was all leading up to this. My reaction: “Is that it?”. Now don’t get me wrong, the crossover series wasn’t awful it was just disappointing and failed to be the sum of its exceptional parts. Not as bad as Iron Fist but nowhere near the quality of the other shows, I dedicated last week’s article (which you can read here) to what I liked about The Defenders but now this week I can finally release my pent-up nerd frustration and explore what the Netflix Marvel series got wrong.
The concept of the Black Sky was first teased in an intriguing episode in Daredevil’s first season and since then the mythology has been expanded and become more convoluted than mysterious. So, what exactly is the Black Sky? Elektra is brought back to life with a blood bath and a handy memory wipe and suddenly she is the Black Sky? So, the Black Sky is just a legendary warrior/assassin The Hand can control? I mean, she’s hardly a great warrior because she loses more times than she wins; the first scene of the show is Iron Fist fighting her, punching her in the face and then she runs away. Hardly the best way to show off a fabled weapon like the Black Sky. Not long into the 8 episodes, Elektra starts to remember who she is and the narrative gets even worse when she kills Alexandra and starts to lead The Hand. Why she does this and why the remaining fingers of The Hand go along with it are never really explained and her story ends in a fight with Matt Murdock where he uses every trope in the book to try and win her over to the good guy’s side; he even throws some ‘Luke talking to Vader in Return of the Jedi’ dialogue in there for good measure. The series ends with her presumed dead and I hope she remains that way this time; buried beneath thirty stories of skyscraper isn’t deep enough.
Keeping the fate of K’un Lun ambiguous
The first season of Iron Fist concludes on a cliffhanger, revealing that K’un Lun has disappeared with the area surrounding the mythical place littered with corpses. The fate of K’un Lun is only referenced in the Defenders with The Hand being aware of what happened and even Elektra stating she had something to do with it, although that was probably just a tactic to get Danny to use the Iron Fist. The whole plot of The Defenders is about The Hand wanting ‘the substance’ which is only found in K’un Lun so if they took K’un Lun like we presume why didn’t they take it then? And if they didn’t have anything to do with what happened to K’un Lun then the show should have stated as much. It’s clear the writers just want to keep the mystery going until Iron Fist season 2 even if it made complete sense to reveal K’un Lun’s fate in The Defenders.
Killing the main villain part way through the season… again
Remember when Cottonmouth was killed 7 episodes in to Luke Cage? It was a great shock leading to a new focus on some other unexpected antagonists and changed the path the season was going in. Remember when Harold Meachum was killed 7 episodes into Iron Fist? Not as well received because he was hardly a great villain and swiftly returned from the dead but it had a certain amount of shock value and no doubt copied the Luke Cage twist. Now we get to The Defenders and lo and behold Alexandra is killed off partway through to try and incite some much-needed excitement but the whole thing falls flat. Sure, Alexandra was hardly an interesting character but it was just when she had the potential to become interesting that she was quickly dispatched and replaced by an even worse antagonist. The scene itself is massively telegraphed too; anytime a villain starts a speech about how good they and their plan are then you can guarantee they are going to drop dead before they get to finish. The villains in the show are lacklustre to say the least, only saved by the always great Madame Gao, even Murakami, who is introduced Tywin Lannister style, turns out to be dull and gets beaten up every episode when he is supposed to be a great warrior.
The whole city is in danger?
For The Defenders to come together and team up they need a reason. The series offers personal ones that work well like Luke trying to stop the Hand using kids from Harlem and Daredevil’s past with Elektra but the grand unifying reason of ‘saving the city’ is ridiculous. The end of the first episode concludes with an earthquake and Alexandra commenting the city, and many after it, will fall. This makes it sound like the destruction of New York is part of the plan when at the end we find out that the city is in danger because it is built on the bones of a Dragon that when disturbed will cause the city to literally fall and collapse. For a show set in the same continuity as the realistic first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones this is stupid. Also, if cutting up the bones to get ‘the substance’ (which I guess is bone marrow but is never explained) would destroy the city surely blowing up a huge heavy building and dropping it thousands of metres onto the skeleton would do the same. It’s an awful plot device to bring the team together in the cheapest way possible.
The use of the police
The police are handled incredibly poorly in The Defenders and by the end of the season the show had even turned me against Misty Knight who I loved in Luke Cage. First they are used to incite cheap conflict by arresting the team and not letting them go and rescue the captured Iron Fist. They refuse to believe them and the chief wants to find out what they are hiding but for some reason they still let all The Defenders’ friends and family hang out at the station because they are somehow in danger. This is a cheap way to have the side characters of the four standalone shows in the series and have them interact with one another. Misty doesn’t know whether to side with Luke or her fellow officers and so just argues with everyone before picking a side and then flip flopping a few times until her arm flies off and she has to go to hospital. At the end of the series the police just drop the whole investigation for some mystifying reason which enforces that apparently there are no consequences in these shows anymore. And let’s not forget that Colleen can walk around a police station carrying a samurai sword, wander into the unlocked evidence room, steal C4 explosive that was just sitting on the shelf and walk out without anybody noticing.
What didn’t you like about The Defenders? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and videogames on Twitter @kylebrrtt.