“The Defenders” is the type of superhero streaming that we’ve come to expect from Netflix’s live-action Marvel productions. Well worth the wait, the new show is every bit the event that Marvel fans hoped it could be.
The coming together of the streaming service’s four superhero shows — each with varying styles on how to be a hero — works in part because of how they focus on why such a get-together shouldn’t work at all.
But before Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) team up to defend New York City, the producers of the show divide the four into pairs.
Matt Murdock is still reeling from the pain of losing the woman he loved, Elektra (more on that later), and has left his Daredevil/vigilante days behind to focus on being the best lawyer possible. And who should end up needing a good, affordable attorney? Jessica Jones. (Jones is on the bad side of Misty Knight, played by Simone Missick. Could Misty have a future as a Defender, too?)
Murdock and Jones butt heads from the start as they realize they’re both investigating something that connects to an evil scheme too big for the both of them.
That something is Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, who may be the biggest surprise of “The Defenders.” She’s a compelling villain with a mysterious past that borders on the unbelievable — we can’t say more than that without giving too much away.
Also on Alexandra’s trail is Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, who realizes that she is connected to some of his father’s company’s previous shady financial dealings. Some of the grunt work of those deals is handled by young men in Harlem, which puts Luke Cage into the path of the Iron Fist. Literally: The two come to blows before Cage gets a chi-glowing fist to the jaw.
The Luke Cage/Iron Fist combo is where “The Defenders” gets a lot of its early magic. Although common knowledge to the hardcore comic-book fan, but perhaps not the casual viewer, Cage and Rand are one of Marvel’s most classic, popular comic-book duos.
Although their bromance starts off rocky, they begin to let their guard down and not pulverize each other, and become an on-screen duo fueled by geeky comic-book chi. It’s a treat to watch.
You’re probably wondering how well Iron Fist fits in on this new show, because his namesake series was the first Marvel Entertainment product in some time to receive less-than-positive reviews from critics and fans. But this isn’t “Iron Fist.” It’s “The Defenders.” When Rand is teamed up with Cage, the moments feel as cool as they were intended to be — and Rand has a much better haircut this time around. (If the Netflix/gentrified Iron Fist still just wasn’t your thing, you’ll at least enjoy Cage checking Rand on his privilege.)
Elsewhere, Elektra (Elodie Yung) is back from the dead (yes, you’ll see how) and serves as the last line of defense between the Defenders and Alexandra. This resurrection leads Daredevil to wonder whether Elektra has lost her soul, and results in some cool Elektra vs. Iron Fist action when she engages against the group.
The episodes hit a new pace when Daredevil and Elektra’s blind, martial arts mentor Stick (Scott Glenn) arrives. Daredevil wants no part of Stick’s involvement, but Stick is multiple steps ahead of the team when it comes to understanding just what type of threat they’re facing.
And so it seems Marvel’s connected Netflix universe is back on track with no apparent “Fist” hangover. The biggest question going into this street-level hero team-up was how four shows with such different vibes would come together as one. The best part of “The Defenders”? Watching how they make that happen.