Daredevil season 1 and 2, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, all lead up this cross over small screen event. So how was it? Well its a bit of a mixed bag. Lets start with the pros, and I think there are maybe equal pros and cons here. To start, this show lives and dies on these four characters, and these characters are the reason we watch their individual series, and why now, we’ve watched this crossover. Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, is still clear and away the best of these characters, both in Cox’s portrayal of him and the material he his given to work with. He also is saddled with the best supporting cast, and their acting is always on display when they are on screen with other characters. These characters however do all allow for one of the other biggest pros of the series, and thats being able to see the way all the side and main characters overlap, which plots a real nice web across all of the shows. That overlap does give a feeling of accomplishment also for seeing all the series and knowing all the players.
There are also some notable inclusions to cast here, with the likes of Sigourney Weaver who comes on to play the role of the main antagonist for the defenders series. She is definitely good here, and her character has and serves a very definite and distinctive arch, but it also feels very much like an extended cameo, than it does a fully fleshed out character that lived in that world. There is also some solid action set pieces here, and when they are done well, they are executed very well, and allow the characters to flex their muscles. It also has to be said, that an 8 episode run is a much better formula (only the Daredevils seasons in my opinion benefit from 13 episodes, all the others to some degree get hurt from the longer 13 episode run). 8 episodes allows for a much more focused storyline, and even though we have all these characters, and so much to connect, if this were 13 episodes I can’t help but think that in trying to add 5 more hours we would lose a lot of the momentum this show has.
There are however, some negatives here. The first to put it plainly, is the Iron Fist character. Now I’m not talking about the actor here, because while he does add to the portrayal, he is also restricted by the way the character is written, and I think that writing is the real issue here. His character always seems like he’s not in the same world as these other characters, and his character always seems at odds with the others, but in from a character stand point. The main storyline of the series also leans on his character and his methodology heavily, and that means he has a big role here, and when he’s charged with leading the line its just not as good as with the others. There are some other characters also who, while not bad, just aren’t given enough to do to truly be memorable and make a lasting impression on this defenders universe. While like I said earlier there are some great action set pieces here, there are also some sloppy ones. Sloppy not just in their choreography and acting, but also in there setting, use of the characters, and a lack of imagination.
One of the biggest issues however, and seemingly one of the easier problems to fix, is the budget. So I can’t really find a budget for the defenders, I know the individual series come in around the 40 million per season budget, but whatever the budget is for this series, its either not enough, or its going in all the wrong places. There were so many times during episodes, where I would have to wonder to myself if certain plot points and plot devices were done solely out of a lack of funds and a need to make things as cheap as possible. Wether it would be a lack of fire power from certain villains, to a lack of set diversity, there were so many points where I felt like money had to be an issue. Now I don’t know if something like the lack of certain things from Iron Fist are from a budget point of view, or a writing point of view (de-powering his character to make him fit this universe better), but it definitely comes off as more of an issue than really making his character fit better. Even something as simple as the ending, when the door is unlocked, I was expecting and hoping for something to visually illustrate the difference more than just a dragon skeleton. All of those things just wreak of a small budget to me, and thats something that I in this day and age, with whats meant to be event television like this, just think shouldn’t be such an issue. And like I said before, I don’t know if the issue was a lack of funds, of a misuse of them, but either way I think that was one of the biggest issues this show had to overcome.
All in all, I think while The Defenders is a mixed bag, I definitely think its worth watching for a few reasons. If you’ve already invested in the other series that lead up to this, you kind of have to watch it, even if for closure, but mostly because one of the things it does best, is line up the future storylines of those individual shows when they each return in future seasons. Its also an easier investment being only 8 episodes, and its a good binge if you need one. (And no their not going to re-cast Iron Fist or anything like that so just either don’t watch his show or don’t watch this if you really can’t stand him, but who knows, maybe one day instead of Iron Fist and Luke Cage series we will get a Heroes for Hire series featuring a bionic arm Misty Knight?!)