Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Squawk Box: The Defenders

Though I'm closing in on the end of my grand, epic and sprawling Star Trek Cycle, I still had to take a mild detour last month to check out The Defenders, Marvel's culmination to the first rounds of their Netflix universe and after some deliberation, I'm going to officially say that The Defenders was more than worth the wait.

First off, I think eight episodes was the perfect length for this- show? Miniseries? Whatever you want to call it. I think longer than eight episodes and it would have dragged on and shorter than eight episodes it would have felt rushed, so kudos right off the bat for finding the perfect balance between the two. It didn't drag on and on and on (like the middle of the First Season of Iron Fist) and nor did it feel especially rushed or have strange pivots midstream (like the second season of Daredevil).

So what goes down, plot-wise? Well, Danny Rand and Colleen Wing are chasing down agents of The Hand in Cambodia and get told that the war they are fighting is actually going down in New York City, so they head home. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) has hung up the red suit and is grinding out a living as a pro bono lawyer. (Foggy is still working with Jeri Hogarth and Karen is still a reporter.) Luke Cage is returning home to Harlem after serving his time in prison, where Claire Temple is waiting to welcome him home and Jessica Jones gets pulled into a case involving a missing husband after an anonymous caller attempts to warn her off the case.

Meantime, the mysterious Alexandra (the amazing Sigourney Weaver) is told that she's dying, so tells her fellow Hand members (turns out they are 'Fingers' and there are five of them) that they need to advance their plans, together with the resurrected Elektria Natchios, who they think is the 'Black Sky' (though what that means isn't... exactly clear?). When an earthquake ripples through New York, all our heroes know that something big is going down and gradually come together to figure it out and then have one final showdown with the hand that ends the first chapter of the saga of all of these heroes and sends them off to presumably new and interesting places for the next seasons of their respective shows.

Going into this, I was half-convinced that Sigourney Weaver was going to turn out to be Danny Rand's Mom, back from the dead and all Hand-like, but it was almost a pleasant surprise to find out that she wasn't- she was just the Big Middle Finger of The Hand who was looking to cheat death once again, so they could keep on keepin' on with their goal of eventually making it back to Kun'lun.

Speaking of Kun'Lun and the Immortal Iron Fist: Danny Rand is far less annoying in The Defenders than he was in his own damn show. Having other heroes with abilities to puncture his ego now and again makes him a far, far more likable character, despite the occasional reversion to his annoying, whiny entitled Iron Fist persona. I'm assuming they're going to eventually get to a 'Power Man and Iron Fist' combination show and I cannot wait for that- Luke and Danny go well together and I think Danny will certainly learn some humility from Luke Cage, that's for sure.

I'm not an expert on martial arts, but I've seen some criticism that Danny Rand just isn't up to snuff as Iron Fist- he's supposed to be the martial arts master of the Marvel Universe and he just doesn't feel like it yet... Daredevil looks better than he does- but I also feel like he could get there- if that makes sense? There's a lot about both Iron Fist and now The Defenders that makes me wonder if Danny Rand has some more personal growth /destiny to fulfill in subsequent chapters of this show. Plus: for people that are trying to get back to Kun'lun, the Hand seems awfully hellbent on getting back there, despite the gigantic crater we saw at the end of Iron Fist Season 1. So...  that's mysterious.

By the end of this, they're all in very different places. Jessica Jones is ready to be a private detective again and opens herself back up for business. Luke Cage is back in Harlem and Misty Knight is down an arm and read for (what I'm guessing) will be something bionic and entirely kick-ass, as she fully deserves. Daredevil seems to have left the broadest hint to what's next for him, as all signs point to something based on this and Danny Rand is back being Danny Rand- I guess? (Colleen Wing remains awesome and needs more to do.)

Overall: This was a very satisfying culmination to the grand plan that Marvel and Netflix have been building up for a couple of years now. These heroes have chemistry together and I dig it. (Plus, Madame Gao remains probably my favorite Marvel villain of their television/movie universes and Scott Glenn is a certified bad ass and Sigourney Weaver remains awesome and amazing in just about anything she does.) **** out of *****

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