Defenders: A Review

defenders

As a fan of Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve had a hit and miss relationship with the four Netflix Original Series shows. On the one hand, Daredevil started off well, but got muddled in the second season. I liked aspects of Jessica Jones, but I don’t think I could watch it again because Kilgrave is a living nightmare and I didn’t feel like Jessica had any hope of moving forward by the end of the series. Luke Cage is okay, but the violence feels all too real considering current events. Iron Fist felt too derivative and mediocre.

Defenders, much like Avengers, is the story of how these four street-level heroes become a team in order to take down the Hand, an ancient criminal organization. Daredevil and Iron Fist have the most at stake, since they have dealt with the Hand in the past. However, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones still have their own character arcs as well, wanting to help the people in their neighborhoods whose lives are being affected by the Hand’s conspiracy.

The action in this series is top notch, from the signature hallway fight to the fight between Luke Cage and Iron Fist and every other brawl in between. And the overall story is solid. The members of the Hand all want to prolong their immortal lives, especially Alexandra (played by Sigourney Weaver). They resurrect Elektra to act as their enforcer.

Matt Murdock’s character arc centers on trying to live out a normal life as a lawyer while still having the desire to fight crime as Daredevil. He is the only one who actually needs to hide his secret identity, since his double life could cost him his job and all the cases he won. Elektra’s return brings back issues for Matt Murdock who’s still not over her. While I understand their relationship, it’s not what you would call a healthy one.

Danny Rand starts out as being a single-minded, immature man-child, wanting to take down the Hand at any cost. Through meeting the other Defenders, he learns that he doesn’t have to follow his duty alone. His scenes with Luke Cage are my favorite scenes in the series, which makes sense because they’re best friends in the comics. I only wished that there was a scene where they talked about their taste in music. They also fight well together, as evidence in the fight with Alexandra’s minions.

Luke Cage acts as the conscience of the team, not wanting innocent people to get hurt. He has a lot to live up to as the Hero of Harlem and while he doesn’t have a lot of personal stakes in the series, he’s smart enough to go along with everything, even when things don’t make sense. He is also the hero who captures one of the members of the Hand. He’s better at escaping an attempted kidnapping than Danny, sad to say.

Jessica has the least amount of character development, given that she has the least amount of personal stakes and connection with the Hand in this series. She’s still isolating herself, not taking on any clients except for someone who provides the MacGuffin. By the end of the series, Jessica finds the resolve to start working again. And while I like that Jessica and Luke got some closure in terms of their relationship, I still ship them so hard that I wanted them to have at least one “ship tease” moment. Since Luke is still in a happy relationship with Claire, my Jessica/Luke ship is not gonna be sailing off anytime soon.

The major villains in Defenders are Alexandra and Madame Gao. The other three members of the Hand play second fiddle. Alexandra takes it upon herself to raise Elektra as the Black Sky, the Hand’s living weapon. Madame Gao is trying to keep the Hand from falling apart and proves to be a surprisingly good fighter. She’s also very intimidating, in spite of her age. Elektra, however, is the most complex villain in the series. Even though she is tasked with helping the Hand achieve their latest goal of gaining immortality and destroying New York City, she still has feelings for Matt. In the end, she chooses her own path, though where it will lead her and Matt is still unknown.

Overall, this series is worth watching, but I recommend not binge-watching everything at once. I don’t regret spending my weekend watching it, but watching the series one episode at a time helps to remember all the little things more. And thankfully, aside from one gratuitous sex scene, the violence is the only thing that makes this series MA. It’s a soft R rating overall. Watch it for the action and the character development. These guys are awesome.

 

Daredevil Month: Nelson V. Murdock

The episode opens up with Matt finally regaining consciousness after his last battle with Nobu. Foggy comes in, telling him that Claire patched him. He has a lot of questions, the first of which is “Are you even really blind?”

We flash back to Matt and Foggy’s college days. Foggy had long hair and a bro-beard like a hippie while Matt is your typical clean-shaven college boy. Foggy is keen on becoming Matt’s best friend right off the bat. They make a promise to keep no secrets.

Flashing forward, Foggy continues to lash at Matt, flashing him the middle finger. He’s seriously pissed that Matt kept his superpowers a secret. Matt tries to explain everything that’s going on, but Foggy’s too distraught. Karen calls and Foggy covers for him, but he asks Matt to tell him everything.

Fisk meets up with Madame Gao on the roof of a high rise building. They discuss Nobu’s unfortunate demise and the fact that the Masked Man is still at large. Nobu’s minions are waiting to make their next move. Madame Gao asks if his ambition will ever attack her, but Fisk tells her that he respects her. She starts speaking in English, telling him that the downside of being a Villain with Good Publicity is that Fisk is now torn between his two roles: the savior of the city or the oppressor of his crime ring. She tells him to choose wisely.

At the hospital, Ben Urich is visiting his wife, Doris. The two of them have a heartwarming discussion about whether or not he’s still the man he used to be. Doris’s memory lapses as Shirley walks in. The extension has ended.

Back in Matt’s apartment, Foggy looks at Matt’s black outfit and asks him about the costume and how he was able to fight. Of course, the backstory sounds like something out of a movie to Foggy. The superpowers freak Foggy out, especially the living lie detector thing.

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Flashing back to the salad days, Matt and Foggy are walking back, having fun after a night of drinking. Matt almost fesses up about his supersensory powers, but is able to cover it. He tells Foggy a little bit of his backstory. We also find out that Foggy’s real name was Franklin and that he learned Punjabi.

Urich looks at a brochure for a hospice when his boss comes in, asking why he’s handing out stories to other people. He gives Urich a job offer to work the metro branch and Urich considers it.

Karen comes back to the Nelson and Murdock offices and finds a box of Converse sneakers on her desk. The box is a gift for Karen: everything that Urich has on the Fisk consipracy. He tells Karen about how he has to take care of his wife. Karen tells him about a nursing home upstate.

Lesley, Wesley, and Fisk are suiting up at Fisk’s apartment and Fisk tells Lesley to placate Gao. Lesley berates Fisk about his new girlfriend but Fisk justifies it as part of change.

Foggy asks Matt if he ever killed anyone and Matt says he didn’t, but he wanted to.  Foggy asks him about why he’s working outside the law and Matt says that sometimes the law isn’t enough. We flash back to Matt and Foggy’s internship days. A panel of lawyers are interrogating an old sickly man about his breach of contract. Matt knows that the old man isn’t lying, but Foggy is still dreaming of working as an associate or partner at Landman and Zack. Matt wants to use the law to make a difference instead of being rich and fat. The two of them decide to quit their internship.

Karen and Urich are out on a drive and Karen learns how serious Doris’s condition is. Karen says that everyone has secrets they hold onto. They pull up to the nursing home and take a tour inside. Urich says he can’t afford the place.

Foggy asks Matt about how he went from being a blind kid to being a vigilante. Matt tells him about the first time he tries to save someone. He tried to report a child molestor, but nobody believed him. So Matt decided to take things into his own hands, beating up the man to a pulp, but leaving him alive. Foggy wonders if Matt’s just being pugilistic and Matt admits he doesn’t want to stop fighting.

Over in the nursing home, Karen leads Urich to the room of an old woman. They ask the woman about her life story. The woman turns out to be Fisk’s mother.

We cut to a gala where Fisk is giving a speech. He and Vanessa act like a pair of future politicians, schmoozing around. Fisk meets a Senator with a lot of connections. All of a sudden, the partygoers start collapsing to the floor, including Vanessa. And yes, I am actually fearing for her safety.

Foggy asks Matt if he’s thinking things through. Matt says that he’s doing what he does to make the city a better place. Foggy points out that it’s the same thing that Fisk is saying and that he wants his friend back. Foggy walks out.

In Josie’s bar, younger Matt and Foggy toast their leaving of the internship and Foggy creates a drawing of a sign for their future law offices. The bromance is real. Back in the law offices, Foggy looks at the sign that Karen had made and throws it away as he leaves the offices, resigning from his job.

Promotional images are copyright to Marvel Entertainment and Netflix and are used for editorial purposes only.

Daredevil Month: Into the Ring

I’ll admit that I’m only a casual fan of superheroes at best. I’m really picky about what I watch and I tend to prefer shows with female leads and good morals and lots of nerdy fun. Mostly, I love shows with really great writing that doesn’t stoop to soap opera levels. But given that everyone’s been talking about Daredevil, I figured I’d give it a watch.

So without further ado, the next few weeks will have posts of me looking at each individual episode of the Netflix-exclusive Daredevil series. Now I’m going into this with a casual knowledge of Daredevil as a whole. I didn’t see the movie that starred Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, but thankfully somebody critiqued it so that I don’t have to!

Now unlike my Firefly month, I won’t be analyzing the series for any sort of themes. I’m just going to critique the individual episodes, ending with an overall review on what I think of the characters and overall story.

The series starts out with “Into The Ring.”

The first scene that we see is a major car accident in New York City, where a young Matt Murdock goes completely blind from some radioactive chemicals that got into his eyes. The last thing he sees is his dad.

The next scene shows the grown-up Matt Murdock in a Confession talking about his dad and asking the priest, Fr. Lantom for forgiveness for something he’s about to do. As far as confessional scenes go, I feel like this one is at least decent. Fr. Lantom knows that he can’t forgive Matt for something he’s planning to do and he seems like a good and decent man.

What Matt seeks forgiveness for is his first outing as Daredevil, in which he saves some girls from a group of human traffickers. It’s hard to see the Daredevil outfit in this scene, but we see how Matt works as a hero. He strikes from the shadows and fights pretty brutally, but given the gritty tone of the show, it’s all good.

The next scene introduces Matt’s associate, Foggy Nelson, your typical defense attorney who isn’t above bribing cops. As slick as he is, he’s a good comic foil to the more straight-laced hero and he’s only bribing cops for information. The two of them check out an office space in Hell’s Kitchen where it’s implied that this takes place in the same universe as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Foggy establishes that he still wants to make a living while Matt wants to defend the innocent. Given that they’re defense lawyers, business is gonna be tricky.

Thankfully, the two of them find their first client in the form of Karen Page, who is framed for the murder of her coworker. It’s during the interrogation scene with Karen that we see a glimpse of Matt’s superpowers. His heightened sense of hearing lets him listen to Karen’s heartbeat, making him able to tell whether or not she is lying.

The next scene features two men at a park. One man is an enforcer, James Wesley, who approaches a middle-aged man named Mr. Farnum. The enforcer threatens to kill Mr. Farnum’s daughter if Farnum doesn’t cooperate with him.

Meanwhile, Matt and Foggy discuss what to do with Karen. Foggy thinks of making a deal while Matt wonders why the arrest isn’t all over the papers if it seems to cut-and-dry that she’s guilty. We soon find out what Mr. Farnum, a police officer, was asked to do: kill Karen in a way that makes it look like a suicide. But thankfully, Karen fights back and lives to see another day.  

Matt and Foggy take Karen back to their offices and talk to Karen about her old job. It turns out that Karen’s former place of employment, Union Allied, has been profiting from government contracts to rebuild the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Karen, a secretary, was emailed a file for her boss and accidentally opened it. It turned out that it was a file relating to some ill-gotten-gains. She figured it was some kind of Ponzi scheme, so after her boss laughed it off, she consulted a co-worker who worked in legal. Unfortunately, that led to both of them being drugged and Karen being framed for his murder.

Matt lets Karen stay in his place, a sparsely decorated place that has a view of a big advertising screen across the street. Karen changes shirts and I will forever thank the director and cinematographer for not making the scene as fanservice-y as it could’ve been. Karen asks Matt about his blindness. Matt then asks her about the file that Karen came across. Karen lies to him.

The next scene shows a high rise meeting with people I assume will be the villains for the series. There are two Russian brothers, a Chinese woman named Madame Gao, a Japanese man named Nobu, and Leland Owlsley, a financial expert. Wesley arrives as a representative of his employer, whom he doesn’t want to name. (Is he working for Voldemort?) The group discusses the vigilante that attacked at the docks. Wesley asks the Russian brothers to take care of the situation so that Union Allied can stay out of its current scandal. 

Karen sneaks out of Matt’s apartment and goes to pick up the file in an abandoned building. An assassin is there waiting for her. Thankfully, Daredevil comes to her rescue, dressed in black. In spite of the fact that it’s night time, the fight scene can be seen clearly, leading out the window into the pouring rain. Daredevil flashes back to his childhood, to a memory of his father. The flashback motivates Daredevil to get back up and keep fighting. The fight continues as we see further examples of Daredevil’s powers. I love that this is a more realistic version of a fight scene, with just the super hearing being shown in subtle ways, instead of the over-the-top effects we’ve gotten so used to.

Daredevil takes the assassin and the file to the press. Wesley recaps the cleanup to his employer. The employer tells Wesley to start a file on the lawyers. Karen makes lunch for Foggy and Matt and decides to work for them as their housekeeper in return for them helping her out. The episode ends with Matt going to a gym and working out on a punching bag, all while a montage of the villains at work are shown. The last shot we see is Daredevil standing on top of a building, hearing a boy being kidnapped by the two Russian brothers seen earlier.

My major issue with the episode is that I don’t really know who the villains are. Of course, the montage at the end shows that we will probably see these villains later on. I also like that the end of the episode leads into the next one. As someone unfamiliar with the world of Daredevil, I don’t really know who the mysterious employer is. And btw: NO SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS.

As far as first episodes go, this is a great start. I know the basics of the major characters and am curious to see where things go from here. Tune in tomorrow for my next recap!