The Link-Up Spell: Disassembling The Defenders, the first Marvel’s crossover on Netflix

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We chat a little about The Defenders, the first crossover of the Marvel’s venture on Netflix in this gluten-free and spoiler-lacking review!

The incursion of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) on Netflix, the infamous Video-On-Demand service, was well received when they released the first season of Daredevil, the red-clad blind vigilante that walks at night in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, fighting crime.

The show proved that a grittier and, I dare to say, “realistic” stage could work in a Marvel production to cement a different image than those provided at the Disney financed film blockbusters. In fact, Daredevil was created for a more adult audience, so the subsequent series followed that trend.

Next to the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen”, the MCU on Netflix started to develop new stories and settings in New York City, after the first Avengers situation. Due to the success of the first experiment, we welcomed the alcoholic detective Jessica Jones, another season of Daredevil, the honest ex-convict of Harlem Luke Cage and the legendary Iron Fist came along gaining a good fan base and collecting a good critic consensus.

In each series, the writing teams paid homage to the comics with reimagining’s of story lines or subtle Easter Eggs and nods, but the product was independent to the convoluted comic books counterpart. At the same time, the and narrative motifs on these characters was different than the recurrent explosive super-hero tropes from the films and, while they co-exist in the same time and space, the Netflix series could be watched without having to search for the Marvel movies. In result, these four super heroes’ stories had the priority of being a drama, instead of relying on the fantastical elements of genre.

I enjoyed the five seasons prior to The Defenders, I admit, even Iron Fist, that was bashed continuously by the critics, so, I expected a lot from the highly awaited reunion from these four super-heroes to unite in the screen and see what happened when their own worlds collide. At this moment, I truly recommend that, if you really want to tackle this mini-series, you should watch the independent stories of each character to get a couple of facts and understand what happens in here.

They are truly disfunctional as a team, and Jessica always reminds them they suck <3

Surprisingly, with only eight episodes, the writing pace goes forth and back, with some episodes that just rushes adrenalines to others where the action develops very slowly. This is both a good and a bad treat that can only be analyzed through this: The Defenders is a crossover that tries to appeal to everyone, some sort of jack-o’-all-trades of comic books adaptations, but it is stuck at the middle.

On result, the show makes some good work to show what happened with each character in the beginning, but the slow start could be a drawback for many, especially to comic book readers, who are used to a different narrative pace.

The Defenders needs patience and needs understanding. The start seems stitched and put together in a way that could be overwhelming. After all, Marvel had to juggle five different plots, with five different locations and five different concepts at the same time. For many, this could become a hard issue, but the styles for each series was so different that I know the writers had to make these quick transitions between each one to later glue the narration together without giving preponderance to one or another. Keeping the idiosyncratic visual language for each source was, to me, a salvage point for the good, but very slow, start.

It is at chapter three that the four heroes coincide and where the show starts to get its own identity, and this reunion became one of my favorite moments on the product thanks for the good writing of each character. What stood out on the Netflix super hero stories was that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and, even, Iron Fist had a different and more humane character development, compared to the Captain America or Iron-Man from the films. The situations and villains they had to confront were not only external, but also internal, and that flawed personalities of each one put them in constant dangers that were believable and endowed them a likeable and charismatic presence.

The best “hallway fight” since Daredevil’s first season!

At this time, The Defenders shines when these characters are starting to understand what their powers and personalities do and how they change their environment with them, but this reunion is also a train crash, because the individuals have extreme opposite views about how they see their own worlds.

From the story stand-point, the narration begins one month later from the events of Iron Fist. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) renounced to be Daredevil due the loss of a loved one and continues his work as a lawyer; Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) does not want to attend more private investigation gigs; Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is out of the prison, again; and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is chasing his enemies to fulfill his duty as the Iron Fist.

According to this, I thought that Danny was the tie that bound the almost broken team, and a character that got better with this team. The members of The Defenders does not want to play together, these are damaged people that had to face terrible moments on their lives and changed their persona. But, Iron Fist in this moment, felt like a character that is generally advancing on the plot and it is more reluctant to work together, even when he is still a spoiled child that does not think before acting, compared on what he showed on his first appearance.

All the responses towards this sudden urge to cooperate for the sake of chasing the dragon are varied and accord to the personalities of each hero. These little quirks and traits to the four of them is what makes the characters more believable and charismatic, I suppose. At every Danny Rand’s optimistic thought, there is a dramatic response from Matt, a complaint from Luke or a sardonic comment from Jessica.

In The Defenders this comes with a flaw. The narrative of these shows were constructed so the watcher connects in some way to the protagonists, but in the crossover, the development of their psychology is mostly stuck and when the mini-series ends, they all return to their former homes and lives. In some parts, there are even supporting characters that were more affected from the story than the main cast.

The millenary ninja cult group, The Hand, returns to New York City and is the main threat, once again. Featured prominently on Daredevil and Iron Fist, the viewer can finally see what is behind the secret of the villains, their leaders and what they motivate them to be evil. Lead by Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), the personal stories of each representation of The Hand is finally unveiled after all the secrecy.

Iron Fist is, perhaps, the spotlight of the series (And he is improving, give him a chance!).

Mrs. Weaver does an outstanding job acting as the ruthless leader of The Hand. His presence is imposing, even when she is somewhat vulnerable. The “Queen of Sci-Fi” is elegant, but still have a mortal side that is explored within the series, but it is a shame the writing did not made her develop like it should, since the character was very rich and could become a second Wilson Fisk (Portrayed excellently by Vincent D’Onofrio) or a second Kilgrave (my favorite villain, acted by David Tennant). On the other hand, I found that Elektra (Elodie Young) and Stick (Scott Glenn) are marvelous, too, at their own way.

Sadly, the same could not be said of the local grunts of The Hand. In the second season of Daredevil the ninjas posed a real threat to Murdock, but on The Defenders they are easily dispatched and becomes more of a huge mass of running guys that are there for being constantly punched. The leaders still pose a better danger for the four band, but all the suspense was relegated from the villains in some parts. In fact, the city as a whole is never in danger, except for a couple of earthquakes, because all the peril is happening and the heroes resolve it secretly.

Following this topic, the fight scenes are superb, as usual. I think Marvel’s series on Netflix, mostly on Daredevil, have the best choreographies I have enjoyed on TV, so far. In The Defenders, each one displays their own style, adding their individual flair to the heat of battle. Most of the series is shot on interiors, so the directors had to work in the limitations of closed spaces, still doing a good job filming the action, of course.

On the other technical side, sound department was another cool point. Effects, soundtracks and song choices were on-point and I was satisfied by how the tunes sync well with the elements in screen. Even for a non-hip-hop fan like, I really liked the Luke Cage inspired urban music selection (I also liked they did not used that cheesy remix of “Come As You Are”).

Meanwhile, visuals stood out, too, with just a couple of CGI that looked regular. The transitions and the visual language, on the other hand, were great and gives the impression of what I was trying to explain above, that the crossover is a recollection of each hero working together as a dysfunctional team.

In resume, The Defenders is the most “super-hero genre” series of the bunch. The fantastical neo-noir fueled intrigues and social commentary of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and to a very minimal extent, Iron Fist is nearly gone. The story pacing is flawed, and some characters are not pushed forward as they should. This is, probably, a show made to unite this “adult-oriented drama” feel on the first seasons of each individual character with the “super hero” audiences of Marvel.

But, if you found the Netflix series compelling, you will really like this. The “super hero tropes” are not that distracting (until the very end) and it was really cool to see that formula applied to the serious tones of this product line. Dialogues speeches were awesome and motivated (That Luke Cage scold against Danny Rand about privilege was cool!). The acting was great, the cast have a great chemistry and they seem to have put a huge amount of effort to portray their characters with finesse and heart, especially Krysten Ritter’s job as Jessica Jones, perhaps my favorite of the entire line-up.

I will definitely will look towards the next phase of Marvel on Netflix and I am hoping this experiment brings a new light to these series. I still recommend it, but only if you followed everything!


The Link-Up Spell is a weekly Toilet ov Hell column about music, movies, books, retro video games and guaranteed Elfic nonsense. If you want to contact the author to send your material, mail us at toiletovhell [at] gmail.com with the subject “The Link-Up Spell” or message him on social media.

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  • KJM, Anla’Shok

    I still need to see the last 3 eps of Iron Fist, easily the weakest of the MCU Netflix shows.

    • I recommend watch it. So far, I know it’s the weakest series, but I really liked the acting of the Meachums and Colleen Wing (She’s badass!), so we enjoyed it anyways!

      Hope you catch them so you see this one, you will probably enjoy it, too!

      • KJM, Anla’Shok

        I’ll see them all eventually, mostly for Luke Cage.

    • Kyle Reese

      All the series mentioned here suffer from interminably slow points in the middle. The payoff is usually pretty good tho.

  • nbm02ss

    The Daredevil crew are easily the best actors out of the Netflix Marvel series, and The Defenders really highlighted that, I felt.

    I wish Stick had actually killed Iron Fist. Can’t stand his actor.

    • nbm02ss

      Also, bring on The Punisher!

      • DUDE, YES!

        • KJM, Anla’Shok

          I was never a big Punisher fan before Daredevil S2, now I can’t wait to see his show.

          • Depechemodeisgangsta

            “I was never a big Punisher fan” but in what sense? of the comic persona, or the movies that had been put out?

          • KJM, Anla’Shok

            The comics, never saw the movies.

          • Depechemodeisgangsta

            I thought war zone was OK, but movies were horrible, but i think some has to do with him being a killer, and probably was too edgy when it came out, i think have the comics come out late 2000’s it would be better received.

      • tigeraid

        Bernthal is fucking awesome.

    • I agree. Really love these guys, they are super sweet and together they portrayed such a cool vibe and chemistry.

  • Howard Dean

    I’m not a big Marvel fan (read: I’m not really familiar with comic books at all), but has Hollywood finally run out of new comic books stories to convert into film/TV? Because holy fuck it seems like at least 75% of everything released nowadays has to do with comics or something. I gotta think we’re close to critical mass.

    • Dubby Fresh

      I think we’re still a few years out from critical mass. Comics have been around since before WW2, and while not all of that material is good, there’s still a whole lot left that can be commercialized.

      You’ve got to admit that Disney has taken Kiss-esque commercialization to the next level. With at least one new film in the Star Wars, Marvel, and mainline Disney franchises coming out every single year, they have pop culture by the balls.

      • nbm02ss

        Disney really is the key in all of this, too. I’d say the majority of the non-Disney comic movies have sucked (I’m looking at you, F4). The bad to good ratio of the Disney influenced comic book media has been much more favorable.

      • Howard Dean

        For real. And we can’t forget the reboots/re-imaginings! I’m waiting for a live action Aladdin reboot. Could totally see a more “mature” Aladdin film getting released with darker undertones (more inline with One Thousand and One Nights). I’d watch it.

        • Dubby Fresh

          They’ve just cast one, actually.

          • Howard Dean

            Hahahahaha, holy fuck. Bizarre, but I’m not at all surprised.

          • Howard Dean

            Oh no, I just looked it up:

            “On July 16, at the D23 Expo it was announced that Naomi Scott and Will Smith were cast as Princess Jasmine and Genie…”

            Fuuuuuuck. Will Smith. Nevermind

          • Dubby Fresh

            Lol, I’m glad I didn’t have to be the one to break the bad news.

          • RJA

            So let me get this straight, Will Smith is the genie? I give up.

          • Howard Dean

            Yeah, totally fucking lame. It’s like how else can Will Smith ruin all of our lives?

            I will purposefully not watch a movie if he’s in it. Can’t stand the dude’s “acting.”

          • Depechemodeisgangsta

            Yea and i think Will Smith is playing the Genie lol.

        • Kyle Reese

          They cast one like Dubby said and Jezebel wrote think pieces on why they didn’t look far enough into the Persian desert to find a genuine Middle Eastern actor. “THIS BROWN PERSON IS TOO WHITE.”

    • I can totally understand you and I think there are so many unforgettable things in the genre that you could keep with like 10 movies of out 100. But, this thing is making money, a lot of money, so Disney and Warner Bros. will be pooping out more and more.

      I am not a comic book avid reader, and to be honest, the Marvel narrative is confusing with all the parallel stories and that. I am more familiar with books or TV where things have a start and an ending. With Netflix series, my wife and I really liked that the super hero aspect of them were toned down a little to pass a little bit more of drama. I know you won’t jump out of it to watch them, but I think there are still a lot of different settings or stories like these that could reach a film or TV moment with mixed results.

    • Count_Breznak

      It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been to the cinema in years. I don’t care about super heros, I find the whole concept retarded. But it’s like every fucking movie is either about whateverthefuck man, whatever thefuckman’s crew of merry other persons (with a nauseating dose of hamfisted hollywood “diversity”) or the third reboot of the real amazing whateverthefuck man ultimate.

      • Hey, I saw you have the Super Count_Breznak: Apocalypse being released this year! Saw the trailer:

        *insert Super Count_Breznak: Apocalypse title here*: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAOdjqyG37A

        But, yeah, I totally understand why people flies away from movies with all these continuous reboots/sequels from series.

        I am honest with this, I am a simple man and have to confront too many shit going in my life EVERY SINGLE DAY, so I will always look for fantastic settings to make that easy from time to time. So, that’s maybe why I give a chance to this and forget to be super critical about them and just relax and enjoy 😉

        • Count_Breznak

          I miss good Schwarzenegger movies 🙁

          • 🙁

          • Kyle Reese

            Last Action Hero, Kindergarten Cop, Cliffhanger (whatevz not Arnold), Predator….what else?

          • Count_Breznak

            Commando, Pumping Iron, Total Recall, Red Heat, Raw Deal, Meet the Conans, Running Man, Eraser, the first half of Last Action Hero,…

      • Howard Dean

        These are pretty much my exact feelings, as well.

      • Fart Johnson

        the other part of it is everything has to be adaptable for foreign audiences in particular the chinese, so stories and characters have to be made as broad as possible so that they can edit in extra bits to appeal to those folks

    • tigeraid

      Basically, I think it will depend what happens after the Infinity War saga is over with. That will determine which stars leave, whether the new ones to replace them are any good, and whether they can maintain momentum.

      The STORIES will always be there.

      • Depechemodeisgangsta

        Agree with you, there is enough material to continue telling new stories.
        I’m looking forward to see how the Infinity war saga will end, because so far most of the movies had been good enough for my taste, and i also love the storyline of the actual comic.

      • Kyle Reese

        I understand the jumping off point will be Guardians of the Galxay vol. 3.

  • Dubby Fresh

    Comic shows remain one of the best crossover genres for the wife and me, so while I definitely have super hero fatigue and don’t really look forward to new Marvel material, it’s a good compromise for us, so we’ll watch whatever Marvel puts on Netflix.

    We’re on Episode 4 right now, so I’ve got a couple thoughts.
    1. Good lord am I sick of The Hand. This is the third season featuring them as enemies, and man alive has watching ninjas get beaten up become tiresome.
    2. Danny Rand is still terrible.
    3. Sigourney Weaver still rules.

    • KJM, Anla’Shok

      My mom, the person who told me that reading comics was a waste of time decades ago, has seen all the Netflix shows and a couple of the movies. She finished all of Iron Fist, I have not.

      • Dubby Fresh

        I think the best episode of Iron Fist was the second to last, only for the last episode to go over like a wet fart. Easily the worst of the shows.

        • Depechemodeisgangsta

          I have still have pending Iron Fist, i been on episode six for a couple of months, is just that the show is not that good for me, but i will finish it, that way i can jump to The Defenders.
          Also looking forward to start watching Gomorrah season 2, and Narcos next month.

    • RJA

      “super hero fatigue” yea, I’ve had that for a while now. And I was a pretty big comic book guy growing up – oh well.

    • Man, my wife and I TOTALLY LOVED to watch all these shows together. They really made a great job making those scripts to appeal to a broader audience.

      1. Like I told you, unlike the second season of Daredevil, these ninjas are made of paper.

      2. Jajajaja, yeah, he is still a kid. I think he is improving a little, though, so I will still follow to continue the watch of the future seasons.

      3. SHE IS G R E A T.

    • tigeraid

      The wife and I watch together as well. We’ve enjoyed Agents of SHIELD too, despite being the network-rated-PG stuff.

      • Kyle Reese

        Shield was good except for the weird shit in season 3 or 4. Then they brought in the flaming skull guy and got good again.

    • Vault Dweller

      My GF and I watch them too and have started building in little jokes about the shows. MAN do we both hate Ranny Dand, who I refuse to refer to by his true name.

      • KJM, Anla’Shok

        One of The Expanse writers calls him Iron Fish.

  • I watched that Deadpool movie last night. Not knowing what it was going in, it ended up being pretty good!

    GL

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Iron Fist is still better than the Flash. Goddamnit Barry, stop messing up everything!

    • KJM, Anla’Shok

      That’s because Marvel is better than DC, always has been.

      • I started liking Arrow, to be fair, but I had to quit it because I didn’t found the rest of the chapters. Flash was very bad, and I have read that the other shows were the same.

        Compared with the MCU on Netflix, DC series were a mess from the writing stand-point, ti seems.

  • tigeraid

    I <3 Jessica Jones.

    • From a writing stand-point, Jessica Jones series was my favorite. The narrative structure was great and she’s a very likeable and interesting character.

      • GoatForest

        I agree.

      • tigeraid

        Also David Tennant.

      • Óðinn

        David Tennant.

    • Óðinn

      She <3s you too, tigeraid.

  • Dumpster Lung

    I don’t quite remember how any of the original series ended. I think this era of binge-watching is pretty great sometimes, but I feel like I don’t retain half of what I see anymore 😛

    I’ll have to read a couple quick synopses (ew, that looks gross in plural form) and jog my memory.

    I still thought Iron Fist was the worst of the individual heroes’ series for sure. I had to make myself finish it after the halfway point. Luke Cage was the opposite, though. I started out not sure how much I liked it, but it grew on me as it continued.

    Jessica Jones was probably my favorite, but Daredevil is almost tied.

    • Kyle Reese

      I have terrible retention of visual media. Written stuff I remember much better. Or am able to bring it up on the google easier.