The Defenders review: Excruciatingly disappointing Netflix show with no excitement, action or humour
When the first season of Daredevil premiered on Netflix, it seemed like the ultimate marriage between content and content provider. Some of us couldn’t believe our eyes – we were getting a violent, blood splattered, super serious, butt kicking Daredevil show – and it was going to lead up to an Avengers style Defenders team up. Jessica Jones was an even bigger step up, and despite the disappointments of both Luke Cage and Iron Fist, The Defenders seemed like an idea too promising to fail.
It seems like nothing in show business is too promising to fail because The Defenders is an excruciatingly disappointing show, bereft of excitement, good action and even humour. This is not just a bad TV show, but a boring one. It’s also a stunning demonstration of all round poor execution.
For a show that is supposed to be a thriller about superheroes, nothing in The Defenders is thrilling or super heroic.
In what feels like a deathly slog, it takes three full episodes before the main characters actually team up, and even when that happens it’s an anticlimactic let down. This was supposed to be the small screen version of The Avengers. But If The Avengers worked so well because of the frenetic pacing and fun camaraderie between its main characters, The Defenders does the opposite. The show rushes forward at the pace of a three toed sloth, and the interaction between its four protagonists is as entertaining as filing your taxes.
But what really infuriates is the reduction of everything that was cool about the main characters. Daredevil, the Iron Man of this group is reduced from kicking and punching the way he did so well in the second season of his show to an angsty teenager with a laughably bad connection to the primary antagonist.
Jessica Jones, perhaps the most badass superheroine to date is conveniently underpowered when the situation demands it, and overpowered when there’s a need for an action scene contrivance. Luke Cage, who has been built up all this while as an indestructible force is reduced to quipping sleazy lines to Jessica during an action scene. Iron First is the only one who doesn’t get a downgrade; in fact he gets an upgrade as he’s even more irritating here than he was in his own show.
Watching the terribleness of The Defenders unfold makes you credit the casting directors of the Avengers movies – because without the chemistry between the actors that movie would have been as crummy as this show. Which brings me to the crummiest aspect of this show – the villain.
After the deadly yakuzas, the steely ninjas, the magnetic Kingpin, and the disturbing Killgrave from the prior shows one would expect Sigourney Weaver to weave some magic as the ultimate baddie to rule them all. Weaver’s character turns out to be such a belly flop it’s laughable. Her villain, oozing the threat level of a jar of honey, does practically nothing, and her presence in the show is little more than a placeholder for an even worse twist that introduces a whole different baddie, who also does nothing.
One could argue that the Defenders are street level vigilantes and the scale of their conflicts should be smaller than the Avengers.
Actually the smaller scale should have worked in favor of the show, where the danger isn’t the whole world being destroyed by Thanos. The smaller stakes should have ideally led to focus on the characters and real danger, but the reveal of the super secret society The Hand and their ultimate master plan is shockingly dull. To thwart The Hand’s plans the Defenders are thrown into poorly choreographed fights and fast cutting edit style that essentially cheats – trying to make you believe that the actors are performing stunts when they actually aren’t. This is surprising considering the superb fight choreography in the previous Daredevil season.
Maybe this show needed some Punisher mayhem to enliven the plot.
If there’s one thing that goes in favor of The Defenders is that it’s only eight episodes long, and there’s a fast forward button to use every time the side characters from the Defenders’ standalone shows appear and talk about mundane stuff. It’s hard not to feel bad for Rosario Dawson, who despite being a terrific actor is relegated to being the most inconsequential character, despite being given the responsibility to tie all the shows together.
The Defenders is a stunning reminder that Netflix needs to up its quality control game if it wants to make more Marvel shows.
The reason why people flocked to these shows is that they offered better, more nuanced, classy and deliciously more violent entertainment than Agents of Shield. This show undoes everything that made the shows great. Let’s hope Jessica Jones picks up the pieces and makes things interesting again in her sophomore standalone season.