If there are two things Marvel does really well, they’re knowing their audience, and crossovers. They understand diehard comic-book fans will enjoy any effort to remain as faithful to the original as possible, while fans of the individual shows love seeing characters they’ve become invested in meet and join storylines.
The Defenders premieres on Netflix this Friday, August 18.
If you’ve never seen Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage or Iron Fist before, or you just need a reminder of what went down in those series, here’s a recap and also what to look forward to in The Defenders:
Dare to dream
Season two of Daredevil ended with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) parting ways with Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), his best friend and law firm partner, while their colleague Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) moved on to become a journalist. (Because, y’know, you don’t need training or experience AT ALL to write for a newspaper.)
His girlfriend, Elektra (Elodie Yung), also died in the season finale, so Matt is emotionally a loner at the end of the season. Maybe in The Defenders he’ll find empathy and companionship in the other heroes, or maybe in his struggle to balance his dual identities he’ll push them away to give being a normal neighbourhood lawyer a try. What may cause further turmoil for Matt is that while season two finale also ends with Elektra exhumed and placed ceremoniously inside a stone coffin type thing, (but still ... you know: dead) The Defenders trailers show she’s back. Dun dun dun!
Might be an awkward reunion, seeing your dead girlfriend come back to life, should she and Matt ever cross paths …
At the end of Luke Cage, Harlem’s hero is put behind bars when councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) outs Luke (Mike Colter) as Carl Lucas, a convict who still owes the state of Georgia jail time. (Mariah, you … b-word.) Despite his good intentions, Luke’s superpowers are regarded with fear and bias even though he’s done nothing but try to help and protect the neighbourhood he calls home. Which is why the finale of his series was such a bittersweet victory: he defeats Willis “Diamondback” Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey) but gets thrown in prison.
No matter! He’s out, he’s back, and he’s finally grabbing that coffee with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson).
When Luke Cage came out, the conversation about violence against black people in the US - and police violence in particular - was a raging topic the world over. This made Luke’s being targeted for something he can’t control, despite being a good guy who did nothing wrong, so relevant to 2016.
It may be a big ask of a show featuring an ensemble cast, but perhaps The Defenders will surprise us and be as socially pertinent as Luke Cage was.
Keeping up with Jones
As nice as it is to see a strong female character amidst this team of superheroes, let’s face it, in real life, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) would be uber annoying and not nearly as likeable. (But, yes, I still like her. And considering the adorkable rom-com best friend roles Ritter was previously best known for, it’s an excellent performance.)
At the beginning of The Defenders, Jessica’s BFF Trish (Rachael Taylor) is trying to get her to rejoin society when all Jessica wants to do is hide from all the attention she’s getting after she defeated Kilgrave (David Tennant). As always with Jessica, a case that’s bigger than it initially seemed lands in her lap, and she’s suddenly drawn into a Vortex of Bad that just happens to the same Vortex of Bad all the other Defenders are about to find themselves in.
Jess fans can continue to count on her to take the initiative to uncover the truth, whatever the cost, deliver wonderfully sarcastic one-liners, and those moments when she pretends to be a ditz to get the intel she wants. Always delightful.
All through her own show and at the beginning of The Defenders, Jessica is still very much in denial about who she is, both to herself and to others, and very reluctant to be part of a super team. Maybe this series will see her morph into a more sociable and co-operative character; then again, maybe not.
Iron out the wrinkles
Confession: I did not watch Iron Fist. I understand it’s in keeping with the original source material, so it’s not whitewashing, per se, but the storyline also just didn’t interest me.
A kid survives the plane crash that killed his parents, trains as a martial arts master in K’un-Lun and returns to take back his family business from corrupt people on the inside, is denied entry because he’s dressed like a hobo, and his solution is to beat up the two security guards who believe they’re just doing their job? Fair enough, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) just wants to save his father’s business from the baddies who’ve taken over, but that doesn’t match up to his dramatic “I’ve been training my whole life for this” thing. It was also just hard to reconcile how training to be Iron Fist serves him in the corporate world and in reclaiming his title as heir to the family business.
Iron Fist was smashed to bits by viewers and critics alike when the series was released. It doesn’t help that in its finale, Danny ends up pretty much where he started when the show began. The production value also didn’t match what we’re used to from Marvel, the writing was criticised left, right and centre for being inconsistent and just … meh, and Jones failed to portray a protagonist viewers could like and root for.
It’ll be tough gig for Rand to get as much love as the other three Defenders, but maybe he will. If he can take himself a little less seriously, get off the self-righteous platform, and portray a degree of consistency, he might just avoid being the weak link.