When Daredevil (the Netflix version) first came out there was a clear sense of excitement. This excitement continued for most of the Marvel Netflix shows, but for some reason, the release of Defenders almost escaped my notice. Maybe it is just a busy time of year for me. Or maybe it has something to do with the shows getting weaker and weaker. Sure, Iron Fist is pretty panned, but I also fall into that field that found the later halves of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones fairly threadbare. But here comes the Defenders. Hopefully it will be a home run. Or at least it will be easy to finish.
The Defenders s01e01 The H Word
writers: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
director: S. J. Clarkson
For most of this episode it felt like watching the next season of four different shows all cut together. Some scenes were good, some less so. But it all felt very disconnected. After 50 minutes all I can really tell you is that they are fighting the Hand. Which is what I would have guessed based on the last two series. What I am having a hard time finding is a real reason to be interested. What does the Hand want? Money? Power? Vagueness? WE’ve got four (okay, maybe just three) charismatic leads and just feel underused. Not the best start in the world.
Spoilers Lurk Below
The problem with filming this like a bit of an anthology following up where we last saw our heroes, is that I am constantly reminded of the weaknesses of those endings. Every introduction found me thinking “oh, right. This.” Maybe I was most excited to catch up with Daredevil. Danny’s introduction was almost an underlining of what was wrong with his own series. Really, all it needed was a boring office scene to be perfect.
Jessica, sure. She seems mostly unchanged from how we met her. That is either good or bad. She’s a detective who doesn’t want to detect. The creepy phone call that makes her take the case felt like we were starting with a deus ex machina. Couldn’t we just have her get a notice that her power was going to get shut off?
As for Luke, his introduction serves to completely erase the end of his show. That particularly narrative device is a pet peeve of mine. And just started things off on the wrong foot.
Then we get Sigourney Weaver, who I don’t know why I should care about. Really the only interesting thing about her was a meta reason. It seems this show is “knocking out Worf” by “manipulating Gao.” If that reference makes no sense, basically we are shown Weaver is serious because Gao, our ever present manipulative villain, is cowed by her.
I feel like I’m being more negative about this show than it deserves. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t that good. I was bored. Nothing felt connected. And it made me think of the Wire, and that is dangerous ground.
I totally believe that The Wire might be the best tv show ever. And one of the things it did was build a huge world populated by a variety of characters with distinct motivations and everything felt real and connected. And as I watched the Defenders and saw what they were attempting, I kept thinking how much I would rather be watching The Wire. Again.
So, there you go. This episode was a game of catch up. It was the zero issue that might not even be needed to understand the story. I can only hope that when the heroes start interacting we get something more compelling.