I’ll be honest. I watched this episode twice. The first time was the day before going to my last camp session. I finished the episode, had to go do some family things, and when I got back I couldn’t really remember anything that had happened. Or at least, I couldn’t parse this episode from the other three I had watched in the past 48 hours. Camp ended a few days ago, I watched it again. I’m glad I did.
The Defenders s01e04 Royal Dragon
writers: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
director: Phil Abraham
So far this show has been at its best when it is about the charisma of the four main stars. Since this episode is practically a bottle episode inside a Chinese restaurant, we get lots of good scenes of the stars being fun to watch. Sure, when the show ventures away from these main four (and Scott Glenn) the cracks start to show, but it is possibly the most watchable of the first four episodes. Although, I’ll admit I would have liked a nice fight scene.
Spoilers Lurk Below
No, really, I enjoyed the interplay between the four characters. For being four, fairly grim, fighters, there was a nice use of voice. They all came out feeling pretty distinct, even if at times they were more shades on a spectrum than unique instruments. Did I mix that metaphor enough? I think a special shout out needs to made for them perhaps finding a voice for Danny Rand. He felt both driven and yet more light hearted than he has. I liked it and hope they can keep walking that fine line.
What I didn’t really care for is the actually description of the Hand. Now, I’m an old school comic book reader. I’ve read many, many issues featuring these four characters and the Hand. Not to say I know the current in-universe set up of the Hand. Comics can change on a dime. But, I grew up with the Hand being a mystical group from Japan. Some things blurred, but that element remained strong. It rooted it and gave it a place.
This series has taken the Hand, tied it to K’un L’un (which, sure, why not, on some level) and then gone a step farther by also making it something like the United Colors of Ninja Fighters. I know I’m watching a superhero show but having a hundreds off year old magic death cult, that is also lead by an immortal international gang of five, oh and everyone likes dressing up as ninjas, just feels like so much gymnastics to get around having the bad guys tied to Japan. It feels so generic.
And then there is Sigourney Weaver. I wish I were interested in this villain, but really the most interesting thing about her is that she is played by Sigourney Weaver. Sure, she is an ancient head of a death cult, but what do we know about her? What makes her a compelling character? Again, all I got is that she is Sigourney Weaver. And until the show gives me a better explanation, I might just go with the head canon that she is Sigourney Weaver. After all, this character is much more interesting if she once starred in both Alien and Ghostbusters.
The show gives us some nice screen time with our four heroes learning about each other. Besides that, well, it falls a bit short, but still watchable. It is pretty faint praise, by likable characters is sometimes enough. For now.