Note: The first four episodes were provided by the studio prior to release. This review will be spoiler free as per an embargo agreement.
Marvel's The Defenders starts off slow but takes the four genres from the solo series' and slowly blends them to make a unique team dynamic we haven't seen before in the Marvel Universe.
Creator: Marco Ramirez
Summary: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist team up to fight crime in New York City.
The Defenders was going to be a unique crossover regardless of how it turned out. These are four different series coming together in a way we have really only seen work once in the past, with the Avengers. There was no telling that Marvel and Netflix were going to make lightning strike again, this time in their television universe. We know it worked in the movies, but now it's time to see if Marvel can make the team-up thing work with their television universe. The first episode of The Defenders does exactly what you would expect the first part of a team-up show to do; it demonstrates where each member of the team is. However, instead of just showing each team member in different locations, the show changes the colors of the world to fit the character. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is often featured in a world that is purple, Matt (Charlie Cox) is surrounded by red, the world of Luke (Mike Colter) seems to bathe in gold, and Danny (Finn Jones) is constantly surrounded by green. This even applies to our villains, because Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) is often surrounded in white and gold.
While the first four episodes are good and fun to watch, they take a little while to get going. We don't see all four of the Defenders in the same room until the end of the third episode when we finally get that hallway fight that we've been waiting for. The little "meet cutes" happen between Luke and Danny and Jessica and Matt until we see the four of them finally end up in the same place at the same time. Each of them are on their own path that eventually ends up with the three of them fighting the same enemy but it takes considerable time for the four of them to get there. Once they do the series really feels like it comes alive as most of episode four is spent around a table hashing out their personality differences and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. We still don't know entirely but the chemistry that makes all of these team up shows important is there. Danny and Luke had their fight and pissing contest earlier, much to the chagrin of Claire (Rosario Dawson) and Colleen (Jessica Henwick). Matt becomes Jessica's lawyer when it becomes apparent that she's getting in over her head.
We don't get a lot of fight scenes aside from the one hallway fight, but it's all very well lit compared to other fights in the Netflix Marvel universe. The thing that immediately stands out is that all four of our fighters have their own distinctive fighting style. While Jones still looks a little out of his element as far fighting goes, it does look like the stunt work and fight choreography is better than Iron Fist was. Maybe not completely up to expert level but still pretty good. It's nice to see the four distinct fighting styles coming from four different people with very different skill sets. Weaver is crazy good as Alexandra, and while it isn't totally clear what her motivations are she is a commanding presence. While some didn't like Jones as Danny, it seems like he's coming into his in this role. As for the rest of the cast, we already know that they are fantastic in their roles. Elodie Yung in particular has been handed what is essentially, without spoiling, almost an entirely new character.
The Defenders is off to a solid start thus far, and while it's hard to say whether the story is going to work all the way through, the first half is engaging and leaves you wanting more. While there are times during those two and a half episodes that you're going to be wishing everyone would just meet, the payoff is pretty good. Our four heroes have a great chemistry, which is half the fun of team-ups. The rest of the series is a little under a month away so we'll have to see how everything comes together in the end.