Over the next two days I'm going to be taking a look at the Marvel and DC television series for the year and picking what I think was the best episode. I'll be looking at all of the episodes that fall in the 2017 calendar year, not just the latest season. That's not applicable to my first show though as there has only been one season, eight episodes total and they all came out on the same day, August 18th, 2017. The best episode of Marvel's The Defenders – Royal Dragon.
The episode was directed by Phil Abraham and written by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez. It was the fourth episode of the season and was the moment they went from being individuals into becoming a team. Prior to this, they worked as individuals and sort of paired off. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), the one person that knows everyone, tried to match up Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) while Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) kept crossing paths with Jessica Jones (Kristen Ritter). The previous episode culminated in the four ending up in the same place at the same time, fighting the Hand and the recently resurrected Elektra (Elodie Yung). They all escaped together which lead them to the Royal Dragon restaurant to hide out for a moment and compare notes.
It's almost what the industry calls a bottle episode (keeping almost everything down t one existing location), but I don't see that as being a budget saving move. By putting the four characters into a single location it took away the need to focus on anything but the characters and how they interact. The writing is strong and we spend the first part watching four strong-willed individuals do their best to not open up to each other. Jessica, Matt and Luke are basically loners that keep everything to themselves and Danny is very open about being the Immortal Iron Fist… to open about it actually and they call him on that. Without a go between, these characters would never trust each other. Claire would've been the perfect one because all of them trust her. Instead they get Stick (Scott Glenn) who recently cut off his own hand to escape. No one really trusts him, but his no-nonsense attitude forces the others to bond in defense of him.
It's obvious that the episode would end with the Defenders becoming a team and fighting against the Hand. What the episode does so well is prolong the inevitable, showing some good character moments and poking fun at the other series in the Netflix/MCU. Jessica is a great character for calling out the absurdity in the universe she lives in. And just when you think the fight is about to happen, they get a visit from Alexandra Reid (Sigourney Weaver) that makes what little bonding they did get to do questionable.
The Defenders is not the best series in the Marvel/Netflix set. It's not even the best in 2017. But it's also not the worst overall or in 2017. It's more the equivalent of the annual Arrowverse crossover event. And this was the episode that brought everyone together into a team. It did it while avoiding the standard superhero tropes of the heroes having to fight each other before realizing they're on the same side. Instead, they sat down for dinner and got to know each other.