Couch Potato

The Defenders and Finding Your Cause

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Well everyone, we’re finally here. After several years, four shows, and five seasons Marvel’s foray into Netflix has come to a head, and we’ve been given the team up that’s been promised since the very beginning. The Defenders is here. Now, I’ve been a big fan of these Marvel Netflix shows, and this one is no different. I understand the criticism that’s often lobbed at them though. I know people think that they’re often too long, too plodding, have plots that end up feeling like two distinct seasons of television smashed together, and it tends to run far darker than the larger MCU, giving more violent and crime-oriented stories. And I see that, I do. But, to me, the good outweighs the bad, and these shows have been a delight for me. Even when the bad really starts to pile up, like in Iron Fist, I’ve found myself greatly enjoying these shows, and I’ve been excited to see where they build to. We’ve been given four protagonists and a bevy of side characters who are terrific, who feel like loving adaptations of some of my favorite comic characters of all time, and they’ve been given chances to be real heroes. Yeah, I can whinge about the fact that this team shouldn’t be called the Defenders, even though they do get into some mystical stuff near the end, but that’s really just a small and petty complaint. Because, for the most part, I think this series is a joy, crossing over four very different shows and their four protagonists to create some great superhero fiction that builds off six previous seasons while promising even bigger stories in the future.

Throughout the course of the other shows we have been introduced to a massive, powerful, and ancient organisation known as the Hand. They’re a mysterious cult with an army of ninjas at their beck and call, countless shell businesses and organizations that have been hiding for centuries, all to find the secret of immortality. The Hand is run by five leaders, two of which we’ve met in Madam Gao and Bakuto, along with three newcomers, Murakami, Sowande, and their leader Alexandra. They’ve enacted a plan to extend their lifespans even further than they’ve already been given, and it all revolves around a massive pit that they’re excavating in Manhattan, hidden by a new skyscraper that they’ve built to hide it. And who is going to be able to stand up to the Hand? Well, we see that our four heroes have been drawn into this conspiracy, all for their own reasons. Iron Fist has been trained since childhood to defeat the Hand, and his quest has drawn him back to New York and into the path of Alexandra’s businesses. Daredevil has been aware of the Hand for quite some time, and is specifically tracking them down after they killed Elektra, the love of his life. Luke Cage has just been released from prison, and is quickly drawn in by learning that Sowande is convincing young black men in Harlem to work for him, basically turning them into canon fodder. And Jessica Jones has accepted the task of investigating the strange suicide of the architect who designed the Hand’s building, trying to find what caused him to do this to himself, and why he was planning on destroying the building he helped design. And, eventually, all four of these heroes find themselves at the Hand’s skyscraper, fighting against Alexandra’s army of soldiers.

And this is made even more difficult when they find that the Hand has a secret weapon. They’ve managed to resurrect Elektra, wiped her memory, and given her superhuman powers in the hopes that she’ll become an unstoppable weapon that will help them in their quest for immortality. So, after figuring out the scope of the battle before them our heroes decide to work together, to pool their resources, expertise, and abilities in order to save New York from the Hand. They join forces with Stick, Daredevil’s mentor, and begin taking the fight to the Hand, trying to bring down the organization and figure out what’s at the bottom of the massive hole under their skyscraper. They call in help from their various side-characters, like Claire Temple, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing, while things get pretty dramatic in the Hand, what with Elektra gaining her sentience again and killing Alexandra to become the new leader of the Hand. But, in the end, our heroes manage to storm into the Hand’s skyscraper and fight their way down deep beneath the city to keep the Hand from obtaining their magical MacGuffin, and keeping New York and the rest of the world safe in the process, while reminding us that these heroes will return, stronger than before, because they’ve learned to function as a team.

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As with all of these Marvel Netflix series’, I really had a good time with this show. I’ve seen several criticisms of the show, such as the fact that it still feels a little stretched out, the villains and their plot leave a lot of be desired, and things get a little too dark, violent, and bleak. And I do see that. However, just like the shows that came together to form this crossover, I found myself focusing on the good instead of the bad, and coming away having enjoyed this show. It wasn’t perfect, and certainly could have been stronger, but when you get down to it it’s a fun story about some of my favorite heroes of all time being heroic and doing whatever they can to save innocents. And that’s what I love. It also helps that we’re given some incredibly enjoyable characters who are brought to us through some really fun acting. Even characters that weren’t exactly strong in their own shows really shined in this show, giving us a whole roster of fun heroes, which showing them bond into a real team of friends, doing what’s right.

Doing the right thing can be very hard. Often it’s the hardest option in any given scenario. But that’s what makes it so important. One of the things I’ve loved most about this series of shows is how clear it makes that these characters are heroes. They’re all given the ability to do right, and they realize that they have the responsibility to help people. They come about it in their own ways, but they find their true purposes as heroes. And that trend continues in this show. Because any sane person would probably not want to deal with a cabal of immortal ninja warriors. But these heroes do. They find causes worth fighting for, and don’t give up. Iron Fist was trained for years that he was a living weapon whose duty was to defend his magical city and destroy the Hand. Daredevil is generally going to fight ninjas, but one he realizes that the Hand have corrupted Elektra he knows that he’ll do anything to help save her. Jessica Jones took a case she really shouldn’t have, and ends up being drawn into the mystery of the architect’s suicide, trying to bring some semblance of solace to his family. And Luke Cage, who should just be enjoying life outside of prison after being reunited with Claire, finds himself unable to allow more young men in Harlem to die for no reason. Their reasons may be different, but they end up coming together to do the right thing. They form a team and a friendship after discovering their individual causes. Which we all can do. If we strive to find our causes there’s nothing to stop us all from doing the right thing, to Defend the innocent.

 

The Defenders was created by Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez and released by Netflix, 2017.

 

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