Wed
Sep 6 2017 12:00pm

Marvel’s The Defenders Season 1 Review: Episodes 7-8

Hello, and welcome back to my look at Netflix's eight-episode miniseries, The Defenders, which serves as a culmination to the plot lines and character arcs introduced in the streaming service's other Marvel shows—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist—and a launching point for new stories and directions. In today's installment, we arrive at the end with a look at the series’ final two parts: Episode 7: “Fish in the Jailhouse” and Episode 8: “The Defenders.” I'll give my perspective as a comic book journalist and longtime Marvel Comics fan and analyze what worked, what didn't, and what the big finale might mean for the individual Defenders and their supporting casts when we next catch up with them.

So let's go fight some ninjas!

In the back half of The Defenders, it became increasingly clear that certain elements of the series were just convoluted, messy, and frankly dumb. The biggest being the muddled story involving the Hand, K'un-Lun, and Iron Fist unlocking an underground door. Those elements are still there in Episodes 7-8. In one of the funniest moments of the penultimate episode, Jessica Jones rolls her eyes and offers up my opinion on the story when she, Matt Murdock, and Luke Cage are discussing what the Hand could possibly want with Danny Rand.

What's especially great about these episodes, though, is that those elements are pushed into the background as Luke, Matt, Jessica, and some of their supporting cast come together to fight ninjas in an underground dragon graveyard.

Let's say that again to truly appreciate how fun, crazy, and imaginative that twist was: fighting ninjas in an underground dragon graveyard! It's the kind of setup that comes straight out of the comic book source material The Defenders is based on, and when it's done right—as it is here—it makes me laugh, cheer, and smile.

Part of the reason it's done right is much of the action in Episodes 7-8 focuses on the three great leads and the chemistry between them. Watching the characters of Mike Colter, Krysten Ritter, and Charlie Cox work together, banter, and realize they enjoy each other's company as they navigate things that are both fundamentally silly and insanely cool—like subterranean ninja fights—is a lot of fun. It was also cool that supporting cast members Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, and Misty Knight got to come along as well and experience some pivotal moments for their characters moving forward.

Yes, Iron Fist, the Hand, and its leaders were all in these episodes, but strangely enough, they didn't bother me. Danny Rand's scenes are minor compared to everyone else’s, and in a lot of scenes, he lets his fists and chi powers do the talking, which is a welcome change. The Hand leaders get to be villains in these episodes, and it was fun watching Elodie Yung's Elektra chew scenery and basically make like the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight by impulsively taking over a criminal organization and using it to wreak havoc and get the attention of a crime fighter.

The other great thing about these final two episodes of The Defenders is what they could mean for Netflix's other Marvel shows moving forward. Terrible plotlines were hopefully put to bed for good, and a lot of characters—especially supporting ones—were set on interesting paths. So let's break that down.

It might be hard to believe—considering the amount of smack I talked about him—but after The Defenders finale, I'm actually kind of cautiously optimistic about Iron Fist Season 2. The big reason is a lot of the terrible elements of his character are gone: the Hand is broken, and he suddenly has a reason to grow up and stop being such a whiny, unpleasant jackass. That reason is, of course, Matt Murdock's last words to him in Episode 8: “Protect my city.” With those three words, the creators and showrunner of Iron Fist Season 2 (which is currently in development) have a way to effectively reboot the character of Danny Rand, and I sincerely hope they take it. Plus, if you look closely at the outfit Danny is wearing in that really cool final shot of him lighting up the darkness of New York with his Iron Fist, it looks close to the tracksuit-style costume that the comic incarnation of Iron Fist currently wears.

Iron Fist temporarily taking over for Daredevil is also a nice tip of the hat to a storyline from the Daredevil comics where Danny Rand impersonated DD in New York while Matt Murdock had adventures elsewhere.

In my opinion, Jessica Jones and her supporting characters are the strongest in the Netflix/Marvel lineup, so there wasn't a whole lot to fix in these last two episodes in regards to that storyline. Though, it was great to finally see her ready to commit to go back to work full time and try to do some good in her own way. The shot of her unveiling the new Alias Investigations window and then closing the door was awesome and felt very iconic. It made me really excited for Jessica Jones Season 2, which we should get some time next year. The final episode also gave some hope to Luke/Jessica shippers, like myself, that the two will eventually be together.

It felt like the end of The Defenders made Luke Cage even more committed to protect New York and clean up Harlem. So it should be interesting to see his approach to crime fighting when we catch back up with him in next year's Luke Cage Season 2 (which is filming right now).

I'm especially curious about Misty Knight's role in Season 2 since Episodes 7-8 of The Defenders offered up a lot of clues to comic fans that TV Misty is walking the same path as her comic book counterpart. The biggest clue came in Episode 8 when Misty lost her arm to Hand Leader Bakuto's sword strike. In the comic books, Misty has a high-tech bionic arm, and Entertainment Weekly recently posted a picture of Simone Missick as Knight from Luke Cage Season 2 that showed the character with an interesting and advanced prosthetic. I'm guessing it's provided by her friend Colleen Wing's billionaire significant other, Danny Rand.

There were also some subtle clues that Misty might be contemplating turning her badge in for a PI License. In Episode 8, her captain talks a lot about the politics of the NYPD and how Misty might get punished for the fiasco at Midland Circle. Plus, when she wakes up in the hospital in Episode 8, Misty talks about “the job” in a way that sounds like she's not so certain it's right for her.

Daredevil Season 3 was announced before The Defenders ever aired (and is in development right now), so there was no doubt in my mind that Matt Murdock was going to survive the destruction of Midland Circle. But the last shot of him in The Defenders was especially interesting for comic fans. One of the nuns looking after Matt in the scene notices he's stirring and says, “Get Maggie. Tell her he's awake.” I believe that means one of the characters we'll meet in Daredevil Season 3 is Matt Murdock's mom, who in the comics is a nun named Sister Margaret. 

Referencing her and the fact that Vincent D'Onofrio's Wison Fisk is still very much a threat has led many fans to wonder if DD Season 3 will be an adaptation of Frank Miller's classic fall-and-rise story, “Born Again.” Both Fisk and Margaret Murdock played significant parts in that story. I'm not sure how well that would work, but I am excited for Daredevil Season 3, especially since some of the elements of the show that worked best in small doses—like Elektra and Stick—have hopefully been put to bed for a while.

We'll see a member of Matt Murdock's supporting cast before we see him next: Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page, who will be part of the next Marvel/Netflix show, The Punisher, which will premiere before the year is out. Jon Bernthal's Punisher and Karen's arc were some of the best parts of Daredevil Season 2, so it should be really cool to see veteran reporter Karen get drawn back into the violent world of Frank Castle. 

Ultimately, The Defenders—despite many glaring flaws—ended up being a pretty satisfying show. It provided fun character moments, some nice action, and best of all, it made like Luke Cage's late father figure, Pops, and moved its characters' stories forward in some very interesting ways.

That's a wrap for my Defenders coverage! Thank you to everyone who joined me for this feature!

The Defenders navigation
The Defenders, Episodes 4-6 The Punisher, Episodes 1-4

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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