The first episode of The Defenders lacks the flow that was found in the characters’ solo outings.
Marvel’s The Defenders has finally premiered. While the acting is great, there is a lack of narrative cohesion throughout “The H Word.” And that may be due to an overly enthusiastic bid to immerse the audience into various subplots. I know, I know, this is an ensemble series, so subplots are expected. But does this mean they have to be that disparate and slow?
The problem with “The H Word” is it’s a slow burn without stakes. The only two essential characters in this initial episode are Jessica Jones and Danny Rand. The mysteries they dig into are somewhat compelling and that keeps the viewer interested—to an extent. The storylines for Matt Murdock and Luke Cage seem to be there for the sake of showing the presence of these two characters. I think many people would’ve preferred having the first episode only deal with our favorite alcoholic private investigator and kung-fu billionaire.
Oh, and let’s not forget Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra Reid—who’s suffering from a terminal illness. I’m sure this illness is part of her drive in working with Madame Gao. Or perhaps Madame is actually working for Reid. Whatever the reasons, this tidbit of information seems a bit out of place—even if we are familiar with Madame Gao from the other series.
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This all boils down to each scene not feeling organic. Whether it’s Luke being released from prison or Matt having lunch with Karen Page, all of it seems a bit forced. Each scene didn’t push into the next one. This resulted in a very jarring experience for the viewer. Well, at least for me. It was very unnecessary. In fact, it was a tease in the worst way. We didn’t really care what was going to happen next, we just wanted it to somehow connect.
The purpose of reintroducing past characters is to show a new status quo. However, in this case, our heroes haven’t deviated that much from where we left them: Matt is still feeling guilty as all hell and a dynamo in the courtroom; the bar is still Jessica’s second home; Luke is still trying to reluctantly clean up his neighborhood; and Danny is still after the Hand.
Did all of that need repeating? I feel this first episode was a wasted opportunity in really introducing something new. It should’ve wowed us with a new threat. The opening was strong, with Danny and Colleen Wing up against a formidable foe. And that’s probably why the rest of the episode seemed so sluggish. You usually want to end strong—you know, follow the rules of escalation. And no, that earthquake and the not-so-surprising appearance of Elektra Natchios weren’t enough.
Was this a terrible episode? Definitely not. But it could’ve been so much more. Let’s hope the next episode can give us a bit more meat to chew on.
Marvel’s The Defenders premiered on August 18, 2017. Season 1 is currently available for streaming on Netflix.