Imagine Pixar’s Inside Out but for grown-ups – each character represents one of the four key emotions: Guilt, Petulance, Sarcasm and Luke Cage. Luke Cage is an emotion now or at least he should be – some sort of combination of every positive association with masculinity you might want, with a deeply smooth voice and an excellent soundtrack. In the early episodes at least, the soundtrack shifts whenever the focus is on Luke Cage – perhaps it does that for the other Defenders as well and we just don’t notice.
The colour scheme between Inside Out and The Defenders doesn’t quite match (there’s no blue defender) but they each have their own, which play out in the titles but also cleverly on screen. Daredevil red, Cage yellow, Iron Fist green and Jones purples – which is a bit unfair to Jessica Jones in that she gets her colour defined by her archenemy. Hiding out in a Chinese Restaurant, the four Marvel superheroes of Netflix’s gritty MCU-connected shows, initially have the neon lights of each of their colours casting shadows in the background.
But red is the main colour of the show because really this is a sequel to Daredevil season 2 and to a lesser extent Iron Fist season 1. If you liked either of those two or found them at least watchable then you’ll enjoy The Defenders. If you’ve only enjoyed Jessica Jones, then you may find the show less rewarding. I’m avoiding spoilers but I think it is no surprise to say that the immortal Ninja clan The Hand are the main villains – so the story connects most tightly with Daredevil and The Iron Fist. That isn’t to say Luke Cage and Jessica Jones don’t get plenty of screen time, just that the story isn’t particularly their territory.
Less brutal than Daredevil and less silly than Iron Fist, the show does strike a decent balance. However, where Daredevil 1, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all dealt with threats that operated on a personal and social level, The Defenders is more conventional fare: evil people are up to no good and need to be stopped. Mind you, when the chief baddy is Sigourney Weaver that’s not such a bad thing.
Fight scenes are impressive and the pacing is good. The story is sort of silly but in a good way. But the main event is comic-book tradition: superheroes team up! The comic-canon combination of Luke Cage and Iron Fist works quite nicely – Danny Rand is still the same shallow character from the previous series but Cage makes him look more like an over-eager sidekick who is capable of personal growth.
Unfortunately, the strong supporting cast from the related shows get less chance to shine in what is already a crowded cast. I’d hoped that Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) would get a stronger role, given her appearance in each of the other Marvel Netflix shows but inevitably she has to take a backseat to the main superheroes.
Worth my Netflix subscription for this month? Yup.