Source: Defenders via Facebook.
Netflix is gearing up to the release of The Defenders on August 18, the culmination of their entrance into the world of superhero television series. Having introduced us to the four defenders in their individual series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, the upcoming show will witness the heroes finally team up to face a common enemy. It will be tough to match the critical acclaim heaped upon most of the individual series but, for fans, it will be immensely gratifying to see these characters finally share a screen.
Viewers were recently granted another chance to savour briefly what it will be like to see these four Marvel heroes team up when another trailer was released. The trailer is jam-packed with reasons to get excited by the upcoming series, from Sigourney Weaver’s ruthless and sinister villain to interactions between the four heroes that hint at the sort of dynamic the group will have. The series looks primed to slot seamlessly into Netflix’s roster of superhero shows as both a culmination of the series thus far and a starting point for more epic collaborations and crossovers in future.
What Netflix has done impressively is to take characters who are perhaps less familiar to the casual fan of superheroes, whose experience of Marvel lore is purely through popular culture and the movie screen, and take them mainstream. Daredevil is the most recognisable of The Defenders, if only for the widely panned 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck in the titular role. As for the others, they are comparatively lesser known characters who would have been difficult to do justice in a busy cinematic universe but can flourish on the smaller screen.
Charlie Cox has starred as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, a blind lawyer turned vigilante with a dazzling array of fighting skills and a strong moral code. The two Daredevil series have seen him tackle criminal threats, most notably in Vincent D’Onofrio’s captivating performance as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, and deal with the kind of supernatural dangers that will be presented in The Defenders. Krysten Ritter’s turn as Jessica Jones, a hard-drinking private detective with unconventional methods allied to mighty strength, was a refreshing portrayal of a superhero. Jones is openly flawed, with dubious approaches to situations sometimes clouding the fact that her heart is in the right place. Jones’ sexual history with Luke Cage is bound to add an interesting layer to the group’s dynamic.
Cage’s individual series saw Mike Colter’s character and his unbreakable skin take on Harlem’s toughest criminals. The final defender is Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist. This series was the most poorly received by critics and fans, with issues found in the depth to the hero’s character and the weakness of the show’s antagonists. Pacing was also a problem with the show but The Defenders’ array of characters at its disposal should alleviate that burden and keep the action moving swiftly.
A notable aspect of the trailer is that Daredevil is not dressed like Daredevil. Although his powers remain, it appears that Matt Murdock is unwilling to don the attire of the devil of Hell’s Kitchen after the character’s faith in the symbol of Daredevil was shaken by the troubling events at the end of Season 2. Whether Murdock will appear at all in The Defenders in the iconic costume remains to be seen. Whilst The Avengers brought superheroes together in massive action scenes with incredible stakes, the tone of the Netflix shows suggests that the union of The Defenders will be handled with more nuance and grit.
The Daredevil series is often dark in both senses of the word. Source: Marvel’s Daredevil via Facebook.
The Defenders will unite superheroes in a payoff that has not been witnessed on screens of any form since The Avengers hit cinemas in 2012. The Avengers was so satisfying for Marvel fans because it brought established characters together. Captain America and Thor had already had their debut solo films, whilst Iron Man, in typical extravagant Tony Stark fashion, had already had two solo outings. Fans were also introduced to Nick Fury and Black Widow before The Avengers, allowing the movie to streamline any explanations of back story and get straight to the money shots of the characters occupying the same screen.
Without The Avengers, it is unlikely that The Defenders series on Netflix would exist. The Avengers brought superheroes crashing into popular consciousness on unprecedented levels, with the success of the film laying the foundations for a cinema culture permeated by superhero movies. Marvel characters are now commonplace, from adorning clothing to starring in the Lego Marvel Super Heroes video game. Appearing in Lego form is an excellent barometer of success, as only the biggest franchises are turned into bricks. Similarly, slot games such as Super Heroes at LeoVegas, which users can claim up to 1,200 free spins on via comparison site Oddschecker, are a direct result of The Avengers bringing superheroes back into fashion. The notion of Netflix commissioning a series of Marvel television series would have seemed far-fetched not so long ago, but The Avengers reshaped the landscape.
DC have attempted to emulate The Avengers‘ success and only time will tell how effective the upcoming Justice League movie is. The recent critical praise of Wonder Woman highlights DC’s awareness of the need for a change in tone, and early indications suggest that Justice League is going to balance humour and darkness with aplomb. Fans have warmed to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman quickly but, even though his portrayal was generally well-received, Ben Affleck’s Batman was not granted much time for character exposition in the bloated and overwrought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Whilst it could well be exhilarating to see DC’s superheroes share a screen on such an epic scale, audiences will have little affiliation with the characters compared to Marvel’s Avengers. DC have fared better in their TV universe, where The Flash and Arrow have often had crossovers of both major and minor characters. The propensity to crossover was established soon into the show’s overlapping existence so, again, audiences have not had to wait for a massive payoff.
Therefore, The Defenders is in something of a unique position. Viewers have spent two seasons in the company of Daredevil, one season with Jessica Jones and Iron Fist, and will know him well from both his solo series and his appearances with Jessica Jones. The Netflix medium has given these characters plenty of scope for progression, whilst The Defenders can brush past any back stories and constantly propel forwards in terms of plot. These superheroes are far more well-rounded characters than their cinematic counterparts, purely because we only spent a couple of hours with the Avengers before they united. Fans are already speculating on how the sort of dynamic we will witness in the various relationships between characters. The Netflix shows have always prided themselves on being far grittier than the movies and showing a side to superheroes that is less glamorous and noble.
As a protagonist for an entire series, each of the Defenders has assumed the role of wisecracking and ultimately honorable hero. As a group, we may witness different sides to the characters; for example, it is reasonable to imagine that the abrasive Jessica Jones will not play well with others. There is bound to be tension in the group so it will be fascinating to see which characters bounce off each other well and which characters bounce off each other in aggression. Speaking of aggression, there are rumours abound that anti-hero The Punisher could pop up in The Defenders. Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the troubled gunman was the standout performance in the second season of Daredevil. Such was his success that the character will be getting their own Netflix series, which will inevitably have a different vibe compared to the existing series that have followed the fate of more typical heroes.
The Netflix shows have so far preferred to tease at links to other characters rather than instantly deliver. Each new series has been greeted with optimism that characters from other series would pop up out of nowhere, but Marvel have been keen to keep the shows as real as possible. Too many crossovers would be too contrived and convenient, so nods to other characters have often been subtle. This could be the case with The Punisher in The Defenders. Other secondary characters will also be appearing, although it might be slightly unfair to call The Punisher a secondary character as he prepares to debut in his own series. Elodie Yung is set to reprise her role as Elektra, Matt Murdock’s love interest in Season 2 of Daredevil. From the trailer, Elektra looks set to be playing a pivotal role in the series as a powerful antagonist. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship she will be sharing with Murdock and how their history will impact upon The Defenders as a group.
Characters from each of the four shows will be appearing, presumably in scenes with their hero rather than some sort of massive get-together for superheroes and their friends. Early reviews of the series suggest that each hero begins the series with their own problem to deal with, and these problems eventually end up in confluence as it becomes clear that Sigourney Weaver’s shady Alexandra is to blame. Therefore, these secondary characters are likely to appear more in the beginning of the season as the four heroes operate in their own world. Of course, it is classical superhero fare for a hero’s loved ones to be put in mortal danger by the antagonists. Bringing these characters into the series early will establish them for appearances later in the series. It is likely that the audience of The Defenders will exclusively be viewers who have binged all of the existing Marvel shows on Netflix. Yet The Defenders will have to operate under the assumption that some may watch it as a standalone series so there will not be any gratuitous appearances from characters.
This is good news for fans of the existing series, as many of the secondary characters have become well-loved and provide the perfect complement to the main character. In Daredevil, Matt Murdock relies heavily on Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson, a wisecracking best friend who keeps Murdock grounded, and Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page, a resilient colleague who becomes a journalist. Jessica Jones fans will rekindle their relationship with Eka Darville’s Malcolm Ducasse, Jones’ kind-hearted neighbour, and Rachael Taylor’s Trish Walker, Jones’ best friend and near-superhero herself.
Jessica Jones is not big on having friends, so her relationship with The Defenders will be particularly interesting. Source: Marvel’s Jessica Jones via Facebook.
Luke Cage will be reunited with Simone Missick’s Misty Knight, an intrepid detective who has been romantically involved with Cage. As for Iron Fist, Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing was the strongest character in the series by far and her fighting skills would make her a useful ally for The Defenders. Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth is one of the few characters to have appeared in multiple series, showing up as a dubious ally for Jessica Jones and a definite ally for Danny Rand.
Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple has been the thread connecting all the series thus far. Temple appeared in the first season of Daredevil, first as someone who patched up a wounded Daredevil and then as a romantic interest for Murdock. In Jessica Jones, Temple’s expert medical skills are once again required in a chance meeting with both Jones and Cage. Temple then appeared heavily in Luke Cage as another romantic interest, which will certainly make it interesting when all of these characters and their histories are finally introduced in The Defenders. To complete the set, Temple then appeared in Iron Fist as a student at Colleen Wing’s dojo and an ally in Rand’s fight against The Hand, the shadowy organisation that will provide the main threat in The Defenders. Dawson’s character became increasingly at ease around the supernatural and almost incomprehensible scenes that she witnessed and, with her desire to learn how to fight, it will be interesting to see how involved she is in the conflict in The Defenders.
After The Defenders, the aforementioned The Punisher series should be the next to hit Netflix. Season 3 of Daredevil is currently in pre-production, whilst second seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are at the filming stage. It is likely that a second season of Iron Fist will follow in the hope of compensating for a lacklustre debut season. And, when all of that is done, The Defenders may reunite once again. It will be intriguing to see if future seasons will witness more crossovers once The Defenders has established all of these relationships between the characters. One thing is for certain: Marvel are building a television dynasty that matches the scope and creativity of their cinematic universe.