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Marvel’s ‘The Defenders’ on Netflix Are Different Defenders – but it Still Works
August 17, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Be patient with Marvel’s The Defenders.

The long-awaited miniseries that brings together Luke Cage (Mike Colter, top and below), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter, top), Iron Fist (Finn Jones, top and below) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox, top) finally arrives on Netflix on Friday, and it’s not one of those action-adventure shows that hit the ground in overdrive.

It eventually does pick up speed. It just takes a couple of episodes, because these Defenders squabble among themselves at considerable length before they get around to saving millions of innocent lives.

All that bickering is not uninteresting, it should be added, and it provides valuable intel for viewers who aren’t already committed Marvel addicts because it helps define who these characters are.

Whatever the motive, co-developer and showrunner Marco Ramirez won’t be rushed.

What finally convinces these four stubborn and neurotic folks to form a grudging alliance is the looming menace of The Hand, one of those ancient secret organizations that has parlayed extra-sensory powers into centuries of lethal mayhem with no apparent consequences.

Debating and dissecting the precise details of The Hand’s origin, mission, and operation will provide hours of enjoyment to hard-core fans.

For the civilians that Netflix and Marvel hope will also enjoy the show, the oversimplified explanation is that members of The Hand ensure their own immortality by terminating the mortality of others.

Nor is that a one-on-one process. In this case, The Hand is laying plans to wipe out New York City, the same way that in past centuries it wiped out, say, Pompeii.

The Hand’s full lineup is shadowy, so for purposes of this show, it has a single spokesperson: Alexandra, intriguingly played by Sigourney Weaver (right).

Alexandra’s demeanor will remind viewers less of a megalomaniac than a history museum docent. She speaks in calm, measured and very confident tones of what The Hand will be doing and why no one can stop it.

Even the fact Alexandra has a distressing personal secret doesn’t affect the way she grooms Elektra (Elodie Yung) to become Black Sky, an unstoppable human weapon.

Marvel fans, particularly those who have followed the Iron Fist, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones solo shows on Netflix, will recognize a number of characters, including Elektra, and will note how plotlines introduced in those earlier shows blossom into dangerous fruition here.

Those who don’t recognize the backstories won’t get a lot of explanation. If you don’t know that Luke and Jessica used to date, The Defenders isn’t written to fill you in.

The clear hope is that The Defenders needs no exhaustive Marvel DNA to spin a compelling yarn about a small band of flawed good guys who start as serious underdogs in a battle to save The World’s Greatest City.  

In fact, The Defenders in this series aren’t even the same characters who formed The Defenders in the group’s original Marvel Comics incarnation.

The new group works just fine, however, from Ritter’s sullen, wisecracking Jessica to Cox’s intense Daredevil.

They also get some help from Punisher (Jon Bernthal), the last survivor from a small band of other good guys who have been trying to bring The Hand to justice for centuries.

Some of the mystical stuff in The Defenders remains just that: mystical. But after a couple of episodes, and a couple of fights that resemble high-tech barroom brawls, viewers will get the rhythm of the story.

In a way, in fact, the slow burn helps, because all the byplay among the individual Defenders makes them quite engaging – and with an adversary as cool as Alexandra, they’ll need heat that lasts.

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