As I sat in the main hall of New York Comic Con last October, I got to see the first glimpses of Iron Fist. My reaction was pretty lukewarm. I thought it may have been Marvel/Netflix fatigue. After all, Iron Fist was the fourth of the Netflix shows. They all shared a similar cinematography look: dark, gritty, street-level dramas often punctuated with elaborate fights through hallways. However, each series had enough going for it that I was willing to overlook a developing trademark. When it was finally released, the full length series of Iron Fist turned out to be far worse than my experience with a few clips at New York Comic Con. I don’t think you need me to tell you that the series was boring, disjointed, unevenly written, and suffered from a fatal flaw: Danny Rand was simply unlikable as a character. He is the least flawed of the four Marvel/Netflix lead characters (the other three being Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones), but the way his own series treated him was really disappointing. He was, and I’ll use a term I lifted from some random tweet I saw, a shitty Iron Fist. To make it worse, the series chose not to address this until nearly the end of the season.
My point is this, Iron Fist nearly lost me. Was this the direction that Marvel/Netflix was going with these series? Back to NYCC for a second, though. After the Iron Fist presentation, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb brought out all four of the series leads together on stage. There, for the first time, stood The Defenders. To cap it off, he brought out the villain of the series. Who was it that could stand against Marvel’s four great non-big screen heroes? None other than Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver. Who would she play? They weren’t saying and I was really hoping she wouldn’t be some executive trying to make some land grab in NYC and it was up to our four heroes to take her on in the courtroom, the boardroom, the streets, and even the back alleys all at once.
I am pretty happy to say after watching the first four episodes of The Defenders that the ship has been righted. If you are a fan of the standalone series, you can’t help but be excited as you see our four heroes come together and kick ass all in one place. I know there are quite a few people who I talk to that didn’t like Luke Cage or Iron Fist, but I can tell you that Luke Cage is outstanding here (thank you Mike Colter). And Danny Rand? Man, he feels like a completely different character than his own series. No more loser, no more “I don’t know how to work my fist” or “my chi is broken” crap. He feels, for me, like the ACTUAL Iron Fist and a significant improvement to the character.
This plays in stark contrast to something like the early episodes of CW’s DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, a show that I like, but I was left wondering if the writers ever watched an episode of The Flash or Arrow because holdover characters like Ray Palmer acted like completely different characters only in a worse way. Hopefully they bring THIS Iron Fist back to his own show. On the other side of this coin, though, they seem to have made Matt Murdock into the whiny member of the group, but hopefully that changes back soon. Jessica Jones oddly acts as the voice of regular people in most of the group scenes, laughing at the seemingly outrageous nature of the other characters, their powers, and their opponents, all the while having super powers of her own.
Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra seems to be a formidable villain for the team and while you certainly have to forget about Marvel’s A-level heroes when someone tells the team that they are New York’s only hope, you do believe that their united effort will could be enough to save the city, even if it would actually be a whole lot easier to just call Iron Man or Spider-Man. Midway through, her presence is appreciated and while not as incredible as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin or David Tenant’s Purple Man, she’s only a few great scenes away from being something really special. Madame Gao and Stick are back (which I am thankful for) and so are several other supporting characters from the individual series (I’ll let you get excited for yourself when they show up).
The initial episode feels a lot like a Game of Thrones-style “you get ten minutes with four different story arcs” to get the ball rolling, but after that, it’s off the races. With it only being eight episodes, I have to believe the back half of the series will be action packed and will speed toward a resolution and some type of climatic group battle that will send me back off to the individual series with anticipation.
All eight episodes of Netflix’s The Defenders will be available on August 18th.