Marvel's 'The Defenders' has a slow start, but complex characters save it from being 'The Avengers'

Netflix The DefendersNetflixThe Defenders hide from their enemies at a Chinese restaurant.

What happens when four weirdos — who just happen to be superheroes
and the most stubborn people on television — get together and fight Oscar-nominee Sigourney Weaver (and her ninja army) to save New York City?

Not a lot, at least at first.

Netflix only made four of eight episodes of Marvel’s “The Defenders” available to critics before the premiere on Friday, and not much has happened yet. Just a lot of build-up.

That build-up starts out a little rough. “Here’s-what-everyone-is-up-to” scenes in the opening episode are filled with cliche dialogue.

But by episode four, the series proves it’s filled with action and necessary character development for these incredibly flawed heroes.

The set-up

“Defenders” unites the protagonists of Netflix’s Marvel shows: Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Daredevil,” and “Iron Fist.”

As expected, the series starts with each Defender doing his or her own thing.

The story begins after the end of “Fist,” with Danny Rand hunting down members of the Hand. Rand — who annoyingly insists that he is The Immortal Iron Fist in every conversation he has, despite no one really knowing what that is or questioning him — is searching for members of the Hand, and finds that the biggest threat is in New York City.

Meanwhile, Jessica Jones reluctantly investigates a case, and finds herself in need of a lawyer. And you’ll never guess who shows up as her lawyer. It’s Matt Murdoch: Daredevil.

Luke Cage is mostly off doing his own thing, just coming out of prison. Cage and Danny Rand — The Immortal Iron Fist, in case you forgot — have a fight that mostly exists to prevent these heroes from realising they’re on the same side. At least for a little big longer.

Eventually, these two pairs pair together, somewhat accidentally.

Weaving compelling characters

Sigourney Weaver makes the otherwise boring Hand more captivating than it’s been in “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist.” Weaver’s character, Alexandra, who has an excellent and enviable cape collection, brings Elektra back from the dead, and turns her into her little warrior. This plot, and the reveal when Murdoch sees her for the first time, fall a bit flat, since her storyline was one of the weakest points in season two of “Daredevil.”

But what really separates “Defenders” from its blockbuster movie counterpart, “The Avengers,” is its subtlety. No matter how super these heroes get, the characters and the world they’re in always feels grounded in reality. And that’s a testament to the writing, especially of the main characters. The Defenders team does not have a Tony Stark, a Thor, or a Captain America. They’re pretty much all Hawkeye — but with personalities, flaws, and purpose. They’re stubborn, they’re scared, they’re confused, and they’re real. The super powers are just a sidebar.

So while it gets off to a slow start, “Defenders” is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re already a fan of any of the standalone shows. Even if the action and story moving forward is a bit dull, these characters are worth exploring, especially when they’re together.

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