The Defenders (major spoilers ahead)

Ihe

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I don't want to seem cynical or despairing, but why does everything I love keep being dismantled by showrunners who quite simply, suck?

With the newest incursion of Marvel to the small screen, add yet another disappointment to the list. Is it just me?

After a sorely lacking Iron Fist season, here comes the biggest TV ensemble story to date, where years of world-building, of 5 seasons of assorted characters, and of expectations, come crashing down, and where the creative team show they haven't learnt their lesson.

A few good moments (and they do have a few) do not save this series. The MCs' interactions are ok, and the different screen styles they bring with them merge adequately. But my goodness, how confused the writing team was. I'll start with conflict, which should be the focal point of any story, and should hold the most importance of any plot element.

They never really decide or care much who the main antagonist is. On paper, the Hand is the boogeyman--again (sigh...) except that they never really pose a compelling threat. They don't look like an extremely powerful global organisation with fingers in all pies. The writers never show the viewer why the Hand is to be feared, and as villains they are laughably inept on most occasions, even more so than during the other Marvel seasons, which is an absolute travesty, considering that this is the final showdown that everything's led up to. This was the time for the Hand to pull all the stops, in order to justify the Defenders coming together, but for some reason the enemy barely has a presence, much less a threatening one. They feel and act like a small organisation--almost like a band of friends, where their main leaders enter the fray on several occasions (yes, those immortal leaders that run a global empire feared by all, who have rocket launchers, grenades, supposed connections and astuteness cultivated for hundreds/thousands of years, but who act like small-time crooks and go to the frontlines without so much as a hint of a plan...).

The main "big bad" during the first stretch is Sigourney Weaver's character, and she does what she can with it, but she never feels like the main villain (too hands-off, even for a refined/aristocratic baddie), as there isn't a showcasing of actual power or authority or why/how she is the leader of one of the most ruthless organisations in Marvel (Madame Gao, as a henchwoman, still commands more respect, but is demoted in her role to make way for Weaver and a resurrected Elektra). Bringing back Bakuto also feels jarringly overwhelming (and makes no sense as he was a "minor" player in the Hand's schemes last we saw him) and doesn't add anything remotely "new" to the table, with his contributions being very minor--apart from a forgettable side conflict with Colleen. They also bring on board some asian dude (can't recall his name, and I JUST finished binge-watching the entire series in a single sitting, so that should tell you all you need to know about this guy's minute contributions as well). Apart from Gao, Sowande is the other Hand leader that gets to shine briefly when caught by the heroes, before dying too soon (and get this: he gets caught off-camera. Yes, one of the leaders of the ultimate organisation that's been antagonising our heroes for season upon season, caught off-camera by Luke Cage, and decapitated within 1-2 episodes. Get used to it, anti-climatic moments like this abound here).

Finally, all of the nameless goons provide nothing but filler, and there are no upper-level henchmen that could transition conflict and build the sense of threat by the Hand leaders when they finally show (and they are shown pretty soon, robbing the Hand of any potential tension--the reveals would've been underwhelming anyways, I guess). There are too many meaningless confrontations sprinkled here and there with main Hand baddies, so there's nothing to really look forward to nearing the end.There is no build to ANY confrontation in the show, and that is the main issue. I wasn't waiting for a confrontation. I was hoping to get it over with, mainly because the fight scenes were, for the most part, bad. The final showdown runs too long, is badly-executed, and gives us NOTHING we haven't been already shown in previous episodes. Anyways, off to other bits.

Next: supporting cast. The treatment of the side characters was dreadful. They bring them all together, put them in a room, and practically forget about them. They do not contribute in any way to anything (Foggy a little bit). Colleen gets in the way of the plot more than anything, specially with her re-hashed internal conflict and her boring rivalry with Bakuto--yet another reason why Bakuto feels off as a Hand leader, being that his main opponent is not one of the MCs). The plot would've been exactly the same without any of them there. And for some reason Claire is still right in the middle of everything. And I officially dislike her now because of this.

Finally, structure: there isn't any. There is no symmetry. Daredevil and Iron Fist get clearly much bigger parts in this story than Jessica and Luke, with Claire and Coleen somehow hitching a ride with the MCs while the other side characters get, well, sidelined entirely. Colleen's side-conflict felt specially off throughout the season, and ruined momentum during the final showdown. All of this overall imbalance only worsens as the season progresses.

There is too much back-and-forth scene-hopping that doesn't give the proper time and respect scenes need to mature and to matter, so the whole thing feels superficial and hurried. They didn't have enough episodes to flesh out a reasonable plot. And the plot they did come up with sucked. I'm not willing to go into that nightmare, but it basically falls apart near the end. There are too many plotholes, and addressing them might just kill me.

I'll stop here, despite having a lot more to say. I've just finished it and I'm a bit hot-headed. I'm so desperate to love the Defenders that even now I try to rationalise the showrunners' decisions, with little success. This series has failed as a storytelling experience.
 

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