Watching The Defenders Part Two: Red Dogs Under Illegal X
Welcome to PART TWO of Scruff and Vigor’s probably ill-considered attempt to take on daily write- ups of Netflix’s The Defenders. The latest chapter in its intertwined series of Marvel superhero shows.
If you think the people in my life are getting very tired of hearing me yell/sing "Watching the Detectives" over and over again, you are a very astute observer of human character.
WELCOME BACK! LET'S JUMP RIGHT IN, SHALL WE?
NOT CAUGHT UP? Catch our 1st installment of 'Watching the Defenders' here!
Episode 4: The Royal Dragon
- After the fight from last episode spills out into the street, all four of the Defenders take refuge in a nearby Chinese restaurant.
- Jones and Cage have their first scene together and the "we need to exposit until the audience catches up" bit is a little stilted.
- Rand continues operating in 'cocky billionaire' mode, which is way more fun than 'moody teenager' Rand. Murdoch is still disguised as an Internet meme from the early 2000's.
- The other characters pressure him into revealing his identity as a bland looking white guy in a suit, in Manhattan. With 80 years and very sophisticated facial recognition software, somebody might now be able to figure out who he is.
- Colter and Cox get a chance to 'dude-off' back-and-forth at each other and, once again, I want the scene to end in them kissing so bad I can taste it.
- This isn't the strongest part of the series. What The Defenders shows have done really well in the past is character work. When these characters get together to explain the story and pretend like they are taking it seriously, the seams really start to show. In this case, everybody explains their motivations like they are reading off the background on their RPG character sheets: "My name is Luke Cage, I have charisma of 16 and a strength of 20, and I mostly care about helping people."
- This scene could have been great if they had let the actors improvise in character a bit more. This should have felt like one of the study group scenes from Community instead of the "everybody meets in a tavern" bit from the beginning of a D&D campaign.
- Things aren't improved when Scott Glen's Stick shows up to take on the role of the dwarf in the corner "who speaks of a quest where there is great danger but also great treasure." I do appreciate that Jones simply storms out when he tries to give her orders like a huge asshole.
- "Blah. Blah. The Hand. End of the World. Blah. Blah." We learn that one of The Hand's leaders is named Murakami. I wonder if he specializes in haunting, but also whimsical, murders that highlight the absurdity of modern life. On a personal note, this is kind of distracting since I named my dog after Haruki Murakami (because I am a pretentious fuck).
- Unfortunately, nobody points out that all they really need to do is leave out some power tools where The Hand can find them and watch as the whole organization wipes itself out in a series of grotesque accidents, like the Keystone Cops crossed with a Saw movie.
- The episode ends by trying to give Elektra a cool slow motion entrance, but just reminds us that that only person she seems able to kill are other Hand assassins. And then the episode is completely redeemed when Jessica Jones returns by throwing a car at her.
- "Where's Jessica?," indeed.
Episode 5: Take Shelter
- There's a cool opening montage of Hand folks doing Hand things to a jaunty classical tune. I think it's Brockjoninov's Ode to B+ (1). But it does a nice job of building these characters a little bit. For as much shit as I talk about The Hand, I would love to see an episode devoted to their regular activities. Part of the problem is that we never really get a sense of what they are or what they do. We're told by character after character that they are evil with a capital "eeeeeeevil" but it's rarely grounded in anything.
- Things kick off for real when, in a pretty dope move, Murakami straight up crashes through a skylight right into the middle of The Defenders. He then reads a long passage from Crime and Punishment, while making a simple pasta dish. Then a cat wanders into the scene and inquires about the whereabouts of his wife (2).
- Another great fight breaks out in the restaurant. And Stick leads our heroes to escape using the sewer system, which I swear means the show's writers are trolling me specifically (3).
- The rest of the episode is devoted to arguing about whose side Elektra is really on and it really feels like a lot of wheel spinning. There are fun character moments here and there (the engine that really drives this show) but we don't really enter any new ground. Considering, we are now in the final third of the story it seems like a waste. But pacing has never been the strength of any of these shows, so why start now?
Episode 6: Ashes, Ashes
- Iron Fist decides he has to fight the others, for what I guess are 'reasons.' It's still a good fight and, again, Finn Jones is clearly really committing to the choreography.
- Finn Jones and Michael Colter are genuinely really good when they have scenes alone together. I'm sure this is setting up their relationship for future stories (Cage and Rand are friends and partners in the comics) but these are the best pieces of acting I've seen from Jones.
- The Hand finally manages to win a fight when Elektra kills Stick. So that's one elderly, blind, one armed man, down. And just four individuals in their physical prime, with goddamn super powers, to go. So, things are definitely looking up for The Hand.
- Aaaaand then Weaver, who is the ancient puppet master who commands an order of elite assassins, is murdered by Elektra.
- Meanwhile Murakami goes for a very long run and interviews members of the Aum cult.
- Yeah, things are really looking up.
NOW THAT YOU'RE ALL CAUGHT UP ON EPISODES 4 - 6...
My thoughts so far:
- Finn Jones should not play scenes opposite Weaver. He does not come off well in comparison. Iron Fist: "That's the problem. I'm all out of calm." Audience: "I'm sorry, did that sound cooler in your head?"
- Jones seems to have switched from bottom shelf bourbon to cheap Canadian whiskey. I disapprove.
- "It's chi." "No it's not." Yes!
- "Are you drunk?" "No. Yes. It doesn't matter." Double yes!