Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Defenders Season 1, Episode 4, "Royal Dragon" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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This is going to be a really quick review since I have so much more I need to be doing today and I didn’t get a chance to write this before today.

We’ve hit the midway point in The Defenders with episode 4—which seems weird to say, considering that every other Marvel Netflix show is 5 episodes longer than this one!  And it’s in this middle episode that we really get a chance to see all of the cool character interactions we have been looking forward to in this series.  Episode 3 ended with the four main heroes teaming up to take out a small army of Hand ninjas; Episode 4 is the follow-up as they get to know each other and figure out their next moves.

The episode kicks off with some comedic moments as the heroes run into a Chinese restaurant to hide from the Hand.  Danny basically agrees to buy all the food in the restaurant in exchange for them staying there.  Matt kind of shows off his abilities—and the others are completely weirded out.  I find it interesting that Matt is the one who doesn’t play well with others, while the other three are completely okay with the others knowing their identities.  I think the biggest surprise—not only in this episode but in the entire season—is how well Matt and Jess play off each other:  Jess is very quick to realize that Matt is Daredevil and convince him to stay and join with the others.

Watching all of them interact while eating is actually a lot of fun.  We already know all the characters from their respective series, but there is a difference between seeing Danny and Matt as the main characters of their own show and seeing them play off each other on equal footing.  It is clear that these characters aren’t really used to working with other heroes; Matt barely teamed up with Elektra, Luke and Jess fought together all of once, and Danny is the only one who has really teamed with any other heroes (having traveled around with Colleen).  I suppose it makes sense in that context for Danny to be the one proposing that they all work together, and the one who sticks around without trying to leave—especially after Stick arrives and explains that the Chaste is sort-of like the Iron Fist’s “Army.”

The personal dynamics between these characters are all good.  They do a great job of showing the awkwardness between Luke and Jess (considering that they slept together, then he found out she killed his wife, then he got mind-controlled, then she shot him in the face with a shotgun!).  Danny and Matt have some interesting interactions with Stick, with Matt almost walking out the moment he sees Stick due to their previous negative interactions.

This episode also does a good job of balancing the character development between the four heroes, with each receiving a few moments in the spotlight.  Jess’s biggest moment comes when she leaves to return to her apartment, realizes that there’s more going on than she thought, and returns to the fight, making a dramatic entrance by throwing a car through the wall.  Matt’s moments of trying to grasp what happened to Elektra are pretty big for his character, especially since he never had a chance to get over her death in Daredevil season 2.

Stick’s role in this episode is really just to be the walking exposition man, as his primary job is to explain the history of the Hand and the Chaste.  Stick does get several exciting moments in the series, but his role is smaller than I had expected.  I don’t mind that, though; the focus should be on the heroes themselves.  And I realize that someone had to explain to the heroes who the Hand were, so I guess Stick was as good a character to do that as any.

The best part of this episode is probably all the character interactions, which set the stage for a lot of the second half of the season.  It’s kind of a slow episode, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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