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Review: 'The Defenders' brings out the best in Marvel's unlikeliest heroes

The ties that bind Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist run deep. But they're just starting to figure all that out in The Defenders.

The new Marvel Netflix series that teams up Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand/really-wants-someone-to-call-him-Iron-Fist (Finn Jones) does a stellar job of weaving their standalone stories together while also bringing in a formidable villain for the four to fight.

The not-super heroes are loners by choice or circumstance, but reluctantly agree to band together to take on the city's next evil. And the new series does a good job of refreshing us on each character and what they've been up to since their standalone series without feeling like an information dump.

Matt Murdock has given up his stint as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen after Elektra's death in Season 2 of Daredevil. Jessica Jones is trying to rebuild her life and her private investigations company after a mentally draining first season. Luke Cage is fresh out of another stint in jail and is still striving to keep his Harlem home a safer place. And Danny Rand is brought back to New York from Cambodia, where he was chasing The Hand with girlfriend Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).

Into their gritty New York City streets walks Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) an elusive leader of The Hand, an underground criminal organization that made appearances in Daredevil and Iron Fist.

Weaver is an electric villain, a scene-stealer in shimmery geometric ensembles spouting chilly monologues about immortality and living weapons. She brings mystery to a villain whose motives often seem wholly predictable.

The achilles heel of the Defenders quad is Jones' Iron Fist. He really wants to be called the Immortal Iron Fist, you guys, and he really wants you to know how great of a fighter he is. Danny Rand is the annoying little brother of the group, who's made more irritating by his seemingly limitless amount of money and corporate privilege.

The new series clearly took notes from the successes and failures of the standalone series, especially the bumbling Iron Fist and the dull filler scenes that came with giving 13 episodes to the other four shows. The Defenders is a slim eight episodes, with just enough time to establish a solid team, villain and tension-packed storyline. 

And, luckily, the jabs at Iron Fist are abundant, mostly from Luke and Jessica and often in the form of exaggerated eye rolls. At one point, a fan-favorite makes his Defenders debut and calls Iron Fist the world's greatest fighter, but still a "thundering dumbass."

Speaking of exciting returns, we get to see more of Elodie Yung, who played Elektra in Daredevil, in The Defenders. Her shadowy new role combines distant sadness with lethal talents.

While the first two episodes are a slow burn building up to that fiery hallway fight scene from the trailer, the four episodes provided to critics prove this series isn't going to have a middle lull. It doesn't come off as four different characters mashed together, nor does it feel like an entirely separate original Marvel production. Through its audio, visuals and approach, The Defenders feels like the best of all four shows seamlessly connected.

The Defenders not only bring fresh perspectives to the table overflowing with NYC Chinese food, they show that their combined differences make them an unstoppable team.

Those differences, coupled with a brooding tone that eerily matches each character, make The Defenders one of the best Marvel series yet.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.


MORE MARVEL

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Review: Jessica Jones is the reluctant superhero we need

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