Marvel’s The Defenders: the new Netflix series you might want to miss
TV review: Four telly superheroes join forces against a common enemy – our patience
In human affairs, two heads are better than one, but in the superhuman stakes it’s a four-person minimum. So, while on the big screen Avengers assemble and Justice forms a league, on the smaller screen Marvel’s street-level heroes strike up a long-promised alliance in The Defenders (Netflix, streaming from Friday).
This multi-pack combination consists of Daredevil, the blind vigilante of Hell’s Kitchen; Jessica Jones, a private detective whose near-invincibility may be the only thing shielding her from the consequences of some truly heroic drinking; the unbreakable Harlem protector Luke Cage; and finally some earnest rich kid who won’t stop calling himself “the immortal Iron Fist, weapon of K’un Lun”.
That they all come together, over the space of three plodding episodes, to take on a common enemy who is somehow not Iron Fist may confuse newcomers, but Marvel has never been especially good at drawing persuasive villains.
Ninja terror network
For the new series, the nemesis is Sigourney Weaver, playing the obscenely rich CEO of a shadowy corporation, and a generous benefactor to the arts, named Alexandra. It’s the latter quality, I suspect, that marks her out as unnaturally abhorrent, more than her involvement with an ancient ninja terror network that dabbles in the occult. Once you see her enjoy a private Brahms recital from the New York Philharmonic, you know she’s rotten to the core.
Alexandra is determined to destroy New York City, a little like Kim Jong-un, or, for that matter, Donald Trump, and the Defenders, who all seemed to have bought at the right time, are in some position to defend it. They themselves have nothing much to lose, however, unburdened by characterisation, personality or much decent dialogue. Jessica Jones, the supercream of the supercrop, is underused over the first four episodes; Iron Fist, the super-runt of the superlitter, is gratefully muted and spared. Narratively, a tormented Daredevil and a pretty sanguine Luke Cage are both in something of a rut.
Visually, they belong to different shows, Daredevil enveloped in burning red, Jessica in sharper light, Luke in a nostalgic summer flicker and Iron Fist frowning over oriental flutes and stupid declarations (“We got there just in time to watch him die!”). For his part, Luke Cage hits the nail on the head when he sighs, during Iron Fist’s self-exposition, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Luke has the right idea. Save yourself.