Top 5 Netflix “Defendersverse” Seasons

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    The Netflix Marvel “Defendersverse” is an experiment I wish had gone on. Outside of “Umbrella Academy” this is the only quality superhero content on Netflix and here they gave us so many amazing characters and storylines. I don’t know if Disney will take those same risks and given Disney’s growing corporate monopoly I’m not all that inclined to support Disney Plus. This was a series that I overall enjoyed. “The Defenders” season 1 was even great in how bad it was, but because it was bad it did not make this list. Every season on here is a season I would come back to re-watch or have gone back to re-watch. Also, I feel Disney taking these characters back probably won’t work. I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe but we have not seen them take the kinds of R rated risks this series or really “Deadpool” took. So hopeful but doubtful we’ll see these characters again as great as they were before, if ever again.

Slight spoiler warnings here. If you want to watch “The Defenders,” “The Punisher,” “Daredevil,” Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” and haven’t yet this review isn’t for you. I have to talk about the content on why I enjoyed these shows or didn’t enjoy them, and that involves spoilers so…

SPOILER WARNING for all the shows I just listed.

 

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5th – “Daredevil” Season 2

Finding 5th place on this list was somewhat difficult. I felt “Iron Fist” Season 2 solved many problems I had with Season 1 and “The Punisher” Season 1 is great when it doesn’t get distracted.  What ended up being the deciding factor for me were the side stories. Frank Castle is introduced in this season and his face-off against Daredevil is perfection. It is a fight I’d love to see Batman have more against a friend or ally who crosses his line. This season did that. We also see how Matt’s obsession wad destroying his relationships. From Claire to Foggy, Matt when he was all in as the weapon Stick had built him to be, he was screwed. This could have been more if “The Hand” was written as a more compelling villain but them not being more compelling is a reason this isn’t higher on the list and had to be debated on to get here. The Karen and Castle story is far superior to the Matt and Elektra story and that is where the side stories being stronger made me appreciate this season. Frank Castle’s arc in this season is better than either seasons of “The Punisher.” This is a season worth a re-watch for the B plots.

 

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4th – “Jessica Jones” Season 1

This is a season that didn’t make the best use of Killgrave as a villain for the climax of the story. Throughout the story he is a great threat, but when he has the power to control anyone who here’s him with his voice we get nothing interesting. I blame lack of creativity for this. What works though is Jessica Jones and her relationship. Her relationship with her adoptive mother and adopted sister are where she first stands up for another due to her adoptive mom abusing her and Trish. This leads her doubting herself later on due to her isolation from them and Kilgrave’s using of her and all those around her she cares for. Krysten Ritter is absolutely amazing as we see her work through how she was abused and gaslighted by Kilgrave. From here her arc is the slow building of community and fighting to stop Kilgrave. Most episodes are good to great, it is just the climax and Killgrave’s powers being so underutilized in that climax that keep this season from being higher on the list. David Tennant as Kilgrave and Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones carry the show and the more time away from the show more the story grew on me. There is so much good here.

 

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3rd – “Luke Cage” Season 2

“Luke Cage” Season 1 had one of my favorite villains in Cottonmouth. He didn’t last but due to how villains and antagonists are used this time around, and Luke’s own ego growing lead to an exciting season that I loved. Mariah makes up for the amazing threat of her brother “Cottonmouth” not being around. “Shades” is a great villain beginning to question what he is doing and his loyalty and “Bushmaster” shows up and his war against Maria hurts Luke Cage’s protection of Harlem forcing him to change further and make some difficult decisions that only make him more compelling. Like Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, Luke Cage is someone who is someone who pushes others away. In this case it is different though because he feels invulnerable and that feeling never really leaves as he realizes he has to make tough decisions to keep Harlem safe. I loved that. He ends almost as an anti-hero and it works. He was a character who is good at the core but also human and has an ego that ruins his relationships. In the end he is all about the big picture and like most heroes in the “Defendersverse,” this makes him isolated. This season was great. The flaw on why it wasn’t higher is Mariah should have been used more and been longer lasting in power.

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2nd – “Jessica Jones” Season 3

“Jessica Jones” Season 3 builds on what worked about Season 1, but has a better conclusion. One of the only reasons this season is better than “Luke Cage” Season 2 is because this season has a level of hope the other prior ones don’t have. I get that Netflix is walking a line of dark R “Marvel Cinematic Universe” which I feel should still go on, Netflix has more than earned it. This season goes fully dark but the fact that it ends with hope and our heroes like Jessica and Malcom choosing the good gives me that perfect bittersweet. This season is where we see Jessica become the hero while dealing with Trish and her abuse like Matt Murdock’s leading to her becoming a weapon akin to Daredevil and The Punisher, except Trish does kill. What helps with this dilemma is them facing off against a serial killer named Sallinger. He like Jessica and Trish was also abused and used it to become a monster who targeted Inhumans believing them to be cheaters for having abilities. The season arc is powerful and I loved where everyone ends up. Luke Cage post his own Season 2 meets up with Jessica and reminds her of her choice and responsibility to stop Trish. It is great and I miss that as far as we know right now, we won’t see more of their relationship.

 

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1st – “Daredevil” Season 1

“Daredevil” Season 1 is still the height of the show. We get to introduced to amazing villains like Wesley, Madam Gao and the Kingpin. This is a show that is truly carried by the villains as they are on top for most of the film, which gives Matt Murdock so much he has to fight against and work for. This is a season with cost. Season 3’s Kingpin is never as threatening or effective as he is this season. This season is also where Matt is most human and we come to understand his obsession through his backstory and the murder of his father. It is powerful and Kingpin’s story mirrors it in the killing of his father to protect his mother. Both of them were shaped by those around them and came to have a warped view on what it means to protect what they believe to be theirs. This mirroring of one another and the war against Kingpin who has united the gangs is beautifully handled. I also love Claire and Matt’s relationship far more than the Karen and Matt relationship of later seasons. This was the season that kicked off the entire “Defendersverse” and still remains the best of them all.

I know “Disney+” might bring some of these stories and heroes and villains back. I’m just less likely to trust it. Unless they are the same writers who have clearly shown an ability to learn and also giving “Disney” some competition…I don’t want a monopoly. I want competition and so far I have seen nothing from “Disney” to show they will be putting out original films and shows the way Netflix is. Support competition and indie films and show please. This subset of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” being absorbed is not something that gives hope in the corporate game of control of “Marvel” or any other franchise.

“The Defenders” Season 1 – One of the Best Teams in the MCU and a Worthy Threat

    “The Defenders” is the best show I’ve watched in the Defenders Universe it is a part of since “Daredevil” Season 1. The ending isn’t as good as Season 1 but the characters are more dynamic, everyone grows and even Iron Fist is made into a more likable guy. The strongest part of the show is still the side characters though and we finally have a lot of questions answered that have been hinted on through both “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist.” As far as my non-spoiler thoughts, you don’t need to have watched any of the prior shows to enjoy this one. It stands strong on it’s own and is one of the best creations to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The show was created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez.

The story involves the leaders of the Hand coming together under Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) as the Defenders (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage) must come together to stop them and their apocalyptic aspirations for New York City, as well as finding out what it they seek at the bottom of the city.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Action – This is a series that brings back the best of the action we saw in “Daredevil” Seasons 1 and 2. There are a lot of great action beats as Colleen Wing, the Defenders and others face off against the Hand and those they are manipulating in Hell’s Kitchen. The final fight at the bottom of the city in another world is also really cool too as well as when the leaders of the Hand face off against the Defenders.

The Hand and their History – There are Five Leaders of the Hand who were exiled from K’un-Lun for seeking the cure for death and finding immortality. They find it in the bones of Dragons we discover in this and that is the substance that keeps bringing them back when they die. By the time of this series they use the last of it resurrect Elektra as the Black Sky but it does not go as planned as she kills Alexandra to take control of the group. There are 5 members of the Hand each representing a finger and area of the world, Alexandra, Murakami (who was controlling the Yakuza in Season 1 and 2), Bakuto (from “Iron Fist” is brought back again) and Sowande or “White Hat,” who has been using Harlem to recruit and Madam Gao who has been recurring through a few of the series. Learning about their exile and the reasons they went to K’un-Lun are powerful and I loved seeing them face off against the Defenders. “White Hat” and Murakami are the least memorable but Gao once again shows why she is in my Top 5 MCU Villains given her ability to survive and the tragedy of Alexandra is a nice touch as her personal desire to have Elektra as her daughter, blinds her judgement. All of them are at least interesting even if Murakami and “White Hat” go mostly unexplored.

The Defenders and Coming Together – The Defenders are like a mixture between The Guardians and Avengers. You have the Captain America / Luke Cage / Star Lord leader type, you have the sarcastic damaged fighter in Rocket / Jessica Jones / Bruce Banner, you have the Child Soldier in Black Widow / Iron Fist and Drax who are shaped by personal loss and you have the Iron Man / Daredevil / Gamora in the conflicted hero trying to do good. There is a lot of overlap and I’m curious what lines you’d draw to the similarities between heroes but these were the ones that got me. Seeing the dynamic come together on a small gritty level was wonderful and I can’t wait to see where the show goes from here and how our characters are shaped in their own shows and how that plays into their next team up, which will probably be against Kingpin.

Awareness of the People of Hell’s Kitchen – There is much more awareness of the people of Hell’s Kitchen in this. From Knight and the cops calling them out on being vigilantes, in Luke Cage calling out Iron Fist for beating up scared kids who got pulled into the Hand just looking for a job to survive and how his billionaire privilege shows he doesn’t get it (as well as his race, class and name – Rand). I loved it and I hate how we don’t see this enough in Batman. Bruce Wayne is doing exactly what Iron First was put besides Alfred sometimes and Dawes in “Batman Begins” I can’t think of a time where he’s been called out. This was needed and a lot of this show is calling out Danny for his arrogance and in turn forcing him to grow and truly become a hero. This show is amazing.

The Women of “The Defenders” – The women of the Defenders Universe are the best written characters on this show. Alexandra is dying of cancer but can’t let go of the world she left behind leading it to her protecting Elektra even into her death, Madam Gao is surviving and understands just how powerful the Defenders are (only Hand member who really does) Jessica Jones is working through her trauma and trust and having to work on a team and Colleen Wing is working herself through her Hand conditioning as well as doing all she can to be there for people who push her away. These women made the show amazing and are the best parts of the MCU, especially in this show.

Facing Trauma – So many characters have to face their trauma in this (a running theme of the Defendersverse) with the strongest being Wing’s final defeat of Bakuto (and working through the mind control the Hand put her through) when she is trying to save Danny and blow up the building that holds the substance but we also have Daredevil confronting Stick and his abuse as well as Danny working on his own failure to save the monks. These three best illustrate this theme this season as Jessica Jones is very much doing her own thing and the trauma is so bad she has trouble being close to anyone, even friends.

Okay: The Ending – The ending is okay. This is one thing that the first season of “Daredevil” has over this one as the ending involves the team moving on and Daredevil is believed to be dead (the cave collapses on him and Elektra) and when he wakes up we get hints at the show taking a darker path as everyone he knows believes him to be dead. His sacrifice was okay but we knew a “Daredevil” Season 3 was coming and no one had been set up to take up his mantel if something like this happened to him. These take away from the loss of the moment even though I did enjoy the good-byes and how the character relationships have changed because they’ve all finally interacted and grown from one another, becoming “The Defenders.” The Hand is shut down as an organization at this point though Murakami and Gao survived and both of them have the substance that gives them immortality, so I’m curious how all of that will play out, as well as Elektra’s and Matt’s future.

This was the best to come out of the “Defenders” Universe and is my Second favorite Season if I put them all side by side. Season 1 of “Daredevil” is still perfection for me in this Universe but this gets most of the things right and only really falls short on the ending. It is great to see the Hand explored and truly appreciated as a threat and most importantly I loved the character dynamics between the Defenders and the members of the Hand. These character moments are why this MCU series that Netflix has created is so amazing and it is why I’ll keep coming back. If you haven’t gotten into this universe yet, this Season, like “Daredevil” Season 1 is a great way to do so.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

 

 

“Jessica Jones” Season 1 – A Decent Character Show With a Villain Who Never Reaches Great

Jessica Jones

    “Jessica Jones” is a solidly good show, hell I’d even call it one of my favorites…but it is no way in the Top 5 and it has quite a few issues that become glaringly obvious when the final roles around. Now these issues didn’t make me disown or hate the show, but it felt worse than some of the Marvel Cinematic Films that have suffered from similar problems because there was so much more set up in the beginning and so much more potential in the premise, and it had a great cast to boot to make that possible, sadly it didn’t succeed.

     The show was created by Melissa Rosenberg and created from the Marvel Comics and hosted on Netflix who produced the show.

This review does contain SPOILERS, so be warned.

      The story is about Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) who is a private eye who is trying to find Kilgrave (David Tennant) the inhuman who mind controlled her to murder and do other horrendous things and made her client kill her parents.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The opening is very noir with a light piano piece leading into rising tension before end. Sean Callery did it and did a fantastic job at that. This music is present through the series and sets the tone for the world.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is stunning and great use of color contrasts are used, especially the use of purple as Kilgrave is called “The Purple Man” in the comics and anytime you see purple tension rises. Manuel Billeter did a great job.

The Tone – The tone is one of isolation, fear and paranoia, which fits as Kilgrave is a character that can make people do anything he wants them to. This tension is used really well…up until the finale…

The Characters – The characters, like with “Marvel’s Daredevil,” are easily the strongest part of the series. Part of this is due to writing but a lot of it is just the performance by the actors, as they really get a chance to shine.

Claire – Rosario Dawson is back and even though she’s nothing more than a glorified cameo tying the world together for “The Defenders” she stands as her own unique character who has to make difficult choices to help characters and people bigger than the world she knows. In this instance it’s her trying to save Luke Cage.

Malcolm – Malcolm is the best minor character in the show and I cared about what happened to him. He’s in the Karen role as he shows himself to be a true friend to Jessica on multiple occasions and in the end is helping her with her agency. Eka Darville does a great job in the role.

Hogarth – Carrie-Anne Moss is fantastic as the shark lawyer who is in a divorce with her wife to be with her secretary. At one point she makes a deal with Kilgrave for helps and it ruins her life. It takes Jessica refocusing her for her to begin putting her life back together and doing her job. She’s a great ruthless character, she’s also a lesbian and the show is great at letting her be sexual without it being exploitative, it respects her for the relationships she has, which cinema needs to do more of.

Luke Cage – Luke Cage is a good character and I am looking forward to his show. He’s the man with unbreakable skin who has an odd relationship with Jessica as Jessica killed his wife under Kilgrave’s influence and his wife may have played a part in his creation into an inhuman. As the lab she worked with was the lab that turned Jessica and gave her super strength. Will Traval is awesome in the role and it is sad when Kilgrave uses him as his Dragon in his penultimate fight with Jessica leading to Cage’s near death by Jessica’s hands.

Trish – Rachael Taylor is great in the “Foggy” role as she is the supportive friend who is there through the thick and thin. Like Jessica she is a survivor of abuse, though from Trish it is from her mother who abused her emotionally and physically and made her a brand starlet to be sold. She sets boundaries with her and those never change. She is willing to do anything for Jessica including being used by Kilgrave to lure Kilgrave into a false sense of security. She really is a good minor character and I look forward to her story unfolding down the line.

Kilgrave – David Tennant make a great villain, sadly he doesn’t get great writing at the end. He’s a character obsessed with having Jessica as she is the only one to break free of his control and she’s an inhuman like him. It’s an obsession and he’s creepy in his stalking of her and his taking control of Luke Cage when he learns of her relationship to him. He has so much going to be being one of Marvel’s best villains…and it fails in the end. He only takes control of a small group, he does nothing with Hell’s Kitchen and he gets his neck snapped…in the end he’s underwhelming like every other marvel villain in the MCU. Acted great, but writing brought down only to good.

Jessica Jones – Krysten Ritter is a good actress and she was perfect for this role. She’s bitter, lonely and paranoid and dealing with healing from abuse. This is her arc and it is handled decently…sadly it isn’t through Kilgrave’s murder or through her relationship with Luke Cage or even Trish. Malcolm is how we know she’s gotten to the point that she can do more than lash out and use people and it’s a great scene as he answers her phone. This was the one great moment in the finale. Overall, I like her character but thought her writing was uneven, though it isn’t from Ritter’s lack of talent. Ritter like Tennant does a great job with what she’s given, it’s just the script and pacing fail to give her great.

Healing From Abuse – Not all our characters get that, but Jessica and Trish are both given the chance to heal and face their abusers and find victory and strength. It’s empowering and I’m glad the show did this. The Kilgrave Survivors Support Group was another great use of this too.

The Cons: Simpson – Captain America Knockoff (seriously he looks like Chris Evans and is a super soldier) who serves little purpose as I never believed his relationship with Trish fully and he was way to unstable to like…and his arc never went anywhere. He’s just there to set up Season 2 of “Jessica Jones” or “The Defenders” as he’s kidnapped by the agency and we never hear from him again.

Kilgrave’s Power – Kilgrave is given a power boost at the end and he does nothing with it. He doesn’t hold the city hostage, he doesn’t make everyone try to kill one another or try to kill Jessica…he just takes a small group…when he’d taken hold of a hospital before. Seriously he had this huge power buildup and we don’t see him do anything interesting with it. What was the point of getting a power boost if it doesn’t go anywhere? This turned him into every other MCU Villain who falls flat in the Finale.

Uneven Pacing – The pacing was uneven at the beginning and the end, it was almost like they got sidetracked with side plots while losing focus on the main story of Jessica Jones and Kilgrave…and it hurt the show.

Anti-climatic – Kilgrave takes a small group hostage, does nothing to put safegaurds against Jessica, even though she’s been immune to his ability every single time post him making her kill…and she just snaps his neck. What a waste of a finale. He didn’t feel like a threat at the end and they didn’t make him do anything worthy of having such awesome powers. He should have been a child making everyone kill themselves and one another to force Jessica to make a deal and have to sacrifice…since in the end all he wanted was her, at the end I had trouble believing that.

     Once again, this is a show that doesn’t compare to “Marvel’s Daredevil,” but it is a good show within it’s own right, mostly from the strength of the actors and actresses and the fact that many of the characters are fascinating enough to hold a scene, even if they have so much unrealized potential. If you like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is worth checking out even though I will warn you now, it is pretty anti-climatic and I hate that Kilgrave didn’t use his power to it’s full potential.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10