With its third episode, Marvel’s The Defenders brings all of its heroes together, expands on the schemes and philosophies of its main villain, and delivers all the slam-bang, thrilling action its concept promises. The result is the best episode so far, and one that should thrill and satisfy any fans of these characters or super-heroes in general.
The episode opens with a suitably spooky and engrossing (and only slightly silly) flashback which sees Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) learning of Elektra’s (Elodie Yung) death at the end of “Daredevil” Season 2. Then, through a series of pretty cool montages, we see the Hand’s efforts to successfully resurrect Elektra, a process that leaves her pretty much a blank slate aside for her killer instincts, which suite Alexandra perfectly. Under her tutelage we see Alexandra mould Elektra into the emotionless killing machine, the legendary Black Sky the Hand always thought she would be. From there, we’re treated to a good old fashioned act-off between Sigourney Weaver and Scott Glenn as the returning Stick, who has been captured by the Hand and who must take drastic measures if he’s going to escape.
Meanwhile, Matt (Charlie Cox) and Jessica (Krysten Ritter) find themselves intrigued by each other, leading to an alternating game of cat and muse that leads them closer and closer to a corporate shell for the Hand. And, after grudgingly burying their respective hatchets, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) each follow different threads to the same sinister corporation that Matt and Jessica are closing in on. It all culminates in a killer action set piece that sees our Defender united at last, battling the Hand, Elektra and Alexandra inside the lion’s den that is Midland Circle Financial.
I enjoyed the pacing of the first two episodes, which kept the plot moving forward albeit at a speed that could be called leisurely (though arguably not by the standards of Marvel & Netflix‘s longer series). Some other viewers might have called that pace listless, I suppose, especially if they don’t especially enjoy spending their time with he characters we were checking in on. I do enjoy them, so for me the first two episodes worked, though didn’t blow me away.
This episode, however, did succeed in getting me on the edge of my seat. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich & Douglas Petrie‘s script is well-constructed, continually building in tension until the release of the final scene, which is just as fun, thrilling, visceral and welcome as you want it to be. Along the way, though, the episode takes time to let us savor the interactions between the title characters. You get the sparky banter between Matt and Jessica, a stellar example of which is Jessica’s swipe at Matt, “I’ll hit you so hard, you’ll see.” Meanwhile, Matt gets his own back when she snarks at him in his improvised mask, “You look like an a$*hole,” only to have him respond, “It’s YOUR scarf.” Quips during fights are kind of Marvel’s hallmark, maybe less so in the grimmer Netflix shows, but the ones on display here are more than functional or lazy, they actually are genuinely funny. Luke and Danny get their own in, as well, but the gems of their interactions come from the way that Luke calls Danny out on his privilege after each of them share personal details and warily feel each other out. Somehow, the weirdly meat headed dude-bro version of Iron Fist they’re constructing works a lot better when you have a character as genuine and level-headed as Luke Cage telling him, “I know privilege when I see it.” It’s a moment that sees the production team taking advantage of the opportunity to examine their character’s defects, intentional or otherwise, through the way they appear to new characters.
Speaking of that final scene, it kicks off via Danny’s wrong-headed plan to directly confront the Hand. And for the first time, I kind of got what Marvel is trying to do with Danny. Finally he comes off as the naive and socially inept sheltered kid whose noble aims and sense of honor leaves him salty ill-equipped for the machinations of the modern world. Throughout his series I sensed this was what they were going for, but instead we got a petulant man-child prone to irrational tantrums and obvious stupidity. I didn’t feel that at all here, and I hope this means they’ve cracked the character.
Director Peter Hoar nails two great sequences in “Worst Behavior”, the first being the extended flashback showing Elektra’s rebirth and re-education. Not only does it answer the questions lingering around her return, but it also emphasized Alexandra’s physical prowess, giving us a villain more than just a schemer. It’s cut together really well, quickly taking us through months of training but in a way that flows seamlessly so it goes by quickly but still communicated the time passing. And Hoar’s real success is the climatic fight scene. After the disappointment of the fight scenes in “Iron Fist”, this episode delivers an epic sequence that is among the best tin the Marvel/Netflix canon, and given that “Daredevil” contains some of the best fights put on TV, that’s saying something. Each of the combatants have personality and individuality to the way they fight. Luke is all economy and durability, a brawler. Jessica exudes irritation at every punch she has to throw, she just wants all these idiots to knock it off. Danny is the artist, using grace and his whole body (and this proves that Jones is more than capable of delivering in this regard). Finally, Matt is all emotion, using rage and unafraid to skate right up to the line. The scene also isn’t afraid to have the Defenders team up and bounce off each other is different, complimentary ways. As expected, the best in this final aspect are the original Heroes for Hire, Luke and Danny.
This third episode of Marvel’s The Defenders delivers all the excitement and punch the air moments that are the strongest indicator yet that this miniseries really will be the climatic event Marvel and Netflix (and fans) have hoped it will be. 9/10