It’s 2017. The Defenders are coming.
I don’t know how Entertainment Weekly gets all of the Marvel scoops, but they do a terrific job. In this case, just as with plenty of superhero flicks before this, EW has our first look at the Netflix limited series that features a mashup of four Marvel heroes. The plan has been in the works for a while now, and now, the project is going full throttle to the culmination of the Defenders.
So far, Netflix viewers have met 3 of the 4 members of this rag tag group. First, 2015 introduced viewers to The Man Without Fear himself, Daredevil. A blind lawyer by day, Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) uses his heightened other senses and radar-like ability to fight street thugs and crime lords. The first season was particularly bolstered by an amazing villain in Vincent Donofrio‘s Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime. Charlie Cox brought a refreshing take to portraying Daredevil, a hero who hadn’t been seen in over a decade, and whose last appearance was an underwhelming movie role featuring Ben Affleck (long before he figured out how to play a superhero.)
The second of the Defenders introduced was Jessica Jones. Portrayed as an excellent, flawed and tarnished renegade by Kristen Ritter, the invulnerable and incredibly strong Jones was defeated from frame one. She couldn’t be dominated physically, but mentally, she was a shell, having been abused and utterly invaded by Kilgrave (Dr. Who’s David Tennant). The first season of her show saw Jessica crawl back from the brink of despair, thanks largely to the hopefulness of her friend, Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor) and her very unique relationship with the Defenders’ other bulletproof, invulnerable member…
Luke Cage, aka Power Man. Cage (brought to the screen masterfully by Mike Colter) was given his own show in 2016, and it was masterfully written, with an incredible cast (including Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy), Alfre Woodard (Primal Fear), and Frankie Faison (Silence of the Lambs), deep-rooted soundtrack, and photography that made it feel as much like a period piece as a superhero show. Colter’s Cage is charming from frame one, and the show features just enough humor to break up the danger surrounding the characters.
The fourth Defender hasn’t had his show aired yet. Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand, gets his series debut in March, with Game of Thrones‘ Finn Jones in the title role. Rand’s power is his chi-based martial arts, which will provide a great counterpoint to his Heroes for Hire partner, Cage. Not much has been revealed about this show, but Iron Fist and Power Man go back decades in the pages of Marvel comics. There’s plenty of source material to draw from here.
The Defenders also has two other strong things happening in its favor. First, Hollywood legend Sigourney Weaver is signed to play the big bad. All we know is her name, Alexandra, which doesn’t tie itself into any particular source material. Fans were universally excited with her signing on to join D’onofrio, Tennant, and Ali as some of the best baddies on TV. Also, a number of the supporting cast members who have vastly added tot he quality of the Netflix shows are also signed to appear. None of these have been as involved as Rosario Dawson‘s Night Nurse, Claire Temple, who has appeared in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Also expected to appear are Taylor’s Trish Walker (did you catch her vocal cameo in Luke Cage?), Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, and Simone Missick‘s fantastic detective Misty Knight. These supporting actors and actresses are every bit as important to the Defenders as the heroes themselves.
The team dynamic is fascinating, because based on personalities, it would be hard to figure out any real structure. Cage at this point is a fugitive, and Jones is struggling to deal with her newfound popularity and the number of potential clients lining up for her investigative services. Murdock seems like the obvious leader, but he’s struggling with keeping his loved ones safe, questioning if he should even continue the vigilante justice of his alter ego. The power dynamic is also interesting, because Daredevil should be massively outgunned. Jones and Cage are essentially invulnerable to physical attack, and Iron Fist is baby step away from channeling magic. So, how does Daredevil hang with this group? Simple, he is “the man without fear.” Writer Mark Waid wrote a terrific story arc where Daredevil partners with Spider-Man to defeat a series of villains, and it’s Spider-Man who is repeatedly in awe of Murdock and his willingness to face danger regardless of the risk. It’s his shear will that makes him able to hang with the big dogs.
It’s also partially his love of the mission. The clip below is a perfect example (as well as a testimony to the amazing work by this SAG-nominated stunt team) of Daredevil’s willingness to be the man without fear. The clip from :16 to :24 really show Murdock’s desire to dive right in and to take on a biker gang that (mistakenly) believes he shot one of their leaders.
The 3rd season of Daredevil is set for 2018, after the Defenders. Staying on the source material conversation, hopes are high that the writers adapt some of the best comic stories out there. Frank Miller’s brilliant “Born Again” storyline would be a favorite, though it would require some changes. In this series, Page sells Murdock’s secret identity to the Kingpin, who systematically dismantles Murdock’s finances, his legal career, and then takes aim at everyone who matters to him. It’s a deep story with wonderful artwork by David Mazzucchelli. Cox and his co-stars would definitely do it justice.
The Defenders makes its Netflix debut in September 2017.