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– by David Kozlowski

We’re back with our Episode 2 review of The Defenders Season 1. At the time of this writing I’m only two episodes ahead, so I don’t know too much about what happens next, but I can say that each episode builds and improves over the previous episode. So, even though I’m being a bit harsh at times, I’m really enjoying the mini-series, and I’m excited about the direction it’s heading.


UNSPOOLING THE MYSTERY

“I heard about her, thought she’d be bigger.” — Misty Knight.

New York is pretty shook-up over the earthquake from Episode 1. Locals are calling into “Trish Talk” radio, citing fears of another Avenger-esque “incident” or a new form of terrorism — it’s a nice bit of exposition that re-establishes the stakes for Hell’s Kitchen’s residents, while also reinforcing that the world beyond these borders is no less perilous.

RELATED – The Defenders Season 1, Episode 1 Review: The H Word

One of the things that really stands out in The Defenders thus far is its emphasis on the neighborhood and showing how people are directly impacted by these events. In the aftermath of the quake we see Matt saving young looters from gun-happy shopowners, Jessica grudgingly assisting the police in the recovery of plastic explosives, and Luke working to be a mentor in one troubled young man’s life — the big-screen Avengers cannot spend nearly as much time exploring these smaller elements of character and context, but this is the heart and soul of The Defenders.

Regarding the core mystery, we still don’t know much about The Hand’s ultimate goals, beyond being dire for everyone living in NYC. The Hand, however, has always been a poorly defined enemy, illustrated solely in terms of criminal enterprises and visceral violence. We know they’ve been a criminal factor for generations, and have immersed themselves into every aspect of police, government, and the media… and now their endgame is in-play, but we’re no wiser as to their motives or tactics. Additionally, Alexandra, Madame Gao, and Elektra are barely in this episode, yet their presence is still felt everywhere.


ASSEMBLING THE TEAM

“Just remember, you started this.” — Luke Cage.

Our four heroes remain largely separated during this episode, but events are pushing them closer together. Danny, who appears to be a big part of The Hand’s master plan, is beginning to realize that he’s in over his head and can’t do this alone; he even takes advice from Colleen — possibly a sign of much-needed maturity.

Following a thin lead, Danny and Colleen stumble into a fresh mass-murder scene, which Danny attributes to The Hand (because they’re responsible for every bad thing in his life). This sets up a collision with Luke, who’s identified a new enemy: a tall black man in a dapper white suit and hat named Sowande, who hires some locals to sanitize this crime scene — including Cole, the young man Luke sought to help. It results in a cute-meet scenario between Luke and Danny, as seen in the trailers and teaser videos. Luke and Danny exchange blows over Cole — Danny thinks he has information on the murders, while Luke wants to simply pull Cole’s butt out of the fire. During their fight the police arrive and Cole is apprehended.


EVENTS BEYOND THEIR CONTROL

“We have allies, we’re not alone in this.” — Colleen Wing.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s case keeps expanding, she’s onto something weird and allies like Trish and Hogarth are helping her fill in the blanks. The subject of her investigation, John Raymond, appears in her office, holding a gun to Malcolm’s head — he’s scared, he knows something, and that means he’s about to die, naturally. Elektra shows up and precipates his demise, but she clearly didn’t know about Jessica’s powers. Their battle is far too short, but it makes clear that Elektra is far stronger as the resurrected Black Sky, than in her previous life.

The best parts of this episode involve Jessica and Luke investigating leads in their respective corners of the neighborhood. Each employs their own particular sleuthing skills, while also expressing their own distinct personalities — it’s a great contrast that highlights the best parts of each character and how they go about their business.


RANDOM THOUGHTS…

Changing directors every episode is a standard TV practice, which works in a long-running series where characters, plots, and events are structured and refined over dozens of episodes, but is just distracting here. The Defenders combines four different series, each with their own distinct style and pacing. A single director would have made a lot more sense (a la True Detective). This episode is directed by S. J. Clarkson, who does a fantastic job of creating interesting compositions and and camera-framing, but results in a completely different tone and feel from the previous episode.

Though the overall pace of The Defenders is still rather slow, it’s giving us a great chance to better re-acquaint ourselves with Matt, Jessica, Luke, Danny, and their extended families of Foggy, Malcolm, Misty, Claire, Colleen, and Hogarth. Good news, events pick up speed big time in the next couple episodes, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re about to be rewarded!

We have a Turk (Rob Morgan) sighting, always a welcome intrusion into Hell’s Kitchen antics!

Grade: B

Are you enjoying the more character-focused emphasis thus far in The Defenders? Let us know in the comments down below!

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David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.