Marvel’s The Defenders debuted on Netflix last month to decent reviews and somewhat restrained hype. There was plenty of fan and media excitement leading up to the launch, but it almost seemed like Netflix downplayed the event. Official teasers and trailers conveyed a variety of action and hinted at the storyline — a war for New York — but something seemed a bit lacking in the marketing. To be fair, this seems to be Netflix’s modus operandi of late, original films like War Machine and Death Note both received little promotion before their debuts.
Of all the Marvel series on Netflix, The Defenders was supposed to be THE big event of the year (at least, until Stranger Things Season 2); a culmination of plotlines and events from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist in an epic, 8-episode mini-series. The events in The Defenders also impacted each of these characters series, kickstarting events in each of their subsequent seasons. So was the mini-series a success?
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We don’t really know, since Netflix doesn’t stream and tell. However, just one month after its release, no one’s really talking about The Defenders. Again, this isn’t necessarily a failing of the show, the fall TV season is upon us and there are some seriously major films on the horizon. That said, people revere Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, as well as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Ominously, Iron Fist was not very well-received (as has been widely reported), and it was the final lead-in to The Defenders — we’ll come back to this point in a moment.
Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based analytics company, is suggesting that The Defenders was the least-viewed Marvel show to-date. According to Variety, Jumpshot developed a proprietary technology that allows them to analyze and compare U.S.-based viewing habits to assess relative popularity of Netflix shows to one another. Jumpshot indicates that their data only the first 30-days of The Defenders (released on August 18th), and they also excluded viewing from connected-TV platforms or mobile apps — potentially skewing their data based on limited data and demographics. Frankly, it’s a process that sounds more anecdotal than empirical to me, but what do I know, I’m just a writer.
But Jumpshot might not be wrong, if you step back and assess some of the problems that plagued The Defenders the problems are easy to spot. To start, each of the Marvel-Netflix shows appeals to a different audience, and though The Defenders tried to represent each show’s distinct mood and tone, it resulted some odd moments and jarring transitions. Danny Rand grew as a character during The Defenders, but he remained a weak link overall (and criticisms of his character followed him into the mini-series). The inciting incident, a “War for New York,” and the mini-series’ big-bads, The Hand, were both poorly executed; around the halfway point of The Defenders both the war and the Hand became unfocused and laughably inept. Also, other than Daredevil, no one wore a costume — DD only wore his about half the time — even The Hand stopped dressing like Ninjas. At times, this barely felt like a superhero show.
Look, I liked The Defenders, but I recognize it’s many flaws too. The mini-series started off slow and sadly ended with a bit of a thud, but along the way there were some truly great moments. The battle at the Golden Dragon restaurant was absolutely amazing, I literally cheered when Luke captured Sowande, and said, “I got one of theirs,” and I still get chills watching Matt, Luke, Jessica, and Danny descend the elevator for their final battle.
Ultimately, Netflix doesn’t care about ratings, they’re in it for subscribers. The Defenders has its issues, no doubt, but it’s solid genre entertainment that’s part of the whole Marvel continuum. Together, Netflix and Marvel created something super fun, if kind of forgettable, but it’s a stepping stone (and hopefully a learning experience that will bear fruit in each series’ upcoming seasons).
Do you think that The Defenders was a success or a failure? Where does it rank against other Marvel TV shows? Let us know in the comments down below!
The Defenders are now streaming on Netflix.
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