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TV Series Review

New York City: Frank Sinatra once said that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And boy, do the bad guys take that to heart.

Ever since an extraterrestrial army came a-callin' in The Avengers, the Big Apple's been the site of big trouble—at least on Netflix. What with all the arms dealers and mind-controlling psychopaths and crime kingpins who literally go by the name Kingpin, New York's finest have been plenty busy.

Thankfully, they've gotten a little help from a handful of second-tier superheroes, too. Not iron-suited billionaires or demigods with hammers, mind you, but semi-regular folks who, generally, wear regular clothes: The super-strong sleuth Jessica Jones. Bulletproof Luke Cage. Wealthy businessman Danny Rand, who can become the mystical martial artist Iron Fist. The blind lawyer-turned-vigilante Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil. Each, in their own ways, have done what they could to make the city safer.

But now, it seems, the city may be facing its greatest threat: The Hand, an organization so nefarious that even death can't keep its members down. What cataclysmic change does it mean to make in NYC? Take over the Empire State Building? Nah, too small. Snarl traffic? Rush hour takes care of that pert near every day. Give the Jets a winning season? C'mon, now: No criminal organization is that powerful.

Whatever the Hand—led by the fearsome index finger Alexandra—means to do in the city, it won't be pleasant. And it may be too much of a challenge for single hero to deal with alone.

But together? Maybe they can make a fist of their own.

Defenders, Assemble!

The Defenders indeed present an intimidating front to the villainous forces arrayed against them. Each one loves their little corner of the city, and they'll do whatever they can to protect it.

But these heroes don't just pack superpowers. They're toting some significant baggage, as well.

Jessica, a hard-drinking private eye, is perhaps the most problematic of the bunch. Always cynical and often soused, she slouches through the city like an eye-rolling high school goth. "Do not say the H word," she tells her pal Trish, referring to the word hero. "I've got enough of a headache as it is."

But everyone here has issues. Danny Rand is an enthusiastic enfant terrible, unable at first to buy into the whole concept of "team." Luke is fresh off a stint in prison. Matt is a devout-but-struggling Catholic whose do-gooding tendencies are alloyed with some anger-management issues. And Matt's Catholic faith certainly doesn't stop him from jumping in the sack with a paramour on occasion.

Indeed, all of our heroes have a tendency to get intimate with members of the opposite sex—and the Netflix show has a tendency to show at least some of that intimacy. They may want to save the city, but save themselves for marriage? Pish.

The City That Should Sleep Every Once In A While

Let's give props where it's due for a minute: Disney's done something truly unprecedented with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the last several years on film and television, the folks at Disney/Marvel have crafted a torrent of stand-alone stories that blend seamlessly into a larger narrative. Stuff that happens in one property (like The Avengers) impacts what happens in another (like ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Netflix's Daredevil and Jessica Jones theoretically inhabit the same world as Disney's Iron Man and Captain America.

But there are differences. Netflix's take on that universe feels smaller, more intimate, more realistic (if one can ever accuse a man with a glowing hand of being "realistic"). If the Avengers are technicolor smash-pow, Netflix's heroes are more about grit and film noir. Moreover, each of those Netflix shows—from Daredevil to Iron Fist, Jessica Jones to Luke Cage—has had its own particular palette and vibe. It's no mean feat to bring the heroes from each of those stand-alone programs to share the stage here. And Netflix, at least aesthetically speaking, has done a pretty good job.

But as suggested earlier, that doesn't make for a good, family friendly show. Netflix's superhero offerings have also been far more problematic than their big-screen counterparts: Sex has been a visible part of practically every season. And it shows up explicitly in the very first episode of The Defenders. Violence can be brutal and bloody. Language, particularly the s-word, is uttered regularly and loudly. Even The Defenders' gritty, grim setting makes it clear that this isn't a superhero story for kids—as if the TV-MA rating left any doubt.

The Defenders is well-written and sometimes even fun. And despite Jessica's protestations, these protagonists do indeed show themselves as the city's flawed heroes.

But if you're looking for role models—or a less problematic superhero story—you'll have to look elsewhere.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

The Defenders: Aug. 17, 2017 "The H Word"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock; Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones; Mike Colter as Luke Cage; Finn Jones as Danny Rand; Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios; Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing; Scott Glenn as Stick; Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid; Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao; Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson; Simone Missick as Misty Knight; Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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