The Defenders Shows, Ranked
With Iron Fist finally out and the team-up Defenders series due out later this year, it struck me that I haven’t actually written about any of the other Defenders shows. And that’s a shame, because I have some OPINIONS. On with the ranking! From worst to best:
4: Iron Fist
In last place, obviously, inevitably, is Iron Fist. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago but there really aren’t enough bad things to say about the monstrosity of a show. It’s a crash-course in hate-watching, an almost fascinatingly bad bit of television that you can only sort of stare at in horror like a car ploughing into a wall in slow-motion, except the car has Finn Jones’ dumb face on it. The fight scenes are boring, the episodes have the structural integrity of a Jenga tower made of ice cream on a hot day, not to mention Finn Jones “acting” in one of the most punishingly irritating leading roles I’ve ever seen. There’s a brief uptick in the middle of the season, but that might have just been me grasping for a reason to keep watching beyond my urge to torture myself. I shouted at the TV a lot during this show. You will too.
Look, I know a lot of people are big defenders (heh) of this show, and I can see why. I mean, some of the fight scenes are just fantastic; the villains, especially Vincent D’Onfrio’s chilling Wilson Fisk, are consistently excellent. It’s ambitious, dark, with flashes of genuine complexity and intelligence. But I just can’t find it in me to like this show. Part of that is my legitimately irrational dislike of Charlie Cox – I don’t mind Matt Murdock as a character, but Cox just puts my teeth on edge in a way I can’t justify and I understand that this isn’t the show’s fault. He’s just…ugh, there’s something about his face and especially his smile that sends me into a state of terminal irritation. And everyone’s over here hating on Foggy when he’s clearly the less annoying of the two! But there’s plenty that I dislike about Daredevil that I do have reason for – the reliance on excessive violence and gore in place of actual grit, the rushed-out second season that attempted to both put Wilson Fisk’s plot to bed while introducing the Punisher. Not to mention Elektra’s plot, which is less a character arc than it is a character slow, steady downward turn. Oh, and the terrible, very bad, awful plots that Karen Page gets stuck with. Oh, and the dull, functional stories the show hands to the excellent Rosario Dawson. Essentially, don’t be a woman on Daredevil is what I’m saying. What were we talking about again?
2: Luke Cage
Man, let’s just talk about Mahershala Ali, shall we? There are a lot of great performances in this show – Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and Simone Missick, to name but a few – but Ali as Stokes is just a something-else performance. Chilling, charming, and pathetic by turns, it’s the powerhouse, screen-dominating acting that radiates off the screen and practically renders everything around him a few shades duller by comparison. Which is a shame for Mike Colter, who plays the titular Luke Cage, because he becomes the most boring thing about his own show. I really dig Luke Cage, but the actual main character’s plot is so much less interesting than everything going on around him. The show itself survives outside of him, but I almost think it would have been better as a straight drama than as superhero show.
- Jessica Jones
Because, well, fucking obviously. If I have one criticism of this show, it’s that it truly is just relentlessly, endlessly bleak; I had to limit myself to an episode a day when it first came out just to maintain what remains of my sanity. But other than that, it’s damn near perfect, a fantastically dark metaphor for the misogyny faced by women in their day-to-day lives dressed up as a neo-noir drama about a trauma-ridden PI attempting to take down the man who wreaked the trauma on her in the first place. Featuring two blindingly brilliant performances from David Tennant as the stomach-churningly awful Kilgrave and Krysten Ritter as Jessica, it’s packed to the gills with complex characters and difficult questions with no easy answers. It’s a grim watch, but a totally rewarding one, and I can’t wait for the second season. I also thoroughly look forward to watching Jessica shit all over Iron Fist for being a whiny little nightmare cow when they finally meet. Hey, I’ve got to find some reason to watch the Defenders!