The Defenders Is Thoroughly Ehh

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim says:

    (redacted because you’re still suspended, Kimmi, until next week – Maribou)Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

      SciFi, especially hard science fiction…

      back in the day, we used “sci fi” to refer to ray guns and spaceships and princesses with big boobs to be saved. “Science fiction” was The Literature of Ideas, while “SF,” short for “speculative fiction,” was a catch-all to avoid having to decide whether any given book was science fiction or fantasy, while also conveniently including stuff like Thomas More’s Utopia. In this scheme, superhero comic books are SF, but generally not really sci fi, and certainly not science fiction, but a distinct genre within the umbrella of SF.

      I won’t claim this scheme was universally accepted, but it seemed more widespread than, say, the various claimed distinctions between nerds and geeks. I have no idea if it is at all current. I’m largely out of that loop nowadays.Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    FWIW, I absolutely loved Jessica Jones. I watched about a half season of Luke Cage and wandered off. I bounced off Daredevil and didn’t bother with that other one. I can imagine checking out The Defenders, but there is so much more good stuff out there than I have time to watch it that I probably won’t. Between Britbox and Amazon Prime I have the bulk of the extant Doctor Who. That alone can carry me for a long time.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I’ll watch it just to see Jessica Jones, just as I sat through that execrable superman-batman thing just to see Wonder Woman. So yeah.

      Jessica Jones had a few flaws (which I’ve discussed plenty before), but it works because obsessive, controlling men like Kilgrave exist, and we were seeing a by-women-for-women story (although men can watch too) that showed the dynamics. Thus it resonated, even with all the plot problems.

      By contrast, shows like Daredevil (nerdboy zero-to-hero with a pretty girl) are utterly commonplace. One has to really nail it to rise above the fray. Shows like Jessica Jones are rare-as-fuck. We take what we can get.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think it is entertaining. Not great art but it passes the time. The actor playing Daredevil has improved in ability since Daredevil season 1.

    Sigourney Weaver is always fun to watch.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    First The Avengers, now The Defenders. Next Marvel series: The Naked City.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      There are 8 million stories in the Naked city, this is one of them.

      Classic film. Never saw the TV show version. But it was an early attempt at realism in Hollywood and an interesting combo of old school Hollywood with grit.Report

  5. Avatar pillsy says:

    I haven’t watched beyond the first season of Daredevil which I liked but didn’t absolutely love enough to go forward immediately, but I gotta say D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is, IMO, one of the all-time great TV villains, and was easily the best thing about that season.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to pillsy says:

      @pillsy Agreed re: D’Onofrio. I actually tried watching that Oz show that was on, b/c he was the wizard, but the experience was not replicated.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Maribou says:

        He’s was fun when he did particularly weird take on Lt. Columbo in Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and he turns in a fantastic (but wrenching) performance in the Homicide episode “Subway”.

        “Subway” is arguably the best episode of Homicide, and Alan Moore turned it into arguably the best issue of Top 10.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to pillsy says:

      I’ll be the first to say that the hand is boring, but I think that Sam is doing a disservice to Kingpin and Cottonmouth.

      Yeah, Killgrave is a good because his motivations are compelling and specific. But the Kingpin and Cottonmouth also have compelling and specific goals. “I want this place” is as compelling as “I want this person” as long as the story makes the character care about the goal. Cottonmouth caring about Harlem works well in Luke Cage because the show takes the time to show us what Harlem is. If it hadn’t we wouldn’t care about Cottonmouth, but in the same way we wouldn’t have cared about Kilgrave if the show hadn’t spent time showing us Jessica Jones.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I don’t know if having the bad guys being people with realistic criminal motivations rather than something extraordinary is necessarily a bad thing or a conundrum. Not everything superheroes do needs to be a fight for the world. Its refreshing to have them faced supped up versions of ordinary criminals with motivations like ordinary criminals. It makes them seem more like protectors of everyday people because of what they are defending us from.Report

  7. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    One imagines that Storm, who controls the weather, would be awfully great propaganda against this sort of nonsense. “Oh, hey, it’s the lady that ends droughts! She’s great!”

    Forget Droughts. The Governor of Texas pays Storm 10 million dollars to deal with Harvey. That’s a lot cheaper than the 100 Billion or so it would cost otherwise (it would even be cheap at a Billion dollars). If the State doesn’t have budget, the Oil and/or Insurance Industries would be thrilled to pay.

    It’s easy to envision a world where mutants are considered so dangerous this is unthinkable: Apocalypse leveling the world’s 20 or so largest cities makes the case pretty easily. But if that’s what society thinks, then there’s a world wide genocidal war going on and the Avengers are either hunted or enforcers.

    Society would never tolerate comic book style Super Villains. Magneto is a walking nuke. Storm can create 100 Billion dollar disasters. Killgrave can have the President start a nuclear war. Either they become absurdly rich, top of the line celebrities, or they’re targeted for death by every alphabet agency in the world, and they die the first time they lose a fight.

    A super who is willing and able to work inside the system would have an insane economic influence. That puts tremendous pressure on the President (etc). If gov policy forces Storm to seek political asylum from Iran, then the US just gave Iran the ability to make 100 Billion dollar disasters on demand.

    The “Wearing the Cape” series deals with this realistically. This contradiction is problem moving from comics to TV, and it doesn’t have to be. Comics needs to publish over a period of decades without getting too far away from reality. TV shows (and especially movies) don’t have that limitation.

    The TV show(s) could, and should, have supers who don’t go down the “villain” road and simply abuse their powers, just like Killgrave. He wasn’t a “super villain”, he was just an evil guy with too much power. TV should also be willing to change the world, maybe have the Defenders fail to stop a nuke going off if they want stakes that big.

    You can have threats where the Defenders are unwilling to call in the Avengers. Killgrave came pretty close, if he got a few words in to Thor or the Hulk then the problem just got worse (or maybe he ordered the PCs to not call in the Avengers). Alternatively, an “infectious” (zombie, vampire, whatever) threat the PCs are immune to and the Avengers are not. Another possibility is precognition or time travel, calling in the Avengers is KNOWN to be the wrong move. Or the Avengers could known to be ‘watched’, or even thought by the PCs to be the root of the problem.

    So the writing needs work. Bad guys doing things because they’re bad just doesn’t cut it.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Dark Matter says:

      @dark-matter good comment and I’m glad to see someone giving some props to Wearing the Cape. I’m behind on that series but I really enjoy it.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Dark Matter says:

      @dark-matter

      Kilgrave is a very well-realised villain as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He realises his own limitations – these scene where he has to restrain his powers to buy a house was really good, because his influence would wear off before the transaction could be completed so he had to buy it like a normal person.

      And frankly you’d have to be really sure of yourself to make a big noise in a world where the Avengers exist. Kilgrave would be a risky opponent for the Avengers, but they’d be a risky opponent for him. Several of them might be immune to his powers, and that’s not counting Hawkeye or Black Widow killing him at long range. So rather than be an idiot and engage in overt supervillainy he lives a relatively a quiet life of parasitic hedonism.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James K says:

        A superhero dealing with Kilgrave would probably just go for a quick distance kill.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to LeeEsq says:

          You’d think so… but far too often the heroes, for the purpose of Plot, hold the idiot ball and confront the mind controller and give him the opportunity to “surrender” (i.e. mind control the heroes). And of course that would be heroes who are vulnerable to his abilities, rather than say an empty Ironman suit being remote controlled.

          IRL Kilgrave is a villain society would just kill. At his “best” he’s a nightmare controlling ex-boyfriend who casually commits crimes and abuses everyone he runs into. At his worst he’ll walk into a restaurant full of people and order them to stop breathing just so he can eat in peace.

          Anyone having those powers is an issue, but that power set with a grade-A psychopathic sadist is unacceptable.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to James K says:

        So rather than be an idiot and engage in overt supervillainy he lives a relatively a quiet life of parasitic hedonism.

        That’s the point right there. Most powers are economically useful, Kilgrave is exceptionally rare (both in comics and in the movies) in that he skips the “fight heroes” part and simply profits from his.

        Various idiots have gadgets which are insanely useful, for example a gun which turns things into gold. Most “villains” are supposedly money motivated, they use their powers for petty crime or to fight heroes rather than simply cash in and make far more money legally.

        Many heroes are just as bad. If Storm cares about mutant rights, then she should be publically stopping hurricanes for vast amounts of money which she’d then use for mutant rights (donating to a school perhaps). Her gifts include supermodel looks, she’d make a wonderful public face for mutant-kind. Instead in the movies we have the Beast trying to be the public face of mutantkind via in public speaking, apparently instead of curing cancer or whatever.

        In terms of believable use of abilities, what stands out is Ironman’s use of his tech to be rich via making stuff and Kilgrave’s use of his powers… and their popularity reflects their believability.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to James K says:

        He realises his own limitations – these scene where he has to restrain his powers to buy a house was really good, because his influence would wear off before the transaction could be completed so he had to buy it like a normal person.

        I was thinking he didn’t want to deal with an irate ex-homeowner trying to sue him to get his house back, or who kept showing up at his door in the middle of the night and having to be sent away.

        At some point it’s just _easier_ to do things legally….and by legally I mean ‘stealing a bunch of money and using that to purchase things’.

        So rather than be an idiot and engage in overt supervillainy he lives a relatively a quiet life of parasitic hedonism.

        Supervillains only engage in supervillainy because they want gain power, or money with which they can buy power. Killgrave…has total power in his immediate vicinity. He doesn’t need to _collect_ any tokens of power, he can literally go up to the most powerful man in the world and take all his stuff if he wants it.

        The only limitation of his power is the limited time, which only means he sometimes has to kill a lot of people (Anyone who has seen him.) before he walks away so they can’t come after him.

        Several of them might be immune to his powers, and that’s not counting Hawkeye or Black Widow killing him at long range.

        Well, let’s look at this logically. Thor is Asgardian, which you think wouldn’t translate…except Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had the Asgardian Lorelei, who could control the minds of men (To a more limited extent.) and her powers worked on humans, so maybe it’s cross species. Likewise, Loki could control human minds with his staff. …if the powers are in any way related, which doesn’t seem true, and Killgrave’s powers are supposed to be biological, bacterial IIRC. So who knows about Thor.

        Iron Man, of course, should just use a remote powered suit…except the problem is, if Iron Man is a _known_ enemy, it would be pretty easy for Killgrave to get an appointment (via mind controlling a known associate) with Tony Stark and mind control him in advance. (And remember, while there has to be contact to do mind control, as far as we can tell, he can still give _orders_ remotely to someone already under his control.(1))

        Hawkeye and Black Widow, of course, are helpless.

        Captain America’s enhancements would let him beat Killgrave’s power _quicker_, but probably not instantly.

        Jessica Jones broke out of Killgrave’s control by doing something she herself would never do, killing a perfectly random innocent woman, and managed to use her superpowers to overcome it. It is possible that Cap could do the same thing.

        Hulk…would be interesting. Not only does Banner have two personalities, which seems like it would make things harder, but the angry Hulk gets, the stronger he is…and telling Hulk what to do might make him very very angry. And JJ broke out by merely being really strong and horrified at herself…

        One wonders at what point, exactly, Hulk would become horrified (And it’s worth reminding people for all of Hulk’s image as a mindless rampaging beast, the Hulk doesn’t actually kill people, at least not on purpose. According to Marvel, his rampages don’t kill people at all, but this is clearly nonsense.) and snap out of it..or just really really really angry and snap out of it from that.

        1) I actually expected that to be a plot point when he was caged up, that JJ would bring in someone who was already under his control, who was already infected, and Killgrave would be able to direct them.Report

    • @dark-matter I could have saved so many damned words if I’d just gone with, “Bad guys doing things because they’re bad just doesn’t cut it.” You nailed it. And I cannot, for the life of me, believe that they haven’t yet figured this out. Wilson Fisk was close. Kilgrave was all the way there. But these other baddies are just bad for bad’s sake. It is so underwhelming.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        Thank you…

        And I cannot, for the life of me, believe that they haven’t yet figured this out.

        It’s got to be a flaw in the process. Mere bad writing doesn’t explain how you end up with Luthor trying to save the world from Superman by releasing a Kryptonian kill-everyone Doomsday weapon. With a Billion dollars at stake if their power film worked, no one reviewed the plot?

        My intuition (which MUST be incorrect since it’s apparently so hard and there’s so much money at stake) is it’d take very little to make them more believable. Luthor’s Doomsday could have been an out of control, failed, creation (the implanted programming didn’t work) rather than a deliberately uncontrolled one. Beast could be frustrated that his efforts to cure cancer have failed, just think of the pro-Mutant PR he could be getting if it’d work. Storm could be doing more off camera via a simple drop phrase about her funding the school.

        I guess we’re looking at a Good-Cheap-Quick trade off where it has to be Cheap and Quick or maybe some flavor of too-many-cooks.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

          It’s got to be a flaw in the process. Mere bad writing doesn’t explain how you end up with Luthor trying to save the world from Superman by releasing a Kryptonian kill-everyone Doomsday weapon. With a Billion dollars at stake if their power film worked, no one reviewed the plot?

          Oh, let’s not even get started on the horrific writing on the Superman movies.

          The first movie was even dumber. First, they made Zod _entirely in the right_ at the start of the movie.

          Sorry, movie, even if you imply that Zod is some sort of bigot for only wanting to seed a new planet with the ‘right sort of families’ of Kryptonians, even if he’s supposed to be some sort of outright Hilter analogy (Which totally fails because we have no idea of what sort of bigotry exists on Krypton or how genes are _normally_ selected to grow people in pods or what exactly is being talked about!), he’s _still the only good guy_. If the planet is going to explode and Hilter is building a rocketship to save only the Aryan race…and the Allies, instead of trying to save everyone, are like ‘Eh, whatever’, and the last remaining guy (The ‘hero’) is like ‘I’m just going to save my kid’, somehow, inexplicably, we are all now rooting for Hitler to save the human race, you idiot writers.

          Granted, the Superman mythos has a major problem with this, period. It’s the same problem Supergirl has! Whenever Supergirl goes into the Krypton backstory, I want to yell at my TV ‘These supposed terrorists are, in fact, the only people even vaguely worried the planet is going to blow up and the current government is doing nothing about it!’.

          But, man, if your mythos is that broken, just skip over it.

          And then…Zod fails to notice there are, in fact, nine^Weight^nine planets in this solar system, and he had a _terraforming_ (Erm, Kryptonforming?) machine. Dude. _Mars_. Go terraform Mars. We cannot stop you. Kal-El will happily help…well, I mean, until the point he notices you’re out of control and now threaten earth, but by that point, you have the genetic stuff and you can just kill him.

          My intuition (which MUST be incorrect since it’s apparently so hard and there’s so much money at stake) is it’d take very little to make them more believable. Luthor’s Doomsday could have been an out of control, failed, creation (the implanted programming didn’t work) rather than a deliberately uncontrolled one.

          The Doomsday thing made no sense.

          Creating Doomsday had exactly three logical outcomes: Either Superman would survive, and, uh, be kinda pissed, or Doomsday would survive, and be kinda insane killing machine. Or, possibly, Lex might just get Zod back, who is a not-insane killing machine and, uh, probably technically a worse outcome than Doomsday because he wants to destroy the planet that Lex lives on, whereas Doomsday just murders people one at a time and as long as Lex stays on another continent, he’s probably fine.

          But, ultimately, none of those is possibly a good outcome. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is Lex getting everything he wants, and 0 being he’s back where he started, creating Doomsday is like -50. In no way does that advance any possible plan of his.

          Now in the movie Doomsday and Superman somehow managed to kill (Not really, although possibly Doomsday is really dead) each other, getting exactly the outcome Lex wanted (Except he still ended up in jail, so, uh, no?) but that is a _completely absurd_ outcome for Lex to bank on.

          It’s much like the bomb in Congress, in fact. Yes, Lex, people were going to blame Superman for a bomb. That makes sense, Superman is well known for bombing people, I guess. And earlier in the movie, you had people try to frame him for shooting people. Lex, go home, you’re drunk.

          Actually, while at home…do you have any superlasers at home? Can you build one? Do you know what Superman _does_ have? Heat vision, you moron. Make a pair of superlasers to replicate it, and go to town murdering criminals in the streets of Metropolis with them. And throw some people through a wall with power armor. Look at how out of control Superman is, killing people left and right, he must be stopped, you exclaim to the government. Give me your resources and let me go after him!

          Oh, wait, I’m thinking of what that _vastly more competent_ cartoon Lex Luthor would do to discredit Superman.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

            The first movie was even dumber. First, they made Zod _entirely in the right_ at the start of the movie.

            I view that as a really good thing. Think of how good a villain Magneto is. Magneto is a monster, he’s that for a reason and he’s also occasionally right, but he’s still a monster.

            Or think Hitler if he’d died of a heart attack a few months before the war, without ever getting a chance to show the world just how ugly his vision of Socialism was. IMHO he’d be regularly mentioned as how he’d successfully ended Germany’s WWI’s treaty inflicted Great Depression, it’s hyper inflation, and returned Germany to the status of being a Great Power, and then whoever came after him would get the blame for being a lesser man and running the country over a cliff. Hugo Chavez was fortunate to die when he did.

            With Zod, there are good reasons why his people follow him. The army of evil should be following the insane leader for some reason other than “always evil”.

            Go terraform Mars.

            Mars doesn’t have enough mass to keep it’s atmosphere intact. It’d be nice if they’d mention this in movie (as opposed to just RL), but whatever.

            Zod is willing to sacrifice the entire human race for any advantage given to his people. In his opinion there’s no one and nothing which can stop him, so there’s no reason not to do it.

            His history has shown him that the soft approach just saves up trouble for later, that mercy is a mistake, and weakness is unforgivable. Superman’s approach, i.e. the way of peace, was an attractive but ghastly mistake before when Jor’el tried it and it’s still a mistake now. Best that entire idea die now.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

      Magneto is a walking nuke.

      I find it surreal they’ve locked Magneto up twice in incredibly expensive and complicated prisons. He has repeatedly murdered people as part of plans to murder a lot more people. He has kidnapped and threatened President Nixon. He (from what they believe) helped assassinate President Kennedy.

      If there’s someone I can’t figure out how he hasn’t gotten the death penalty, it’s Magneto.

      Killgrave can have the President start a nuclear war.

      Killgrave is a very weird supervillian, mostly because he doesn’t seem to desire anything big, probably as a side effect of having every desire instantly met.

      He doesn’t seem to want ‘power’, as defined by the rest of society, or money to buy that power…because he always wields absolute power in the immediate vicinity around him.Report

  8. Avatar Maribou says:

    I am probably the outlier here, but I actually find most of the Netflix Marvel villains interesting.

    Kingpin was such a perfect avatar for (not literal example of a person with) the rage of the abused child let loose in the world that at the very beginning of his backstory episode, when he’s just sitting there staring into the white, I told Jaybird,”OH. He was abused as a kid. This is going to be about that.” Before they ever showed it or made mention of it. Not because they were being implausible but because as someone who experienced that myself, *I was relating to him on a whole ‘nother level*. I’m pretty sure someone in the writers’ room had similar experiences, actually, or they wouldn’t have succeeded at portraying those feelings (again, not the literal facts of the thing) as well as they did.

    I didn’t care that much one way or the other about Cottonmouth, but Mariah is an amazing, interesting, limited, conflicted, well-characterized-if-four-color villain. And Mariah was the real antagonist of that series. (Shades is less interesting to me so far, but they also are obviously only warming up to showing more about him.)

    Kilgrave I can see y’all already get, so enough said about him :D.

    As for the Hand, yes, en masse I also find them boring. But Madame Guo has her own supernatural abilities and ways of doing things that are coherent, and sometimes ambivalent, and the actress far transcends the dumb stereotype of the dragon lady. The Hand as a shadow force in society, and the inevitable betrayals of the Hand against each other, and the way that some people join up because they’re sold a utopian bill of goods and kept from knowing the real stuff even fairly far along in their participation in the organization? That was by far the most interesting part of Iron Fist that didn’t involve Colleen Wing and Night Nurse, dynamic duo. (It did, of course, involve Colleen.)

    I’m not all the way into Defenders yet, maybe only 3 or 4 episodes, but so far what strikes me is that they are doing a horrible job of making it interesting to people who haven’t watched all 4 other shows. Way too much is assumed. I really regretted suffering through Iron Fist while I was doing it (damn you completism) but I feel like I’m getting more out of Defenders than I would have otherwise. And definitely more out of it for having watched Luke Cage.

    Which is not very smart on Netflix’s part.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Maribou says:

      I really regretted suffering through Iron Fist while I was doing it (damn you completism) but I feel like I’m getting more out of Defenders than I would have otherwise.

      I really like the fact that most viewers, when watching Iron Fist, thought Danny Rand was a bit of an idiot. Just the whole ‘running around for several episodes not bothering to prove his identity via the legal system and instead harassing people that thought he was dead’ was utterly stupid, not to mention his dumb strategies or the fact he had no idea of the scope of his enemy.

      And then we get the Defenders, and everyone…seems to think Danny is a bit of an idiot. And also he introduces himself as the ‘immortal Iron Fist’, which is just sheer lunacy as an introduction to people who have never heard of the Iron First, which logically is almost everyone on the planet.

      Iron Fist, I hate to tell you how to Iron Fist, but if you say something like ‘I have been granted the mystical power of the Iron Fist, which means I can use my chi to power very powerful punches.’, people might actually understand what is going on. (They might not believe it, but it’s not the complete gibberish of ‘I am the immortal Iron Fist’.)

      The interesting fact is, this ‘everyone thinks Danny is a bit dumb’ apparently wasn’t written in response to people not loving Iron Fist, and predates it. The people writing this stuff know that he is sorta dumb, or at least really naive about how to interact with people, and not particularly good at anything beyond fighting.

      BTW, the Defenders makes at least the second time, and I am suspecting the third because I seem to remember two in Iron Fist, where he walks into a large group of his enemies and attempts to threaten their leader, and then is startled when they attack him, and he has no real plan or exit. Dude, seriously? What are you doing? Do…do you understand how this works?Report

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