REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Zero Dark thirty)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Rachael Taylor (The Loft)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones)
Ramón Rodríguez (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Simone Missick (K-Town)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Wai Ching Ho (Cadillac Man)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck)
Peter McRobbie (16 Blocks)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)

 

The Defenders is Marvel’s best Netflix show, hands down.  While the crossover between Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage can occasionally veer into a fragmented set of mini-episodes early on, the awesome foursome eventually unites to form a show greater than the sum of its parts. The street-level superheroes provide a fantastic eight-episode run with high stakes, a frenzied pace and, most importantly, effortless chemistry.Things don’t start off that way, though. The opening pair of episodes read almost as a greatest hits collection of each hero’s respective shows before the narrative eventually relents and shoehorns the plot in a comically convenient way for the four to come together. The lack of instant gratification can be grating, but this is easily relieved by the fun interaction between fan-favourites that leads up to the team-up. Misty Knight and Jessica Jones’ brief scenes are worth the price of admission alone and there are a few, shall we say interesting, crossovers you won’t see coming. Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event is unleashed upon New York and The Defenders, each following their own leads, stumble into each other’s paths in the same building. And then things get good. Really, really good. Unsurprisingly, The Hand are the villains of the season and are led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Her performance is tempered by an unidentified terminal illness which spurs her character on and at least drives her away from the realms of cartoonish MCU villain as  she has an actual character arc rather than the bland go there, be evil trope of prior bad guys. When the show does focus on The Defenders (and, in fairness, that’s 90% of the time) the show is a rollercoaster of wisecracks, quips and, yup, Jessica Jones’ side-eye. It’s glorious fun and, for my money, feels like a much bigger event than The Avengers ever was. There’s a spine-tingling moment, complete with an inspirational score bubbling up in the background, where the four heroes unite to take on a foe at the midway point which ranks as an all-time great Marvel moment.Yes, The Defenders run is short, but those thinking a mere eight episodes won’t cut it can have their fears put to rest. Coupled with Game of Thrones season 7’s clipped seven-episode run, it feels like we’re reaching a watershed point in television where shows don’t need to be chained to a long episode run anymore. Barely a second is wasted in The Defenders: Every quiet character moment is poignant and fleshes out something or someone; every action sequence leads to something bigger, better, and more shocking; and every one-liner and on-the-nose dig at Iron Fist will make you laugh. Nothing outstays its welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – A COLD DAY IN HELL’S KICTHEN

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)

GUEST CAST

Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)

Nobu Yoshioka plans to lure Daredevil into a trap by abducting twenty people Daredevil has either brought to justice or saved from harm. Tyler hands him a list which was taken from Detective Sergeant Brett Mahoney. The Hand then abducts all twenty people, including Turk Barrett, Karen Page, and the veteran Jerry. While being transported, Page discovers that Barrett is under house arrest, and wearing a device which transmits his location. He has tampered with him so that it won’t work. However, after Tyler shoots and kills Jerry, Barrett turns the device back on. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock restraints Stick in a chair, telling him that he and Elektra Natchios will take on the Hand alone. Murdock admits that he doesn’t have a plan yet. On the roof, he and Natchios decide that the best plan is to take Yoshioka down, leaving him alive so that his followers can see that he’s just a man.At a restaurant, Jeri Hogarth offers Foggy Nelson a job, suggesting that should he play his cards right, he could be made partner. He is stunned by the starting salary, and intrigued when Hogarth says there is a future in defending vigilantes. At Melvin Potter’s Workshop, Potter fits Natchios for body armor and presents Daredevil with a billy club of his own design. Murdock is touched and admits that he doesn’t know what to say to thank him enough, but Potter brushes this off, saying that there are those in Hell’s Kitchen who know who is really looking out for them. At the same time, Frank Castle returns to his home, which he has not been in since his family’s deaths. He sadly walks through the house before sitting at the dining room table and looking at a newspaper article about his supposed death, with the X-ray of his skull on front page. Inspired, he takes his body armor to the garage, where he listens to a police radio while he spray paints the image of his skull on the armor.Back at Murdock’s apartment, Natchios and Murdock prepare to look for Yoshioka when Murdock’s phone rings. It’s Nelson, calling from the police department. He reports that Mahoney has been roughed up by people looking for information on Daredevil. Murdock appears at the fire escape at the 15th precinct in his Daredevil armor, prompting Mahoney to comment that the masked vigilante is the only person he can trust. He admits that he gave the files on Daredevil’s actions to the people who had roughed him up because they threatened to kill his mother. When Mahoney tells him the file included all the people he had ever helped, Murdock rushes to Page’s apartment, only to find it disheveled, and her gone.On his rooftop, Murdock desperately tries to listen to clues as to where the Hand has taken their prisoners, but he is frustrated. Panicking, he tells Natchios that he can’t block out the extraneous noise. Natchios talks him through blocking out every sound that isn’t relevant so that he can find the prisoners, especially Page. Murdock is finally able to hear the sounds of the bus that is transporting them.The Hand has transported the prisoners to an unknown location, but the police, alerted that Barrett had broken house arrest, arrive. Tyler tells her subordinates to take care of the police while she alerts Yoshioka to the news. Hand archers kill the police officers, but not before one is able to radio for help. Murdock and Natchios arrive at the Hand’s location, and Murdock descends from the rooftop to save the hostages, although Natchios stays behind, convinced that it is a trap. She suggests that the people inside, although innocent, are a much smaller group than the people who would suffer if the Hand got their hands on the Black Sky. Inside, the Hand discover Barrett’s location device and begin to take a knife to his ankle to remove it, when Daredevil crashes into the room and stops them. He is able to free all the hostages, taking a moment to ask Page if she is all right before hurrying her out of the room. More Hand ninjas arrive and he fights them, assisted by Natchios, who cooly tells him that she got bored waiting for him. They realize that the only way out of the building is up on the roof, so they head upstairs. Near the rooftop, he reports that there is an army of Hand ninjas waiting for them, and they both accept that they might not make it out alive.Natchios is ready to meet her fate, but Murdock stops her before they go up to the rooftop, removing his mask and telling her that if they make it out alive, he wants to go with her, leaving New York City behind. She tries to convince him that he belongs in New York but he responds by saying there was only thing that made him feel more alive than New York, and it was her. Meanwhile, Page and the other hostages emerge from the building to find Mahoney and a squadron of police waiting for them. Page tells Mahoney that the abduction was just a trap to lure out Daredevil. Mahoney orders lights to be shone on the building. Nelson arrives, and is shocked when Page tells him about the trap set for Daredevil. On the rooftop, Natchios and Murdock battle with Hand ninjas led by Yoshioka. They are able to defeat many of the ninjas but Yoshioka proves to be a formidable opponent, hitting Murdock so hard that he knocks his mask off. Just as Yoshioka is about to kill Murdock, Natchios attacks him, and Yoshioka inadvertently stabs her. She dies in Murdock’s arms, after telling him that this was not the end.Yoshioka, upset about losing the Black Sky, orders the ninjas to kill Murdock. Murdock, enraged, fights then, and is surprised when gunfire takes some of the ninjas down. He turns to see Frank Castle on a nearby rooftop, using his sniper skills to dispatch some of Daredevil’s opponents. Page looks up at the sound of the gunfire and sees Castle, wearing his Punisher body armor. Murdock does battle with Yoshioka and is victorious, using his billy club to fling him off the roof. Yoshioka, however, survives the fall, only to be killed by Stick, who decapitates him and declares that this time he will stay dead. A month later, at a cemetery, Stick and Murdock stand before Natchios’s gravesite. Murdock wants to say a few words but doesn’t have any. Stick asks Murdock if it was worth it to love her, and Murdock says that despite Stick’s warning to cut himself off from humanity, it was worth it.At Josie’s Bar, Page and Nelson have drinks together. She remarks on how sad it feels with Murdock not with them, but then congratulates Nelson on his new job. He promises her they will always be friends before settling Nelson and Murdock’s tab with Josie. At the New York Bulletin office, Mitchell Ellison is surprised to find Page there, since it’s Christmas Eve. She still has writer’s block. He convinces her to write a story only she can, from her point of view. He gives her a bottle of Scotch and then leaves. Page writes a story about heroes, suggesting that her readers look in the mirror, because all New Yorkers are heroes. Meanwhile, Castle returns to his house one last time, retrieving a CD with the word “Micro” written on it before setting the house on fire. Murdock asks Page to meet him at the Nelson and Murdock offices. She is reluctant, but is waiting for him when he arrives there. He tells her he has something to show her and pulls out his Daredevil helmet. As she watches in shock, he finally reveals to her that he is Daredevil. Meanwhile, Nachios’s grave is dug up, and her body is placed in the stone sarcophagus that Yoshioka had been preparing. As Hand ninjas respectfully lower the lid over it, a heartbeat is faintly heard.If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. Ending season 2 at Christmas was a surprise but all in all the final was excellent leaves us wanting more.

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Stephen Rider (Safe House)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

GUEST CAST
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michelle Hurd (Flashforward)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Amy Rutberg (The Mansion)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Daredevil is a character about contrasts. Matt Murdock practices as a lawyer by day, but beats criminals as a vigilante at night. He’s a practicing Catholic, but dresses up like the devil. Also, he’s blind, but he can see the world around him unlike anyone else. Coincidentally, it is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil that chooses to really explore the dichotomies, not only in its title hero but in those around him and the world at large. Charlie Cox once again stars as the Man without Fear in the series, and brings the same amount of dashing charm and selflessness that makes Matt such a great character. Cox has transcended himself in the role, too. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man or Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, there is no separating the actor from the character; they are one. He provides the pivotal anchor for the rest of the cast, who also continue to hit home run after home run. Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson is still the perfect Milhouse to Matt’s Bart, the right combination of endearing, annoying, and funny. A combo that personifies the comic book character to a T, and makes him integral to Matt’s story. Furthermore there’s Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, bringing a lightness to this supremely dark (in tone and lighting) series. Woll and Cox also work off of each other in perhaps the most believable romantic subplot of the MCU. Then there’s Frank Castle.
Jon Bernthal takes on the role of The Punisher for the series, and he brings the goods. This is a character that also has two sides at work, not simply inherent to his actions but in how he is written as a piece of the puzzle. Bernthal can handle the militaristic elements with ease. No one has looked more natural walking down a hall while aiming a shotgun with precision, but when the more sensitive aspects of the character and his background unfold, he’s got it covered. The Punisher is at his most satisfying for an audience as an unstoppable killing machine, always five moves ahead. At his most interesting and nuanced, however, The Punisher is a fatally-flawed and broken individual that is two steps behind. The good news is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. When Bernthal isn’t laying waste to criminals, he’s tasked with delivering Shakespearean monologues, which he hits like a headshot.
The second season of Daredevil also brings along Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, the perfect wrench for everything Matt Murdock. Though The Punisher may be at his most satisfying when he’s a human hurricane leaving a path of destruction, Matt Murdock is at his most satisfying when literally everything is going wrong for him, and Elektra is a guarantee for that. Yung embodies the spirit of Elektra that shines a light on the character’s personality in exciting ways. She brings duel ferocity and gentleness that made me recognize something I had never thought before – Elektra is like a cat; Playful when it suits her, but mysterious and often a supreme and bitter jerk when she doesn’t get her way. The same way that Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll hold onto everything wholesome and good about love, Cox and Yung grab all of the dangerous and potentially hurtful parts and hang them out the window while speeding down the highway.
The true achievement of Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 is not how in how it escalates the stakes from Season 1 or how it manages to properly juggle new and returning characters with satisfying arcs, it’s in its narrative composition as a whole. Season 2 is perhaps the most comic book-like series on TV, because it mirrors the structure of comics in a way that ceases to feel like television. While the first season held onto the framework of serialized TV, guiding us through every turn, Season 2 takes the graphic novel approach. Clusters of episodes form their own cohesive arc for a few hours, but when all combined they form the grander story at hand of the season. And that larger story? A further example of the two dividends of Daredevil. Daytime Matt and nighttime Matt get equal footing, which you need in order to make them both special.
As hard as it may be to believe, Daredevil‘s second season is a step up from the first. By embracing the comic book form, the series has further separated itself from the rest of the MCU and scratches an itch none of them can reach. It’s not all perfect though, as what worked the first time keeps working, and what didn’t work remains a drag, specifically the tired exposition wherein characters must explain to other characters the things the audience already knows. The drama screeches to a halt in these moments, but luckily they are few and far between.
If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. The new additions to the series are welcome and only enhance the storytelling in thrilling ways.

REVIEW: JESSICA JONES – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Ringer)
Rachael Taylor (Transformers)
Erin Moriarty (The Watch)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix)
Wil Traval (Once Upon a Time)
David Tennant (Doctor Who)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Susie Abromeit (Sex Drive)
Robin Weigert (Lost)
Kieran Mulcare (The Following)
Clarke Peters (John Wick)
Colby Minifie (Nurse Jackie)
Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Thomas Kopache (Stigmata)
Michael Siberry (Highlander: The Series)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil TV)
jessica jones poster
Marvel’s Jessica Jones announces its noir intentions from the get-go. From the slinky music and impressionistic animation of the opening credits, there’s no doubt what kind of series this is going to be, and the (naturally) hard-boiled narration of series star Krysten Ritter sets the stage for the dark, sardonic world she occupies. Thankfully, the narration can best be described as “unobtrusive.” It’s there because that’s how noir works, but the show is otherwise self-aware enough not to cling to the expectations of its genre. Sure, Jessica works behind a glass door with “Alias Investigations” typewritten across it, but this also the type of noir in which Jessica asks someone why they thinks she lives alone, and their response is, “Because people don’t like you?”
Created by Melissa Rosenberg (who put in time on shows as varied as Dexter, Birds Of Prey, and Party Of Five in addition to writing all five Twilight movies), Jessica Jones avoids a villain-of-the-week structure by having Jessica essentially work on the same case for the duration of the first season. There’s no onslaught of new superpowered (or “gifted,” in the parlance of the show) opponents for the heroine to face each episode; in fact, despite her super strength and impressive vertical leap, Jessica would strongly object to being called a heroine at all. Her brief attempt to use her powers for good resulted in her being taken under the sway of Kilgrave (David Tennant), whose mind control tactics caused her to commit a terrible crime that the show slowly teases out.
It’s his apparent return that kick-starts the action on the show. A missing college co-ed case turns out to be more complicated than Jessica initially assumes, and forces her to reconsider her distaste for heroism. Reasonably content to drink her way through her PTSD and take PI cases from high-powered attorney Jeryn Hogarth (played with admirable steely ferocity by Carrie-Anne Moss, long marooned after the Matrix movies), Jessica is soon faced with the prospect of her own responsibility for taking care of Kilgrave.
Along her ambivalent path towards heroism, she looks out for her junkie neighbor (Eka Darville), flirts with the handsome Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and slowly reconnects with her foster sister, Trish (Rachael Taylor). The show really starts to cook once Jessica and Trish start working together on the Kilgrave case. Trish, a former child star and current celebrity radio show host, is the only one who knows everything that happened to Jessica. Initially introduced as the disapproving straight arrow friend, she’s quickly revealed to be something much more interesting, despite her lack of superpowers. She’s also positioned as the moral center of the show, which proves to be vital for Jessica, who’s unsurprisingly given to a bleak pessimism.
It should be said: Jessica Jones is a deeply feminist show, all the way down to its depiction of sex, which is pointedly empowering for the women. More than that, its central conflict is its lead character struggling to maintain her agency against an abusive man. All the people in positions of power (minus Kilgrave) are women, and the story of the missing co-ed extends beyond the mystery of her disappearance. Trish is by no means content to sit on the sidelines of the action, and Hogarth seems to spend all of her time conducting important business meetings in impeccably tailored dresses and confidently seducing her assistant. Moss has a way with a withering putdown, though Ritter gets her fair share, even if the show doesn’t take full advantage of her comedic side. She’s compelling as Jessica. The slow build toward a confrontation between Kilgrave and Jessica is tensely effective, hanging over everything else she does. Tennant’s face is barely seen on camera for the first couple of episodes, but rather than make his absence seem pointed, the tactic works as a way to build up Jessica’s dread about his return.
While the series clearly takes place in the same universe as Daredevil, complete with brutal violence and punches that really land, the fight scenes themselves have a very different feel. Jessica’s too strong to lose fistfights, and she partakes in them with a weary sense of resignation that people are wasting her time trying to resolve problems this way. All of this adds up to a show that is very certain of its voice and tone. Streets are always covered with a foot of grimy snow, Jessica doesn’t own a garment that doesn’t have a hole or three in it, and every drawer or cabinet contains a bottle of booze or a pistol. A Must See