'The Defenders' Review Round-Up: Frustratingly Slow Start, But Worth The Wait

The Defenders made a surprise premiere at San Diego Comic Con, nearly a month before it is set to be released on Netflix. Along with the lucky fans in Hall H, reviewers got an early peek at the Marvel-Netflix crossover event, which sees the team-up of the New York-centric heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.

Early reviews of The Defenders are in and most say it's worth the wait. An ambitious project spanning two years since the release of the first solo Netflix series, Defenders finally gets the streetwise heroes to unite — though it still takes its sweet time to do it.

/Film's Peter Sciretta got to see the first episode of The Defenders at Comic Con, and he echoed what many of the reviewers below have said: "It starts off a little slow... It's not one of those shows that begins with a bang, but it's a compelling start to the series."

Many critics expressed frustration with the slow start to the series — a common syndrome of all Marvel-Netflix shows and many Netflix shows — resulting in the heroes barely interacting until the episode 4 team-up.

Collider's Allison Keene, whose review as well as other critics' reviews was based on the first four episodes released to press, was disappointed in the show's slow build-up to the action:

If you thought Defenders would be a culminating chapter to the other Netflix Marvel series so far, think again. So far it feels like another prelude, and it makes one wonder if we'll ever get to the main event.
Kelly Lawler USA Today says The Defenders are "only as strong as their weakest link. And they have a very weak link," pointing to Finn Jones' Iron Fist:

It's unfair to blame Iron Fist for all of The Defenders' problems. Like all of the solo series, it's poorly paced, and takes far too long for the heroes to team up. They don't appear together until the end of Episode 3. And even after all that lead time, they don't fit together. Jessica and Luke gel — he was introduced on her series. Daredevil and Iron Fist share mystic roots. But they lack chemistry as a group.

Alan Sepinwall at Uproxx has mixed thoughts on the chemistry of the team as well, though he says the second half is "promising":

All the Netflix/Marvel shows have been imperfect to varying degrees, and the parts of Defenders that actually, you know, feature all the Defenders are promising enough — if only for the chance to watch Jessica continually insult the others — for me to gladly watch the second half. (Which I declined to do for Iron Fist.) But it would be nice if at some point, both show and team could justify their existence as something more than a package Marvel put together years ago in the hopes everything would work out. Superhero teams can succeed without any real reason for being — in the comics, the original Defenders team existed in some form for 14 years — but it can be hard to look at a lot of them without wondering (as Jessica Jones does often here) who thought it was a good idea for these people to get together.

The Marvel shows have had dependably great villains, especially in comparison to the lackluster antagonists over on the cinematic side. Critics raved that Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra Jones is no exception to this rule.

Deadline's Dominic Patten says:

"[T]he real muscle here is in the performances of Ritter and Sigourney Weaver as Jones and The Defenders' determined adversary the ancient and ailing Alexandra. Simply put, along with Elodie Yung as a resurrected Elektra, the future is female inThe Defenders and that takes things in some unexpected and uncommon directions.

Still, reviewers say that The Defenders, a team-up crossover series in the making since Daredevil premiered in 2015, is well worth the wait.

The Washington Post's David Betancourt says:

"The Defenders" is the type of superhero streaming that we've come to expect from Netflix's live-action Marvel productions. Well worth the wait, the new show is every bit the event that Marvel fans hoped it could be.  

The coming together of the streaming service's four superhero shows — each with varying styles on how to be a hero — works in part because of how they focus on why such a get-together shouldn't work at all.

Dan Jolin at Empire counteracted other reviewers' critiques of the Defenders' chemistry, saying "sparks fly" between all four heroes.

Even so, there is enough joy in watching the sparks fly as these four alpha characters finally collide to make you feel The Defenders might just have been worth the wait. It's a long-anticipated crossover series that delivers some engaging character clashes, but which fails — in the first half at least — to up the ante story-wise.

io9's Katharine Trendacosta says:

However, the good of The Defenders far outweighs the bad. The story isn't revolutionary, and as usual, the villains have a typically over-the-top and hilariously convoluted plan—but it's all a canvas to showcase Matt, Jessica, Luke, and Danny coming together as a team. They're not just stronger together than they are apart—it turns out they're more entertaining, too.

All eight episodes of The Defenders drop on Netflix on August 18.