Oh boy, after all that action, it can make a person hungry. If the pattern The Defenders follows wasn’t clear, “Royal Dragon” makes it. At last, with everybody together now the show can develop the bloat, but there was at least one good scene with the quality Netflix shows aspire to.
“Royal Dragon” is directed by Phil Abraham written by Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
- Bottle Episodes
Man, didn’t the previous episode leave you with an excited feeling? Like some new threshold had been crossed? This is where all that feeling of momentum comes to die. I like me a good bottle episode, it forces writers to think about character with definite limits. Except in the case of The Defenders, “Royal Dragon” helps to show how poorly structured this 8-episode mini is. Instead of being 8 episodes at roughly 45 minutes a piece, this whole thing could’ve been 4 or maybe 5 at 75-90 minutes (think BBC miniseries) and been better for it.
The shorter episode count but roughly the same length in minutes would’ve forced a reconsideration of how to structure and pace the series on a unitary basis. The Defenders breaks down into a nice set of 2-part episodes (1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8) except they aren’t really structured that way. This just the best order you can impose on what feels like a bit of a bloated series – which isn’t something I should be thinking about is something that is only 8 episodes. “Royal Dragon” doesn’t feel complete unto itself. While it does feature a nice episode arc for Jessica, having everyone sit around for an hour is kind of boring akin to “Mean Right Hook,” there’s that feeling of marked time. What if we got a longer episode that combined the best parts of “Royal Dragon” and “Take Shelter” together? Because with only 4 episodes left be prepared for more episodes of the Defenders sit around and wait.
- Secret Identities, the Movies did it right
Secret Identities are dumb, one of the smartest things the MCU has ever done is quickly outing just about every one of their heroes. This openness hasn’t really caused too many problems (mostly in the Iron Man films) and lets them jump over the pitfalls that keeping it secret and safe create.
By keeping characters in the dark all you do is make normally smart, sound, supporting characters look dumb or otherwise segregated for no good reason. Keeping characters en mask all the time also leads to obscuring the face of your lead actor which is not how Hollywood works. It’s a storytelling trope that just doesn’t work in this medium. Arrow quickly realized that this dishonesty hurt more than it helped and pretty much everyone that needed to know knew by season 3. This secret is also one of the reasons that the back half of season 2 of Daredevil didn’t really work. Good drama is created by honest deception.
While a quasi-honorable thing Matt is trying to do, I’m glad the show quickly points out how farcical it is. As well as the fact that walking around with a scarf over the upper half of your face is not very conspicuous.
- All the Colors Come Together
While the hallway sequence was excellent, it’s a tad boring from a lighting perspective. The specific color pallets for everyone was visually distinct and set itself apart. None of that was present during the hallway fight, but this is soon rectified in a deluge neon signs mixing and matching everything together. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to pop in Punisher: WarZone and wishes that film would get a proper 4k remaster.
(Matt being able to hear neon is a funny throw away gag.)
This mishmash of colors is a nice subtle symbolic representation of each of them being distinct and slowly bleeding together.
- Scott Glen/Sigourney Weaver could sell anything
Consider this the v2 of my thought from “Mean Right Hook” about how the screen presence of Glen and Weaver make everything better. Scott Glen has played tough, mean, old sobs down pat. And while almost hilariously limited physically compared to her fellow Fingers, Weaver can look charmingly evil when she has to be. So even as the former spills exposition everywhere – a necessary if inelegant procedure – and the latter actually doesn’t do anything, they still seem like a million bucks compared to everyone else.Continued below
- Finger Death Punch
Giving the league of big bads a name like the Fingers of the Hand is likely the most comic book thing the Netflix borough of the MCU has ever done. There’s a certain amount of cheese factor these nominally more mature series tend to eschew.
The Five Fingers are: Alexandra, Madame Gao, Sowande, Murakami, Bakuto
The whole revelation about the organizational structure of the Hand feels like an attempt to create a unified narrative across shows that only tangentially connected. Making Madame Gao one of the leaders of the Hand feels like a good pay off considering everyone thought she was the Crane Mother since Daredevil season 1. Having Bakuto also be one of its founding members comes off as the opposite, like an attempt to make Iron Fist seem important. If you were smart and didn’t make it through Iron Fist (like most things Fist related) The Defenders does a fine job condensing character history.
With how amorphous the Hand was in Daredevil/Iron Fist with multiple competing factions but no clear reason why the Fingers all leading a sect makes a lot of sense. This is one of the things I wish the show would’ve spent more time exploring. There isn’t a lot of chemistry between the Fingers.