Name issue aside — where’s Doctor Strange, Namor or Hulk? — The H Word, the kick off episode to The Defenders couldn’t have gone better. Marvel and Netflix created a slow-burning shared universe much in the same way as the Avengers solo films led up to The Avengers. Arguably that’s even better in Defenders since the serial nature with far more time to develop the stars and supporting characters leads to a deeper investment.
While you could, don’t watch Defenders before watching the five prelude chapters of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Daredevil Season 2, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. If nothing else, it will add to the enjoyment of seeing Foggy, Trish, Malcolm, Misty and Claire reuniting with their ‘main heroes’ and interacting with the others.
There’s no set time frame, but it’s been awhile since the events from Iron Fist. Danny Rand (Finn Jones) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) are tracking down The Hand. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has essentially retired as Daredevil. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has beaten his prison case and determining his new place in Harlem. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is still a drunken mess, but is intrigued by a new case.
Paying off plot threads from the solo series was a risky move from screenwriters Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez, but it works. Besides, it’s not like Jessica Jones fans weren’t going to watch her again in Defenders.
The new character, Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), immediately comes off like a major player even before she starts bossing around Madame Gao. Weaver was a casting coup for the Defenders and her presence will help ensure its villain won’t get upstaged by the heroes uniting.
Petrie and Ramirez have a solid comprehension of the characters and where their stories left off. Luke and Claire immediately ‘get that coffee’ while Matt is trying to repair his relationship with Karen. Petrie and Ramirez show a strong confidence in allowing the story to connect. The H Word didn’t immediately bring the Defenders together. Not rushing to get to the action and bringing them together.
In a lot of ways, Director SJ Clarkson handled The H Word like an anthology cutting back and forth to the four main characters. Clarkson did a masterful job of capturing the tone of the various series. Cage scenes have a heavy hip hop feel. The bright lighting and the flavorful soundtrack that made his series such a fresh feel are also well incorporated. Jessica’s scenes have that grimy, detective noir vibe.
The transitions are a surprise episode highlight. There’s subtle light changes to distinguish the characters. Daredevil scenes largely have red hues while Jessica has deep blues and purples. Cage has orange and yellow and Iron Fist has greens. Even series villain Alexandra has a distinguishing color of white.
There’s a wonderful and well orchestrated symmetry throughout the episode. It opens with the final Defender — Iron Fist — and ends with the first — Daredevil.
The H Word left me really excited about the prospects for this season. If it stays at this level, we’re in for easily the best Marvel Netflix outing yet.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/Netflix