Saturday, August 19, 2017

Come Separately, Leave Together: The Defenders Are On Their "Worst Behavior"

The Good: Good performances, Plot finally moves forward
The Bad: Light on character
The Basics: The Defenders converge upon Midland Circle for their first (inadvertent) fight together in "Worst Behavior."

The Defenders came in with an instant narrative issue; bringing together the "street level heroes" of Netflix's Marvel Television Universe works had to occur with an organic quality and that was very much "easier said than done." Leading up to the third episode, "Worst Behavior," the four protagonists of The Defenders have slowly begun to come together, as three of the four have been investigating small pieces of a much larger case.

"Mean Right Hook" (reviewed here!) leads directly into "Worst Behavior" as Luke Cage and Danny Rand ended the prior episode by running into one another and Jessica Jones was rescued from Misty Knight's interrogation by Matt Murdock. "Worst Behavior" is very much dependent upon the prior episode as the heroes, the imprisoned Stick and Alexandra were all in play - as was the new villain White Hat.

Opening months in the past (during the last few scenes of the Daredevil season finale "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen," reviewed here!), Alexandra is informed that the Black Sky has been recovered. Alexandra and White Hat preside over the resurrection of Elektra, but she is devoid of her past identity - she is only the Black Sky now. Alexandra interrogates Stick about the location of Danny Rand and Stick vows to die rather than let the Iron Fist fall into Alexandra's hand. Stick cuts off his own hand in order to escape Alexandra and Elektra. Matt Murdock helps spring Jessica Jones, though his attempt to reach out to her about the Raymond case is rebuffed.

Luke Cage returns to Claire's where his guilt leads him to confess to Claire that he was hurt. Claire puts together that Cage fought the Iron Fist and Claire puts the two in a room together where they begin a conversation. Cage is bothered by Rand's sense of privilege and is overcome with disbelief over Rand's supernatural abilities. Elsewhere, Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock tail one another before Jones learns that John Raymond was an architect working on the building at Midland Circle. Jones uses her investigative abilities to track down Raymond's work and that leads her and the others to converge upon Midland Circle, where they find themselves in a very direct conflict with Alexandra and The Hand.

"Worst Behavior" illustrates the process of resurrecting Elektra in a way that satisfactorily explains why she has no popped back up into the Marvel Cinematic Universe until now. During the events of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Elektra was being reprogrammed and trained by Alexandra . . . which also explains how and why Alexandra was absent from the little war between The Hand leaders that preoccupied Iron Fist.

Elodie Yung is given the chance to shine in "Worst Behavior" as Elektra transitions from feral to the ninja warrior she previously was. The delightful aspect of Yung's performance in "Worst Behavior" is that she begins the episode performing with virtually no language and not being relegated to simple fight scenes before she is put in the familiar, choreographed, dance-like fight sequences viewers expect of her. Yung nails the confusion and untamed aggression of the Black Sky in her early scenes in the episode and they work quite well to show the difference between the refined (if brutal) Elektra and the Black Sky.

"Worst Behavior" allows Luke Cage to get caught up on The Hand, K'un-Lun and the power of the Iron Fist. Cage is introduced fairly directly into the supernatural aspects of The Hand, while Jessica Jones continues to explore the pragmatic, detective, approach as she meets with John Raymond's widow and daughter. Jones is an excellent character to find out the truth about the ultimate issue that is preoccupying The Hand - in the first episode of The Defenders, Madame Gao mentions that they have encountered a door and the natural question viewers might have is "what door, where?" Jones witnesses Matt Murdock moving in an exceptional way and investigates the architecture angle that leads to Midland Circle.

Finn Jones continues to play Danny Rand as both inexperienced and somewhat dim (or, at the very least, uncreative) in "Worst Behavior." Rand has to be prompted by Luke Cage to use his corporate connections to track down how Rand Enterprises might be connected to The Hand. It is only through Cage's idea and Colleen Wing's pressing that Danny Rand manages to find Midland Circle.

Krysten Ritter dominates "Worst Behavior" on the acting front, though it is largely a function of Ritter being given the episode's best lines. Ritter has a wonderful sense of comic timing and in "Worst Behavior," she is allowed to illustrate that while still portraying Jessica Jones.

"Worst Behavior" finally shows a concrete direction for The Defenders; Alexandra is after the Iron Fist and all of the disparate cases converge on her and The Hand. The joy of "Worst Behavior" is that The Defenders starts to illustrate that it can actually accomplish something wonderful and complicated - that the pieces in play might be used well. It is the first episode of the season that shows that potential and the first one truly worth watching.

For other works with Krysten Ritter, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Veronica Mars
Listen Up Philip
She’s Out Of My League
Confessions Of A Shopaholic
27 Dresses
Gilmore Girls - Season 7
Veronica Mars - Season 2
Someone Like You

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Defenders - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the street-level heroes here!


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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