Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Defenders Wait For The End As "Fish In The Jailhouse"

The Good: Performances are fine, Effects are good
The Bad: Shaky camera is annoying, Plot drags, No real character development.
The Basics: "Fish In The Jailhouse" spends most of its time setting up the season finale of The Defenders . . . without being a very satisfying episode on its own.

One of the issues Netflix had when it began The Defenders after the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming (reviewed here!) was that the villain in The Defenders had to be big-enough to justify the team-up, but not so big that The Defenders would have to turn to other heroes working in their neighborhood for help (namely Spider-Man and, potentially, Iron Man if Peter Parker felt the team needed back-up). Fundamentally, The Defenders had an advantage on the character front for avoiding introducing characters from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe - Jessica Jones is antisocial, Matt Murdock is obsessed with keeping his secret identity secret and Luke Cage does not have access. Only Danny Rand has a realistic connection to Tony Stark as a fellow billionaire industrialist. Fortunately for The Defenders as the show nears its peak in "Fish In The Jailhouse," there is a time crunch that prevents The Hand's villainy from being noticed by heroes external to The Defenders and Danny Rand has been captured by The Hand.

"Fish In The Jailhouse" picks up after the climactic events of "Ashes, Ashes" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss without some references to how the prior episode ended. After all, despite stealing a big reversal from Luke Cage, "Ashes, Ashes" climaxed well with Danny Rand being captured by Elektra and Elektra taking command of The Hand by killing Alexandra. Now under Elektra's direction, the surviving members of The Hand are set on using the Iron Fist to unlock the door beneath the Midland Circle building.

Flashing back to Stick and Elektra meeting after Elektra failed to seduce Matt Murdock to come over to The Chaste, Stick derides Elektra for having an emotional weakness for Matt Murdock. In the present, the police arrive to find Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage unconscious and Stick dead on the floor nearby. Jones awakens in Misty Knight's interrogation room and Murdock is reunited with Nelson in police custody. While Claire Temple waits for Luke Cage to regain consciousness, Colleen Wing worries about the abducted Danny Rand. Back at Midland Circle, Elektra deals with the three surviving leaders of The Hand where she exerts her control over them by menacing them over their lack of The Substance (which allows them to be immortal).

While the sidekicks try to reason with the heroes and Murdock tries to get everyone out of police custody, Elektra moves Danny Rand to the pit below Midland Circle. Foggy Nelson brings Murdock his Daredevil outfit and offers him a choice, while Jessica Jones comes to the conclusion that the architect was right to want to blow up the Midland Circle skyscraper. In the pit, Elektra tries to convince Rand to use the Iron Fist to open the door, while The Defenders and Wing break out of the police station with the architect's C-4. At Midland Circle, The Hand keeps the Defenders busy while Rand and Elektra fight near the doorway far below.

"Fish In The Jailhouse" is very much a transition episode of The Defenders. The entire episode is spent getting the heroes out of police custody and to Midland Circle, while The Hand moves to the subterranean location needed to utilize the Iron Fist. The episode is a lot of waiting for something to happen and it is unfortunate that much of the actual action hinges on the Iron Fist, the weakest member of The Defenders. Finn Jones is entirely overshadowed by Elodie Yung in the scenes they share.

Elodie Yung is wonderful in "Fish In The Jailhouse" as Elektra as she transitions from confused and emotional to stone cold-killer. Now that Elektra is the Big Bad of the first season of The Defenders, Yung is put in an unenviable position of rising to the occasion the way other "reversal villains" have had to before while still being distinctive. Had Netflix's Marvel television shows not done the same thing with changing up villains before with the second season of Daredevil (The Blacksmith), Luke Cage (Diamondback after Cottonmouth) and Iron Fist (Harold Meachum stepping up after Bakuto was out of the picture), Elektra murdering Alexandra might have been truly audacious. Elektra entered the second season of Daredevil as a tormented hero before becoming antagonist and dying in a redemptive arc. Now that she has crossed over entirely to the Dark Side, the inherent weakness of the character is that she has been there before and came back, so her arc seems pretty obvious. Yung, however, does not allow even a hint of that to come out in her performance in "Fish In The Jailhouse." After the teaser, Yung is cold and dangerous as Elektra.

"Fish In The Jailhouse" reveals the lack of creativity for continuity in the writers of The Defenders. Faced with having to get off the streets, Jessica Jones does not even pitch flying ahead (or jumping super far as she has admitted to being able to do) to Midland Circle. Under such a circumstance, Daredevil could have rushed along the rooftops and Luke Cage could have taken to the street - the a.p.b. on the trio had the police looking for three people. Similarly, as the big battle breaks out in Midland Circle, Jessica Jones's strength is underplayed; the trio needs to go down; why Jones does not simple break through a wall or through the floor to a sublevel rather than fight The Hand makes little sense.

Madame Gao and Jessica Jones are the ones to watch in "Fish In The Jailhouse." Gao is essentially a Dark Side Yoda in "Fish In The Jailhouse" and Jones is given the best lines of the episode. Otherwise, the episode is an obvious bridge episode that sets up the season finale and does not actually progress the characters in The Defenders . . . and only minimally advances the plot from where the prior episode ended.

For other Marvel Cinematic Universe penultimate episodes, please check out my reviews of:
"Bar The Big Boss" - Iron Fist
"A Little Song And Dance" - Agent Carter
"Ragtag"- Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

[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 Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews, please visit my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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