Since Jessica Jones Season 2 was only just released today, only those who have binged beyond the five episodes sent to critics can reveal whether or not any of the other Defenders show up. But as of those first five hours, and as I wrote about in my review, it’s like The Defenders never happened. For Jessica Jones’ new season it’s probably a good thing, but overall it shows just how Marvel is learning all of the wrong lessons from the failures of its Netflix series.
Speaking of Jessica Jones, when Krysten Ritter recently talked to Vulture about The Defenders and the reception it had with fans and critics, she said:
“Well, I think Jessica was pretty well received. People were excited to see her again, so that made us happy because Jessica is the next up […] “Y’know, I had a great time doing The Defenders and honestly, it was such a good experience that I would even do it again. I don’t think we are doing it again. It was never intentioned to do it again, but, you know, if I was given another opportunity, I would.”
It’s hard to believe that it was ever just going to be a one-off. But, she continued that Jessica Jones is her priority (as well it should be), because:
“My heart is with my show because of the subject matter and because of the great drama that we get to do and the personal issues that we explore. For me, that is more the type of content that I enjoy as a viewer and as a performer. My heart is in Jessica Jones, but I did have a great time doing The Defenders with the guys. We had a good time. It is what it is.”
The Defenders wasn’t great, but that was mostly down to three key factors: it took too long to get the heroes together (4 out of 8 episodes!), the narrative focused on Iron Fist / Danny Rand (which wasn’t even remotely compelling), and the villains weren’t interesting or effective. However, the interactions among the heroes were fantastic, and made getting through The Defenders mostly (maybe) worthwhile.
Marvel has missed several opportunities to make its Netflix series better, starting with shorter episode orders or shorter runtimes. The pacing is egregious across the board, and so many of the stories could be improved by having the heroes do team-ups within their seasons. Pairing Luke Cage and Iron Fist — who are a duo in the Heroes for Hire comics — would be a great way to make both series more dynamic. Luke was a great addition to Jessica Jones’ first season, and there are plenty of organic ways to have them crossover in each of the Defender’s solo stories. I wrote about that more extensively last year, in terms of how the CW’s DC shows do a much better job of connecting their characters than Marvel’s Netflix series do, and why. But essentially, less crossing over of the Marvel heroes is not a good thing.
There’s a reason why Marvel’s Avengers movies are so specifically anticipated, and why the CW crossovers get the highest ratings of any of the individual seasons. People want to keep following their favorite characters, and see them interacting in new environments with others from their shared world. It took some really poor choices to make The Defenders turn out as badly as it did, because it should be an easy sell and a fun thing to watch. The implication that there won’t be another Defenders team-up is exactly the wrong thing to learn from that series’ failures, and seems to further suggest that the Marvel-Netflix heroes will become increasingly sequestered.