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Will the Marvel train ever run out of steam? It’s been nearly 10 years since Robert Downey Jr. first appeared as Tony Stark, and the American movie landscape has been shifting toward total superhero domination ever since.
My favorite theory to explain this cultural trend: Our rejection of God has led to a longing for supernatural stories. But the upshot is this—Marvel’s influence is only picking up strength, including on the small screen.
We’ve seen broadcast-network Marvel with ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. We’ve seen cable Marvel with FX’s critical darling Legion. Now, after bringing us four successful Marvel-comic-based series (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist), streaming service Netflix finally has the pieces in place for its answer to the Avengers—The Defenders. The question these days isn’t so much “Is the show any good” but “Will Marvel fans even care if it isn’t?”
To answer both: It’s so-so, and viewing trends suggest they won’t.
Just like their big Avenger siblings, the Defenders with their varying super-abilities unite to battle an evil shadow organization. Only this time, instead of Hydra, their enemies belong to a group called The Hand. Led by Sigourney Weaver as an intriguing and original villain, the threat is more localized, focusing on New York City rather than the whole world. But sadly, the series continues a trend from Netflix’s other shows, featuring plenty of foul language and sex scenes.
It’s somehow depressing when a genre whose fantastical elements naturally suit it for younger viewers finds such success by merging with the most explicit realities of adulthood. House of Cards and Stranger Things may be buzzier, but according to reports in Variety, neither draws audiences the way Netflix’s Marvel shows do, and The Defenders is no exception.
All that’s left now is to wait for Daredevil to cross paths with Iron Man for the inevitable Avengers-Defenders mash-up. When they do, let’s hope it happens in theaters so there’s at least a chance we can take the kids to see it.