The Defenders arrived on Friday capping off four preceding Marvel series and setting up the second round of Netflix’s corner of the MCU. And, while the show has its ups and downs, it repeatedly demonstrates that the Defenders are better together, especially when paired off as partners. In fact, The Defenders makes a strong case for a Marvel Team-Up series.
If you’re unfamiliar, Marvel Team-Up was a beloved comic where Marvel let its writers toss together heroes, usually Spider-Man and someone else, and see what happened. It was embraced both for its sometimes ridiculous pairings and only-in-the-’70s plots, like Spidey and the Scarlet Witch traveling back in time to the Salem witch trials or Spider-Man hanging out with the cast of Saturday Night Live. But it also expanded the boundaries of the comics and let writers explore how heroes just hung out and pitched in when others needed help. At its best it felt a bit like friendly rivals teaming up, complete with witty banter and learning moments. And if you’ve seen The Defenders, that’ll sound familiar.
The shows, of course, already share characters, most notably Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Rob Morgan’s Turk. Still, much of The Defenders involves each of the four central characters pairing off and getting to know each other. Danny Rand (Finn Jones) and Luke Cage (Mike Colter) are the most obvious pairing. They team up in the comics, where they currently share a title, and The Defenders spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for a Heroes For Hire series, not the least of which is the show’s running gag of Danny being, well, a thundering dumbass. And one of the show’s most emotional moments comes when Luke and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) reconcile their romantic past and settle on friendship.
More surprising is how well Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) play off each other. It makes sense on a practical level: Murdock’s a lawyer, and Jones is a PI. But the show also contrasts their personalities to hilarious effect, as neither the sarcastic Jessica nor the noble (and self-serious) Matt quite know what to make of each other. It helps that Ritter and Cox lean into it. The two often land some of the show’s best laughs playing off each other, especially early on as neither realizes the other is a freakin’ superhero.
Furthermore, it makes more sense for the Defenders to pop up more in each other’s solo series, or even have series dedicated to duos, now that they know each other. Why wouldn’t Danny call in Daredevil to help him fight ninjas? Why wouldn’t Luke call on Jessica to help him investigate the tightening grip of gangsters in Harlem? Daredevil and Luke have a shared distaste for organized crime and heroin dealers no matter where they are.
It’s not clear where the Netflix Marvel shows will go from here, plot-wise. All four series have been renewed, but The Defenders effectively wraps up many of their plotlines, particularly those of Iron Fist. But hopefully that future includes a lot more Marvel team-ups.