Spider Man isn’t New York City’s only friendly neighborhood super hero. Hell’s Kitchen had Daredevil. Harlem has Luke Cage. The city also hosts Jessica Jones and the Iron Fist. We’ve been able to share in their stories since 2015 with the release of Daredevil on Netflix. Since the initial offering, Daredevil has had two seasons and Jones, Cage and the Iron Fist have all had one. On August 18th, Netflix released season 1 of Marvel’s The Defenders. It unites Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the Iron Fist in a fight to save New York City. The ancient criminal organization known as The Hand has designs that will result in the city’s fall. Eve and I discuss what makes The Defenders the same or different from all the hero-fare that has come before.
Netflix’s The Defenders created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez (the same show-runners as the popular Daredevil series) features the music of John Paesano. The limited series of eight 45-minute episodes released on August 18th, 2017.
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What to Expect When You’re … Watching
While we’ve discussed lots of hero-centered offerings before, this is the first one that comes with a TV-MA rating, which is the television equivalent of an “R” rating. (Check here if you’d like to know more.) The Defenders contains no small amount of foul language, even more violence, and one enthusiastic, though relatively short, sex scene (no nudity). We encourage you to take a look at Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn Online review of Marvel’s Defenders for more detail on what you will and will not see throughout the series. For those who cannot handle the mature content, we recommend VidAngel, which now works with streaming services and can automatically filter out objectionable content (defined by the viewer).
As a whole, Eve and I were happy not only with the quality of the individual series’ seasons (particularly Daredevil, but NOT Iron Fist). We were also very impressed with the thought and heart that went into delivering the message. We hoped that the same heart and thought went into The Defender‘s writing, and for the most part, it did.
The morality of heroes
Yes, we both love Daredevil. Of all of the heroes and anti-heroes represented in The Defenders, Matthew Murdock is closest to a Christian motivation. We understand his faith and appreciate the spiritual representation of his struggle between lawyer and vigilante. The brief appearance of his braille Bible and his confession in the first episode highlight his strong Catholic foundation.
Luke Cage comes across as a social justice warrior, more interested in righting perceived wrongs. We were uncomfortable with the fact that he was willing to justify the criminal behavior of a boy just because he was black. We believe there should be consequences for criminal behavior.
Jessica Jones is an apathetic anti-hero, interested only in solving her client’s case. While loyal, she isn’t willing to stand beside the others until forced to by circumstances.
Danny Rand is a spoiled, rich kid who wins a legendary title for what appears to be the sake of the competition. He shows no true commitment nor discernible purpose other than his duty to destroy the Hand. But Eve holds high hopes that the last 30 minutes of the series shows Danny gaining a motivation that will help improve his character in his promised second season.
Stick and Eleckra both display heroic characteristics when they were supporting characters in the Daredevil series. Unfortunately, Elektra’s reincarnation is more villainous and less heroic than her previous incarnation. Stick has always had a very focused and amoral motivation as a leader of the Chaste. He will do anything to defeat the Hand, even murder friends in cold blood.
Why do they do it?
The idea of immortality and resurrection is common fare in all kinds of villain motivation. Despite the characters citing these as the goal of the Hand, neither is actually what they are seeking. In fact, a misunderstanding of immortality appears frequently in Marvel’s universe. The villains from Doctor Strange sought an equally flawed perception of immortality. God created this desire for eternity that motivates so many, both good and bad:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes [3:11])
God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden before they could eat from the Tree of Life after they disobeyed by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis [3:22]-24). This was a blessing in disguise because it means that we do not live eternally in our sin. However, it also means that immortality can either mean an eternal life with God or an eternity separated from God and desiring a final death:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Every person, past, present or future, is eternal, but this message has little impact on our feel-good culture. Without forgiveness, we all face an eternity of a fate unimaginably worse than death. The Gospel is the “good news” that God has granted us his grace. His forgiveness is ours for the asking.
God is self-evident
“But there is no God,” some say. The evidence for God is in creation itself:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans [1:18]-23)
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