‘The Defenders’ Season One Finale Review: Protect My City

We’ve made it! We survived the finale, only becoming a slightly tear stained emotional mess. Continue on for the very spoiler heavy analysis of episode eight, rightly entitled “The Defenders”. Brace thyself, this is a long one.

Looking back, this argument between the team over whether they’re going to blow up a building, is chock full of foreshadowing. I think if Claire hadn’t of spoken up and agreed, Luke would have never gone through with it. Claire’s the voice of reason and even she knows this fight needs to end here and now. And Luke, who has never watched a movie before, jinxed them by saying no one innocent would be hurt. That kind of comment never ends well. And it certainly didn’t this time either. Every time I hear someone say something like this I cringe. It’s almost a Pavlovian response at this point.

I also want to point out the Matt had agreed that no one innocent would be harmed, but he no longer thinks of himself as innocent. Because of that I think he already knew he wasn’t going to get out of Midland Circle. Matt has seen way too much in his life, even before he donned the devil suit, he lost his dad to the underbelly of New York. That alone would be enough to change someone. If you add in all of the cases he’s worked where the marginalized members of New York City are taken advantage of, that’s a heavy weight on someone’s shoulders. We’ve seen what happens when Matt feels justice hasn’t been served, he darkens his soul by being judge and jury on a regular basis. And the cherry on the top of the cake was losing Elektra; that broke a part of Matt he will never get back.

Can I take a moment to talk about Madame Gao? She’s the definition of not judging a book by its cover. She looks like a prim and proper little old lady. But this woman is ruthless, cut-throat, and powerful. There is a reason that she’s the last one standing and I would not be surprised if she survived the fall of Midland Circle. I’m sure she’ll pop up somewhere along the line, most likely to antagonize Danny Rand some more. Mark my words she will be back, hell she might have something to do with how Matt got out. Plot twist!

The whole season we’ve been working towards that line the characters refuse to step over. It all comes to a head at Midland Circle. All the characters have been given some sort of out, but in the end they all cross that line whether on their own or with a shove from someone else. They don’t just wade into the dark water, but jump head first into it, knowing that if they come out the other side, there is no going back. They might die and if they survive they all will mostly live the rest of their lives in prison branded as terrorists. But it doesn’t matter to our heroes because millions of lives in New York City will have been saved.

The battle they fight once they’re down that elevator is brutal in it’s own way. I lost track of how many people they were fighting and it felt like it was the four of them against this unending sea of combatants. Also, there’s quite a few sweeping shots that get all of the Defenders in and that adds to the feeling of being right down there in the fight. It seems to stretch on forever but the way they work together makes you want it to never end. Every time I watched this scene I think of how the stunt team on this show deserves all the awards.

While this is all going on like Colleen literally staring down her demons and kicking the shit out of them was amazing. Unfortunately the cost was the loss of Misty’s hand and the detonator being pressed. This starts the literal countdown to get the hell out of dodge. There’s also a couple great moments for Karen both with Foggy and Trish. Foggy and Karen discuss Matt’s need to destroy The Hand, Foggy sees that all the rules have been thrown out and that scares him. But Karen on the other hand, still has this picture of a life where Matt is happy without the devil. I really enjoyed the moment Karen got to have with Trish. It was very much the two eager but battleworn journalists trying to figure this whole thing out. None of these people come out of this thing the same way the went in.

By the time Matt informs them that the bomb timer is going he already knows he isn’t getting out. The moment he whispers in Danny’s ear is his way of letting them know he’s okay with it. Finn (Danny) is able to emote his heartbreak without giving away to the audience what is about to happen, we still have some hope that Matt and Elektra will get out of the cave. He’s clearly devastated but we get no hints as to why.

The fight between Matt and Elektra is as heart wrenching as a fight can be. Every hit these two land felt like it was mirrored in my gut. It hurt to watch, which is a sign of how easy it is to invest in these characters well being. You can feel that Matt has given up on himself and is focused solely on reaching Elektra. Meanwhile, she is too lost in her vendetta, to care about herself.

It’s not until the very end that she realizes that she has doomed herself and Matt. I think that’s what finally gets through to her. The fact that Matt is willing to die by her side so she doesn’t have to die alone. He will be with her ’til the literal end of his days. And by this point they are too wrapped up in themselves to even care about the building collapsing down on them. It’s absolutely heart wrenching.

The reaction of those left behind is just as palpable. Danny explaining that Matt’s last words were to “protect my city” just speaks to his character. Matt on the outside can seem like a selfish character for putting his friends through all the worrying and lying they’ve dealt with so far. But at his core he’s a self sacrificing type of person. He literally puts his life on the line day in and day out to save his city, this time it was the ultimate price he paid. Or so we are lead to believe at this point.

As many people as have condemned them as vigilantes, they were willing to lose their lives to save the people of New York. This hit home when those returning, filed into the room at the police station, one by one to be reunited with their loved ones. The image of Foggy and Karen staring at that door waiting for Matt to walk through has been burnt into my soul. Foggy and Karen both told Matt in the past that this may happen but it doesn’t stop them from hoping it never does, so when they realize he’s not coming back they both have this look of their hearts being forever broken. It really hits you in the feels.

Matt will never be celebrated as the hero he was, even if people were to find out he’s the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. His loss will never be given the proper attention it deserves. Claire says it best. “He loved this city and the people in it more than he loved himself.” That really gets to me, the fact that he sacrificed himself and no one will ever know.

Everyone reacts differently to the grief they now find themselves dealing with. Most in ways we expect; Jess in the bar, Luke checking on her, Claire relieved everyone else is fine but secretly hoping Matt made it out, and Trish worrying about Jess but getting back to work. Others seem to be in completely different places than I expected; Karen praying in a church, Foggy blaming himself, and Danny taking up the mantle of the protector of Hell’s Kitchen.

I almost wish they’d left it at that.

But of course we got a peek at Matt lying in a bed in what appears to be a convent. Which raises a lot of questions, such as; is that nun beside him Elektra? And then of course, we get a mini peek at the Punisher before it all ends.

This episode, no matter how many times I watch it, leaves me a crying mess by the time Matt and Elektra are wrapped around each other as the world crumbles around them. This is one that will stick in my memory because, from start to finish, it takes you on this road that you can almost see coming but never prepare yourself for. It leaves you feeling like the floor has been pulled out from beneath you. But then you get a little glimmer of hope for the future when you see where they all are at the end of it. Jess opening up her private eye business again. Luke and Claire finding out that they both got off without any legal red tape. Danny watching over the city like he promised. And then Matt in the bed and a nun saying to “get Maggie, he’s awake.” In the comics Matt’s mother Maggie left them to become a nun, so there’s hope Matt will gain some family and move forward in his quest to save the city. A fitting end to an amazing series.

What was your favourite part of this season? Which Defender’s series are you going to be waiting impatiently for?

The Defenders is currently streaming worldwide on Netflix.