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TV Review: Marvel's The Defenders - 1.04 "Royal Dragon"

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EPISODE 4: "Royal Dragon"

SYNOPSIS: As the Defenders get to know each other over dinner, they're greeted by a series of party crashers -- none of them friendly.

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REVIEW: Watching the fourth episode of The Defenders, I could not stop thinking about the shawarma scene from THE AVENGERS. But, unlike that somber meal that celebrated the superteam's victory during the Battle of New York, this meal represents the coming together of The Defenders for the first time. In prior reviews, I questioned the pacing in taking three hours to get these heroes united, but it becomes worth it after this episode. Easily the best hour of the season to date, "Royal Dragon" is light on action but heavy on character development and is chock full of great one-liners and interactions between The Defenders. In short, this is a singularly excellent hour of television and ranks up there with the best episodes the Marvel and Netflix partnership has yet produced.

After their face-off with The Hand at Midland Circle, this hour picks up with the heroes taking refuge in a Chinese restaurant so they can get their bearings. Danny uses his Black Card to buy four of everything on the menu and pays six months rent for the owner (is thast his go to move for instilling faith in strangers?). Of course, Danny also used his phone to contact Colleen which puts everyone at risk. As they chat about what the hell is going on, Stick arrives and shakes things up even further. The heroes already don't trust each other, especially Matt and Jessica. Matt takes a long time to remove his mask as he tries to continue protecting his identity but he eventually desists. Jessica listens to everyone spouting about The Hand, The Chaste, K'un Lun and Chi and she has enough. Before Stick can really delve into backstory, Jessica leaves. Luke tries to stop her but she doesn't want any part of the fight. Luke returns to the restaurant and tries to absorb what Stick explains to them.

Giving a rundown of the history of The Hand, Stick reveals that Alexandra is an ancient leader who has been in charge for millenia. Jessica later seems to confirm this when she reviews the photos she took of Midland's paperwork dating back hundreds of years and which are all signed by a woman with the same handwriting. All the names start with "A", obviously meaning it is Alexandra. Stick also names the Five Fingers of the Hand and that they returned to their home countries to maintain control and that they are now coming back together. The Five Fingers are Alexandra, Bakuto (whom Danny says he killed but may not be dead), Gao, Sowande (aka White Hat) and Murakami. Stick reveals Murakami was who directed Nobu during Daredevil's last season. We get to see Alexandra meet with Murakami and learn the pair have a contentious history. Despite their disagreement over Alexandra's leadership style, he obeys her in bringing the Five Fingers together for the culling of New York.

Back at the Royal Dragon, Luke and Danny talk and reach a mutual respect. They share some dumplings and talk about how they like better fighting on the same side. Danny says they make a great team (Heroes for Hire, anyone?) and they agree to see things out. Stick and Matt talk about Elektra, a detail they left out of their group chat despite everyone having crossed paths with the Black Sky at this point. Matt could not sense a pulse and Stick says the Elektra they knew is dead and that the only way to stop her will be to kill her again. Matt says he sensed Elektra resisted killing him but Stick doesn't seem convinced. The two are interrupted when they realize that somehow, Alexandra has slipped into the restaurant.

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Calmly and without fear, Alexandra threatens the team and Stick if they get in her way. As much as any of these characters could be the leader of The Defenders, Alexandra reveals she truly wants the power of Danny as she needs the Iron Fist. She promises to leave New York alone as well as Danny's family and friends if he goes with her. Per usual, Danny contemplates making the wrong decision, but a look from Luke convinces him to step aside. Alexandra again threatens them with death and the front door of the restaurant opens to reveal Elektra clad in black and ready to do battle. Alexandra steps back, prepared for carnage, but everyone is shocked instead to see a van crash through the front of the restaurant, knocking Elektra to the ground. Alexandra's jaw drops as Jessica Jones steps in. With a funny "who missed me?", Jessica falls in line with her new colleagues and they all prepare to fight as Elektra stands and brandishes her swords.

What a great hour. An excellent coming together episode that recalled the best moments of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man arguing and uniting in THE AVENGERS. Four very different personalities who also seem to work well together. My favorite part was the inclusion of Stick who calls bullshit on all of the stupid things these characters say, especially Danny. I am hoping that the relationship between Stick and Danny will continue into Iron Fist's second season as the young rich kid really needs a teacher who will call him out when he is a colossal, thundering dumbass. Jessica leaving for a portion of the hour was an odd choice and seemed to only serve as setup for her throwing the van through the front of the restaurant, but I can excuse that one lapse in logic. A great hour and one that comes at the halfway point of The Defenders. Here's hoping this isn't a high water mark but a sign of a good conclusion to the series.

NEXT ON MARVEL'S THE DEFENDERS: "Take Shelter" - Elektra's loyalties are questioned, Colleen clashes with an old acquaintance, and Luke proves he knows how to take a hit.

Source: JoBlo.com

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