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Monday, September 18, 2017

More BANG Ready For Your Bucks

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Tenth Season' on Blogcritics.

CBS’s The Big Bang Theory completed a full decade on the air last spring. The 24-episode Complete Tenth Season, now out on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital, brought some changes to the sitcom. Relationships matured and deepened, the family expanded, and scientific advancement came with some challenges. While perhaps not as fresh as it once was, the series does remain entertaining, and this was a pretty good batch.

The biggest changes in The Complete Tenth Season revolved, predictably, around Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik). Early on, they move in together. Unsurprisingly, it takes an abnormal event to push such an overdue, big step in their union. And yet, Sheldon handles it a lot more gracefully and openly that he would have even a year or two ago. Which makes their subsequent coitus more genuine. Sheldon will always be the Sheldon we were first introduced to in many ways. More important than these steps are the ways in which we see Amy soften him in all aspects of his life, as well as how he has matured in handling disruption. This is key for a series that’s been on this long.

A little less groundbreaking is how the arrival of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette’s (Melissa Rauch) baby is dealt with. Yes, the inclusion of Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Stuart (Kevin Sussman) in the plot make it a little more screwball. In general, though, there isn’t much difference in The Big Bang Theory‘s approach than how other situation comedies have done the same thing previously. The best parts are when we see Bernadette struggle with going back to work and Howard doubt his abilities as a father because of his own upbringing, and I’m glad they didn’t lean into either too melodramatically. Also, tying baby Hallie (Pamela Adlon, Better Things) to Howard’s departed mother is a great move. But I still wish they’d found a more original approach.

Rounding out the ensemble, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are feeling pretty solid and comfortable this year, especially after their second wedding. Raj slowly gets his love life and independent finances in order. These both show evolution, but like the above, they contribute to The Big Bang Theory‘s leveling out, with less departure from the typical fare in the genre every year. There are some truly funny bits, such as how the pregnancy is revealed to certain characters. But overall, it feels like it might be time to start looking for an end game. Or switch to shorter, more focused seasons like some of the revivals are doing these days.

As in the past, The Big Bang Theory – The Complete Tenth Season, has plenty of great guest stars. Besides the returns of Judd Hirsch, Laurie Metcalfe, Christine Baranski, Keith Carradine, Brian Posehn, Riki Lindhome, and the too-long-gone Brian Thomas Smith, we get Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Married… with Children), and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad). The show stays focused on its leads, as it should, but it has done a good job of filling in other key roles with terrific and appropriate performers, some of whom viewers anxiously await the return of.

As far as extras go, the series brings back the charming #JustAskBBT segment, where cast members answer fans’ questions. There’s a featurette on family, which makes total sense, given the role relations played in several of the stories this year. There’s another on some of the more interesting props, one on the baby, and a humorous gag reel.

The Comic Con panel from 2016 is also included, too late as in most releases. But what’s cool about this one is that it’s the writers and other behind-the-scenes people being interviewed, not the actors, and Rauch serving as a very energetic moderator. That makes it more fun than some of the other panels I’ve seen lately.

The Big Bang Theory – The Complete Tenth Season is on sale now.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE FLASH Comes Back Around

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'The Flash - The Complete Third Season' on Blogcritics.

The Flash – The Complete Third Season has arrived! The show’s junior year begins with Barry Allen having altered time to save his mother’s life. Unfortunately for Barry, that comes with a whole host of unforeseen consequences. Barry seeks to reverse the new timeline, dubbed Flashpoint, but despite his best efforts, things don’t exactly go back to normal. There are many consequences for him to deal with, testing the superhero in new and challenging ways.

I like The Complete Third Season‘s premise a lot. Many shows and movies have dealt with time travel, but few have gotten into the realistic intricacies of it. The fact that Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash (Grant Gustin), changes something doesn’t meant it can easily be undone. In The Flash, time is portrayed as a fragile thing, and while much can be set back to the way it was, there will always be differences that cannot be undone. Barry learns his lesson early in the year not to screw with the past again, though he has to deal with the fallout from his actions for a long time to come.

The character-driven story goes hand-in-hand with the neat science fiction element. The best superheroes aren’t perfect, and learn the hard way that their actions have consequences. Even if they do something with the noblest of intentions, the world doesn’t always let them off the hook. This is a very hard lesson to learn, but an authentic tale to tell. The weight of it gives a new angle to Barry that I enjoyed very much.

Hanging over the whole season is another time-travel related problem: tossed briefly into the future, Barry sees Iris West (Candice Patton), the love of his life, perish at the hands of Savitar, the Big Bad this year. Obviously, Barry wants to change this future, and has a very hard time doing so. This opens up the dichotomy of time also being hard to change, and even after learning a lesson, there may be a desire to repeat the mistake. This complexity, combined with the above, makes for a very pleasing run of episodes.

There are many other highlights in the twenty-three episode season. I loved the musical crossover episode with Supergirl, “Duet,” which made good use of the strong singing talents of both casts. Patton did an excellent job portraying an Iris that could accept her fate. Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) flirty relationship with new frenemy Gypsy (Jessica Camacho, Sleepy Hollow) is fun, as is the inclusion of H.G., the third major character played by Tom Cavanagh in three seasons. Adding Julian Albert (Tom Felton, the Harry Potter films) to the cast nicely shook up the dynamic. A visit to Gorilla City made for a cool way to play up the different worlds The Flash deals with. And it is very hard not to be delighted by Caitlin’s turn as Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), evil as she may be.

The Complete Third Season does expose a glaring problem with setting multiple television series in the same universe, though. Savitar is a truly terrible villain, and the possibility of losing Iris is just about the worst thing Barry can imagine. Yet, Barry doesn’t call upon the Green Arrow, Supergirl, or any of his other super-powered friends for help (save a one-episode appearance by Snart (Wentworth Miller)). Given how serious the situation is and how desperate he becomes, Barry should be making use of any avenue available to him, so it doesn’t make sense that he doesn’t recruit his pals from the other shows. The mid-season crossover event was OK, but there really should be more integration in a story with such intense stakes.

The Flash – The Complete Third Season comes with a wealth of extras, including TEN featurettes! Unfortunately, one of them is the 2016 Comic-Con panel for the show, and as covered in other recent reviews, sticking it on the last disc of the set isn’t very helpful; we really need next year’s panel, or, at minimum, put it on the first disc to view before the episodes. But the other featurettes, covering a variety of topics, are good, and there are also deleted scenes and a gag reel.

The Flash – The Complete Third Season is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

Monday, September 4, 2017

GOTHAM - The Complete Third Season

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Gotham - The Complete Third Season' on Blogcritics.

Despite the failures of the big screen DC efforts of the past decade, there are some really good shows representing that comic company on the small screen. Gotham is a DC show that sometimes baffles me because it has some really cool elements and can be quite gripping at times, while other arcs are lackluster and plodding. Three years in, it seems like the series is pulling itself together, as I would argue that Gotham – The Complete Third Season has many of the best episodes of the show, and certainly the strongest run when taken all together due to its complexity, the cast becoming more comfortable in their roles, and writers’ ability to still surprise.

Gotham‘s third season begins with two major developments: Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is no longer an officer with the Gotham City Police Department, and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) are best friends. The first of those is important because Gordon’s role with the GCPD is a vital part of his identity, and dictates the daily activities of the most central character of the ensemble. The latter makes a difference because those are two very formidable villains, Nygma more so as the season goes on and he becomes The Riddler, so they are in a position to cause much trouble indeed when their forces are combined.

These elements also echo a greater trend. The subtitle for the first past of the season is Mad City, and Gotham certainly falls under that descriptor. Penguin is elected mayor early on. The mysterious Court of Owls is seen to be pulling the strings of both sides of the law for their own purposes. Law enforcement is in chaos, unable to contend with the bad guys who seem to keep multiplying. With the metropolitan area under such pressure and conflict, what can be done to right the ship?

Well, while the villains are gaining the upper hand, there are a number of signs that things will come around, starting with the subtitle for the end of the season, Heroes Rise. Gordon, as we know he must, does go back to the GCPD. Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) inches ever closer to becoming Batman, something that seems poised to happen in season four. Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk) plays a larger role in these episodes. That tells me that, as bad as things are, there is help on its way.

Gotham is a show with an extremely large cast and a lot of subplots intertwining at once, so it would be impossible to get into everything that happens in season three in this review, even just looking at the lead characters. However, there are a few things worth mentioning about The Complete Third Season. Barbara’s (Erin Richards) growth, furthering her independence, is quite pleasing. This season brings the return of Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), Hugo Strange (BD Wong), and Carmine Falcone (John Doman), who all seem to have plenty of potential left in them. Villain Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel, The Walking Dead) would work better as a guest character, rather than artificially keeping him around all year. New, grown-up Ivy (Maggie Geha, Ted 2) is pretty cool, once they started to develop her character in the back half of the season. Chelsea Spack’s reprise is interesting, until she is wasted without resolution. The way Gordon and Lee (Morena Baccarin) are kept apart feels forced. Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones, Star Trek: Deep Space 9) is pretty awesome, so I’m glad to see him show up in a neat way. It’s a mixed bag, but I’d say it’s more good than bad.

Gotham – The Complete Third Season has a pretty good batch of bonus features. There’s a featurette on the Court of Owls, and another on the new villains. Star Ben McKenzie makes his directorial debut this season, so there’s material on that. Deleted scenes are scattered across the four-disc set. The 2016 Comic Con panel is pretty useless after the season has been viewed, and given it’s on the last disc, that’s likely to be when people see it. (This is not a complaint specific to Gotham, as other recent releases have done the same thing, which does not make it better.) In summary, a decent lineup.

Gotham – The Complete Third Season is available now on blu-ray, DVD, and digital download.

Monday, August 28, 2017

SUPERGIRL Returns

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Supergirl - The Complete Second Season' on Blogcritics.

Supergirl, formerly of CBS, moved to the CW network this past year, joining fellow DC properties Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. This did result in some changes, though most of the core cast and tone stayed the same. If you haven’t had the change to see what’s different and what’s not, you’ll now have that opportunity, as Supergirl – The Complete Second Season is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

The biggest change you’ll see in The Complete Second Season over the first is a more serial nature. CBS is known for doing stand-alone procedurals. Supergirl departed from that formula more than most shows on the network, but more often than not, there was a villain-of-the-week for the Girl of Steel to face. Season two was much more ongoing, with plots not resolved for many episodes, and forcing viewers not to miss a chapter or risk being lost.

Another change is that Supergirl was able to participate in crossover events with the other DC shows. This series does take place on a different Earth than the others, but the producers found a way to make it work. In season one, Barry Allen / The Flash (Grant Gustin) made a one-episode appearance in Supergirl, but that’s about as far as things got. Although Supergirl didn’t have a full “Invasion!” installment like the others this year, the hero herself did take part in the other episodes, and she wasn’t the only character that was allowed to come over. There was also a musical hour that combined the casts of Supergirl and The Flash, and Supergirl was given a device to allow her to travel back and forth again in the future, a convenient plot twist. So lots more synergy.

Those are all positives, but there was one big negative to the change in venues. Because Supergirl moved its production to Canada, where the other CW shows film to save on costs, cast member Calista Flockhart departed as a lead. She did appear in the first two episodes of the season, and then returned for the final two. For awhile, the in between was so good that I forgot to miss her. But the moment she returned, it was like a gut punch, as no one replaces her presence, and the series would be better with her more regularly in it.

Which is not to say there weren’t good parts of season; remember, I just said I forgot to miss her. I loved new character Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath, Merlin) as a friend for Kara (Melissa Benoist). Snapper Carr (Ian Gomez, Cougar Town) was a great presence. Desperate Housewives Brenda Strong and Teri Hatcher (the latter also a former Lois Lane) made absolutely wonderful villains, and no one can complain about Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) as President. And Supergirl greatly expanded its roster of aliens, introducing viewers to many different species and worlds as it presented allegory and metaphors on race relations and the failings of our current president and the hatred he spews (sometimes a tad too heavily, but mostly fine).

There was also a lot more romance in season two of Supergirl, though thankfully it never took over the course of the show and was handled well. J’onn (David Harewood) got into a very complex relationship with fellow Martian M’gann (Sharon Leal, Dreamgirls) in a Nazi-like story (her type of Martian committed genocide against his). Winn (Jeremy Jordan) was played by an alien named Lyra (Tamzin Merchant, Salem), until he wasn’t. Alex (Chyler Leigh) came out of the closet and into the arms of Maggie (Floriana Lima, The Family). In fact, just about everyone but James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) got some love, which is fine, since he was pretty much the only one getting any in season one.

The one complaint some fans have is that they didn’t like the introduction of Mon-El (Chris Wood, The Vampire Diaries) as a partner for Kara. I actually don’t mind Mon-El himself, finding him an unobtrusive presence, sometimes bordering on sweet. I do think the show used him mainly the same way a female love interest might be used for a male superhero in the past, often staying at home and out of danger. But that’s OK, overdue in 2017.

My only real complaint is that Supergirl did go a little overboard with proving that the title character was better and stronger than Superman (Tyler Hoechlin, Teen Wolf). I think there was a way to do it without making the legendary hero look like an inept buffoon, and unfortunately, this show went too far tearing him down to make her look good. It’s Mon-El’s job to be Kara’s inferior, not Superman’s.
And I’m just going to say it, I didn’t care for James as The Guardian. I found the subplot boring.
But overall, a strong season, well worth the watch, and an improvement over the first year. Now if only they could convince Flockhart to make it up to Vancouver a little more often…

As far as extras, Supergirl – The Complete Second Season does pretty well. There are five featurettes, four of them good. (I hate the obligatory wrestling episode in this genre, and didn’t need a featurette on it.) There was audio commentary on one episode, which I would like more of. There were also some very short bits that I wish we could hit ‘Play All’ on. But again, overall, I found most of the material enjoyable and informative.

Check out Supergirl – The Complete Second Season on blu-ray, DVD, and digital now.

THE TICK Ticks On

Article first published as TV Review: THE TICK on Seat42F.


Before we get started with this review, I must confess, I’ve never seen any previous incarnation of The Tick. I’ve always meant to and I’m sure I would enjoy, but just never got around to it. So this article is purely about the new Amazon series.

Amazon launched a new THE TICK yesterday, a second live-action version of the comic superhero spoof. Centered around a big, blue man in a bug suit and his more timid butterfly-like chum, The Tick fights for justice and doesn’t condone killing. With cartoonish jokes and supermen and women whose names themselves are gags, this occasionally meta, delightful absurd, woefully inane series is just getting warmed up.

The lead character of THE TICK is not The Tick. No, that title, at least for these six episodes, should go to Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman, Vinyl). Arthur is arguably the unluckiest person alive, with a very traumatic childhood backstory. He does have mental health problems, but it’s a miracle that his problems aren’t crippling and he’s, more or less, leading a normal life, even if his nighttime activities are less than normal.

Enter The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz, Guardians of the Galaxy), who takes Arthur’s unfortunate hobby and makes it his life. The Tick seems to come out of nowhere. Yet, he’s clearly got history with Arthur and has been around awhile (and not just because all of the heroes and villains in the show don’t seem to age over years or even decades). But The Tick doesn’t know what he is or who he is, only that Arthur has a destiny and The Tick must help him. If anything, it’s almost like The Tick is Arthur’s sidekick, even if their personalities point to the other way around.

What follows are odd battles with people like Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez, Jane the Virgin), a woman who flows with electricity, making her a magnet for floating particles, and The Pyramid Gang. Everyone wants Arthur’s superhero suit, which isn’t really his, and there’s a bit of a comedy of errors as custody goes back and forth.

Yet, there’s also a grander story here. Very early on, we know there’s something off about the original superhero who came to this planet more than one hundred years ago, Superian (Brendan Hines, Lie to Me). There’s also a naked VLM (Very Large Man, played by Ryan Woodle) who keeps growing and walking towards population centers. There’s the question as to whether the great villain The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) is still alive. All of these moving pieces don’t fully come together in the first six episodes, which seem like an extended pilot.

Normally in a show like this, I would assume there isn’t a great picture coming into focus, as this seems like a goofball comedy. Even without having seen the earlier versions, it seems unlikely they had such lofty goals. And yet, the more signs shown in each installment, the more it seems certain that THE TICK is going somewhere. Which makes it even better.

And if you’re just wanting to tune in for the humor, there’s plenty of that, too. For instance, Ms. Lint lives with her ex-husband, a weird hipster named Derek (Bryan Greenberg, How to Make It in America), Arthur’s stepdad is way, way too nice, and Ramses IV (Michael Cerveris, Fringe) keeps a sarcophagus full of power drinks. Those are just a few of bizarre things in these installments.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what THE TICK contains. It mixes offbeat comedy with genuine superhero stories with deep mysteries with hyperreality with whatever the heck Overkill (Scott Speiser) is, plus the psychotic woman from The Following (Valorie Curry) plays Arthur’s sister. It defies easy explanation and is super addictive, as I quickly plowed through all six half hour installments in short order.

THE TICK’s first half of its first season is available now on Amazon Prime.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Legends Continue

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'DC's Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season' on Blogcritics.

New to Blu-ray, DVD, and digital is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season. A spin-off of fellow CW series The Flash and Arrow, Legends finds a group of misfits, both heroes and villains, who are not notable to history banding together to protect all of time. The Complete Second Season is basically a continuation of the first year, but with several of the team members swapped out. A new set of villains, pulled once again from the two parent shows, helps make the adventure fresh.

I loved the premise of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow from the start, and appreciated many of the characters in the ensemble, but was underwhelmed with season one. Thankfully, season two does much to correct that right away. The first year was saddled with an uninteresting story arc that weighed things down. The Complete Second Season does have an ongoing plot thread, but it travels to many more time periods, takes itself less seriously when it’s appropriate to do so, and deepens the characters, making the show into the fun romp it should have always been.

Not every episode is gold, and sometimes the effects and scale of action have to be lesser than they should be for budgetary reasons. But even some of the duller ones, like “Abominations,” have exciting elements that make the most of the money, like Confederate zombies! Yes, the show plays fast and loose with the premise; plenty of things the characters do or see should change history seriously and they don’t, while minor changes have large impacts. However, the season starts and ends strong, with swashbuckling and adventure, and overall, it’s a pretty entertaining run.

A big part of how much enjoyment The Complete Second Season has to offer are the antagonists. The Legion of Doom is comprised of three previously seen villains: speedster Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), who has a very powerful motivation in these episodes; incredibly dangerous magic master Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough); and the always charming Malcolm Meryln (John Barrowman). Even before they are joined late in the game by former Legend Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), they have engaging chemistry that makes one gleefully anticipate every scene they’re in as a group. They set a high bar for season three to live up to.

Less successful is the way the team has changed. While the Hawks were good characters to jettison, Captain Cold’s presence is missed, and too different when he returns on the other side to be comforting. Neither Nate (Nick Zano) nor Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) are that gripping. The former would have been much more interesting had he not eventually gotten powers. The season suffers from the decreased presence of Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), though the benefit of his absence is the welcome increased importance of Sara Lance (Caity Lotz). I’d say this mostly makes the makeup of the group a wash, though the chemistry between those around for both years has strengthened delightfully, with Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) having an especially compelling arc in how he relates to everyone else.

As far as bonus features go, I’d say this release has the minimum needed to be decent, but nothing particularly special. There are a handful of deleted scenes and a fun gag reel. The Comic-Con panel included is from 2016, so not a terrible way to get excited before watching the season, but far less valuable after you’ve seen the episodes, and since its on the last disc, that’s likely when people will view it. It would be far wiser to include the 2017 panel instead, but they did not.

There’s also a featurette on the “Invasion!” crossover between all four CW DC shows, Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. The Legends contribution to the miniseries is the finale, and the episode itself is pretty good. But the featurette itself seems to be talking about ideas that aren’t fully communicated on screen, and I found the full story to be relatively disappointing. It didn’t quite living up to what I’d hoped for, changing course too much between parts and shifting the makeup of the combined group hourly without satisfying explanation as to why.

Yes, this is a mixed review, but overall, I would recommend DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season. I’d say that just for Victor Garber’s performance alone, but he’s far from the only redeeming quality. This batch was better than the first, and I’m optimistic about where the show will go from here.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season is available now.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Defending THE DEFENDERS

Article first published as TV Review: THE DEFENDERS on Seat42F.


You may have been waiting impatiently for years now for Netflix’s Marvel’s THE DEFENDERS, the small screen version of the Avengers team-up. After all, the first series in the build-up, Daredevil, was released back in the spring of 2015. Through Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, a second season of Daredevil, and yes, even the less-lauded Iron Fist, fans of the Marvel Universe have been lapping up the installments, waiting eagerly for these D-list (see what I did there?) heroes to come together. But just because THE DEFENDERS finally went public today doesn’t mean the wait is entirely over.

THE DEFENDERS is an eight-episode miniseries, and thus takes its time getting to what the fans want: the four primary characters meeting one another. Instead, episode one is all about checking in with where our people are and meeting the villain. It isn’t until late in episode two that any of the quartet run into one another, and it’ll be later still before they get together as a group.

I like this waiting strategy more than I thought I would. Yes, I would rather THE DEFENDERS had arrived earlier. But now that I’ve begun watching, I want the story to progress naturally. It takes time for the story to weave each individual together, and that’s OK. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist (Finn Jones) is seen first, kicking off the event with an action-packed battle in the sewers. Although we don’t see the face of his shadowy opponent, we do know who she is, which will become clear soon enough. He and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) are still hunting The Hand, and their mission, while starting overseas, soon brings them back to New York.

Danny isn’t the only one on a mission. Luke Cage (Mike Colter), fresh out of prison, begins looking after a kid around his neighborhood that needs help. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) takes a case that leads her to encounter the same mysterious woman from the opening. This isn’t a surprise, because it shouldn’t take the audience long to figure out that all three investigations are leading to the same central baddie. They are well woven, and this is the primary reason I’m fine with THE DEFENDERS taking a while to bring its leads together.

In fact, even as other characters like Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Misty Knight (Simone Missick), and Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) cross worlds, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is the hold-out outsider. Having rejected the mantel of Daredevil and busy with pro bono legal cases, he’s the one remaining unaware of what’s happening. This will not last, as the end of the second hours reveals, but it’s cool to have someone not falling into the pattern that the others do.

I have to admit, upon realizing that The Hand would be the villains in THE DEFENDERS, I wasn’t very excited. After all, Iron Fist, though not as terrible as some have claimed, is the weakest link, and its recently-released season featured The Hand prominently. Yes, they also appeared in Daredevil, too. But why bring over the criminals from the series no one liked?

That feeling goes away the moment we meet Alexandra (the great Sigourney Weaver), a woman so formidable that even Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) cowers before her. Alexandra does much with few scenes and few lines, a great presence that instantly makes The Hand interesting again. She exudes danger as much as she does gravitas, and she is the perfect foe for this adventure.

Two hours in, I am hooked. While not as powerful in its messaging as Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, it is much more gripping than Iron First or Daredevil, and its fewer number of episodes makes for a carefully-plotted, well-paced miniseries. It balances the faces we want to see with the story that needs to be told, and somehow combines the tonality of all of the series it brings together. It even finds a way to make the unavoidable fight between heroes caused by a misunderstanding work. It’s been worth the wait, and I plan to savor the remaining installments. I recommend you do the same.

THE DEFENDERS is available today on Netflix.