Here's one thing I didn't expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did: those freaking fight scenes! I guess I had been operating under the assumption that Daredevil set the standard, and the appeal of watching Matt Murdock fight is that he's vulnerable and takes home a lot of injuries and it looks so real. How can an unbreakable fighter compare to that? But Luke was just something else entirely. His expression, flickering between bored and annoyed as he walked through hails of bullets or swatted away gangsters like flies, sent me into spasms of joy. His unwavering confidence in his abilities was contagious. I couldn't not cheer for him.
Also, once he began to come into his own, you could see him use his invulnerability to shield others, which hits my sweet spot and truly shows what kind of man he is. I'm thinking specifically of the moment when he's held up by a pair of cops and grabs one, positioning himself so that when the other empties his gun, every bullet hits Luke directly. Not only does he refuse to hurt them himself, but he won't let them accidentally hurt each other, either.
Unfortunately, my adoration of gorgeous men with protective instincts is a bit wasted in the shipping sense, as the romantic arc didn't really do much for me in this show. Claire is one of my favorite MCU characters; she steals every scene and gets better with everything new we learn about her, but Luke/Jessica just can't be replaced. They were perfect together, precisely because they were completely messed up with each other, and Claire isn't messed up. She's the model of stability and conviction. I enjoyed watching her and Luke together, but what I really wanted was at least one conversation in which Luke acts like he remembers who Jessica is, since apparently a crossover was too much to ask for.
Also I have no idea why we had to start with a sex scene between him and Misty. It doesn't seem to mean anything but plot device to either of them. Misty herself, again, is awesome and I'm so glad she was introduced to the MCU. Waiting for the bionic arm (actually, I really thought she was getting it when she was injured, but that seemed to heal up nicely, and in fact way too quickly), but she's also cool just as the razor-sharp cop.
The rest of the supporting cast was a pleasure; all kinds of people in all kinds of complicated relationships, and not a bad actor to be found. The final boss, Diamondback, didn't particularly shine, but oh man did the rest of the villains. Cottonmouth was perfectly set up to be the show's Kingpin, while all along we're getting these intriguing looks at Mariah's life and the tension between them, so when he's taken out and she takes his place as top threat, it's a huge shock which makes perfect sense at the same time. I instantly missed Cornell for his jazz piano, but Mariah is absolutely the best choice as a continued sinister presence in Harlem. She's never just plain evil; she's sympathetic, damaged, and truly does have admirable principles woven into her corruption. I love that the one thing that finally tipped her over the edge was Cornell accusing her of enjoying the abuse she endured in her youth. Another hallmark of Defenders, isn't it? The villains' background stories hurt bad.
Special mention for Shades, who looks like he hasn't changed his style since cosplaying for the premier of The Matrix Reloaded, but never loses his composure for a second and is capable of such Machiavellian sins that he manages to seduce Mariah. SHIPPING IT.
Overall I thought it was a great show and a great addition to the Defenders lineup, not only for the continuity and shared themes, but for its differences. Who would like to join me in Harlem for a night of music? Like, everyone, right? The soundtrack alone would have made it worth watching, and did you see some of those sets? That empty theatre where Luke fought Diamondback, for instance. And then you get those intimate little places like Pop's Barber Shop (sidebar, that death also hurt like hell and I'm not over it) and Genghis Connie's (um excuse me, did you hear what I just said, I said GENGHIS CONNIE'S), and it all comes together in a picture of a dazzling wonderland of dark corners and a deep, deep, deep bond of community. It's completely integral to Luke's character, something we couldn't have seen in his Jessica Jones appearances.
Even though we end with him headed back to prison, I feel like it was ultimately uplifting, because we saw Harlem understanding what Luke was about and appreciating his good deeds, and more than that, Luke saw it. He knew who he was fighting for and he knew he'd be loved. Probably my favorite scene in the whole show was when he stopped the bodega holdup and then took the time to chat with the two guys he had just saved. Those two guys looked like the type who never got much respect from anyone, let alone a timely rescue -- some might even think that they themselves were the criminals. But Luke saw the truth, empathized, saved the day, arranged a hoodie trade-off, and made it clear that they were all equals except for the losers with guns, who got booped unconscious.
I'm not a hip-hop fan but when Luke was honored with his own rap, I was grinning like an idiot. I couldn't stop. It's definitive proof that he's now Harlem's hero, their Power Man, and it's something that only a Harlem local could have done or would have thought to do.
Ready for more!