The Defenders 1.04: Royal Dragon
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At the end of the last episode, our intrepid Defenders finally joined up to unleash their combined powers in close quarter combat. At the start of Royal Dragon, all four characters barricade themselves inside the four walls of a Chinese restaurant and that's where most of the episode takes place. This episode is the bottle episode; people talk a lot, travel nowhere and the producers save a little bit of production money. Fortunately it makes great use of the premise.
Lots of great television series over the years have great bottle episodes, see the episode Fly from the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad as a particular standout. What's ultimately great about Royal Dragon is that audience gets to see the core characters finally spend time together in one place, observing the changing dynamic of the group as tensions flow and ebb through Taratantinoesque dialogue. After spending the majority of the last three episodes with our characters separated, it's good to have a well written script bring the Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny together and use the time to effectively to develop the group dynamics within a short period of time.
Unlike other episodes, Royal Dragon is light on action. Rather than bone shattering and kinetic camerawork, we get languid shots as we focus on the characters' tug of war. Anything more than a steady hand at the camera would take the viewer out of the all important developments, which could quite easily detract from the overall experience.
Early in the episode we get what is best called the hero shot. You know the one, where our intrepid team line up and fight against the big bad. It looks disjointed, haphazard, clearly showing in their body language that they are far from the team that they need to be. But by the episode's end, we have the team lined up - with the addition of Scott Glenn's Stick - strong and together as one to fight the oncoming Black Sky.
Royal Dragon came as a surprise, coming out of the action-packed ending of Worst Behaviour, but as an episode it works with strong scripting and simple, textured direction from episode director Phil Abraham. The star of the episode has to be Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock. Although all of the team have lost someone close to them, Cox's emotional performance centres the show.
We are halfway through the season now and it's well on its way to being a great series for fans of each individual character.