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The Defenders – Royal Dragon (Review)

Royal Dragon might just be the best episode of The Defenders. It is also the smallest.

Royal Dragon is in many ways the runt of the litter. It is an episode relatively low on action beats, particularly given that it is sandwiched between the closing scenes of Worst Behaviour and the opening scenes of Take Shelter. It also has a relatively small primary cast. There is no sign of supporting players like Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Trish Walker, or Claire Temple. The episode also confines most of the four heroes to one location for the bulk of the runtime, even if Jessica Jones gets to take a breather. It could easily be the “bottle” episode.

Hero shot.

Royal Dragon is also an episode that accomplishes relatively little in terms of plot momentum or forward movement. There are no major revelations in the episode, with a lot of the exposition covering information that the audience already knows from the other four shows. In some ways, Royal Dragon feels like a void at the centre of the season. It does not tangibly push the season forward. In many ways, the cliffhanger is arguably just a retread of the ending to Worst Behaviour; these four heroes, standing together against impossible odds.

At the same time, Royal Dragon luxuriates in this space and this emptiness. It is an episode that essentially locks its four leads together in a confined space for most of the runtime, which affords the writing staff the opportunity to have the characters slow down and process what has happened to them, to bounce off one another. Royal Dragon allows for the first extended interactions between various combinations of these four players.

A taste of teamwork.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Doctor Bashir, I Presume (Review)

Doctor Bashir, I Presume is a strange little episode.

It directly follows In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, a two-part story in which it was revealed that Doctor Julian Bashir had been abducted by the Dominion at some point during the fifth season and replaced with a changeling infiltrator. Although the maths can be a little difficult to work out, it is suggested that Bashir was replaced by a changeling at some point before Rapture. With that in mind, it seems strange that the very next episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine should reveal that the recently returned Julian Bashir is himself an imposter.

"Oh, shiny."

“Oh, shiny.”

However, even on its own terms, Doctor Bashir, I Presume is a very odd piece of television. The hook of the episode is a guest appearance from Robert Picardo as Lewis Zimmerman. Picardo is making a crossover appearance from Star Trek: Voyager where he played the EMH, who had also made an appearance in Star Trek: First Contact. Picardo is a fine dramatic actor, but the character is notable for being comic relief. Doctor Bashir, I Presume begins as a light-hearted quirky piece, turning sharply at the half-way point to become a gritty science-fiction family drama.

All of this is quite jarring. However, Doctor Bashir, I Presume works surprising well. A large part of that is down to how strange the episode is, often feeling like an intimate family drama about recrimination and disappointment set against the backdrop of a massive science-fiction franchise.

A selfie with himself.

A selfie with himself.

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Jessica Jones – AKA I’ve Got the Blues (Review)

Jessica Jones loses a little steam when it gets out of the adrenaline rush that was the AKA WWJD?, AKA Sin Bin and AKA 1,000 Cuts triptych.

There is a sense that the show is not entirely sure about how exactly it wants to end; like its eponymous lead, there is an anxiety about sticking the landing. It is a problem similar to the one that faced Daredevil, which had its own issues when it come to offering a satisfactory conclusion to a season-long arc. (Indeed, Daredevil feels more like a checklist of matters that require closure rather than a story of itself.) More than that, the show has built towards a sustained climax in its eighth through tenth episodes, but there are still three hours left to fill.

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Jessica Jones has always felt a little over-extended. AKA Crush Syndrome and AKA It’s Called Whiskey essentially introduced Kilgrave twice. AKA The Sandwich Saved Me, AKA Sin Bin and AKA 1,000 Cuts each feature Kilgrave captured by our heroes only to escape through various convenient means. The Will Simpson subplot fits with the themes of the season, but does feel like a stalling tactic. Malcolm provides the heart of the show, but the writers never find a convincing voice for Robyn and so their subplot also feels like padding.

So there are some basic structural issues going into the final few episodes of the season, just as there were some structural issues with the opening few episodes of the season. Nevertheless, Jessica Jones does make a number of clever decisions as it builds towards its conclusion. Instead of ramping up and outwards, as would be the natural impulse, the show begins narrowing its focus and winding down. AKA I’ve Got the Blues and AKA Take a Bloody Number are surprisingly intimate in their scope following the scale of the show’s climax.

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