Film and drama

Screen Themes: The Defenders vs Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones is one of the most successful TV shows of all time despite being about dragons, while The Defenders is the small screen version of the Avengers, produced on a budget. Which one is worth your time?

The Defenders Season 1

Created by Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez

The road to The Defenders started back in 2015 when Netflix took the bold move of making a gritty, violent series about a blind superhero. That series was Daredevil and was pretty bloody good, getting even better in the second season when they introduced the iconic anti-hero, The Punisher.

The second member of The Defenders got her start shortly thereafter, as Jessica Jones told the story of the failed superhero turned private investigator being tormented by a sadistic psychopath with the power to control people’s minds. The series was a little slower than Daredevil yet no less compelling, mainly due to the performances of star, Krysten Ritter, and baddie, David Tennant.

Things went slightly off the rails with Luke Cage – a well-intentioned but painfully slow series about a bulletproof hero with a social conscience – and looked dodgy indeed when Iron Fist introduced a billionaire hippie with a glowing punchy hand.

Fortunately, The Defenders get things back on track by invoking the classic "getting the team together" trope — although it takes until almost half way through the season to get them all in the same room. Once the team do come together, they kick ass and take names in a highly entertaining manner, with complementary fighting styles making the team greater than the sum of its parts.

This "stronger together" theme holds true for the series itself. While the setup shows (particularly Luke Cage and Iron Fist) suffered from pacing issues and less-than-compelling supporting characters, The Defenders side-steps this issue by switching between the stories of the four main heroes. Probably the most interesting of these is Daredevil (Charlie Cox) who has to deal with the guilt of giving up the costume along with the reappearance of former lover Electra — raised from the dead and under control of the secretive organisation, The Hand.

Of course, a super team is only as good as their nemesis, a role ably filled here by Sigourney Weaver. The veteran actor brings a subtle menace to the role of near-immortal Alexandra Reid — a nice counterpoint to the hordes of anonymous ninja that act as her cannon fodder.

While The Defenders is undoubtedly entertaining, it must be said that it looks cheap in comparison with other "premium" TV series. There is a lot more character development than action, and most of the fight scenes take place in the dark. The odd thing about this is that as some estimates have The Defenders running at around $8 million per episode, which is honestly hard to see on screen. Particularly when compared to …

Game of Thrones season 7

Created by David Benioff and D B Weiss

It was 2011 when Game of Thrones first hit the small screen — an adaptation of the fantasy series by author George R R Martin. Produced by U.S. cable network HBO, the series rapidly gained a cult following, which gradually became a mainstream following, which eventually became so overwhelming that some people would now prefer to stick their face in a fan rather than hear another theory about who the Night King really is.

In the unlikely event that anyone is unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the battles for the control of the seven kingdoms of Westeros — a medieval-type place that also has giants and dragons. Key players in this battle include Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), dragon-riding liberator of slaves, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), lost girl turned lethal assassin, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the heroic yet gormless twit destined to be king, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), a Machiavellian manipulator fond of incest and fan favourite Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), a sarcastic, alcoholic dwarf who gets all the best lines.

Famous for killing off much-loved characters unexpectedly, the series has become surprisingly conservative as it approaches the end. Case in point is sister-lover and impending redemption story Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who should have died multiple times throughout this season, only to emerge unscathed, saved by another deus ex machina.

Where early seasons of Game of Thrones moved at a somewhat leisurely pace, Season 7 is on overdrive. Plot twists and shocking revelations come every episode and characters cover huge distances as if by jetpack — which makes for a compelling, if slightly less believable, story arc. Fortunately, the sheer production quality of this series allows you to forgive any narrative missteps — Game of Thrones is a truly beautiful series to watch.

The cinematography is gorgeous; the costumes stunning in their detail. Shot in spectacular locations across Ireland, Spain, Croatia and Morocco, Game of Thrones looks like it costs a lot to make and it does — a reported $10 million per episode in this latest season.

Much has been made of the fact that Season 7 marks the point that TV showrunners Benioff and Weiss departed from the source novels, due to the fact that George R R Martin hasn’t got around to finishing the series yet and may not achieve the task before his lifestyle catches up with him (valar morghulis). With only six episodes to go (reportedly not due until 2019) it seems that we still have a while to wait until winter finally comes.

The Verdict

Seven seasons in, you probably know by now whether you’re going to watch Game of Thrones or not. Like Breaking Bad, The Wire or The Sopranos, Games of Thrones will go down in history as one of those shows that redefined the TV drama landscape, but it’s not for everyone.

If you like your superheroes gritty and realistic, The Defenders is well worth a look. It takes a while to get going and you might find yourself waiting for The Punisher to show up, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the constant action and quips of the big screen Marvel universe.

The Defenders Season 1 – 7/10

Game of Thrones Season 7 – 8/10

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