The Netflix arm of Marvel Television went big on Friday at San Diego Comic-Con, making its debut in Hall H a memorable one by screening the first episode of The Defenders for a surprised and delighted audience of 6,000.
It was the second to last but biggest of several surprises during the presentation, which began with Comic-Con programming exec Eddie Ibrahim interrupting Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb during Loeb's opening remarks to present him with the prestigious Inkpot Award bestowed by the board of SDCC. A visibly moved Loeb held back tears as he accepted the award, only breaking down much later when he returned to thank his daughter for being there with him.
With the audience showing their appreciation for Loeb, the energy level kicked up another notch when Jon Bernthal made his own surprise appearance to join Loeb and introduce the first clip seen anywhere from The Punisher series. The brutally violent (as you would expect) sequence opened with a flashback of Frank Castle and his daughter playing guitar, cross-cut with Castle playing the same guitar by himself in a darkened room.
Then the action kicked in, with Castle taking out bikers in Alabama, a drug dealer in El Paso, and finally a businessman-type in New York, all seemingly connected through some sort of drug deal. There were no other details, no airdate, not even a title treatment shown onscreen, but the audience didn't seem to mind.
Finallly Loeb brought the cast of The Defenders on stage, including Charlie Cox (Daredevil/Matt Murdock), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Finn Jones (Iron Fist/Danny Rand), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Sigourney Weaver (Alexandra), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), Elodie Yung (Elektra), Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing) and showrunner Marco Ramirez.
The questions were kept to a minimum and went on for 10 minutes or so before Loeb announced, "We're going to show you a clip now, and it's the exact length of the first episode of The Defenders." Hall H went predictably nuts as the lights went down.
As for the show itself? Very light on action after an opening sequence set in Cambodia, where Danny and Colleen were involved in a battle in a tunnel while tracking down members of the Hand. The show then switched back to NYC, where we saw Matt happily practicing law, Jessica getting drunk (as usual) and reluctantly taking a case, Luke getting out of prison and coming home to hook up with Claire (Rosario Dawson) while investigating a series of deaths in Harlem, and finally Alexandra finding out some bad news but also setting some mysterious plans in motion with the Hand.
The show climaxed with a frightening event taking place in Manhattan and Weaver's Alexandra telling (redacted), "It's only a city. You'll get used to watching them fall."
Some viewers might find the opening episode a bit slow, but this viewer liked the slow build and the re-introduction of the characters. As a final surprise, Loeb unveiled a new trailer for the whole season, which contains a lot more street-level superhero action for sure.
Loeb also confirmed a second season of Iron Fist, while also acknowledging that Jessica Jones (season 2), Luke Cage (season 2) and The Punisher were all well into production. All in all, a good afternoon for Marvel TV ... tomorrow all eyes turn to the MCU in the same venue.