I just popped on the first episode of The Defenders earlier today and I find myself really liking it. Albeit, the premiere is all about catching us up with where these people have been. It’s a rock solid intro that I totally forgive for not bringing our characters together, for the sake of bringing us up to speed. Action plots are cool, but they’re nothing if we don’t care about who these people are.
The Marvel Netflix shows have chased the stylistic tendencies Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone established before cinematic universes were a thing, and they certainly look nice (Netflix requires all shows to shoot for 4K streaming so they better look good) but I think they could do with a little more visual storytelling. Incorporating camera moves to accentuate emotion, complicated blocking and staging, lighting to influence atmosphere, etc.
Lo and behold, the premiere “The H Word” directed by S.J. Clarkson brings the goods!
This scene between old friends is what grabbed my attention the most.
Matt and Karen sit across from one another at a diner, the camera pulls us into this little corner of a long aisle.
Matt and Karen are framed on opposite corners of the frame. In traditional television, the person looking towards the right of the screen is positioned to the far left. Meanwhile, the person looking towards the left is positioned far right. Here, Matt is positioned far right, looking far left; Karen, vice versa. Even though they’re at opposite ends of the table/frame, in a consecutive series of images, the two are trying to be close to one another as possible.
Side to side, it looks like this:
Now that we’ve established their perspectives in the scenes, the shots capture a wider scope of the room. Behind Matt, the diner is less busy. Fewer people occupy the space behind him. It’s not quite empty but is still less lively than Karen’s background. It’s less open but more hustle and bustle. Servers are constantly pacing towards her, past her, and around her while patrons fill nearly every seat. It’s nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, and doesn’t directly influence their state of minds, but it’s a good representation of them.
Once again, the side to side:
Matt talks a little about how he’s moved on from Daredevil and only sees it as a previous chapter in his life. He only wants to rekindle the relationships his superhero persona may have damaged. Karen lets him know it’s not irreparable (paraphrasing) but it’s clear they’re trying to figure themselves out before anything can move further (platonic or otherwise). Yet, the room is covered with hints of red on every corner. It’s a device used in this series thus far to showcase each Defender in their respective environments. Simple and effective while being flashier than most TV productions. Nevertheless, the red hues remind us Matt Murdock still very much has Daredevil on his mind. And he’s not nearly as done with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen as he thinks he is.
Cut to wide: we peer through a window with both Matt and Karen in the frame. They both have a job to do and for now, it’s allowing them to enjoy one another’s company. They resume their work.