WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Marvel’s The Defenders, available now on Netflix.
It’s perhaps inevitable that the fourth episode of Marvel’s The Defenders should draw comparisons to the post-credits scene of 2012’s The Avengers, as in each the heroes gather in a New York City restaurant following a hard-fought battle. However, the similarities end there, and not only because the two would-be teams opt for different cuisines: While the Avengers’ meal, shot after the film’s world premiere, is a lighthearted callback to Tony Stark’s shawarma joke, The Defenders’ color-soaked restaurant scenes are integral to the Netflix miniseries.
The first two episodes are slow-moving, following the central characters — Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand — and their antagonists on their separate paths, all of which lead back to Hell’s Kitchen and the offices of Midland Circle Financial. To help the viewers follow those different threads, The Defenders assigns each of its key players a color, established in the opening credits: Matt is red, a nod to both his Daredevil costume and his struggle with violence; Jessica shifts from the purple that dominated the first season of her own series, and her struggle against Kilgrave, to blue; Luke is yellow, an allusion to his classic Power Man costume; and Danny is green, a reference to Iron Fist’s traditional threads, which have yet to make an appearance.
Those colors are repeated throughout the episodes, drawing an association with each of the central characters. The sewers of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where Danny and Colleen Wing chase down a lead in the show’s opening moments, are bathed in green phosphorescence. The corridors of Seagate Prison, where Luke has been incarcerated the past few months, are yellow with the glowing hum of fluorescent bulbs; once free, he dons a yellow T-shirt. Jessica is enveloped by the blue haze of the morning that dawns after a long night of drinking. Matt is virtually surrounded by red, whether it’s the neon of Josie’s bar, the curtain of the confessional or the light that invades his apartment from the street below. That technique carries over to each hero’s supporting cast, with Trish Walker dressed in blue when she meets Jessica on the street, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson clad in matching gray and red as they wait in the police precinct, and Misty Knight and Luke stroll through a Harlem seemingly dipped in amber.
Those hues are used to signify transitions, too, as the world of one hero collides with that of another. It’s perhaps most pronounced when Matt Murdock, given some of Foggy Nelson’s spillover cases from Hogarth, Chao and Benowitz, shows up at the police station to represent Jessica Jones, and keep whatever trouble she’s attracted away from the firm’s door. The interrogation room is flooded with blue, the same color as Jessica’s checkered shirt, but the door through which Matt enters is a bright red. The motif is repeated later, as Jessica trails Matt down an alley, where he passes through blue jeans hanging on a laundry line, signifying his departure from one world — Jessica’s world — into his own. There, punctuated by flashes of red, on discarded panels and on window panes, he’s on his turf, where he swiftly stows away his cane and effortlessly scales a wall, bounding onto a rooftop.
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