Fans of The Defenders, you can exhale now. After years of holding your breath – wondering whether Netflix's promise of a crossover miniseries with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist would pan out – the war for New York is mere days away.
All eight episodes of this television event will stream starting this Friday, as four of the Marvel Universe's most psychologically complex superheroes join forces to clean up the rotten core of the Big Apple.
"We're just taking the big trip that everyone had been anticipating for so long," says showrunner Marco Ramirez, who likens the process of creating a fifth series, with the heroes of the first four, to putting the Super Bowl together.
“From the very beginning, the way I perceived these shows, both as a writer and as an audience member, is that they aren’t about how these superheroes do what they do, it’s more about why they do what they do. I think that becomes psychologically and dramatically more interesting to unpack.”
Marvel's The Defenders follows Daredevil aka Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist aka Danny Rand (Finn Jones) – four solitary figures, each burdened with their own personal challenges, who reluctantly realise they just might be stronger when teamed together.
Oscar-nominee and double Golden Globe-winning actress Sigourney Weaver – no slouch at killing xenomorphs in the Alien universe and defending an entire planet in director James Cameron's sci-fi fantasy Avatar – will play crime boss Alexandra, a most worthy adversary, who is intellectual, sophisticated and dangerous as the head of an ancient order.
While producers were delighted to find an antagonist of iconic stature, Weaver says she felt immediately drawn to the multi-faceted character of Alexandra.
"She's a very confident, smart and persuasive leader. When people say that I'm the villain, I think that is just one way to look at the character. To me, Alexandra has a lot of wisdom because she's been doing what she does for a long time and she has a lot of empathy.
"She's a very complex character, and I felt delighted to be a part of that. There's comedy, action and great character work, plus a lot of surprises in the show. I think it's ingenious and witty and hopefully will be delicious for the audience, whether they're new to these shows or already a fan."
It has taken three years and 86 hours of television produced by the Marvel-Netflix partnership to tie together the four individual series and their cast members.
"I think that The Defenders is the most ambitious television project to date, period," says Jeph Loeb, Marvel's head of television.
For the four lead actors – Cox, Ritter, Colter and Jones – who share a common experience of leading a Marvel series, close friendships were quickly forged.
"The days that we were all on set together, we didn't stop laughing," says Ritter, who is also remembered for her powerful turn as Jesse's doomed girlfriend Jane on Breaking Bad and her role in Confessions of a Shopaholic. "It was just so much fun and a lot less pressure because there were four leads."
As a fan herself, she says she found it incredibly exciting to film scenes with the other Defenders characters and to see them all in one place. "I was actually finding myself just as excited to read the scenes that I wasn't in, as I was reading my own scenes."
Cox agrees with his co-star: "This has been really thrilling because I had nothing to do with the shows Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – so I was just watching those shows as a fan. It was such a bizarre experience to admire those shows and then get to team up and work with them as well."
On-screen, however, their characters get off to an awkward start, given their lone-wolf natures and distrust of outsiders.
"We have to figure each other out because we all need to combine forces to fight this larger foe," explains Colter. "We could easily turn our backs and just try to take care of ourselves, but we realise that innocent lives will be lost. At what point can you just ignore that?
"That's ultimately what being a hero is. Some people just feel right doing what is right. New York has problems, and there's nobody around to rescue these people, so we have to do it."