I have an active interest in most super-hero films and shows that have come out, however, as the title indicates, I've not seen them all.

However, with the release of Marvel's: The Defenders today, I was wondering if there's anything one loses from not having seen all the separate individual TV shows that came before it.

In essence, is the TV show standalone? Does one need to know the plot up until now in each series to understand The Defenders or is it a possible "jumping in point". Is the only difference that a viewer won't know the backstories of all the characters? Have the show-runners or actors mentioned anything in interviews?

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    I don't see how this question could be Primarily Opinion Based. I'm evidently looking for evidence, which it turns out DOES exist about what the show-runners said. If it's because "We can't have seen it yet" It's been out for a bunch of hours now there's every opportunity someone has already binge watched it and could provide a breakdown of things I would miss out on.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 16:49
  • It's opinion based because of the way the question is worded: "if there's anything I lose from" - emphasis on the "I" used several times (in the title and the bold text) - that is purely subjective. If the question is reframed as to the showrunners intentions, that would be a different matter. But as written, the question is absolutely opinion based because it is worded as being about something only you can ultimately answer. You may lose something, others may not, etc... "Do you need to know?" - I don't know - do you? I personally would want to, others won't care. It's subjective
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:04
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    Nobody will stop you from watching if you haven't seen the other programs. There isn't an objective requirement. It is purely subjective because, as worded, you are essentially asking if your entertainment value will be lessened in this show by not watching the others. It may reduce it for all we know.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:09
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    I totally agree :D - and when I see them I do :D
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:10
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    @NKCampbell one quibble I do have. You seem to suggest that a question shouldn't have personal influence. I disagree. Every question is a personal question. It's a question that person came up with and is a problem they want solved from themselves. It's likely someone will see it and think "Ooh this is something I was wondering too". I do however agree with your points that the question was particularly personalised, but my use of I was more of a third person 'I', easily replaced by 'one'. I have removed all the particularly personal details
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


According to Defenders showrunner Marco Ramirez, one of the goals of the project was to ensure that you could, indeed, watch the show without needing to watch all of the others (which amounts to some 65-ish hours of television):

“We had to make a show that was for the viewer who had only seen Daredevil. We had to make a show for the viewer who had only seen Jessica Jones, who had only seen Luke, who had only seen Iron Fist. And for the viewer where Defenders is the first thing they’re ever gonna see.

The interview is entirely focused on this question, and Ramirez consistently maintains that you don't need to have seen the prior shows to understand The Defenders, though obviously you'd miss out on some of the more impactful character moments.

You're inevitably going to lose something, partly because the show has four main characters and only eight episodes, and partly because it has to be engaging to viewers who have seen all of the backstory; however, as with The Avengers, the goal of the production was to ensure that you'd still get the essential experience.

Having seen the show1, I suspect you'd be mildly confused for the first three-and-a-half episodes or so. Until it gets around to having the four leads actually talk to each other, there's a tendency to introduce characters or concepts from prior shows without explanation2. Of course this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and you may find that it adds depth to the characters, but your mileage may vary. The central plot is timeless enough (evil ninjas want to destroy the city because reasons) that I don't think you'd have too much trouble picking it up.

That said, there are two elements that I think would be rather more jarring if you're coming in fresh:

  • The relationships between Elektra, Stick, and Matt are quite directly continued from season 2 of Daredevil (and season 1, to a lesser extent). There is some exposition in the show to explain this, so I think you'd get the basic idea, but as with any emotional arc, the journey is more important than the destination
  • If you have any prior familiarity with the MCU (especially pre-Doctor Strange), then you may find the injection of Eastern spiritualism and literal magic to be tonally odd. These elements are explored to some degree in Daredevil (particularly season 2), but are given fuller treatment in Iron Fist, while The Defenders just takes it as read that, yeah, qi is a thing

1 Though from a very different perspective, so take my opinion for what it's worth

2 And, though it's possible I just missed the explanation, I think the show flat-out forgets to define Jessica's powers, leading to something of an ex machina in the final episode

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    Having watched about 5-6 episodes of it, it directly continues storylines of Daredevil and Iron Fist in a way that'd be potentially confusing if you skipped both... possibly could get away with skipping one. For Cage and JJ, there are supporting characters and small moments that call back to their individual storylines, but you could watch it treating them as more or less new characters that get involved, their actual history isn't important to the plot. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 17:23
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    Can't speak for Defenders, but I've watched all the other shows, and if you skip Luke Cage, you are missing some of the best television ever produced.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 19:50
  • @starpilotsix - Of those 2, I'd definitely chose to skip Iron Fist. However, you might want to skip season 1 of DD too. Not because it isn't good, but because 2 seasons is a lot of watching just to catch up.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 19:54
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    @TED and, if you miss Iron Fist, some of the worst
    – Clement C.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 21:47
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    @ClementC. - I didn't totally agree with all the Iron Fist hate, but I have to admit I discovered a newfound interest in household cleaning while I was trying to bring myself to finish it off...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 23:15

You could, but you would very clearly feel like you were missing some key information.

The first few episodes set up all the characters and have enough exposition for you to figure out what's going on. So, you could watch and appreciate it as a stand-alone show, if you wanted. But you would have to just accept that all of these key universe elements exist and have backstories that the main characters already know about. You'll absolutely feel like you jumped into the middle of an ongoing story.

You could probably get away without watching Jessica Jones or Luke Cage in a pinch. You'll miss the character development and how some of the shared universe is set up, but you will mostly pick up the parts that matter early on.

However, the plot of the show is a direct continuation of Daredevil season 2 and Iron Fist season 1. If you haven't at least seen those shows, then the main villain of Defenders and the events that play out will make no sense to you. You'll be very confused by why some of the characters act the way they do and how they're connected.

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    After watching half of S01E01 I will say this answers is More appropriate +1 Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 18:17

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