Several years ago, Netflix and Marvel Studios joined forces to jump-start a new, grittier Marvel TV universe that could sustain slightly more grounded, street-level superheroes (and the endless hordes of magical ninjas they must inevitably battle). Since then, they've successfully rolled out a quartet of superhero shows (well, except for Iron Fist, everyone hated that show) depicting the moodily-lit fight to save the soul of Hell's Kitchen, Harlem, and other parts of Hell's Kitchen.

And as of Friday, the Marvel Netflix Universe thus far culminates with the long-awaited superhero team-up show The Defenders, in which those four superheroes, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, finally meet each other and...battle some ninjas...to save the soul of Hell's Kitchen...

If you walk into The Defenders expecting something different from that basic premise, you may be disappointed—showrunners Marco Ramirez and Douglas Petrie aren't reinventing the wheel for these characters just yet. If you've watched any of the previous four Marvel Netflix series, you'll immediately get the gist of what's going on: an evil gang of immortal ninjas (The Hand), led by mysterious shawl-lover Alexandra (as played by the only major new addition to the universe, Sigourney Weaver), has been slowly buying up property in NYC in order to do something evil with it, and only these four mostly-reluctant heroes stand in their way. Bickering, hallway fights, and Catholic guilt follow.

Things pick up a few months after the end of each individual series: after his girlfriend Elektra (Elodie Yung) was killed by The Hand and his other girlfriend Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) found out about his secret identity, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has given up his Daredevil moniker for pro bono work, and seems to be treating his after-hours activities like a drug habit. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is still in denial about being a hero, preferring to sleep one off at a bar than take on any new clients. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has just been released from prison, and hightails it back to Harlem and Marvel Netflix MVP Claire (Rosario Dawson). And Danny Rand (Finn Jones) has been traveling the world on his private jet hunting The Hand with his companion Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and getting inundated with eye rolls every time he introduces himself as "The Immortal Iron Fist."

The pacing problems that have dogged all the Marvel Netflix shows (in a nutshell: they all start to seriously lag around two-thirds of the way through the normal 13-episode seasons, prolonging inevitable confrontations with ridiculous obstacles) shouldn't be a problem with an eight-episode limited series, but it unfortunately comes up in a new way: the first two episodes of The Defenders keeps the four main heroes separate, quarantined in their own storylines, which makes everything very slow going. Things get cooking in episode three when they all finally come together for an episode-ending battle (which takes place...wait for it...in a hallway!); the show gets fun immediately when their differing personalities (and fists) all start bouncing off each other. Things get great in episode four, which takes the classic premise of Seinfeld's "The Chinese Restaurant" bottle episode and churns out the superhero version of it.

One of the most interesting things about the show in the first four episodes is how little Ramirez and Petrie try to meld the tones of the different heroes in the early going. Despite the fact they're all on the path of the same villain, it still feels like they're on different shows—especially since each hero comes with their favorite side characters, and each seems to exist in a wildly different part of NYC. For example, while Luke Cage's scenes are all soaked in an orange-y haze with an immediately enjoyable rap soundtrack, Jessica Jones scenes tend to favor late night snooping and bar room conversations. These extended re-introductions are probably good for people who maybe haven't kept up with all the Marvel Netflix series, and do add a bouncy, authentic comic book feel to the proceedings, but it makes the weaker material (especially anything involving Danny Rand) seem even worse. It's a little dysfunctional—but then again, all these characters are more than a little dysfunctional themselves.

What really works are the character dynamics between the main cast, especially once they all start confiding in one another. Jessica Jones throws sass at everyone around her, whether she's investigating shell companies or pretending to be a bubbly idiot. Luke Cage calls out Danny Rand for his privilege, serving as a viewer stand-in relating some of the many complaints about the Iron Fist series (their budding friendship despite that is also a highlight, and makes Rand far more likable, even if his personality is "embarrassing woke college bro" plus an Arthur meme). Daredevil has some fun interactions with Jessica Jones, but overall seems more turned on by guilt and parkour than any potential love interests—if it wasn't for the return of Elektra, he would probably be the most reluctant member of the merry band. Instead, he gets to compete with JJ for that mantle.

And Weaver is already one of the best villains in the entire Marvel Universe, cinematic or TV. Alexandra might be some sort of ancient ninja being with plans to unleash evil earthquakes on NYC, but she also loves sweeping scarves, enjoys private classical music performances at Lincoln Center at Columbus Circle, and engages in enigmatic conversations with her many ancient friends. She must be the supervillain with the most number of hobbies and personal interests.

Even if it's a bit slow-going in the first episodes, things pick up enough steam by episode four that I am invested in seeing the final four episodes of the series. And if everyone keeps referring to Iron Fist as a "thundering dumbass" along the way, even better.