Netflix's Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist each have their own sets of fans (and critics). Sometimes they're not faithful enough to the Marvel comics that inspired the series; other times, they're a bit too faithful. Still, the Netflix series have brought the lesser-known Marvel characters new fans who didn't know about these four superheroes before the shows (myself included — yes, I'll accept angry comments for not being a comic reader).
Each of the four individual Defenders has his/her own way of protecting New York, though some figures like Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) weave their way through the various series. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a bit of a smartass, but with a secret soft side (and a lot of baggage). Luke Cage (Mike Colter) wants to protect Harlem and its residents, all while dealing with the loss of his wife. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a great lawyer, but he misses the Daredevil suit and vigilante justice that came with it. And Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is destined to be the "immortal Iron Fist" after losing his parents at a young age. Their origin stories couldn't be more different, but they're all out to protect New York, which brings them together in The Defenders.
The new series is shorter than the four heroes' individual shows — it's just eight episodes. You don't need to have watched all of the preceding series to enjoy it, but if you've never watched Daredevil or Iron Fist, you might be confused. (Let that serve as fair warning for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage fans. The two of them are often the best parts of the Defenders episodes, but the storylines are much more aligned with Daredevil and Iron Fist's quests to fight The Hand.)
We'll be recapping The Defenders' eight episodes, which hit Netflix on August 18. Scroll down to see our recaps — we'll add more as the day continues.
Our first scene of The Defenders is through Danny's eyes — he and Colleen (Jessica Henwick) are in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They witness an unknown woman — we don't get a clear shot of her face, because Danny doesn't — in a swordfight with a man. Danny realizes the mystery woman must be working for The Hand, but she escapes before he sees who she is.
Meanwhile, the man she was fighting doesn't fare well. In his dying breaths, he recognizes Danny as the Iron Fist. He tells him the fight against The Hand must be waged in New York, not Cambodia. It's not the most exciting scene to open the series on, but hey, Danny needs a reason to get back to the city. He's skeptical to return to New York at first, but Colleen reminds him that the city "can be whatever you need it to be."
As for the other Defenders, it's apparently the perfect time to renew the fight for vigilante justice. Luke has just been released from Seagate (again); his triumphant walk through the prison hallways, complete with inmates cheering his name, is hands-down the best part of the episode. Jess, meanwhile, hasn't taken on new clients since her victory over Kilgrave (David Tennant). And Matt Murdock is back in the courtroom, but he's still itching to put on a mask and execute justice outside the law.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves: It's not until the end of the second episode that any of the four will be in contact with one another. Instead, the first episode establishes where they've been since their respective series aired.
The first time we see Jess, it's a nod to her apparent alcoholism. (In Jessica Jones, she never explicitly says she's an alcoholic, but she's drinking near-constantly while suffering from PTSD). She's at a bar, where she has no idea what time it is — and from there, she goes to meet Trish (Rachael Taylor) with coffee, spiking her own cup.
Trish tries to tell Jess she's a superhero for defeating Kilgrave, but Jess is having none of it. She tells her friend not to call her the "H" word, a sentiment Luke echoes during a later conversation.
Jess does meet with one potential client: Michelle Raymond (Michelle Federer), whose husband, John, has gone missing. Jess initially dismisses Michelle, telling her that John is probably just having an affair — but after she gets a distorted message telling her not to look for him, she takes the request seriously. She and Malcolm (Eka Darville) trace the call to a building where Malcolm says he used to do heroin. Jess doesn't find anyone in the building, but she does find a box of explosives.
Still, the episode's most meaningful scene has nothing to do with superhero powers. It's a conversation Matt has with his client, Aaron James, a boy who was paralyzed in a subway station constructed with hazardous materials. Matt wins the boy's family $11 million, but Aaron tells him he wants his old life back.
"No one can give you your life back," Matt tells Aaron, instructing him instead to take it back for himself. Matt tells the boy that he'll be told not to be angry, not to feel sorry for himself. He doesn't sugarcoat the fact that life will be harder for Aaron now — like it was for Matt after he was blinded as a boy.
The victory also leads to a reunion for Matt and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), who's now a local reporter. The relationship is still strained, but they do have an honest conversation after the trial. Karen feels fulfilled by her new job, saying it's what she was meant to do. By contrast, Matt says he doesn't miss the suit and mask, though he later admits in the confessional that he was lying. (Also in the confessional scene? Matt talks about missing Elektra (Elodie Yung), and the priest advises him to let the past go.)
Luke, for his part, is just happy to be back in Harlem. When he leaves the prison, he gets his signature gold-lined hoodie back and has a brief but highly entertaining conversation with Foggy (Elden Henson). (Quick reminder: Foggy works for Hogarth's firm now, and they succeeded in securing Luke's prison release.) Luke tells Foggy he's "moving forward," a reference to Pop's legacy, and heads back to Harlem, where he wastes no time having sex with Claire.
After they hook up, Claire tells Luke that Mariah (Alfre Woodard) is doing the "same shit" she was before he went to prison. Before long, Misty (Simone Missick) shows up at Luke's door. She tells him she's on a citywide NYPD task force now, which means she's no longer working solely in Harlem. Misty also fills him in on a mysterious new trend: Local 20-something men keep turning up dead after taking "off the books" jobs. She asks him to help guide one of these 20-somethings, Cole (J. Mallory McCree), who's recently taken a similar job. Cole is the late Candace's (Deborah Ayorinde) brother, so Luke feels a special connection to him.
Luke does find Cole at a party, but he's reluctant to open up about his new job. Luke offers to help Cole if he needs anything, but Cole is skeptical.
"The only way to help me is to make me bulletproof, too. It's too late for heroes," he tells Luke. "Hero's your word, not mine," Luke responds.
We also meet the season's main villain in the series premiere. Sigourney Weaver, who appears to be leading The Hand's operations in New York, is meeting with Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho). Weaver's character's name isn't spoken in the first episode, but we know from EW's Defenders preview in May that her name is Alexandra.
Alexandra is a fairly terrifying villain, because on the outside, she seems harmless and even vulnerable. The first time we see her, a doctor tells her that she's dying; apparently, her red blood cell count is decreasing at an alarmingly rapid pace. We don't know much about what she and Gao are planning yet, though apparently they have a "contact at the mayor's office," so the corruption runs deep in the city.
The episode ends with what appears to be an earthquake — things are falling off the walls, homes are shaking, and sirens are blaring. And, much like Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) before her, Alexandra seems content watching the city crumble before her eyes. (Yes, I know Fisk "wanted to make the city better," but the Daredevil scene of him and Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) watching the explosions across the city was absolutely chilling.)
"It's just a city," Alexandra tells the mystery woman from the beginning — who's revealed to be Elektra. "You'll get used to watching them fall."
Overall, the episode feels a bit disjointed. Mashing all of the Defenders into one episode, but not having them interact with each other, is jarring, especially since the show is apparently clinging to the original shows' color schemes. When scenes cut to Jessica and Luke, blue and yellow filters immediately cover the scenes; the transitions are sharp and feel a bit choppy. Hopefully, that's something that will improve as the series goes on, although the show's posters do play up the color palette quite a bit.
Once again, New York is in crisis, and no one knows what's going on.
The "earthquake" has caused a state of mass panic for the city. The second episode opens with sirens, people shouting, and looting attempts. In one case, Matt can't help but pick up his Daredevil ways, stopping a store owner from shooting looters, saying they're "just kids." Back at his apartment, he opens a locked box, where he's been stowing the Daredevil costume.
Trish, ever the reporter, is particularly suspicious about the events. She knows something's suspicious when she sees a car crashed into the ground — could it be related to the massive hole from the end of Daredevil season 2?
Trish starts talking calls about the quake on Trish Talk, though the segment ends with more questions than answers. A geologist calls in to say it wasn't an earthquake, but the show's producers cut the segment off, telling Trish to "lay off the earthquake stuff." It's clear, though, that Trish isn't going to let the situation go.
Back at the building where Jessica was looking for John, Misty and the other police officers discover evidence of people "transporting explosives" in the city. Jess is the one who called the box into the police — and she doesn't leave the scene without swiping a case file from the NYPD.
Jess takes the stolen file, which shows information about the Twin Oaks Shipping Company, to find more about its business dealings. She quickly learns it's one of many shell companies, but none of the files seem to provide actual information about what the companies do. Before Jess can investigate further, Hogarth shows up and advises her to stop looking into John's case. John is on a federal watchlist now, and the case is a matter of national security. Jess is still skeptical, though — based on what she heard from John's wife, she doesn't believe he was a terrorist. (In telling her to back off, Hogarth also tells her to "have a drink, or five," which means that Jess is either very skilled at hiding her drinking, or the people in her life haven't been paying enough attention to her habits.)
When Jessica doesn't listen to Hogarth, she goes to Foggy, asking him to "keep an eye on" her — off the record, of course. Hogarth is desperate to keep Jess out of trouble (and John's case), but it's too late for that. When Jess goes into her apartment, John is holding Malcolm at gunpoint.
John asks Jessica if she's working with "them," but having no clue about The Hand, she has no idea who he's talking about. "This is not me. I'm a good man," he tells her. Elektra walks into the room — and when John sees her, he shoots himself in the head. As Elektra leaves, Jessica chases after her, but she doesn't manage to catch up with her.
Danny and Colleen, meanwhile, are back in New York, but he's still thinking about his confrontation in Cambodia. He tells her he needs to be prepared if he comes across "that warrior" again. Colleen, for her part, reminds Danny that he's "not the only person The Hand has ever hurt." She also observes that the man who died at Elektra's hand in Cambodia had an incredibly rare sword — one of only 10 like it in the world.
Luke is still helping victims of the event in Harlem, as is Claire. A quick scene of Claire advising someone to keep their wound clean is shot through the broken glass of a car, a brief but effective reminder that Luke Cage had the best camera angles of the individual Defenders series.
Claire is worried about Luke getting involved in vigilante justice again, but he can't shake what Misty told him. Luke wants to save the "young men in Harlem" from being trapped doing "dirty work."
"Is the NYPD going to pay you for doing their job?" Claire responds. (Between her, Misty, Trish, and Colleen, it's becoming more and more apparent that the side characters are the real stars here.) Still, Luke believes he might be Harlem's last hope in protecting the neighborhood.
As for Matt, he's reunited with Foggy at Josie's for old time's sake. Matt tells Foggy that he and Karen are "figuring ourselves out," and Foggy questions whether Matt actually likes doing pro bono work. He notices Matt's knuckles, which show signs of his fight with the store owner, and gives him case files about "good people who need justice" to distract him from returning to being Daredevil. "You'll be too busy being another kind of hero," Foggy tells him. At this point, Danny seems to be the only Defender set on being a full-blown hero.
And while all of the chaos unfolds, Alexandra is quite literally fiddling while New York crumbles. Thanks to a generous donation to the New York Philharmonic, she's being treated to a private string quartet performance.
Madame Gao interrupts Alexandra's private concert, though, telling her that there's a "wall" that's impeding their plans.
"It's full of inscriptions, familiar phrases about K'un-Lun," Gao tells her. Apparently, nothing has worked to tear the wall down. That doesn't deter Alexandra, though — she says it's not a wall, but a door.
"The conviction of the elders of K'un-Lun was always unwavering. They think it's a virtue. But in the end, all it ever did was make them predictable," Alexandra tells Gao. "They've locked it away, but a lock is not a lock without a key. And from the beginning, they have valued one thing above all else." Later in the episode, we see Alexandra talking to Stick (Scott Glenn), whom she's apparently holding hostage.
At Claire's suggestion, Luke visits a bar on 188th where criminals are apparently likely to gather. Turk (Rob Morgan) is there, and he tells Luke that Mariah and Shades "ghosted" after Luke went to Seagate. When Luke presses him about the mysterious jobs Harlem's young men are taking, Turk tells him they're working for someone nicknamed White Hat, because of his "unique fashion sense." (Apparently, his style includes a "white suit, Panama hat, [and] alligator shoes.")
And based on Colleen's knowledge about the man in Cambodia's sword, they find a place where another one of the swords is being kept in New York. She points out that it was sharpened for use. They also see a poster on the wall showing K'un-Lun — and find another room filled with bodies. Danny infers that were killed by The Hand. They hide when they realize they're not alone, and people in biohazard suits come in to rinse the blood from the bodies and the room.
Danny starts beating up one of the cleanup guys, who turns out to be Cole. Luke shows up behind Danny, stopping him and entering into a fight with Danny himself.
Their fight is almost comical at first — Danny hits Luke repeatedly, to no avail. Eventually, though, Danny uses the Iron Fist to knock Luke into a garage door. So we've finally seen two of the defenders meet!
Jess and Matt meet for the first time, too. Misty finds Jess and takes her into custody — she did steal a case file, after all, not to mention the fact that John died at her apartment. Jessica tells Misty that the case "isn't normal" and she was only trying to help. And remember how Matt is doing more legal work these days? He strolls into the police station, telling Jess he's her lawyer.
Finally, we can actually understand just how The Hand brought Elektra — or, really, the body formerly known as Elektra’s — back to life.
If you’ve only tuned into Jessica Jones and/or Luke Cage, you’re probably pretty confused at this point — what exactly is The Hand? Basically, it’s a villain organization that reincarnates the dead, and it’s Iron Fist’s life purpose to fight them. But apparently, they want Danny for themselves — we just don’t know why yet. The Hand comes up in both Daredevil and Iron Fist — one of Daredevil’s enemies, Nobu, is a member of The Hand, as is Madame Gao.
The Defenders’ third episode opens with a flashback to “months ago,” when Alexandra was at a Turkish restaurant. She calls Istanbul “Constantinople,” confusing the restaurant’s owners and suggesting she doesn’t totally have a grasp on the modern world. A man in a white hat — the same man Turk told Luke has been hanging around Harlem — walks in and tells her they’ve captured the Black Sky. The man doesn’t say his name, but if you’re watching with the subtitles on, you’ll see that it’s Sowande (Babs Olusanmokun).
Sowande tells Alexandra that it will take all of The Hand’s resources to revive the Black Sky, but she assures him that it’s worth it. After a reincarnation ceremony with candles and a stone casket, Elektra is alive again, covered in blood.
This is hardly the Elektra we saw in Daredevil, though. As Alexandra explains to her, Elektra doesn’t have memories of her former life, though she does regain her knowledge of English and of human instinct. “This is your home now. We are your family,” Alexandra tells Elektra.
Alexandra tells Elektra that she, too, has seen the “darkness” after her own death — and apparently, she’s seen it more than once. (That makes us feel a lot less sympathetic for her red blood cell situation.)
“You are everything,” Alexandra says to the understandably frightened Elektra, who points to herself and asks, “Who?”
“You are the Black Sky,” Alexandra tells her. She also calls Elektra a “vessel” to drive home the point that Elektra’s former life and personality are gone.
Elektra quickly regains her fighting ability, choosing a sword and knocking down the people Alexandra has hired to train her to fight. As Alexandra explains, though, it doesn’t really matter which sword she chooses — as the Black Sky, she’s the weapon herself. She brings Elektra a red costume, telling her, “This is who you are.”
Alexandra then resumes her conversation with the still-captive Stick. She tries to tell him that the war he’s been fighting against The Hand is over, but he reminds her that Iron Fist can still stop The Hand. She suggests he doesn’t know all there is to know about K’un-Lun, though, surprised that he doesn’t know why she wants Iron Fist. Stick eventually manages to escape from Alexandra’s grasp — by cutting off his own hand.
Of the four advance episodes Netflix provided the press for screening, Matt and Jessica’s interaction was my favorite part of any of them. Her snarky “No” when Matt asks if he can inquire how long she’s been a P.I. is just so Jess. Once she’s back outside the station, Jess tells John’s wife that she wants to keep investigating his disappearance, outside police jurisdiction.
Still, even though we’ve seen some Defender interaction at this point, the color scheme is still heavily dramatized. Luke’s scenes have a yellow filter, and he’s wearing a yellow shirt; his kitchen is accented with a yellow dish and a yellow can of Cafe Bustelo. Similarly, Jessica’s scenes are heavily blue-tinted. Even though they’ve met Matt and Danny, Luke and Jess still don’t feel like they’re in the same universe as the two of them.
In terms of dialogue, Luke is also stuck with the short end of the stick this episode. When describing his encounter with Danny, he says to Claire, “He had this… this hand. I think it glowed.” Not even Mike Colter can save that flop of a line.
Having trained with Colleen, though, Claire instantly knows who Luke’s talking about, and the two women set up a meeting between Danny and Luke. Danny explains K’un-Lun and what it means to be the Iron Fist. Luke doesn’t appear to totally buy it, but he’s on board with the idea that White Hat could be working with The Hand. Claire also tells Danny how Luke got his powers, through prison experiments. (It also helps Luke get on board when Colleen tells him The Hand is the group that attacked the hospital where Claire works.)
Luckily, the confrontation leads to Luke giving Danny a reality check, privilege-wise. He schools Danny for his decision to attack Cole, reminding him that the guys in Harlem are just trying to feed their families by working odd jobs. If Danny wants to attack The Hand, he should start at the top, not the bottom.
“The money? It doesn’t define me,” is a real thing Danny says to Luke. But he’s having none of it.
“Maybe not, but that kid is sitting in a jail cell tonight and you’re not,” Luke reminds him. “I know privilege when I see it. You may think you earned your strength, but you had power the day you were born.”
Luke isn’t talking about Danny becoming the Iron Fist — he’s talking about the fact that Danny was born a white male, to one of New York’s richest families.
It’s also not a coincidence that Cole is wearing a yellow T-shirt in this episode while he’s being held in custody. Staying within Luke’s color palette emphasizes that Cole isn’t a bad person for taking the cleanup job. Still, Cole tells Luke that White Hat is “next level dangerous.” Undeterred, Luke responds “So am I.” Luke also visits Cole’s mom at his request, saying he’ll stop the “bad people” Cole was working for.
Danny takes Luke’s advice to heart, reminding Colleen that although he’s not a businessman, “a warrior uses every tool at his disposal.” Danny still owns 51% of Rand Enterprises, so he calls the company, marches into their offices and asks for a meeting with Ward Meachum. Ward is out of the country, so Danny doesn’t get the meeting, but he does get the information he needs from another Rand employee.
Apparently, Rand Enterprises did business with The Hand, and Danny and Colleen tracked down The Hand’s shell companies in Sao Paolo, Berlin, Phnom Penh, Paris, Miami, and Moscow. Using data from the company’s dealings in the cities, the Rand employee is able to determine that three of The Hand’s shell companies made deposits at Midland Circle Financial, after Danny tells her he wants to find The Hand’s dealings in New York.
And even though Jess has done her best to ditch Matt and his legal advice, he’s still tailing her, having read her file and knowing her history with Kilgrave. When Jess catches him — in terms of following, you can’t really be stealthier than a P.I. — she sees him climbing a building and captures a photo as evidence.
Jess briefly loses her focus on confronting Matt when she answers a strange call on her cell phone. Pretending to be “Anna Asher,” Jess secures a meeting with a design firm. She meets with an architect there, who shows her a building John Raymond had designed: Midland Circle.
Luke, too, finds evidence that leads him to Midland Circle. At Cole’s mother’s house, he finds a wad of cash with a Midland Circle receipt hidden in the box where Cole put the used lottery tickets he gave his mom. While Luke is at her house, Cole’s mother gets a call that Cole was in his cell “when it happened.” (It sounds like The Hand may have made his death appear to be a suicide, as Fisk tried to do to Karen in Daredevil.)
Danny is the first to reach Midland Circle, asking to meet with its CEOs. The scenes of Danny without the other Defenders don’t appear to be subject to the color filters Luke and Jessica’s scenes have — his confrontation with The Hand is incredibly well-lit. Danny storms into the Midland Circle conference room, saying they thought they got away with laundering assets through Rand Enterprises, but they didn’t. The room’s occupants are remarkably calm.
Before the fighting sequence begins, Jessica storms into the Midland Circle building, with Matt not far behind. She confronts him in the lobby, and when she reveals that she photographed him, he smashes her camera. Their spat isn’t over, though, when Matt hears gunshots coming from the penthouse.
The shots are Danny fighting with The Hand, a.k.a. everyone sitting in the Midland Circle conference room. As soon as he knocks them down, more and more people appear to fight him. Soon enough, Luke bursts in and starts helping Danny beat them up.
I’m not against Luke bursting in like the Kool-Aid man, but it does seem like, given his personality, Luke would have done more research into Midland Circle before bursting into their office. (Although that wouldn’t have given us the first true Defenders fight scene.)
When Jessica and Matt show up, she and Luke are more than surprised to see each other. But their reunion is put on hold so they can keep fighting The Hand’s seemingly endless amounts of members.
Eventually, Elektra shows up and starts fighting Matt. He realizes it’s her and says her name — and for a second, it seems like there’s a hint of recognition in her eyes, too. But then she goes in for the attack, before Iron Fist smashes her sword to pieces. The Defenders then descend from the penthouse in what’s sure to have been one of the most awkward elevator rides, ever.
Finally, the Defenders are assembled. And they’re hiding from The Hand.
The episode opens with the four Defenders camped out in a Chinese restaurant after the confrontation at Midland Circle. (The restaurant’s owners aren’t thrilled, until Danny offers to pay their rent for the next six months. Money is power!)
Jess and Luke have a lot of catching up to do — she didn’t even know he went back to Seagate — but there’s not much time for that. They need to discuss what just happened, a discussion that’s hindered by the fact that Matt doesn’t want to tell Luke and Danny who he is.
Danny, meanwhile, has no problem telling everyone that he’s the “immortal Iron Fist,” eliciting a spectacular eye roll from Luke. Matt might not want them to know who he is, but he’s happy to explain to Luke and Jess that The Hand operates according to a “fanatical ideology” they’d die to protect.
Of course, once Matt says the word “fanatical,” Luke says The Hand must be a terrorist group. Matt explains that they’re not, because terrorists “want the world to know what they’re doing,” while The Hand acts in secret. Danny adds that The Hand wants “power and influence at every level of the world.”
The group then moves on to discussing Elektra, not realizing Matt knows who she is. Jess explains that she’s the one who came after John, while Danny notes that he fought Elektra in Cambodia. Matt gives away the fact that he knows her, though, and Jess convinces him to tell the others who he is. She’s quick to recognize him as “the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” and says the other two will figure it out soon enough. Matt relents, removing the scarf and telling them his name.
Finally, nearly halfway through the series, the Defenders are fully assembled.
Back at Alexandra’s hideout, Elektra seems to be struggling with her new identity as the Black Sky, even though her memories are apparently gone. She studies her bullet wounds in the mirror, realizing how she died. Alexandra catches her, saying, “Your life is new, but sadly, your body is not.” Elektra asks if being the Black Sky is “all” she is, in a slightly forlorn tone. Alexandra’s health appears to be slipping, too — she’s taking pills of some kind.
Luckily, there’s someone else who can give the Defenders more answers about what The Hand is up to in New York. Stick finds the group’s hideout and explains that he’s the last living member of The Chaste. (He finds them by tracking Danny’s phone, a rookie mistake on his part; apparently, Danny had tried to call Colleen and let her know where they were hiding.)
Stick’s history of The Hand makes the organization seem even more outrageous than we originally realized. Apparently, the group is responsible for Pompeii and Chernobyl, events history books have rewritten as “catastrophes.”
At that point, Jess is ready to hightail it out of the restaurant. Luke tells her to go along with it, not because of the mystical aspects of The Hand, but because people will get hurt. He suggests that the two of them play along with the “crazy stuff” in order to get answers. His plea doesn’t convince Jess, though, and she walks away.
And while Luke and Danny seem interested in Stick’s help, there’s still tension between Matt and Stick. Stick is pretty transparent about his disappointment that Matt favored vigilante justice over fighting The Hand; Matt accuses Stick of only helping other people when he needs something for himself.
Stick explains that the elders of K’un-Lun wanted to use chi for good — to heal people. But five “heretics” among them who had “darker intentions” wanted to harness chi to create immortality, and those five went on to form The Hand. One of them is Madame Gao, whom Stick says “set up a lot of murders,” including Danny’s parents’. Another is Sowande, a.k.a. White Hat, whom Stick describes as an “African warlord.” Bakuto is one, though Danny says he’s dead. Murakami (Yutaka Takeuchi), the man behind Nobu’s actions, is a fourth founder, and it’s safe to assume Alexandra is the fifth.
When Jess gets back to her apartment (and starts drinking again), she goes to her computer to delete old photos and files. She pauses, though, when she notices a bunch of signatures that are all in the same handwriting. Jess goes to Michelle Raymond, saying she wants her and her daughter to have full-time protection at their house. A confused Michelle tells her there’s already someone outside who claimed to be a cop.
Jess pulls the man out of the surveillance car and starts beating him up, saying the Raymonds have “been through enough” and that Michelle doesn’t know anything about whatever John was involved in.
Back at the restaurant, Elektra is a point of contention between Matt and Stick. Matt says he couldn’t hear her heartbeat, but that she hesitated and didn’t kill him. Stick reminds him that this reincarnated form isn’t the Elektra he knew, and that “whatever’s living inside the body of Elektra Natchios” will need to die.
Alexandra then appears at the restaurant — can you really hide from The Hand? — saying she wants “to bring light into the dark.”
“For all your talk of life, you sure kill a lot of people,” Luke tells her. Alexandra explains that she wants to bring all five fingers of the hand together. Elektra shows up, and Alexandra directs her to “serve life itself.” But before she can launch into another fight with the Defenders, Jess reappears, using her super-strength to push a car through the restaurant and knock Elektra down.
“Who missed me?” Jess asks sarcastically. The four Defenders and Stick line up, prepared to fight Elektra and Alexandra.
Now that we know who the five fingers of The Hand are, all that’s left to figure out is what they want with Danny. The episode opens with the members preparing to assemble — and they do, by storming the Royal Dragon, where the Defenders are hiding out.
Murakami bursts in first, and the Defenders start fighting him, while Alexandra watches from a distance. Sowande barrels in next, shooting up the restaurant with automatic rifles. (This is definitely more than the restaurant owners bargained for — the Royal Dragon is completely destroyed.)
It’s worth noting that the fight scene is green, because it’s about The Hand’s quest for Danny. It’s nice to see the color scheme playing out in a way that makes sense and still involves the other Defenders.
Matt abandons the group’s plans, though, and ends up in hand-to-hand combat with Elektra on the restaurant’s roof. “This is not who you are,” he tells her, trying to make her remember her former life. He tells her he was there when she died, and calls her Elektra, marking the first time she’s ever heard her old name. Murakami finds Matt talking to Elektra, though, and knocks him away.
Meanwhile, Luke is fighting Sowande, who pushes him in front of a car. The next thing anyone knows, Luke is gone — it looks like The Hand has captured him. The rest of the group’s operatives lock the door to the roof, where Stick and the remaining three Defenders are, forcing them to escape through a tiny sewer.
Gao eventually goes up to the roof, where she finds Murakami recovering from the fight. The Defenders are gone, though, and so is Elektra.
Now that they’ve left the restaurant, Danny brings Matt, Jessica, and Stick to Colleen’s dojo, here he fills her in on The Hand’s attack. Jessica questions whether she’s the only member of the group who “isn’t in this for a cheap thrill.”
Luckily, Luke shows up — it turns out, he’s rendered Sowande captive, not the other way around.
Meanwhile, Elektra is back at Alexandra’s, but she’s got a lot of questions about her identity. Alexandra tells her she had a daughter in her first life, but she’s since realized that her purpose is to raise the Black Sky, rather than her own offspring. She then flips the sword on Elektra, telling her that if she doesn’t serve The Hand’s purpose, she is of no use to her.
Murakami comes in and tells Alexandra that Iron Fist’s colleagues have cpatured Sowande. She’s not concerned, though, telling him their “reinforcement from South America” is on the way.
Back in captivity, Sowande tells the group that New York has “always belonged to The Hand.” Bafflingly, he also says that they want the Iron Fist, not Danny in particular. He also says The Hand will come for Claire and Trish next, leading Luke, Jess, and Matt to contact everyone they care about (Claire, Trish, Malcolm, Karen, and Foggy) and convince them to come into hiding.
Bakuto finds Colleen in an alley outside the dojo, and she’s shocked to see her former teacher is still alive. He tries to convince her to join The Hand again, and when she refuses, he stabs her. Luke pushes Bakuto away, though, and he, Danny, and Claire bring Colleen to the police station. But before he leaves, Bakuto tells Danny that his destiny is more than what he’s been told.
Luke tries to tell Misty that the group Cole was working for isn’t going to back down, but that she wouldn’t believe him if he tried to tell her everything. Misty gathers everyone who’s important to the Defenders, telling them they’re “of interest” to “powerful and dangerous people.”
At the police station, there’s a meaningful exchange between Claire and Colleen — it’s nice to see the background characters getting some real storylines. As Claire bandages Colleen’s wound, Claire reveals that she feels “lost” after spending so long under Bakuto and The Hand. She says she needs something to hold onto — but Claire tells her that she’s the “foundation” of everything she and Danny do.
And aside from Elektra’s identity struggles, Alexandra is facing tension from the other Hand leaders, too. Gao accuses her of being afraid of dying; she, Murakami, and Bakuto seem to think she’s more concerned with immortality than with their original plan. Based on the other three’s conversations, it sounds like they want Danny because they want to return “home” to K’un-Lun, but they can’t do so without an Iron Fist.
They’re also skeptical that Elektra is as powerful as Alexandra believes, and they vow to move forward in their plan without the Black Sky. The Defenders do have one thing going for them, though — the Hand doesn’t seem to know that Matt is Daredevil.
During the Defenders’ infighting — Luke, Danny, and Jess don’t see why Matt wants to protect Elektra — Sowande manages to get ahold of a knife. Stick quickly regains control of the situation, though, chopping Sowande’s head clean off.
And in a final knife twist for Alexandra, she discovers that Elektra has escaped. After her conversation with Matt, Elektra has returned to his house, where she lies down on his bed — it looks like she didn’t forget who she was after all.
The Hand does want to go back to K’un-Lun, but it’s not because they’re homesick. Apparently, there’s a “substance” there that allows them to reincarnate people, and they used the last of it on Elektra.
The only way to get back, though, is with Danny. And it sounds like the door Madame Gao mentioned to Alexandra at the beginning of the show is the one they need his help opening.
And now that the other Defenders know The Hand wants Danny, they decide the best thing to do is keep him hidden. That’s not a plan Danny agrees with — he wants to fight on the front lines. He starts fighting Matt and the others, until Jessica knocks him out and they tie him up. Luke and Stick stay behind to guard Danny, while Matt and Jessica go out to investigate more about Midland Circle.
There’s another detail about The Hand that Matt hasn’t revealed to the group yet: the hole. It turns out, the mysterious hole from Daredevil is at the site where Midland Circle is now. Jessica thinks John would have known about it, since he designed the Midland Circle building, so she and Matt go to the Raymond house seeking answers. They think that if John was stockpiling explosives, he could have been planning to bomb the Midland Circle site.
On their way, they stop by Matt’s apartment, where he notices a prayer card from Elektra’s funeral is missing. (She’s also gone by the time they reach his apartment.)
Michelle isn’t home, but Matt and Jess talk to her daughter, Lexi. Lexi tells them that in the weeks leading up to his death, her dad acted strangely — he wasn’t eating or sleeping, and he sat at the piano without playing it. That last detail leads them to discover the Midland Circle architectural plans hidden within the piano. But these aren’t the building plans — they’re plans for a structure beneath the building.
Alexandra, meanwhile, finds the escaped Elektra in front of her own grave. She tells Elektra that Daredevil let her die and that they need her help getting more of the reincarnation substance. Elektra returns to The Hand’s headquarters with Alexandra.
While they’re walking back from the Raymonds’, Stick devises a plan of his own. He lights a kind of incense that causes Luke to pass out, before trying to stab Danny himself. It appears that Stick would rather lose Danny than surrender the Iron Fist’s powers to The Hand. But Elektra bursts in, taking Danny for her own.
Alexandra is still facing opposition from The Hand’s three remaining fingers, though. Gao, Bakuto, and Murakami seem remorseful about Sowande’s death, but Alexandra remains stoic about the loss. She accuses them of being disloyal, but they still seem intent on capturing Iron Fist without the Black Sky.
Soon enough, though, it becomes clear that the three of them aren’t who Alexandra needed to worry about. Just as Murakami starts to threaten Alexandra, Elektra comes in with Danny’s body. Alexandra directs Elektra to kill the remaining three defenders — but instead, she quite literally stabs Alexandra in the back.
“My name is Elektra Natchios,” she tells Gao, Murakami, and Bakuto. “You work for me now.”
The second-to-last episode opens with a flashback to a conversation between Stick and Elektra (in her previous incarnation). The pair are discussing whether Matt is strong enough to join The Chaste — and it doesn’t sound like he is. (That’s strength as in the ability to be a killing machine, not actual physical strength.)
Back in the present day, the three remaining defenders are taken to an NYPD precinct in Harlem, where Misty questions them. It looks like Stick didn’t survive the battle with The Hand’s operatives, and the cops want to know how the three of them ended up in the same place as two dead bodies, one of which was beheaded. Luke is the only one who tells them anything — “They’re real, they’re murderous, and they took Danny Rand,” he says of The Hand.
Foggy meets Matt at the police station. He tells him that if he doesn’t keep his identity a secret — the cops know Jess and Luke are superheroes, but they think Matt is just a lawyer — they’ll both be disbarred. Still, he also slips Matt the Daredevil suit, knowing he can’t stop his former partner from what he sees as his true calling. (Later, Foggy tells Karen that he thinks they’ll “get Matt back” once this mission is over.)
Elektra, meanwhile, tells Gao, Murakami, and Bakuto that she cares about the substance, not The Hand. “Nothing will stand in my way, not even death,” she tells them. Murakami and Bakuto don’t trust Elektra, but Gao reminds them that she did bring Danny back, which means they’re closer to obtaining more of “the substance” than ever before.
Unfortunately for Misty and the other cops, the three Defenders escape the police station, thanks to Luke breaking through a wall. What she and Claire don’t immediately realize, though, is that Colleen has also left the sidekicks’ holding room. It turns out that Colleen found John’s plans from the piano, and she’s devised a plan of her own.
Luke, Matt, and Jess end up taking the subway to rescue Danny, since all of their wallets are still in the hands of the police. Jess steals a beer from a sleeping homeless man, another indicator that she has a drinking problem. They confront the three remaining members of The Hand, but it’s Colleen who shows up and ends the fight, proving she’s way more than a sidekick.
With Danny captive, Elektra leads him to the door in question. Apparently, it was sealed by a former Iron Fist — and it can only be opened by another one. “Behind that door is the true power of The Hand,” she tells him.
Danny refuses to cooperate with Elektra, despite her taunts, but they eventually start fighting each other. Danny activates the iron fist — and accidentally slams it into the door during their fight. The door’s opening causes a power outage in the city, and what’s behind the door is baffling. It appears to be the skeleton of a dragon, or some other massive flying creature. Hopefully, the finale will explain how the skeleton relates to the much-discussed “substance.”
As for Colleen’s escape? Apparently, her plan is to follow in John’s footsteps and blow up Midland Circle — she brought a bag full of explosives with them. Matt is the first to agree with Colleen’s idea, saying that destroying the building and The Hand’s members inside it is the only way to save the city.
Let’s get this out of the way now: Daredevil (and Matt Murdock) is not dead.
The Defenders’ attempt at making us think otherwise shouldn’t have lasted long; Daredevil season 3 will reportedly start filming next month. Plus, did we really think one of the Defenders would die in the show’s first season?
Back to the episode: Luke is skeptical about bombing Midland Circle, though everyone else is on board. Claire reminds him that they all know what The Hand is capable of, while Jess says that eliminating the group will help them “get on with” their lives. Luke agrees to the bombing, on the condition that no one innocent will be hurt.
Danny is still on the other side of the door he accidentally opened, along with the skeletons of mystical creatures. Gao tells him that the animals “once roamed the green valleys” where she grew up. And apparently, the substance can be taken from the fossils.
Immortal life is a give and take situation, though. Gao tells Elektra that once the substance is gone, “the foundation of the city will continue to weaken.” New York will crumble, and people will die, but the members of The Hand won’t.
Back at the Harlem precinct, the officers have discovered that the explosives are missing from an evidence locker. They evacuate the area surrounding Midland Circle and head to the scene.
While Colleen and Claire look for a place to plant the bombs in the part of the office that’s above ground, Luke, Matt, and Jess take a hidden elevator to the deep basement, where the door and Danny are. Bakuto finds Claire and Colleen, and ends up fighting his former mentee. As they spar, Claire takes a call from Misty and tells her to clear the block (something the police have already done).
The three non-captive Defenders start fighting The Hand and its operatives, again. Upstairs, Misty comes inside and tries to shoot Bakuto, but the bullets don’t seem to do anything. He cuts Misty’s arm off — and then Colleen beheads him. In the process, the bomb is activated.
Thanks to his heightened senses, Matt hears the bomb ticking underground. He tells Luke, Jess, and Danny to get to the surface, saying he can get through to Elektra. In reality, he doesn’t seem to think he actually will, and he knows he’ll likely die fending her off while the others escape.
Elektra tells him that The Hand didn’t reduce her to her current form; she feels more alive now than ever. He stalls by asking why she’s not killing him, if there’s no light left in her, and the pair end up making out after an extensive fight scene.
The bomb goes off, with Murakami, Gao, Danny, and Elektra still inside. On the ground level, Danny reveals to Luke and Jess that Matt whispered “protect my city” to him before they got on the elevator. When the three remaining defenders return to the police station to greet their comrades in the waiting room, Foggy and Karen start crying when they realize Matt isn’t coming.
On Trish Talk, Trish shares the mayor’s official explanation about the events: “Unpermitted construction” surrounding Midland Circle caused the earthquakes and sinking, but everything is stable now. The disdain is practically dripping from her voice, so don’t be surprised if she teams up with Karen on more investigative reporting in the future.
And in a spot of good news, Foggy tells Luke and Claire that there won’t be legal repercussions for either of them. The NYPD didn’t file a report, so the city can’t charge them with anything. It’s a relief for them; earlier in the season, Misty and Claire had a moving conversation about their concern Luke would again return to prison.
Misty wakes up armless in a hospital room, where Colleen waits for her. Colleen apologizes, but Misty assures her it isn’t her fault. Colleen returns to her dojo, where Danny is waiting, and they eventually kiss.
Jess, unsurprisingly, is at a bar, where Luke finds her to make sure she’s okay. After everything with Reva, it looks like they’re at least on civil terms. When Jess gets back to her apartment, Malcolm is spackling over the bullet holes in the wall. She takes the paper off her front door, revealing the Alias Investigations sign — it looks like she’ll be back in business for Jessica Jones season 2.
Last but not least, Matt is alive, lying in a mysterious room with a nun overlooking him. And in the post-credits sequence, The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) is back, with the first trailer for the next installment of Netflix's Marvel series.
Still, it’s not clear what happened with the substance. Can it still be looted from the rubble by people with ill intent? And if Matt is still alive, Gao and Murakami could be, too. (There’s no doubt Elektra is.) It looks like we’ll have to wait until the next installment to learn what’s next in store for New York’s heroes.
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