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Three episodes in, and The Defenders is finally starting to bring together the super-team and ramp up the plot. This is when all of the heroes finally meet and team up to fight against the villains—and it’s also when the villains of the season start to get fleshed out.
The episode opens with the expected “villain origin flashback”—there’s been at least one villain-centric episode in every Marvel Netflix season to-date (Luke Cage might have been the exception; I can’t remember a specific episode about Diamondback), and this is the closest to one that The Defenders has, as it opens with a flashback to Alexandra learning that they have recovered Elektra’s body, and then the subsequent resurrection. Considering that bringing people back to life has been an integral part of the Hand plot throughout the Netflix shows, particularly in Iron Fist and Daredevil season 2, I appreciated the “inside look” into the mechanics of the Hand’s resurrection. Elektra’s rebirth is similar to Harold Meachum’s in Iron Fist, in the sense that she also suffers from disorientation at first, and her personality is drastically different from Daredevil season 2. In fact, it’s as though she has returned to a childlike state, and Alexandra treats her as such.
Revealing that Elektra’s resurrection used up the last of the Hand’s resources is a good way of upping the stakes for the Hand leadership—they don’t have anything left if they die, so suddenly the undead ninjas have reason to fear. Additionally, they (or at least Alexandra) are pinning all their hopes on Elektra’s ability to give them access to more of the substance before their time runs out. This does give the season a little more expediency and hint at the internal conflict within the Hand leadership, as it appears that Alexandra acted on her own without the approval of Gao and the others.
However, this episode does not focus on the villains nearly as much as I expected from the opening scene. Instead, the focus is on bringing the heroes together at the same location at the same time so they can fight the Hand together. This starts with Matt and Jess at the police precinct, where Matt tries as hard as he can to offer to help her without actually saying he’s also a hero. When Jess leaves, he follows her, and she watches him displaying his agility (and ability to “see”). After ditching Matt, Jess goes to Raymond’s architecture firm, where she discovers that he build the Midland Circle building, which she reaches (with Matt following) at the same time that the others arrive.
Meanwhile, when Luke tells Claire about his run-in with Danny, she connects the dots and puts Danny and Luke in a room together to “settle their differences” because “you’re on the same side.” This works about as well as you would expect, considering that Danny represents the “privileged white savior” motif, and Luke represents the “oppressed minority” motif. I really like the character development between these two, especially how they push each other in the right direction: Luke to investigate what the kid (Cole) was doing for “White Hat,” and Danny to bring his Rand Industries connections to bear against the Hand. Luke’s investigation leads to a wad of money wrapped in a Midland Circle Financial wrapper. Danny’s investigation leads him to Midland Circle as the company that bought up everything from the Hand shell companies with which Rand had previously done business. Both of them arrive around the same time, with Danny arriving first to confront Alexandra and her “board” (which of course turns out to be a small army of Hand ninjas.
It’s pretty convenient that all four of them arrive at right around the same time, but I suppose we can forgive them for that. After all, any story is going to use some measure of “convenience” in moving the plot forward. Having said that, I was a little surprised/disappointed that they went this route instead of doing something simpler: just have Claire send all of them to the Midland Circle building after Colleen tells her that Danny went off half-cocked and went to confront the Hand on their home turf. That would have taken away the “convenience” factor and made better use of Claire’s role in connecting all four series/heroes together.
Of course, the following fight sequence is pretty awesome (mostly because it’s the first time these four have fought together after 2 years of build-up). Danny starts off fighting them by himself but is quickly overwhelmed before Luke appears to pull a couple ninjas off him and block some bullets for him. Watching the two of them team up against the overwhelming number of ninjas—especially after the two of them arguing earlier in the episode—definitely gives a great justification for Marvel and Netflix to announce a Heroes for Hire team-up series following both characters’ second seasons.
Matt and Jess appear next as Luke and Danny are making their escape from the Hand ninjas, and this gives all of them a chance to fight together, which is really cool. At least until Matt hears Elektra coming (without realizing it’s her) and goes to confront her on his own. The two of them fight for a while until Matt recognizes her and freezes up. Elektra is about to kill him, but Danny runs in, Fist glowing, and shatters her sword. Then the heroes all escape together.
This episode is where the action finally starts to get going, which makes a degree of sense. After all, the benefit of the Netflix model of bingeing a series is that you can devote entire episodes to character development in anticipation of the plot and character development paying off in a big way. Assuming that you made it through the first two episodes of the season, which focused a lot more on reintroducing the characters, establishing the dynamics between them, and building up the conflict, this episode gives a good payoff to what came before. The action sequences at the end of the episode, as well as the character interactions teased throughout, hint at some good things to come in the final 5 episodes.