Or, “My Dinner with Alexandra”

It should be a cardinal sin of fiction for a character to say “We make quite a team.” More than often, that’s indicator that maybe they don’t, since it has to be said rather than seen. You can imagine my apprehensiveness when Danny says this in the Royal Dragon restaurant; but luckily, Matt, Jessica, and Luke were not picking up what Danny was putting down. This episode is our first look into the four Defenders simply talking; we’ve seen them fight as a unit the episode prior, and now we get to dive right into their team dynamic.

There’s a lot of talk about destiny in this episode. Danny points out to the other how the four of them all ended up in Midland Circle at the same time; “it cannot be an accident.” Perhaps this team-up was meant to be. So far, The Defenders has been pretty good about justifying this gathering of superhumans. It’s easy for a crossover event to just want to mash action figures together. But this episode demonstrates a carefulness in distinguishing the motivations of each character.

Huddled together are the more grounded pair of Jessica and Luke (who seem blasé around each other despite their last encounter of Jessica shooting Luke in the head). Jessica wants to help her client gain closure from her husband’s demise, while Luke as always is looking out for the little guys in Harlem. Meanwhile, a grieving Matt is trying to play it safe and keep everyone out of this Hand nonsense, while the righteous Danny is riddled with guilt for not fulfilling his duties against the Hand.

Their personalities clash in an interesting way; the characters are nuanced without being caricatures of themselves. They argue not because you have to in a team-up event; they argue because they are truly different people with different experiences. A lesser show would’ve had these four get along a lot quicker. But it makes complete sense that Jessica out of all of them would be the one to split off, if only for a little bit.

That being said, the episode wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. I enjoyed the Danny of earlier episodes; he was more serious and determined, which I thought showed that he matured since the events of his own show. Now, Danny is gong-ho again all of a sudden. I know he actively decided to change his strategy, but it’s weird seeing him gleefully eat his food like a man-child. Also, the exposition about the Hand and its purpose was not only important for the characters, but for the audience as well; to be fairly honest, I’ve been totally confused about what the Hand actually wants over the course of these Netflix shows.

I just sort of assumed that Claire Temple would act as the “Nick Fury” for the Defenders, but in hindsight, the gruffer and more experienced Stick makes a lot more sense. Stick definitely matches the energy of the four Defenders, being able to verbally snap back at the usually stern and thick-skinned Jessica. I found his window talk with Matt to be interesting (“I’m glad you found others”); he seemed softer and more empathetic than I’m used to. The jury’s still out on whether that’s a positive character change or not.

The theme of destiny not only applies to our heroes, but to our villains as well. Alexandra speaks to Elektra on how their alliance was meant to be, and how The Black Sky was meant to find this “vessel” of Elektra. Hopefully, it will be interesting to see these two teams brought together by “destiny” ultimately clash. Admittedly though, I’m getting tired of watching Elektra staring blankly into space. Rather than conveying uneasiness and power, Elektra to me conveys pure boredom.

It’s a good thing then that Alexandra has a more interesting character. While the other Marvel/Netflix villains like Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave have displayed flaws, they are usually introduced as an instant danger. But remember that our first scene in episode one with Alexandra was one showing her vulnerability, as she has a terminal sickness. We are again reminded of her vulnerability in this episode as she grimaces in pain, seeking her medication. Still, there is an annoying vagueness to her plans, even as we’re almost halfway done with this series. What is she tempting Danny with? What is the Hand up to? Why do they want to destroy Manhattan?

Like the rest of the show, the lighting is utilized to basically “color code” the characters, and this continues even as they share space with each other (it makes you think about how weird the lighting in this particular restaurant is, but it’s still interesting to look at). For example, one shot has Matt in the background and Danny in the foreground, both still represented by red and green, respectively. It’s a neat visual way to show their contrast from each other, to show how they come from different worlds. Still, it’s a bit weird that they got director Phil Abraham, who directed the first two Daredevil episodes (including the famous hallway fight) to helm what was basically a bottle episode.

When the concept of destiny comes back into conversation between Danny and Luke, Luke suggests that eventually it will be their destiny to separate and go back on their own paths. Which makes sense – these four are outsiders, and even after this, they’ll probably go back to being so. But it’s not enough for them to just come together. Before they split off, they all have to learn something from each other first.

Final Verdict:

4 cars through the window out of 5. What could have been a boring exposition-fest turned out to be an interesting exploration into the team dynamics.

One-Shots

  • This is my first formal review for MCUExchange. Hope you enjoyed it!
  • ”Oh come on, I even put on a tie” is the first Danny line that actually made me laugh.
  • The introduction scene of Murakami reminded me of Tywin Lannister’s introduction in Game of Thrones. It turns out that cutting up animals is an effective way to display ruthlessness.
  • Stick is super casual about losing his hand.
  • I really missed the way Mike Colter says the word “abilities.”
  • I found the many mirrors in Alexandra’s room to be an interesting touch. Obviously, self-image is very important to this character – but this made me think, has Alexandra worn different faces in the past? Is she looking for a new vessel to replace her dying one?
  • Come on, Jessica – are you really going to open those pictures and slowly delete them one by one?
  • I swear, Alexandra should walk around with a big, glowing neon sign that says “I’M IMMORTAL.”
  • Speaking of which, “Who hears neon?”
  • Danny not knowing anything for plot convenience and exposition is irritating.
  • “I can see you’ve formed a bond here” is another clichéd line we don’t need; they’ve been together for less than an episode.
  • I sure hope Danny pays for the damaged wall and window too.

Check back tomorrow for my review of episode five, “Take Shelter”!