The show takes a big risk that leaves me unsure of its direction
(I hope that you’d know this already, but please know that this review contains heavy SPOILERS.)
Danny Rand has no chill. One of the repeated criticisms of Iron Fist was Danny’s lack of ability to keep his emotions in check, despite what he learned from monks and meditation. Despite fixing some things about his character in this series, The Defenders still inherits that annoying trait (“I’m all out of calm,” he says as he reverts back to a self-righteous one man army). Still, the conflict between Danny and his other teammates proved to be entertaining. As they argue about whether they should hide Danny or not, we get a chance to truly compare everyone’s fighting abilities.
Finally, we get to watch Daredevil and Iron Fist duke it out, with Luke and Jessica as Matt’s wingmen. And most significantly, they are fighting with purpose. Although I know that Danny was wrong in that the Hand actually does need him, I didn’t know who I wanted to win this fight. Even if keeping Danny around was a liability, he is still an asset in battle. I felt the same way when Stick tried to kill Danny (more on Stick later); everyone’s the “good guy” here, but they all have different ways of going about it.
The seams are beginning to tear within both factions (ashes, ashes, it all falls down). Alexandra is more insistent that the Black Sky – Elektra – is an important component to their master plan. But at this point, it’s becoming more clear that Alexandra’s reasons are more personal than practical. As such, the other Fingers of the Hand begin to doubt her guidance and leadership. And Elektra by the end of this episode is becoming more fun to watch; after her “awakening” at her grave, she has become a more active character, actually speaking in sentences and showing emotions now. It’s a character journey that reminds me a lot of Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War.
This episode goes back to our most interesting pairings; along with Alexandra and Elektra, we also have Matt and Jessica, and Luke and Danny. Matt and Jessica still have very little in common personality-wise, but you watch the respect between the two grow here. Their banter is friendlier and less antagonistic, and Jessica showing the parallels between Matt and the architect’s daughter displayed perceptiveness from her.
And while I believe that Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter are the more versatile actors out of the four leads, that isn’t to take away from Mike Colter and Finn Jones’s chemistry. Despite Danny straight up being held captive, he and Luke share some sweet moments, including Luke humoring Danny to tell him more about this dragon he supposedly punched. I’m sure comic book fans are craving a “Heroes For Hire” storyline after this. I find it strange however, how long it took for Luke and Jessica to have a real conversation; thankfully though, it was pretty much devoid of any unnecessary drama.
But speaking of unnecessary drama, why does Matt have to keep withholding information from the others? First the secret about Elektra, then in this episode about the giant gaping hole he found in Daredevil season 2. It was barely minutes after Jessica told him to stop doing this when he did it again (not mentioning that Elektra probably opened his chest, which led her to find out about her grave).
And even after receiving more information about the Hand’s Big Bad Plot™, I am still left with questions. So the Hand wants more of this “substance,” but is it for purely selfish reasons? They want to “serve life,” so do they want to perform a service to the world, or just to their own lives? Why do they want to get back to K’un-Lun? Why do they need the substance to do so? Is destroying Manhattan part of the plan, or just an unavoidable side effect from opening that “door” with the Iron Fist? We know that the Hand wants to do bad stuff, and the Defenders want to stop the bad stuff, but we need more information for this “war for New York” to be a successful story. (note: I realize now that I might be overcomplicating the Big Bad Plot™, but I think there’s little reason for this simple plan to be presented so ambiguously and vaguely; makes it seem more complicated than it is.)
And man, this story threw a few curveballs. You’ve seen this episode before reading this review, right? Because they just offed not one, but two important characters. Stick has been an interesting character, for all we’ve seen from him; he has good intentions, but he isn’t exactly a good person, willing to be cruel and violent for a greater purpose. I didn’t expect him to last very long, as after passing on his knowledge he wouldn’t serve much purpose, especially with the Chaste wiped out – though I did expect some sort of closure between him and Matt.
Alexandra, on the other hand, we didn’t get to know for very long. It’s a big gamble, promoting Sigourney Weaver as the main villain and then killing her character off before things are over and done with. It’s a tactic that Luke Cage used, and most fans would probably agree that it didn’t pay off (back where I come from, we call killing off a major villain early a “Mahershala”). Weaver’s status alone has elevated this series, and her character’s loss has me grieve – not for who her character was, but what she could have been.
If you remember my review for episode four, I talked about the theme of destiny, and how it was important for both the heroes and villains of this story. Now I’m left questioning the “destiny” of some characters. Stick fulfilled his of assembling our four heroes, but did Alexandra fulfill hers? Was it ultimately her destiny to be stabbed and decapitated by Elektra, basically her own creation? Was she never meant to see her plan succeed or fail? The focus on her vulnerability and her sickness made me think that the series would do something with this, but now everything we’ve seen with Alexandra feels like a red herring. I feel that Alexandra never had a defining moment like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil (decapitation by car door), or a sinister, looming presence like Kilgrave in Jessica Jones. Alexandra was prematurely robbed of her destiny, and the viewers and the MCU are robbed of a legendary actress.
I wonder if Elektra was meant to be the main villain of The Defenders from the beginning, and if casting Weaver was just a stunt; or if Alexandra as the main villain was the plan from the start, but the writers decided to shock viewers by writing her off unexpectedly. I’m not a big fan of either option, the more I think about it. Either way, the remaining two episodes of the series have to justify the untimely death of this character. As I mentioned, Elektra is more lucid and aware of who she is now, even mentioning Matt by name as she backstabs Alexandra – she has re-become the Elektra we already know. By killing Stick and Alexandra – two authority (and somewhat parental) figures telling her what she was – Elektra has taken control of her own destiny. But my question is: what the hell does she want now?
3.5 Fingers out of 5. I didn’t want to give the episode high marks solely for its shocking ending, but I have to admit that it still caught me by surprise.
- You’ll notice in the opening credits that original Daredevil showrunner Drew Goddard wrote this episode with showrunner Marco Ramirez. Good to know that a well-regarded Hollywood writer still has a voice in the MCU. No offense to Ramirez, but I would have loved to see how this miniseries would have been with Goddard at the helm instead.
- Are Danny and Jessica close enough for him to call her “Jess”? Also, in a somewhat cute moment, Danny calls her “our Jessica.”
- Alexandra was definitely the middle finger of the Hand, with the way she shut people down.
- I think I’ve empathized with the architect’s daughter more than any other character in this show.
- Admittedly, I didn’t notice at first that Matt was apparently playing the Daredevil theme on the piano; it probably would’ve taken me out of what I thought was a great scene if I did.
- Why did Alexandra let Elektra wander off on her own? Did Elektra gaining lucidness and awareness ultimately lead to Alexandra’s demise? Was she hoisted by her own petard?
- “92%, but that’s still a lot” was pointed out by a Redditor as possibly being a reference to Jessica Jones’s Rotten Tomatoes score. A stretch, but a funny line either way.
- I have no flipping clue how Elektra found the hideout – please clarify this in the comments for me if I’m being stupid.
- Never mind, I totally empathized more with Alexandra’s annoyance with her fellow Fingers.
- I wish the closed captions didn’t spoil that end twist, by showing how Alexandra’s dialogue gets cut off.
- R.I.P., Alexandra and Stick. We’ve gotten rid of both of the actors with the “and” billing in the credits.
It’s been fun reviewing these past three episodes for you. Be on the lookout for Adam’s take on episode seven tomorrow!