5 Point Discussion: Defenders – “The H Word”

by Sage Ashford

Hi, I’m Sage Ashford, and welcome to the first installment of 5 Point Discussion, where I take an episode of a series I’m following, offering commentary in the form of a series of five points that are hopefully coherent relevant to the episode at hand, and also hopefully generate some greater reflection and discussion.

We’re starting with The Defenders, currently available on Netflix, and Episode 1: “The H Word”.

1. If anyone was wondering coming into this series just how exactly Marvel would tie four largely disparate protagonists together into one show without just having everyone’s favorite Night Nurse force everyone into a room together; don’t worry, the show was lost, too. Though it was fun to watch the episode play around with the color palettes (with the bright scarlet of Daredevil’s feeling by far the most fitting and striking) for each of the heroes, eventually it becomes impossible not to notice that the series is trying to pick up on plot threads for all four different heroes and serve as episode “zero” for every character’s next season.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but with only eight episodes, it’s running the risk of making the same mistake many superhero team comics have, spending too much time getting the band together. It would be nice if they remembered that all four of these heroes’ individual shows already have sequels on the way–including Danny, puzzlingly enough–and stay focused on what we all came here to see: three bad-ass heroes (and Iron Fist) beating up the bad guys together.

2. After months of anticipation, we’re introduced to Sigourney Weaver’s character “Alexandra” and she comes off as quite terrifying, despite her first scene involving listening to a doctor explain that she has only weeks left to live. Well-known as Weaver is for being a sci-fi hero, and though she’s only in this first episode for a few minutes, she immediately manages to make herself seem like a threat. Whether her goal is the Hand’s immortality (doubtful, since that seems pretty easy to give out) or something more sinister, it’s good to have someone with the character to stand in front of our heroes.

Having said that, her first introduction to a more known villainous quantity was kind of…uncomfortable?  After seeing Madame Gao run the show in two seasons of Daredevil and a good bit of Iron Fist, upon meeting Alexandra she seems almost…subservient?  Watching her allow herself to be bossed around feels frustrating, since she’s been the “big bad” built up for two years now and now she’s been relegated to just being someone else’s lieutenant.  Now when she gets her comeuppance it won’t feel as cathartic, since she wasn’t one hundred percent in control. With seven episodes left, there’s plenty of time for arrangements to change.

3. Its early, but I’m somehow already tired of Danny Rand again. None of the Zen calm that should be present is there–he still just seems like a scared, insecure child. Dynamic characters are generally the way to go, but maybe Danny should’ve been more static: let him show up fully developed as the kung-fu bad-ass that made Marvel cast him as the fourth Defender in the first place.

Once again though, we’re only one-eighth of the way through this series, so it’s certainly possible things can change. Far away from anyone with the name “Meachum” and running around with Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing is definitely the best chance this series has at salvaging an otherwise broken character.

4. In Luke Cage’s “Season 2, Episode 0” bits, we get to see Misty Knight again, as she guides Luke through part of Harlem and introduces him to a new mystery involving lots of unusual murders with no real leads.  She’s donned a new look that’s closer to her comic incarnation—though she’s still got both arms. As a brief tangent, on some level Misty already feels so different from her comic self that it might be worth it to just let her develop naturally rather than trying to force more comic book aspects onto her.  Generally, I certainly prefer my characters to be as close to the comics as possible, but I don’t necessarily want it at the cost of the story being told.

In any case, Misty mentions having a “new team” that supposedly has a much greater reach than just Harlem, which makes me wonder if she’s joined a wing of S.H.I.E.L.D. or some other noteworthy Marvel Comics group. At the end of Luke Cage she seemed very displeased with the limit of her ability to help people and put criminals down as a detective, so it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that she joined up with an organization that has a little more power to it.

5. The episode ends with the Hand (and whoever they’re working with) carrying out a plan that leads to something unexpected: an earthquake in New York City. As panic spreads through the streets, we return to Alexandra and…Elektra, revealed to now be working for the Hand after her resurrection. She looks shocked at the damage, only for Alexandra to assure her that cities fall all the time.

Right now, Elektra’s character arc doesn’t seem terribly different from what it once was in the comics: she dies fighting, is revived by the Hand to serve them. It didn’t go quite as smoothly in the source material though, and she returned to the side of the angels fairly quickly. But as this series begins, I’m wondering if she’ll have the same road to redemption here, or if she’s going to be a little more tortured going forward.   If she lives and turns “good” that’s a happily ever after for Matt, a character destined to be miserable for as long as he’s not written by Mark Waid, so I’m guessing her ultimate fate by the end of Defenders is going to be something slightly different.