This 5 Point Discussion addresses The Defenders Episode 4: “Royal Dragon” currently streaming on Netflix.
1. We open the episode with Alexandra speaking to a clearly emotionally distraught Elektra/”Black Sky”, and I’m left wondering why we’re keeping such a bad-ass character so helpless for so long. From what we’ve seen, she’s just been allowing Alexandra to use her as a tool of destruction because she doesn’t remember ever being anything else. Back on the show Iron Fist, Harold Meachum came back to life and figured out who he was in a matter of days. But it’s been months since her revival and not only has Elektra not regained her memory, she barely even seems capable of speaking.
The whole thing makes me half-believe what Stick says later about her body being occupied by something that isn’t actually Elektra, even though the story’s definitely not going that way. Speaking of Stick…
2. This episode provided a literal laugh out loud moment for me when Stick explained that the Chaste–the organization he was part of that was fighting the Hand–was supposed to be Iron Fist’s army…except they were basically all wiped out by the Hand. Jeez, it wasn’t enough that Iron Fist isn’t up to par–but his army has to be terrible too? You know, Iron Fist was the hero I was most excited to see when they announced the Marvel Netflix project nearly five years ago–it’d be nice if this series actually tried to salvage his character.
3. As Stick’s explaining the incredibly comic book-y origins of the Hand (more on that later), Jessica Jones finally has enough of how cartoonish the entire thing sounds and dips out, while Daredevil gets frustrated with Stick finding his way into his life once more.
Admittedly, fans of Daredevil are aware of why Matt is pissed off just being on the same city block as Stick, and Jessica Jones’ default state is “Refusing the Call”, so it’s all unfolding logically for their characters, but still. This all just feels like stuff that should have happened an episode or two ago. We’re in episode four now and the team is still trying to decide whether or not they should fight the evil thing that sounds too absurd to exist despite living in a world where absurd shit happens all the time. I couldn’t really decide if I liked this episode or not because while it was pretty cool to see our heroes interact together, the pacing for this episode is glacial.
4. After things get a little too mystical for Jessica, she ditches the rest of our “Defenders” only to be approached by Luke Cage, which leads to the first time these two have had the chance to have a one-on-one since before the Purple Man incident ended. Their past is kind of awkward; they met when Jessica was spying on Luke, eventually had sex because why not, Luke split when he realized Jessica killed his ex while mind-controlled, then later Luke was mind-controlled himself and nearly murdered Jessica before she blasted him in the face with a shotgun. And all that before they even got to his solo adventures!
Seriously though, there were palpable levels of unresolved sexual tension between these two. That partly makes sense, since in the comics they’re married and have a child together…but then you realize Luke’s sexed up literally a third of the women on the show and it feels kind of awkward. If you listen closely you can almost hear the wheels turning in the writer’s heads on if they want to break Luke and Claire up for Luke/Jessica, and if so how they’ll manage to pull it off. Either relationship is fine, I just hope they don’t turn Luke into a cheating bastard.
5. After two years and over forty episodes of stories directly related to the Hand, Stick finally explains to the heroes (and to us) exactly who the Hand are. They’re a part of the original members of K’un Lun, who began harnessing their chi to enhance their healing abilities. Five of those original members instead chose to try and attain immortality, and they were cast out of K’un Lun for their sins. Each of those five members make up the leaders of the Hand: Alexandra, Sowande, Madame Gao, Bakuto, and Murakami.
Their actual goals remain unclear though, but I have a working theory. Stick mentions that the Hand have wiped out cities before, and Alexandra has said their one goal is to continue living eternally. Meanwhile, several members of the Hand have pointed out that they no longer have the ability to revive people. Since immortality must come with some sort of price, I’m guessing to continue their long lives, they have to periodically sacrifice a ton of people and take their life energy? It’s a plot line we’ve seen before, but it’s rare enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete rip-off.
At any rate, we’re not actually told whether this is the truth or not–as Alexandra and Elektra both interrupt for a showdown. Hopefully the rule of Inverse Ninja doesn’t work for heroes, because Matthew was nearly evenly matched with Elektra, and now suddenly he’s got the back-up of Luke, Jessica, the Iron Fist, and Stick. You’d think that’d be an easy victory but…that’s never how these things work, is it?