This 5 Point Discussion critiques The Defenders, currently streaming on Netflix. This installment focuses on Episode 5: “Take Shelter”.
1. This episode starts off with a surprise by bringing back Bakuto! As the Defenders were trying to get all of their loved ones into a safe location, he popped up along with some help in an attempt to convince Colleen to re-join the Hand. Watching this, I got the sense that even if Bakuto doesn’t really give a damn about most people, he actually does care for his subordinates…even if it’s in a decidedly creepy, cultish kind of way.
This was set up pretty sneakily so it would come off as a surprise: several episodes ago they said they were no longer able to revive people after creating the Black Sky, right? So it almost feels like cheating, but since we’d never gotten a timeline on when they lost that ability, they were able to sneak this one last revival in. The decision to bring him back works though; now the Defenders have to overcome the full force of the Hand.
2. Jessica Henwick gets one of the best scenes of the episode, breaking down as she talks to Claire about her time working under the Hand. It felt out of character at first, as in Iron Fist she seemed like she was dealing with this issue fairly well–better than Danny does with airplanes, at least–but as she explained herself, it started to click.
For someone that grew up an orphan, it must have been hell to have this organization that gave her a life, a family, and a sense of purpose suddenly revealed as not only not what she believed it was, but something far more sinister and destructive. Then to have a person she looked up to more than anyone else in the whole world revealed to be using her—that would have ripped up anyone. There’s a good story to be written on what it must feel like to break free from a dangerous cult, and I hope we get a “Daughters of the Dragon” series one day to focus on it.
3. One thing I really enjoyed this episode was how both the Defenders and the Hand began to subtly mirror each other. Both teams were finally united this episode (well, for the most part) and despite this theoretically meaning they should both be at their strongest, instead both teams started to suffer dissension in the ranks. On the Defenders’ side, Matt hiding his relationship with Elektra finally came back to cause him grief, making it impossible for the team to trust him as he put their lives at risk by recklessly chasing after Elektra instead of fighting with the rest of the team.
And back with the Hand, after several episodes of Alexandra bossing everyone around, it seems they’ve become fed up with following her “absolute” control, especially after one of her missions leads to Sowande being captured, Murakami nearly being killed, and the Black Sky being revealed to be not quite the blank slate everyone thought she was. To me, this was the more fascinating part. In modern storytelling, heroes tend to argue all the time, while the villains can often come off as a monolith, constantly agreeing and doing whatever it takes to win.
This time, instead of that, we got to see how their varying motivations could lead to disagreements. From Madame Gao and Bakuto’s differing approaches to how they treat their underlings, to learning that Alexandra is actually not a citizen of K’un Lun, this is probably the most development these villains have gotten since the Marvel Netflix project began.
4. Somehow, after Luke gets clocked by a truck, he manages to capture White Hat/Sowande off-screen–continuing the trend of characters always being the most effective when the camera’s not on them and writers don’t have to explain how they accomplished a thing. Sowande spends the rest of the episode captured by the Defenders while they pump him for information.
But since our heroes are, as usual, too busy fighting amongst themselves to pay attention to what’s going on, we get our episodic dose of Danny being an idiot. Managing to free himself, Sowande immediately goes for the Iron Fist, since he’s the key to what the Hand seeks.
Now after multiple episodes of everyone getting to look cool and do cool things, you’d think this would lead to at best Danny easily putting him down and at worst a really strong fight scene between the two, right? Nope! Instead, it takes Sowande barely a few seconds to incapacitate him and put a blade to his neck. Danny’s moment to shine will come (I hope), but it is not this day. Especially since Stick proves he’s the most useful member of the team and decapitates the guy.
5. After Black Sky and Murdock throw down at the beginning of the episode, Matthew reminds her of her name, which leads to her hesitating to kill him and instead attacking Murakami. She still seems rather “gone” at first, but by the end of the episode, she’s abandoned Alexandra’s home and found her way to Matt’s apartment.
The scene starts out pretty eerily at first, watching her caress her blade while she looks around his place–it feels like you shouldn’t be sure if she’s trying to kill him or if she just wanted to return to the one place she remembered. It’s not until she lies down on Matt’s bed and curls up that you realize she’s starting to regain her sense of self. Could Elektra be about to change sides? That feels a little too easy, especially with the Hand now down its fourth member–but stranger things have happened and there are only three episodes left.