It’s almost here. The Defenders is at long last upon us, and the hype hasn’t been this palpable since 2012’s The Avengers hit theaters. Despite the nebulous (at best) tie to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Netflix’s experiment has paid off in spades with a series of intelligently written, character driven dramas. The ultra violent, gritty New York has become a fan-favorite, with a grounded tone that Marvel’s big budget films have had trouble reconciling. Fans have come out in droves for the experiment, hailing them as some of the finest hours of television in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With The Defenders, the popular characters are united against the growing threat of The Hand, a clandestine ninja cult which has been operating within New York since the series started with 2015’s Daredevil and ran through much of the following seasons. There have been 65 episodes of Marvel’s Netflix cinematic universe to date, and The Defenders is the culmination of almost three years of storytelling. The Battle For New York starts August 18, but you’d be forgiven if you forgot a few details. Don’t worry, though, because CBR has you covered. Here are 15 things you need to remember before you binge Marvel’s The Defenders.
15. LUKE AND JESSICA HAVE BEEN APART SINCE JESSICA JONES
Unlike the other series, Jessica Jones pulled double duty by introducing viewers to the next Netflix hero, Luke Cage. There was friction to say the least, with Jessica having killed Luke’s lover while controlled by Kilgrave, but in a nod to their comics’ relationship (and eventual marriage), the two had a whirlwind affair. That came to an end when Luke, having been controlled by Kilgrave for days and nearly dying, fled back to Harlem without saying a word.
The Defenders will be the first time Luke and Jessica have seen each other since the finale, and Luke likely doesn’t know about the final showdown between Jessica and Kilgrave. Jessica also doesn’t know that Luke’s presently with Claire Temple. The reunion between the two is almost certain to be fraught with drama and more than a little heartbreak.
14. LUKE IS STILL IN PRISON
When Luke fled back to Harlem, he laid low for a while. As the series went on and it was revealed that he’d been wrongfully incarcerated for years, one of the story threads became about exonerating Luke. A series of documents were introduced that proved Luke was innocent, but he believed they were lost during the fight with Diamondback, and the season ended with Luke returning to a Savannah penitentiary.
We know from the final moments of Luke Cage that the files still exist, but we also know from Iron Fist that Claire is still receiving prison letters from Luke. The first Defenders trailer implies Luke is in prison, and a recent one seems to indicate Foggy plays a role in his eventual release, but Marvel’s Netflix shows have mastered the art of the slow burn, and there’s no telling when Luke will be getting out.
13. K’UN-LUN IS WITHOUT A DEFENDER
Iron Fist’s back half focused on the relationship between Danny and K’un-Lun as he finds himself at odds with The Hand and the appearance of his former best friend, Davos. By series’ end, having avenged the death of his family and reclaimed his company, Danny chose to embrace his role as the Iron Fist and return to K’un-Lun with his lover, Colleen Wing.
Danny was surprised to discover K’un-Lun had been attacked, the entrance to the city defenseless without an Iron Fist to protect it. Danny is noticeably gutted by the revelation, and unable to return as the gates are closed. The state of K’un-Lun is up in the air, and while it may not be addressed in The Defenders, it’s almost certain to take a toll on Danny’s mental state.
12. MATT JUST REVEALED HIS IDENTITY TO KAREN
The second season of Daredevil feels like it was forever ago, and it ended on a hell of a note. Though the season wasn’t as well received as its predecessor, it still told a solid story as the personal and professional life of Matt Murdock fell apart around him. The introduction of Elektra and the presence of The Hand did nothing to help Matt as his relationship with Karen Page ended before it even began.
But one of season 2’s most memorable cliffhangers comes when Matt confronts Karen at the office, pulling his cowl out of a bag and confessing he’s Daredevil. Fans have been on the edge of their seats ever since, waiting to see how the reveal would affect the relationship. The Defenders is the first time we’ve seen Matt or Karen since, and there’s no telling where the two will start off the story.
11. FOGGY AND MATT ARE ON THE OUTS
“Nelson v. Murdock” might be one of the best episodes of Daredevil’s freshman season, and for good reason. Charlie Cox and Elden Henson play off each other as friends and rivals excellently, and it was highlighted throughout season 2 as the partnership and friendship between Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson slowly dissolved.
By season 2’s finale, Matt’s future was up in the air as he became preoccupied with The Hand. Foggy was gone, having taken an offer to join Jeri Hogarth’s law firm. While he didn’t appear in Iron Fist, Foggy turned up in a recent clip on Twitter, which implies he has some role in Luke’s eventual release from prison as a member of Hogarth’s law firm. Will Foggy and Matt have any kind of contact when Daredevil and Luke Cage team up in Hell’s Kitchen?
10. STICK ISN’T A MENTOR (HE’S AN A*HOLE)
Stick’s appearance in the trailers for The Defenders is clearly meant as sort of a rally-the-troops moment. As he rattles descriptions of the heroes, it comes off as a rascally mentor appearing to lead the team into battle. But viewers should really remember his actions to date because Stick is a tremendous, unforgivable asshole.
The comic version of Stick was always portrayed as gruff, rude and unforgiving, but the version we see on Marvel’s Daredevil is in another league entirely. Killing The Black Sky may have been an ends serve the means moment, but it doesn’t change the fact that Stick was ready and willing to kill a child from the get-go. Season 2 only further confirmed Stick’s nature as a monstrous asshole, manipulating a young Elektra and eventually even ordering her death.
9. THE PUNISHER HAS HIS OWN THING GOING ON
Daredevil introduced one of the better on-screen interpretations of Frank Castle, setting up his origin masterfully. Almost a direct adaptation of the character as seen in the modern classic “Welcome Back, Frank,” Jon Bernthal brought a violent edge and seemingly superhuman toughness that the character was missing, mixed with a grounded sense of humanity.
Is Frank turning up in The Defenders? A Japanese trailer features Frank as a stinger, declaring he “got here just in time,” but that’s all we’ve got. Though it’s long been rumored, it’s not yet been confirmed, as Bernthal has been busy filming the first season of the next Marvel series, The Punisher. It’s likely he’ll show up to help the team in Hell’s Kitchen, but don’t be surprised if he only turns up for a few minutes, if at all.
8. ELEKTRA DIED (BUT SHE’S GETTING BETTER)
Elektra was a revelation for Daredevil. Introducing the Greek assassin to the live-action universe was a no-brainer, and her arc played out magnificently. Her story reaches its obvious logical conclusion, as any fan can tell you: impaled with her own weapon and left to die on a rooftop. Daredevil gets a lot of flack (and you could argue rightfully so) for how Matt’s girlfriends are treated, but Elektra’s death remains iconic years later.
But this is Elektra, and so resurrection is par for the course. The season ended with Elektra’s body recovered by The Hand and placed in one of the resurrection chambers seen earlier that season. And with the drop of the second Defenders trailer, we know she’s come back to life, but sided with The Hand. Elektra is likely under control of The Hand, but will it last? Or will one of The Defenders be forced to kill her for good to save the day?
7. JESSICA’S STILL REELING FROM KILGRAVE’S MURDER
David Tennant’s Kilgrave made viewers skin crawl with his terrifying depiction of a man who may as well be The Devil. Holding Jessica Jones under his mental sway for months before she believed he was dead and managed to escape, his return was truly terrifying and left Jessica with no choice but to break Kilgrave’s neck to prevent him from continuing his reign of terror…. or so she thought, anyway.
When season 2 of Jessica Jones was confirmed earlier this year, it was mentioned that Jones is still reeling from the final encounter with Kilgrave. Despite the resolution presented in the finale, it makes sense that Jessica’s existing PTSD is only compounded by having to take a life, even one as monstrous as Kilgrave’s. Don’t be surprised if this rears its head in The Defenders, and explains Jones’ even more irascible than normal attitude in the trailers.
6. IRON FIST AND DAREDEVIL: RAISED TO END THE HAND
As the Iron Fist, Danny Rand was trained with one goal in mind: destroy The Hand. Repeatedly telling everyone that he and The Hand are mortal enemies, Danny is more than willing to fight against them if he senses their presence, as evidenced in his own series and early Defenders trailer.
But don’t forget there’s another weapon trained to fight The Hand: Matt Murdock. Trained by Stick from childhood, Matt was intended to be a weapon of The Chaste who fought against The Hand, but refused this life and became a lawyer in New York. His actions as Daredevil have eventually brought him into conflict with The Hand, and are bringing him side-by-side with Iron Fist. Will the two become fast allies, or will the emotionally immature Iron Fist and the notoriously stubborn Daredevil find themselves at odds over their missions?
5. THE AVENGERS EXIST (SOMEWHERE)
It’s the first thing fans said when the Netflix series were announced: when do they cross over with the movies? Since then, Marvel has been pretty coy about the two diverse worlds and recently implied that the Netflix universe is set in its own world, separate from the films. It makes sense why the family friendly MCU films would be kept apart from the gritty and violent Netflix series, but Marvel can’t really deny the connection between the worlds.
You can go back to the first season of Daredevil and find the connection, as much of New York is still recovering from “the incident,” being the Chitauri attack on New York from The Avengers. Marvel will likely keep the two worlds separate for the time being, so don’t expect an Avenger to turn up while the Defenders fight, but don’t be surprised if there’s a reference or two.
4. NO ONE HAS BEATEN THE HAND
The Hand were a running theme throughout Daredevil and Iron Fist, and it’s notable that no one has managed to successfully fight them yet. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones have, obviously, not yet met them in any serious capacity. But both Matt and Danny have already suffered personal losses at the hands of, uh, The Hand.
With Elektra’s death and the possible destruction of K’un-Lun, The Hand have personal victories against Daredevil and Iron Fist. It’s so severe that in early Defenders trailers, Matt outright states “you can’t fight these guys.” There’s a psychological advantage from the get-go, and the numbers game isn’t going to help things. The added firepower of Jones and Cage may help them out, but going into Defenders the heroes do not have the best record against their rivals. In fact, they have faile don nearly every front.
3. LUGE CAGE IS A PUBLIC HERO
So far, only Daredevil has made a focused effort to protect his identity. Wanting to work both as Daredevil and as Matt Murdock, he donned his makeshift costume for much of season 1 before acquiring the proper costume. Outside of this, Jessica Jones maintains anonymity as a PI and rarely uses her powers in an outright public display, while Danny didn’t seem to care who knew about his Iron fist abilities.
But Luke Cage is in a completely different position now. Following his actions in Harlem, Luke became a publicly known and recognized figure, and his fight with Diamondback went viral enough on the Internet to land him back in prison. Out of all the Defenders, Luke is in the unique position of being easily recognized for his past heroics, which may hinder the group’s ability to function in the shadows.
2. WHAT DOES THE HAND’S HOLE MEAN?
There is literally a hole in the world. Introduced in Daredevil’s second season, The Hand’s mysterious plan for New York somehow involves a seemingly bottomless hole which even Matt’s senses couldn’t detect the end of. Matt and Elektra were unable to find the reasoning for the hole’s existence, though, as they were attacked by Hand ninjas.
Several trailers for Defenders seem to have sequences taking place around the Hole, including several big fights and one that appears to be Daredevil locked in combat with his fellow teammates. What’s the point of the giant hole in the ground? There’s a number of theories, most prominently that it’s some sort of access point for the demons The Hand are so fond of. Hopefully, we’ll finally get some answers soon.
1. IT’S NOT THE END
Just go ahead and brace yourself: The Defenders is probably going to end on a nail-biting cliffhanger. Only Daredevil’s first season had something resembling closure, but since then everything has been up in the air. Matt was distraught after Elektra’s death as The Hand remained in New York, Jessica Jones was falling apart after murdering Kilgrave, Luke Cage was sent back to prison and Danny Rand found K’un-Lun was gone.
The Defenders may be poised to wrap up the ongoing storyline of The Hand in New York, but don’t expect this to be a happy ending. The Punisher debuts soon, and new seasons of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist are in various stages of production as we speak. The Netflix universe is alive and well, and The Defenders is just the beginning of the next stages.
What are you most looking forward to from The Defenders? Let us know in the comments!
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