SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for first four episodes of The Defenders, streaming now on Netflix.
Operating largely on the periphery of the Marvel Comics universe since 1982, the Chaste stepped out of the shadows two years ago, alongside Matt Murdock’s prickly mentor Stick, on the first season of Daredevil. An ancient order founded solely to oppose the Hand, and prevent it from deploying its ultimate weapon the Black Sky, the Chaste has battled the apocalyptic ninja cult through the centuries, and across the globe. But by the third episode of Marvel’s The Defenders, that battle of good versus evil has come to an end — and evil has won.
The Netflix miniseries opens in the sewers of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where a months-long quest by Danny Rand (Finn Jones) and Colleen Wing to hunt down the Hand encounters a roadblock when they’re unable to save from an assassin’s blade a man believed to possess valuable information. It’s only a sign of what’s to come, as the man turns out to be a member of the Chaste, and his mysterious killer a resurrected Elektra (Elodie Yung), now the Black Sky.
That assassination is part of the Hand’s worldwide extermination of the Chaste, which has left a bloody trail of bodies all the way to Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen. “Everyone else on your side is dead,” Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, the enigmatic leader of the Hand, tells a captive Stick (Scott Glenn) in the second episode. That’s seemingly confirmed by the massacre discovered by Danny and Colleen at a New York City bladesmith’s shop, the young men from Harlem enlisted to clean up such scenes, and by Stick himself. “They’re all dead now,” he later tells the assembled would-be Defenders. “Every one, except me.”
We’re left to wonder how, after a centuries-long rivalry, that Hand was able to extinguish the Chaste in one fell swoop. Perhaps the feat required the intervention of the Black Sky, newly embodied by the resurrected Elektra. Or maybe Alexandra’s organization had been toying with its ancient foes all this time, and was merely waiting for the right time — on the eve of hatching its mysterious, earth-shaking plot in New York — to stomp out the Chaste. Whatever the case, we’re given little time to dwell on the reason, because at the same time as Stick delivers the news of the Chaste’s demise, he delivers a revised history for its order.
Just as The Defenders rewrites the origin of the Hand — its founders are no longer East Asian warlords who unlocked the secret to immortality but rather exiled elders of K’un-Lun — it recasts the story of the Chaste. The order was said on Daredevil to trace its roots back to a boy who rose up centuries ago to defeat the Hand’s best warriors following the slaughter of everyone in his village. Known simply as the Chaste, he began to recruit and train fighters for his crusade, which continued into the present day.
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