Spoilers for The Defenders.
The Hand has long been a threat in Netflix’s multiple Marvel series but now in The Defenders we know exactly how they came to power. Details about the mystical organization have been gradually revealed throughout Daredevil seasons 1 and 2 and Iron Fist, but in the series that unites the ninja warriors and super strong Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, their origins have been explained and. as expected, it begins in K’un-Lun.
The ancient “city of heaven” exists in another dimension and only appears on Earth every 15 years, accessible via a mountain range in Asia. The warrior monks who live their welcome people from all walks of life, races and cultures to join their community and learn their martial arts ways. Well before a young Danny Rand was taking in, Alexandra (the head of The Hand) went to K’un-Lun on a pilgrimage following the death of her daughter and learned their ways as well as meeting fellow pilgrims Madam Gao, Murakami, Sowande and Batuko. There they learned to fight, but as Stick explains to Matt Murdoch, Luke Cage and Danny Rand in episode 4, “Royal Dragon,” the five of them broke away from the elders and their teaching to follow a selfish path towards immortality:
“Centuries ago, millennia, it doesn’t matter, but a long time ago, the elders of ‘un-Lun gathered to study how to harness their chi. The energy of life itself. They wanted to use it to heal. But there were five heretics among them. people with darker intentions. They didn’t want to heal. They wanted immortality. Power. To never face death. To regenerate themselves again and again. The elders saw this as an aberration and so like Lucifer from heaven the five were banished from K’un-Lun forever. They became the five fingers of the Hand.”
Clearly, before they left K’un-Lun and went back to their separate places of birth, the five learned how to harness their chi in order to resurrect themselves after death, having discovered something that could help them do it. “The substance” they speak of is made from dragon bone which they mix with a blood-like mixture during resurrection ceremonies. We already knew there were dragons in the world thanks to Danny constantly telling people how he plunged his hand into the heart of Shou-Lao the Undying in order to gain the power of the Iron Fist, but until now no one – other than the Hand – knew of the elemental power of their bones.
We saw how they used “the substance” during episode 3, “Worst Behaviour,” when Alexandra brought Elektra back, using the last of it for the rebirth. It’s pretty bad timing for her given how not long after she discovers that she’s dying from a fatal disease, the event that kicks the series into action; it’s because of this fear of death that the leader of the Hand puts her co-founders and their minions to work in capturing the Iron Fist.
They need Danny to open a gateway deep below Midtown Manhattan that was sealed shut by a previous warrior. Inside are the remains of a dragon, and “the last known deposit of the substance on Earth“, which the Hand needs to continue their immortality. However, not every member is happy with the way Alexandra is going about things.
Murakami is the most vocal with his displeasure at the usage of their last bit of substance to resurrect Elektra, recognizing early on that “the Black Sky” was going to be a bit of a liability as she regained her memories. The pair has clearly endured an antagonistic relationship over the centuries, with him he revealing to Alexandra that he never wanted to leave K’un-Lun with her in the first place and that while her sole focus is on continued life, their’s is on returning to the sacred city.
It turns out they all have issues and, at some point, all five have tried to kill each other for power. But with the threat of ultimate death upon them, they managed to put their differences aside for the greater good of their immortality.
Sadly for Sowande, Batuka and Alexandra their lives were cut short with no hope for resurrection after their heads were chopped off. Alexandra’s misplaced faith in Elektra caused her own downfall, as her surrogate daughter stabbed her in the back with her sais in order to take control of the Hand. Later, it’s believed that Madame Gao and Murakami have died too; they are deep below the Midlands Financial Circle building, down with the dragon bones, when it is detonated and collapses in on itself. However, as Daredevil managed to get out alive, and we haven’t seen their dead bodies, there is always a chance they could be back for future solo series in the Netflix’s Marvel Universe – but will they be in charge of the Hand?
If Elektra got out alive like Matt – and the two remaining Hand founders – then she could still claim leadership of the organization. As the “Black Sky” she is probably the most deadly fighter in the world and could dispatch her opposition with ease. After killing Alexandra she assumed leadership of the Hand (something she’s done plenty of times before in the comic books), but given the ruthless nature of Gao and Murakami it’s safe to say they might not let go of their ancient ninja order without a fight. That is if they’re still alive.
We’ll just have to wait until the next solo superhero series is out (The Punisher in November) to see if the Hand is still a key player in New York’s criminal underworld.
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