In the run up to Netflix's The Defenders, the big team-up crossover of Marvel and Netflix's various solo series, one of the biggest mysteries was the role and true identity of Sigourney Weaver's character Alexandra Reid. Ever since Weaver was revealed at San-Diego Comic Con 2016 to be playing the main antagonist to New York's finest, speculation among fans was rampant as to who she is. Co-showrunner Marco Ramirez went on record at the time stating she was an original character, fueling discussion further - was Alexandra truly original, or would she secretly turn out to be a villain from the comics?
As it would happen, Ramirez wasn't lying. Reid is an original creation, with no comic counter-part she bears any kind of strong resemblance to. However, she's an original character within a very well-known framework: The Hand. The ancient, mystical group whose criminal exploits and evil ninjas have been plaguing the streets of Hell's Kitchen and greater New York City for years, The Hand have been the big bad the Defenders has been building to since season one of Daredevil. Gradually, more and more of the mysterious organization has been unveiled across the various series, with it all coming to head now as Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist face off with Alexandra and the other four members to save New York City.
Keeping with the theme set by Wilson Fisk in Daredevil season one, Alexandra Reid is a woman of high regard and exemplary taste. She enjoys private musical classical performances, for which she pays lavishly, and she eats at high end establishments with the restaurant all too herself. She's very much ingrained in the behind-closed-doors, higher-class hierarchy each of the Defenders has been up against in different ways across their solo series. She's also, as we see in her introductory scene, dying from incurable organ-failure. Her and the rest of the Hand have been keeping themselves alive unnaturally for centuries, and her body has begun to wear out through very extended old age.
The Hand are a small group of five beings at the core of a much larger enterprise. Across centuries and around the world, they've been shaping history to their own ends to survive and prosper, with Alexandra at the head of the table. Alexandra is their leader, guiding them towards their manifest destiny as they attempt to preserve themselves in eternal life.
Alexandra and The Hand formed while they trained together in K'un Lun, the antediluvian city of eastern mysticism that took in and bestowed the power of the Iron Fist on Danny Rand. They were banished from the lost city after they perverted the teachings there to gain immortality. From then, they engaged in an ever-spreading web of criminal exploits and underhanded dealings in order to influence people of power and opportunities, providing cover as they continue their attempt to live forever. In order to avoid death, Reid and the other fingers of The Hand – Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), Bakuto (Ramón Rodriguez), Sowande (Babs Olusanmokun) and Murakami (Yutaka Takeuchi) – have been trawling the planet for places of mystic interest that contain dragon bone to create an elixir that, if used regularly, can prevent dying indefinitely. They masquerade as various companies and corporations, transferring assets around in an ongoing front with Reid as the recurring CEO. Stick, whose rival group the Chaste have been battling the Hand for decades, points to two major historical events, the volcano in Pompeii and the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, as having been caused by the Hand to access these fossils.
New York City is their latest target – hinted at to be one of the last sources available - with Danny Rand's Iron First needed to access it, placing the to-be Defenders in direct opposition to Alexandra's plan to destroy the city.
Elektra's return is entirely thanks to Alexandra. Reid convinces the Hand to allow her to use the last of their supply of their miracle death-cure to bring Elektra back from the dead as a weapon, dubbed the 'Black Sky.' It's known that the Hand have been hunting for a 'Black Sky' for a while, after Stick murdered a young boy in order to prevent from being used as one by the organization in Daredevil season 1.
Elektra is brought back to life a shell of her former self, and Alexandra trains Matt Murdock's former lover and turns her into a subservient assassin to the do the Hand's bidding and assist in kidnapping Danny Rand. Once the Defenders get involved, however, things get complicated, and hearing Matt say her name triggers memories of her former life that cause Elektra to doubt her new masters. To regain Elektra's loyalty, Alexandra tells her about how her daughter died from cancer, which was the catalyst for Alexandra journeying to K'un Lun. Reid sees Elektra as a replacement for the child she couldn't resurrect, and the whole idea of 'Black Sky' is therefore a deeply personal venture for her.
It's implied that Alexandra is the most powerful of the Hand, but unlike the others, we never see her in active combat aside from how she handles Elektra's attack after her resurrection. However, she meets the threat of any retaliation from a fellow member without a hint of fear, even as three of them begin to challenge her. She's obviously brilliant, demonstrating keen knowledge of musical history and speaking other languages on a whim, having made good use of the many extra centuries to study her linguistics and keep up on the arts. Like Wilson Fisk, she's obviously evil, but also sympathetic and complicated. She's a grieving mother as much as she is a dominant matriarch and as an adversary, and she's the kind of powerful challenge New York's Defenders may need to get used to.