This week, Marvel TV will mirror the movie side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing some of its biggest characters together for an epic team-up. While TV crossovers are nothing new - especially when it comes to superheroes - The Defenders will unite multiple existing shows and characters to create a new series. Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) have thus far existed alongside one another in the MCU's version of New York without crossing paths (well, except for Jessica and Luke), but the growing threat of The Hand, along with a new enemy, will force them to come together as a team.
As exciting as the prospect is for fans, however, the culmination of so much pre-existing material can be daunting for those who have missed one of Marvel’s Netflix shows. And while The Defenders will certainly be enjoyable for those with no prior knowledge of the characters or plots, a recap might be in order for those who haven’t seen all of the shows or anyone just seeking a refresher.
Season 1 of Daredevil mostly established the world of the Netflix corner of the MCU and set up the most traditionally super-heroic Defender. In it, we’re introduced to a corner of New York City reeling from the alien invasion (a.k.a. "The Incident) that took place in The Avengers. Along the way, we learn of attorney Matt Murdock’s demons and the violent ways he exorcises them. Over the course of the season, he grows from the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen to a fully suited-up Daredevil.
We also meet the villainous Kingpin, but he’s unlikely to play a role in The Defenders. Still, he sets the template for the upcoming show’s villain Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). Both are criminals and entrepreneurs who see themselves as saviors—albeit ones who use destructive means to assist the city. Kingpin’s cabal also brings Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) into the world of the Defenders, a mysterious drug lord who will serve as a throughline for the series.
Finally, Matt’s best friend Foggy (Elden Henson) is introduced, alongside some other important supporting characters: small-time criminal Turk (Rob Morgan); Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie), a sounding board for Matt who connects him with his Irish Catholic faith; Stick (Scott Glenn), a blind warrior who trained Matt as a child; Claire (Rosario Dawson), a nurse who gets swept up in Matt’s crusade and personal life; and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), a woman with a dark past who initially joins Matt and Foggy's law firm as a secretary, but eventually finds herself working for the New York Bulletin as a reporter.
Season 2 of Daredevil expands each of these relationships while introducing the Punisher, Elektra, and the Hand. The Punisher won’t be along for the ride, but Elektra and the Hand will serve a major role in The Defenders. A former love of Matt’s, Elektra helped shape the nascent vigilante inside the future superhero. She returns years later as the Hand, a mysterious group of ninjas, set their sights on Hell’s Kitchen in a plot that began in season 1. Their leader Nobu is apparently able to resist death, which foreshadows Elektra’s murder and resurrection at the end of the season.
Prophesied to be the Black Sky, the Hand see Elektra as the ultimate weapon. We also learn that Madame Gao has a connection to the ninjas - and some powers of her own - and find out that Stick is hunting all of them thanks to the group he represents, the Chaste. After killing a potential Black Sky candidate in season 1, season 2 reveals that Stick actually raised and trained Elektra, much like he did for Matt.
The season also continues to drive Matt and Foggy further apart, thanks to the duplicity and violent lifestyle of the former. Meanwhile, Karen and Matt grow closer, with the season ending as the latter reveals his identity to the former. We also see Claire stand up to the Hand, which costs the heroic nurse her job and sends her back home to Harlem.
Airing between the two seasons of Daredevil, the story of Jessica Jones is much more straight-forward (well, as a straight-forward as a story about a super strong P.I. battling a mind-controlling sexual predator can be anyway). Focusing on the trauma of life after enslavement and sexual abuse, Jessica Jones is a dark character study lightened by the charismatic performances of Krysten Ritter and David Tennant as the hero and villain, respectively. Though Kilgrave will be back for season 2 of Jessica Jones, he won’t play into The Defenders. Instead, the P.I.’s skills and mysterious past will likely factor into the plot.
In Jessica Jones we also met supporting characters like Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Ann Moss), and Malcolm (Eka Darville). Trish is Jessica’s childhood best friend and has seen her at her best and worse. As the character closest to Jessica, she has ties to the hero’s past both in terms of her gaining her powers and being controlled by Kilgrave. Trish is also training to be a vigilante herself, mirroring her character Hellcat in the comics.
Malcolm, meanwhile, is a former junkie who lives in Jessica’s building. Once controlled by Kilgrave in his plans against Jessica, we last saw him helping her reignite her investigation business. Hogarth is a powerful lawyer who has a contentious relationship with Jessica. Thanks to her position, she’ll likely factor into the events that put Jessica and the Defenders on the trail of Alexandra.
Jessica Jones also introduced us to Luke Cage, a bartender with super-strength and unbreakable skin. Though Luke and Jessica have a brief relationship, it falls apart after Kilgrave forces the two to fight. Claire is able to show up and save Luke, before both characters head uptown on their own.