Defenders: 15 Things You Didn't Know About The Show's Villains

If you’ve finished your binge of Netflix’s The Defenders, you know that Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra proves a pretty significant threat to the newly united superteam. One of the leaders of The Hand, the criminal organization that has already popped up in Daredevil and Iron Fist, Alexandra and her cohort of supervillains are still a fairly mysterious bunch. It’s time we learn a little bit more about where they came from.

This article will contain spoilers for all eight episodes of The Defenders, so read on at your own peril. Seriously, if you don’t want to know what happens, get out now.

Even though The Hand may seem like it’s been defeated, it’s still important to figure out exactly where they came from. Although it seems like the group is down for the count, there’s still a real possibility that we haven’y seen the last from The Hand.

The Defenders did quite a bit of work to explain the origins of the ancient organization, and how exactly their supernatural powers work. Alexandra and the other members are centuries old, and they’ve lived a lot of life in that time. Now it’s time to discover who they are.

Here are 15 Things You Didn't Know About The Defenders' Villains.

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15 The Hand Could Still Return

It seems like The Hand meets a pretty definitive end at the conclusion of the first season of The Defenders. Most of its founding members are dead, and while Elektra could have survived her fight with Daredevil in the same manner that Daredevil himself did, she would be working with a fairly depleted organization.

In speaking with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Marco Ramirez said he wanted this to be an end to this chapter of The Hand’s story, but wouldn’t say they won’t ever return.

Well, in the Marvel world — and as Jeph Loeb, the Marvel TV head, would say — in the comic-book world, you can always find a way. The story finds a way, so who knows?” Ramirez said. Ramirez is wise not to close any doors on the future of Marvel TV, but it does seem like he is fairly sure that The Hand won’t return - at least not in the form we saw them in The Defenders.

14 Elektra's Taken Control of The Hand in the Comics

Daredevil Elektra The Hand

We see Elektra wrest control of The Hand away from Alexandra in the sixth episode of the The Defenders, but this isn’t exactly a first for the character, especially if you look at her comic book history.

Elektra was a leader of The Hand in the comics, and has also been a member at various points throughout the her history. During one iteration of Elektra’s leadership, it was discovered after her death that this version of the character was actually a Skrull - a shapeshifting extraterrestrial that had assumed Elektra’s form.

There’s also a comic book plotline in which Elektra dies fighting The Hand and is resurrected to fight on their side, eventually becoming their leader. This plotline closely mirrors the events of The Defenders, and could certainly have served as a source of inspiration for the show’s writing team. 

13 Alexandra's Costumes Suggest Her Age

Prior to the release of The Defenders, the show’s costume designer Stephanie Maslansky was probably a bit too candid about the way Alexandra’s clothes are designed to speak to her character. In speaking with the International Business Times, Maslansky let slip that Alexandra is the leader of The Hand, and she’s also pretty old. “I think that she’s clearly a baddie, and she’s the head of an ancient organization which is grounded in the comics. I hope that her wardrobe reflects that kind of ancientness,” Maslansky said.

Maslansky also said that each of the Defenders had a clear color palette, and she wanted Alexandra to have one too. The show suggests that her palette consists largely of white, gold, and black, which may reflect her age as well.

Maslansky might have let a bit too much slip when she revealed Alexandra’s age and her role within The Hand, but she also gave audiences some interesting tidbits about the way Alexandra’s wardrobe reflects those things. 

12 Sowande Might be Inspired by Yutaka

Although this is far from certain, Sowande, the leader of the African faction of the Hand, may be based on Yutaka, who is the leader of that faction in the comics. There are several distinct differences between Sowande and Yutaka, including their appearances. Sowande favors a cowboy hat and boots, whereas Yutaka wore a demon mask in the comics.

Still, the similar roles that the two characters play in the story has led to speculation that Sowande is at the very least inspired by Yutaka. The show’s creators may have wanted to play with and update the character from the comics, and gave him a new name to go along with his new look. Not much is known about the origins of Yutaka, which might explain why the showrunners decided to recreate the character from scratch.

Sowande might not resemble Yutaka physically, but they serve similar roles, which means the showrunners were faithful to the comics in some small way.

11 Alexandra's Many Names

We learn in The Defenders that Alexandra isn’t the first name Weaver’s character has assumed over the course of her different resurrections.

The names Alexandra has assumed have each been distinct, but they all begin with the letter “A,” which suggests that she may have a certain fondness for the letter. Other names mentioned include Audrey Thompson, Abigail King, Angelica Fletcher, and Alberta Davis.

While these names seem designed as Easter eggs for fans, most fans have been unsuccessful at uncovering anything of real significance. Like most things about Alexandra’s character, these other names seem to have been made up completely for the TV series, which will surely infuriate many fans who want to find some deeper meaning inside of them.

Sometimes there is no deeper meaning, though. Easter eggs are often delightful for those that uncover what they mean, but sometimes a character is just obsessed with names that start with “A.”

10 Madame Gao Could be a Nod to the Crane Mother

Madame Gao from Netflix and Crane Mother from Marvel Comics

Although Madame Gao herself doesn’t have an origin in the comic books, many suspect that her character may be at least partially inspired by Crane Mother, a leader of one of The Legendary Cities of Heaven who interacts with Iron Fist in the comics. Although Gao’s role is quite different from that of Crane Mother, there has been speculation since Gao appeared in Daredevil and Iron Fist that she was at least partially based on the character.

The Defenders added more fuel to that particular fire when it showed Gao adopting the Crane poise right before she starts to fight in the series. Gao has often been a silent presence during her time in the Marvel TV universe, but she’s always been imposing, and her arc over the course of each series suggests that she’s one of the smarter criminals in the show’s history. She seems to understand how to survive, until she finally perishes at the end of The Defenders.

9 Istanbul? Constantinople?

We get a sense pretty early on in the series that Alexandra has a history that stretches far beyond a normal human life. One of the first clues about her age comes when she makes a slip and refers to Istanbul as Constantinople, a gaffe that suggests that Alexandra was around before the city was renamed. Istanbul developed as a name for the city centuries ago, but many in the West continued to refer to it as Constantinople until the early part of the 20th century.

That gives us a pretty wide range for exactly how old Alexandra and the rest of the founding members of The Hand are. They could be just a little over 100 years old, or over 500 years old. The show leaves it ambiguous, but this slip-up does make it clear that Alexandra and the rest of the five fingers have led unnaturally long lives.

Of course, we learn more about how The Hand has managed to cheat death with such regularity later on in the series, but this small slip-up is key in helping us figure out exactly how old they really are.

8 Bakuto is a Character from the Comics

Most of the fingers who founded The Hand aren’t directly based on comic characters. Bakuto is, though, and he shares a name with his comic book counterpart. His storyline began in Daredevil #505, and it only lasted for a handful of issues. As is the case in the comics, Bakuto is the leader of the South American branch of The Hand, and the other leaders inside the organization attempt to orchestrate his downfall.

Although Alexandra gets the brunt of the screen time in The Defenders, each of the five fingers gets a chance to make an impressions, and for many, these impressions aren’t based on anything from the comic book. Although the story of The Defenders is certainly inspired by the lore of the comics, and the heroes are comic book characters, Bakuto is one of the few members of The Hand who also comes from the comics.

Amidst a roster of villains that were made up for the show, it was nice for comic fans to see at least one familiar face.

7 Alexandra's an Original Character

Alexandra in The Defenders

Although The Defenders originated in Marvel comics, Alexandra did not. Instead, Weaver’s character was created specifically for The Defenders translation onto the screen. Fans have been scrambling for weeks to figure out whether Alexandra was simply a pseudonym for some previously established comic book character, but those who have seen The Defenders all the way through know that the character is truly an original creation.

Although some fans may have been disappointed by the character’s disconnection from the world of the comics, Alexandra’s originality speaks to the import that Sigourney Weaver brings to every character she plays. Weaver didn’t need to rely on preexisting stories to define her character; she was able to do it from scratch, and create someone who brings a level of sophistication to the world that feels new and fresh.

Alexandra may not please all fans, but the decision to create someone new for Weaver to play gave her a chance to create an iconic character in her own right.

6 The Hand Could Be Hydra Reincarnated

HYDRA Shield

We know that the Marvel television shows exist in the same universe as the Marvel films, and we also know that Hydra had a big moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Cap discovered that Hydra had infiltrated a huge section of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hydra seems to be dormant in the world of Marvel films, at least for now, but there are some suggestions that The Hand is some sort of reincarnation of the organization.

This reincarnation might not be literal, but The Hand’s philosophy and structure are certainly reminiscent of Hydra’s. Of course, Colleen Wing also refers to the organization as a snake whose head needs to be cut off before it gets too powerful, which certainly sounds like the story of the Hydra.

The Hand’s desire to accumulate power and influence is certainly similar to The Hand’s, although the two organizations do differ in what they’re accumulating that power for, and the scale on which they’re operating.

5 Alexandra Wants to Remake the World

 Alexandra isn’t the kind of villain who’s interested in destroying the world. She's a real person, which makes her much more compelling. Part of the fun of each of the villains in the Netflix Marvel shows has been their smaller scales. These people are still criminals, but they’re ground-level operators who aren’t terribly dissimilar from businessmen. They have plans, sure, but none of them have really been looking for world domination.

That’s also true of Alexandra, who sees a lot of beauty in humanity, but emphasizes her own survival above all else. Sigourney Weaver emphasized to Entertainment Weekly that this story is about normal characters, which was important to her. These characters are regular people who have a couple of very important gifts, but they’re not superheroes, and they don’t jump around in boots and capes,” Weaver said. They’re not trying to stave off the apocalypse. They’re just trying to save one corner of their city.  

4 The Hand's Ninjas Can Slow Their Heart Rates

Nobu in Speak of the Devil

We learned in the second season of Daredevil that the ninjas employed by The Hand have a unique ability that makes them a difficult opponent for Matt Murdock. The Hand’s ninjas can slow their heart rates, and since Daredevil is blind, that makes tracking their movements with his incredibly sensitive hearing quite difficult.

There are certainly many things about The Hand that feel almost supernatural, and the ability these ninjas have to slow their heart rate feels like it could be one of the organization's otherworldy qualities.

Of course, there are plenty of things in every Marvel TV series that have somewhat mystical origins, from the Iron Fist to The Hand’s ability to perform resurrections. The ninjas' ability to slow their heart rates could also be a purely physical phenomenon, though, even if it’s one that seems tailor-made to make Daredevil’s job harder.

3 Alexandra's the only leader the Hand's ever had

We learned about the origins of The Hand in The Defenders, and about the pivotal role that Alexandra played in its creation. The five founding members of The Hand are all ancient, but Alexandra also serves as the group’s leader. It's fascinating to consider the fact that, despite its age, The Hand has remained under the same leadership for all of its existence.

In fact, what we see in The Defenders is a turning point for the organization as much as it is one for the show’s heroes. The original members of The Hand are finally confronted with their own mortality, and their quest to keep themselves alive is ultimately the thrust of the plot.

The demise of many of The Hand’s leaders, including Alexandra, also represents a fundamental shift for an organization that has presumably functioned the same way for centuries. Alexandra was a founder of The Hand, but she and most of the other founding members are no more.

2 It All Began in K'un Lun

Iron Fist - Danny in K'un Lun

K’un Lun has already been mentioned in Iron Fist, but the location is even more important for those who have seen The Defenders. According to Stick, the origins of The Hand can be traced back to K’un Lun, an ancient city where The Hand originally learned to harness their life force. The five fingers of The Hand were elders in K’un Lun, but their desire to achieve eternal life eventually led to their banishment from the city, and to the foundation of The Hand.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of K’un Lun, the heavenly city that exists in another dimension and only appears on Earth once every 15 years. Danny Rand trained in the city, and returned to New York to fight The Hand on orders from the K'un Lun elders.

Like the many dimensions in Doctor Strange, K’un Lun exists in a world that’s entirely separated from our own, and it’s filled with magic that seems strange to those in this world. The Hand tried to use this magic to perpetuate their own survival, and eventually paid an enormous price to achieve this end.

1 Sigourney Weaver Doesn't See Alexandra as a Villain

Marvel's The Defenders - Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra

In interviews promoting the show, Sigourney Weaver was clear about her interpretation of the character. Alexandra doesn’t see herself as a bad person, and Weaver told Entertainment Weekly that she’s more of an adversary for the Defenders than a nemesis. Most successful actors try to find the humanity in every character they portray, and that’s exactly what Weaver did with Alexandra.

“In many ways, she’s an admirable person,” Weaver told Entertainment Weekly. She also said that Alexandra had never come across four people who care so deeply about their city, and found the Defenders charming for that reason. Even though they end up on a collision course with one another, Weaver explains that Alexandra is actually the kind of character who finds much to love in the Defenders.

Alexandra may not survive through the entirety of The Defenders, but she's survived as long as she has through sheer grit, and Weaver sympathizes with that desire to survive, even if she doesn't condone Alexandra's methods.


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