Among Marvel fans, one of the complaints lobbied against the Netflix shows is that they don’t really connect to the larger movie universe. Sure, the "Incident" gets awkwardly referenced as if it weren’t a massive alien invasion, and from time to time someone says something about a “green guy,” but for the most part these shows seemingly operate on their own. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has only had the smallest of nods as the original home of the Dogs of Hell biker gang.
What the Netflix shows have done well, however, is build their own mythology and cast of characters. With each new show, the people behind the scenes have grown more comfortable connecting each series together and providing minor crossovers to make it feel as if everything’s happening in the same world. While some of these connections simply amount to Easter eggs, many of them act as threads slowly drawing the individual shows and characters together. We’ve heard Danny Rand is the one who eventually brings the street-level heroes together, and after everything season one of his show laid out, it’s not hard to see a path from Iron Fist to The Defenders.
Claire Temple, who many consider the Night Nurse despite Marvel’s claims otherwise, is naturally the most obvious connection. She’s popped up on every show so far and has met each of the future Defenders and their various allies. While her connection to Jessica Jones is perhaps the most tenuous given their limited interactions, she’s intimately familiar with Matt Murdock, Danny Rand, and of course, Luke Cage. A call to arms from any one of them could be what it takes for Claire to pull them all together, but it’ll likely start with Danny.
Despite her relationships with Matt and Luke, Claire and Danny spend a lot of time together. What’s more, Iron Fist is the show where Claire moves past the person who patches up the heroes to a bonafide fighter herself. Thanks to her time fighting with Danny and Colleen Wing, it’s not hard to imagine her wanting to continue her ascension as someone who doesn’t just rub elbows with those who are special, but joins the fight herself. Like Colleen, she doesn’t have any special powers, but her empathy, intelligence, and growing skills on the battlefield make her the natural choice to be the Nick Fury to these street-level Avengers.
Though she may have first turned up on Jessica Jones as our hero’s favorite frenemy, the Hogarth of the comics is actually tied most closely Danny Rand. After a brief stopover on season two of Daredevil, she finally joined forces with the Iron Fist and provided the shows with another throughline. A recent set video showed the Defenders breaking into a building and stealing what look to be blueprints. Given the supposed corporate nature of Sigourney Weaver’s villain on The Defenders, it wouldn’t surprise us if Hogarth’s expertise was needed to find dirt or information.
On top of that, Jessica Jones so far has the weakest connection to any of the Defenders besides Luke. By having some of the other Defenders seek out Jeri's help with surveillance or information, we could see her turn to Jessica as a means to uncover that dirt. Once the P.I. gets brought into the fold, it's not hard to imagine her connections to Luke and Claire furthering strengthening her resolve to see the fight through to the end.
Ever since Madame Gao first appeared on Daredevil as a member of the cabal that was buying up real estate, many have assumed she may be the Crane Mother from the comics. On the page, she’s the ruler of K’un-Zi, another of the cities of heaven along with K’un-Lun. She also has ties to the Iron Fist, and wields mysterious power. One of our earliest Easter eggs in Daredevil came courtesy of her heroin operation, which teased the symbol of the Steel Serpent. While this at first seemed like a nod to Iron Fist’s greatest rival, the events over the years have brought up another possibility.
Throughout season 2 of Daredevil and the first season of Iron Fist, we learned that Gao was actually tied to the Hand. When you factor in all of the mysterious real estate deals they’ve been involved in that have yet to really pay off, all signs point to Shadowland. In the comics, this story involves Daredevil becoming the leader of the Hand and building a sort of fortress as his base and a prison for his enemies right in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. While this would likely be changed somewhat, it’s been the leading theory over the years as to the real estate deals and the Hand’s plan.
Considering the power of the combined Defenders and their allies, it’s hard to imagine one Kingpin-like villain posing a threat. Therefore, the idea that something more mystical is on the horizon makes for a much more realistic reason to bring the gang together. We’ve heard that only Danny understands the true threat facing them, and given the various cliffhangers from Iron Fist, it seems clear that something in his wheelhouse is on the way.
It’s likely that Weaver’s character will be tied up with Gao, who will also bring the Hand and rope in Davos and Joy Meachum. In fact, it’s highly likely that her power will be what upgrades Davos to the Steel Serpent, causing him to take her augmented Shou-Lao symbol as his own. From there, Shadowland could erupt in New York, forcing the whole team together in an effort to fight off a horde of ninjas and other mystical threats. Even more intriguing, is the fact that Danny says his training in K'un-Lun was under the Order of the Crane Mother. While this could simply be a nod to the character from the comics, it could also signal that Gao is more tied to Danny and his powers than he realizes.
The seeds are all planted for the various Defenders to get pulled together to face a threat bigger than themselves. While it seems safe to assume something mystical will be the ultimate threat, having an enemy that requires the intersection of the law and corporate worlds as well provides the perfect opportunity to bring characters like Matt and Jessica into the fold. When you add in connections to Jeri, Claire, and even Karen Page, plus a shared hatred of the Hand, it’s easy to see how each of the Defenders could get roped into whatever scheme is afoot. From there, each of their natural instincts to do good will compel them to work together and get to the root of whatever is affecting their city and communities. Considering the show just wrapped filming, we should know more soon enough about the future of The Defenders.
Season 1 of Iron Fist is now streaming on Netflix along with Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, Jessica Jones Season 1, and Luke Cage Season 1. The Defenders arrives sometime this summer, with The Punisher coming later in the year. Premiere dates for the newest seasons of Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage have not yet been revealed.