After years of building through multiple shows, Marvel finally debuted their Defenders miniseries, bringing their street-level heroes together to fight the Hand. It was a fun if poorly paced ride that officially closed Phase 1 of the Netflix Marvel series. The ending sees a bevy of changes brought to our heroes’ world ahead of their upcoming solo seasons. Iron Fist seems set to take the place of a presumed-dead Daredevil, Elektra is evil(er), Jessica Jones is drinking slightly less, Luke Cage is back in Harlem, and more heroes are on the way. Hell, even Matt Murdoch’s mother Maggie (say that five times fast) was teased near the end.
The Defenders told a vague and complicated story that asked more than it answered, and as it ended, spent a great deal of time re-positioning their characters for their upcoming seasons and stories. Once the final credits rolled, it left us with a glut of questions about where these characters will pick up again and what Phase 2 is building toward. We binged and re-binged, and long the way, we found 15 Burning Questions After Season 1 Of The Defenders.
15 So...what was the plan all along?
The Defenders was extremely vague on the actual motivation of its villains. From what we gleaned, this was the plot: Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins Alexandra and the Hand use a Lazarus Pit the serum that keeps them immortal to resurrect Elektra to fulfill the Black Sky prophecy that will be…bad for people? In some way? Maybe?
The Hand used the hole in the ground they made to remove the bones of dragons. This is causing earthquakes throughout New York. Once New York is destroyed, K’un-Lun will return, or the Hand will be able to extend their lives again. Or something.
Okay, we’re not really sure what the plan was here or why any of it was happening. The Chinese restaurant scene was really fun, though, wasn’t it?
14 Is there any way to salvage Danny Rand?
To quote Reverend Lovejoy: “Short answer, ‘yes’ with an ‘if’; long answer, ‘no’ with a ‘but.’” The Defenders went out of its way to paint Danny in a better light than his own Iron Fist series did. He was more likable this time around, but would still, when the plot required it—or sometimes just for the sake of padding out the script—return to being petulant, whiny, and impulsive. Forcing him to grow up a bit by Daredevil telling him to “protect my city” definitely matures the character, but having so much of the plot rely on Danny Rand meant exposing us to too much of what Iron Fist did wrong with the character rather than using The Defenders to softly reboot the character. If we can be honest with ourselves for just a second, there probably wasn’t a Danny Rand scene where we didn't wish Colleen was in his place or that Jessica would snap and send him flying across the room.
The end of The Defenders does give us hope for Danny, but not much. Nice Batman-level brooding, though.
13 Are the Netflix series going darker now?
A group of dangerously powered characters get together and realize their enemies have gathered in one place. They plan on blowing up the building and letting them all die. Did you think we were talking about the Hand? Nope. This was the plan of the Defenders. The good guys. Their idea was to launch a terror attack in New York. Again. The good guys.
Most of the Defenders are in a darker place than they were before. Jessica is more nihilistic than she was before killing Purple Man. Luke Cage just got out of prison and is out of patience. Daredevil sulks unhappily through his non-superhero existence, and Iron First broods for eight straight episodes. While we are given little patches of hope toward the end (mostly for Jessica), there seems to be a much darker air to Marvel’s Netflix shows, even by their standards. If you’re getting tired of Marvel’s insistence to feature a quip every eight seconds, this could be the antidote. We don’t know if this is a sign of things to come, but we can dream.
12 Elektra Complex
We were all happy that Elektra was resurrected, but there are way too many questions surrounding her character. In a flashback during the miniseries, it was clear that she was with Stick in his vendetta against the Hand. She, of course, later killed Alexandra and became its leader, hoping to use Iron Fist to destroy New York. Why? We have no idea.
Elektra’s full heel turn definitely affected Daredevil; she made it clear that they would always be on opposite sides despite loving each other. In turn, he chose to die with her to make sure the Hand wouldn’t win and to, in some way, be with her in the only way their life choices would allow: death. As far as romantic gestures go, there have been worse, but we can’t think of any off the top of our heads.
With Daredevil season 3 going into production shortly, there are two major questions we have: did Elektra survive too? And how will Matt deal with the fallout of her resurrection, betrayal, and possible second death? Given how dark The Defenders was, we’re guessing he won’t be taking things in stride.
11 How will the Born Again adaptation be affected by The Defenders?
Like we said, The Defenders got dark. Recently, it was teased that Daredevil season 3 will adapt Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Born Again story, which is easily one of the darkest stories in the Daredevil oeuvre. Of course, the Netflix version is going to have to be different. In the comics’ version of Born Again, Ben Ulrich is alive, Karen Page is a heroin addict, and the Kingpin is at large. In the show, Ulrich’s dead, Karen’s doing fine, and the Kingpin is in jail.
Part of Born Again’s pathos came from Murdoch being isolated from everyone he loves as Kingpin’s machinations cause him to drift into paranoid instability. However, with Matt widely presumed dead, when we pick up with him in season 3, he’ll already be isolated, and with Kingpin in prison, he’s technically safer from Daredevil now than he was out in the world. However, with his friends just a phone call away, it’ll be interesting to see how Matt Murdoch ends up bottoming out in this version of the iconic comic arc.
10 Does anyone listen to Trish’s radio show?
Even the most ardent Ron & Fez fans must admit that, yes, video killed the radio star (and then smartphones and social media killed them both). But beyond that, who listens to Trish Talk? And what kind of show is it? We’ve seen Trish dispense advice. We’ve also seen it as a regular talk show. Now, it’s also a vaguely political news show where Trish babbles on about the earthquake with no other information other than that it happened. She then rips callers a new one for not agreeing with her version of events, which she can’t prove are correct because she doesn’t know anything more than anyone else.
By the end of the miniseries, Trish Talk then confirms the cover-up version of events about the earthquake and the destruction of the Midland Square building. So…it is a news program?
9 Is the Hand closed forever?
With Madame Gao being the last of the Hand to survive (we think? Murakami could have survived as well?) and with likely only a handful of their ninja army left standing, if we haven’t seen the last of the group forever, then it will still likely be a long time before they're ready to start making moves again. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be hearing from Ms. Gao. She’s closely tied to Danny Rand (and how gratifying was it to see an old lady kick his ass a little?) and has a much better understanding of his past than he does.
Toward the end of The Defenders, we got the indication that the questions we have about the Hand would be further explored in the second season of Iron Fist, though it’s unlikely they’ll again be the main threat the heroes face going into Phase 2.
8 Where is Mariah?
In the first episode, Claire references that Mariah has been keeping a low profile—like she’s practically disappeared. This coincides with another major Hand member, Sowande, recruiting young men from Harlem to work for the Hand, with the implication being that the Hand has centered crime in New York under their auspices in their final attempt at collecting the dragon bones so they can use their mystical earthquake machine. Or something. (Man, could somebody have tried to explain the plot?)
Luke Cage was actually concerned that Mariah was seemingly in hiding. Not only did this mean there was a new player making moves, but knowing Mariah as well as he does, he knows that she isn’t necessarily hiding. She’s waiting and planning. As long as she and Shades are still out there, they’re likely formulating some kind of plot.
7 Who's going to fill the power vacuum in Harlem now?
With Sowande beheaded and Mariah and Shades in the wind, there’s going to be a power struggle over Harlem. It would make sense that Mariah and Shades would simply walk back in, but that wouldn’t be very exciting and could lead to a retreading of Luke Cage season 1. It would be more audacious to have Mariah and Shades on the outskirts of the story, while a new villain makes life hell for Luke in the meantime.
There are some interesting choices to step up as season 2's antagonist. Bushmaster (they’d probably have to change that name, right?) is a Caribbean crime boss; maybe he wants to open up a French Connection-type pipeline in New York. Luke Cage could also adapt Gideon Mace. A former soldier, he could represent “the man” that Cage likes to face down, maybe as someone who wants martial law in Harlem and is connected to the IGH organization or Doctor Burnstein. Whoever takes control of Harlem’s underground should be new.
6 Where's K’un-Lun?
Normally, we would make the joke that the entire city of K’un-Lun is actually just avoiding Danny Rand, but the poor, "thundering dumbass" (as Stick would say) has taken enough abuse in this article already. The Defenders established that K’un-Lun would return as part of the Hand’s prophecy—in return for the destruction of New York or something about the Black Sky or something. Again, a lot of this was left vague.
In the comics, K’un-Lun had a heavy dragon population. As The Defenders established, there are dragon bones beneath New York. While their identities weren’t confirmed, they are probably the bones of Chiantang and Shou-Lao (the cousins of Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal). With these clues establishing a connection between New York and K’un-Lun, it’s likely that season 2 of Iron fist would answer the question of why K’un-Lun curved them.
5 Couldn't somebody just dig up the dragon bones again?
Okay, nobody likes repetition, but somebody could just dig the bones back up again even with Midland Circle’s collapse. God knows, the Hand or some other group of villains have the time and the patience. The Hand spent an indeterminable amount of time and resources to find the bones in the first place. It’s not like they’re now going to forget where it is. Sure, they’ve been dealt a brutal blow, but one are two of the Hand leaders may still be alive -- and still very, very wealthy. The Defenders really achieved a half-measure of a victory.
It’s possible that this was left as a thread to be picked up later by the Hand or by some other group of villains somewhere in Phase 2. However, it doesn’t change the fact that in the Defenders’ rush to cover up the incident, they seemed to just shrug off the volatile artifacts beneath the city and the crazy cult that’s still obsessed with them.
4 What does this mean for Jessica Jones season 2?
Jessica Jones was in a weird place in The Defenders. Sure, she was still drinking like William Holden, so some things were still normal, but she was also much more nihilistic than usual. She seemingly had little interest in continuing her work as a PI, and was never interested in the city-destroying stakes that the Hand created. Jones simply wanted to “get it over with.” Hell, she was even the one who came up with destroying the Midland Square building.
It may have something to do with the death of Purple Man. There was nothing she wanted more than to kill him, and now, without vengeance, what meaning does she have in her life? Of course, she does rebound a bit and decides to continue being a hero (because, well, there wouldn’t be a season 2 if she didn't). If The Defenders is any indication, the next season of Jessica Jones may be about her attempting to move on and finding a way to open up to others (based on her conversation with Luke Cage).
3 What does the Black Sky prophecy actually mean?
We’ve complained extensively about the vague plotting and uncertain motives of the Hand in the miniseries, but what the hell was this Black Sky stuff about anyway? What was the Black Sky supposed to do? Was she the one who was supposed to bring the dragons back? Destroy New York? Bring back K’un-Lun? She wasn’t needed to open the door—they needed Iron Fist for that. And how was Elektra the Black Sky? Was it preordained? Was she the Chosen One? Could it have been anyone they brought back to life?
Here's another thinker: did this Black Sky resurrection give Elektra superpowers? She was sometimes able to beat up (or at least moderately disrupt) Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, but still had a problem fighting Daredevil even before she got her memories back and decided to continue playing games with him. Eight episodes and nary an answer!
2 Why is Misty Knight so trusting?
Misty Knight is probably the most grounded character on the show, often serving as the voice of reason. So why she helps the Defenders as much as she does in this series goes far beyond ridiculous. She gives Colleen—whom she just met—her katana back while they’re inside the precinct. Misty has repeatedly risked her career and life over people she doesn’t know. Later, she literally asks how long she can stall the police so she could help the Defenders—who just broke out of the jail—blow up a building. All the while, she continuously allows herself to look like an idiot in front of her boss.
Look, we love Misty Knight (like the author of this article, she’s a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, so clearly she's an excellent person), but her actions throughout The Defenders make no sense. The only person she knows in the group even relatively well is Luke Cage, and they barely have any screen time. Instead, she gambles her career and life on people she met in a matter of hours. Get it together, Misty!
1 Are they building toward Daughters of the Dragon...or a second miniseries?
Executive Vice President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb claimed that The Defenders is a one-off and that there wouldn’t be a second cycle. However, the miniseries did incredible numbers for Netflix, so there may well be a push to do another, perhaps to round out Phase 2. Marvel enjoys doing a large event to mark the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one—The Defenders, The Avengers, etc.—so it’s likely that trend will continue. But maybe they really are going in a (slightly) different direction.
After the main plot was finished, The Defenders spent a great deal of time working on the budding friendship of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, teasing the idea that there could be a Daughters of the Dragon spinoff, which is now more possible than ever since Misty has been disarmed (sorry). If getting all the actors for The Defenders is too much of a scheduling and financial burden, perhaps another team-up miniseries featuring Misty and Colleen would be next best step. If so, it would be the first series of its kind to have a female-led team-up, and that would be cool to see.
What did you think of The Defenders? What do you think we'll see in Phase 2? Let us know in the comments!