Marvel’s Defenders: episode 1 nerdy spots and Easter Eggs
Spoilers ahead in the first of our episode-by-episode notes on the Marvel's Defenders miniseries, out now on Netflix...
The long-awaited Marvel-Netflix show has finally dropped, and once again we’re doing daily write ups of every episode, highlighting the influences, in-jokes, reference points and Easter eggs we spotted, as well as a few thoughts on the show itself.
As usual feel free to discuss whether you’re watching along or you’ve seen it all, but please don’t spoil future episodes for anyone in the comments.
MOVE OVER AVENGERS, MAKE WAY JUSTICE LEAGUE, IT’S TIME TO ENJOY THE SUPERHERO TEAM-UP OF THE CENTURY WITH oh Iron Fist’s back is he?
So it is that episode 1 of Defenders begins, making sure your expectations are as low as they can get by picking up exactly where Iron Fist left off, with Colleen and Danny attempting to discover what happened to K’un L’un. They have a fight, in the dark, with a hooded woman who serves The Hand. The subtext is clear: If you haven’t watched Daredevil Season 2 you’re going to be SOL, my friends.
The good news is that our time with Iron Fist is short-lived, as the show quickly moves from Danny, to Jessica, to Luke, to Matt, catching us up on their individual circumstances: Jessica’s getting back on a case after spending some time in the bottom of a shot glass, post-Kilgrave. Luke’s being released from jail (By FOGGY NELSON! FROM THE DAREDEVIL!) having served his time. And Matt’s back in the courtroom.
This actually surprised me, because at the end of Daredevil Season 2 it seemed like Matt was turning away from being a lawyer in favour of embracing the vigilante life full time. Here he’s returned to his legal profession and sworn off beating people senseless with his fists in favour of beating people senseless with pure logical arguments, and disarmingly messed up hair. But let’s face it, if Charlie Cox is wearing anything we’d all prefer an actual suit over the Daredevil costume.
So it goes that the episode bounces around from plot to plot, setting up each individual character as they pursue their own investigative threads that will lead them, one must assume, to Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). All we know about her is that she’s a powerful enough member of the Hand that she can push Madame Gao around, and that she’s on a clock because she’s got a life-threatening illness. Whatever plans she had are being pulled forward, and that means, quite literally, that there are going to be earthquakes: the episode ends with New York shaking as Alexandra promises Elektra “you’ll get used to watching them fall” implying that she’s far more ancient than we may realise.
INTRIGUING STUFF. Although let’s face it, this episode – while well-written and completely without filler on account of having four leads to service – is SLOW. And I’m not just talking about the almost total lack of action in the episode. Because, do you know what the principal quality of a team-up show should be? The teaming-up. Here the closest we get in this episode is Foggy Nelson having a conversation with Luke Cage.
Especially with the sheer density of supporting characters around – Trish Walker, Karen Page, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing – this episode is like watching four episodes of the individual shows which have been interleaved, except that none of them get to a point where the characters can reasonably use their powers for anything fun. Talk about teasing it out. It’s hard not to watch it and wonder why Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) doesn’t just pull out her phone and tell her four superpowered mates to get in a room and exchange ideas, but we can assume that’s coming in… well, episode 2 if we’re lucky.
On the plus side, the glacial pace of the plot is more than compensated for by the star power of the cast. As much as the individual shows may have misstepped, the leads are almost universally great. Even Finn Jones, who it’s fair to say never really had the material to make his version of Danny Rand work, is kind of fun. Sure, he might be Iron Fist if Iron Fist just got done begpacking his way around Thailand, complete with ill-advised tattoo and borrowed Eastern philosophy, but here he is – at worst – harmless.
It’s a good start, then. It’s like slipping on four pairs of comfortable jeans at once. I’m interested in Alexandra, I’m excited to see the characters again, and in all honesty I don’t mind that it’s just 50 minutes of conversation because it’s not a weekly show: episode 2 is right there. Let’s go watch it now.
Well, after these nerdy references:
Rather than explain all of the individual back references to the individual shows, I’ll point you in the direction of our wholesale recap of the Netflix MCU, which should tell you who everyone is and how they got to this point, with the exception of Alexandra, who’s new.
Point: Danny’s Ceremonial Robes, as seen in a surprisingly literal dream sequence, are the closest thing we’ve seen to his Iron Fist costume yet. In particular, the one depicted on the cover of Immortal Iron Fist #27 (August 2009).
The missing husband Jessica Jones investigates is called John Raymond. There’s no Marvel character called John Raymond that I’m aware of, but he does share his name with the super-obscure DC/Red Circle superhero Web. First appeared in Zip Comics #27 (July 1942). I’m going out on a limb to call it coincidental.
Annnd, that’s it. Let’s crack on with episode 2.