The first phase of Marvel's popular Netflix series has come to a triumphant close. The Defenders is a masterpiece, pulling together all of the different plot threads from the four shows that preceded it. But the most notable plot thread of all, of course, is the ninja organization known as the Hand. They're the main villains of The Defenders, and Marvel has finally seen fit to reveal their secret history...
Note: This article contains heavy spoilers for The Defenders.
The Ancient Origin Of The Hand
The origin of the Hand begins with the quest to overcome death itself. Five students at the mystical city of K'un Lun discovered a terrifying secret: they could use the bones of dragons to create a "substance," apparently a liquid, to resurrect the dead. They were delighted at their achievement, but the Elders of K'un Lun were horrified at such an act of sacrilege.
For their crimes, these five students were banished from K'un Lun, and began to wander Asia. With the promise of immortality, they built an army of warriors. According to Stick, they went on to "bathe the shores of the Far East with the blood of anybody who stands in their way." Their armies became known as the Hand, and the leaders called themselves the Five Fingers of the Hand.
These five leaders are:
- Alexandra, played by Sigourney Weaver, who has usually been their overall leader
- Wai Ching Ho's Madame Gao, a fan-favorite schemer with mystical abilities
- Sowande, played by Babs Olusanmokun, who became an African warlord
- Ramón Rodríguez's Bakuto, a major villain in Iron Fist Season 1
- Murakami, played by Yutaka Takeuchi, commander of the Daredevil villain Nobu
The Centuries Pass
There's just one problem with the Hand's resurrections: you can still die. As a result, the Five Fingers and their agents died many times, but they liberally used their "substance" to come back. That meant they had to hunt down dragons' bones wherever they lay; unfortunately, it seems that these bones become mystically bound to the area around them, and removing them triggers disaster.
According to The Defenders, dragon bones were excavated near Vesuvius in 79 A.D., leading to the destruction of Pompeii, and at Chernobyl in 1986 — causing a nuclear reactor to go into meltdown!
At some point, the monks of K'un Lun became aware of the Hand's actions. They unleashed their Iron Fist into the world, protecting their city and dragon. As the years passed, successive Iron Fists helped the Hand's victims rise up as the Chaste, a secretive order who would oppose the Hand across the world and save countless cities.
So began an ancient, timeless war that has spanned centuries. Meanwhile, at K'un Lun's direction, Iron Fists also used their chi to seal dragon bones behind protective walls, so the Hand could never get at them.
One Final Secret?
We may have learned the Hand's secret history — but there may yet be another layer of mystery to the Hand. Talking with Elektra, Alexandra told her to "remember who brought us back" from death, and referred to a mysterious "he."
That scene strongly implies that Alexandra herself followed another Big Bad, but we're not given any other hints as to who this being could be. It's not even certain that the other "Fingers" know of this mysterious figure, who seems to be key to the resurrection rituals. Alexandra tended to be (unwisely) open with Elektra, whom she viewed as a daughter, so she may well have revealed secrets that she'd kept from all the others.
But who could this being be? With all of the mysticism surrounding the Hand, it's possible this is the Beast — the mythical demon the Hand serve in the comics. The threat behind the Hand may not yet have been defeated.
So there you have it: the history of the Hand has finally been revealed! No wonder K'un Lun viewed them as a threat; their origin is actually tied to the Heavenly City itself. What's more, now the Hand has used up all their Substance, sooner or later they'd turn their eyes to the immortal dragon Shou-Lao itself...