2017 is set to be the Year of #Marvel, with three blockbuster movies — and no less than three #MarvelNetflix shows as well! Perhaps the most exciting of those shows is The Defenders, the crowning glory of everything Marvel has been working towards in their Netflix shows. The Defenders will unite Charlie Cox's Daredevil, Kyrsten Ritter's Jessica Jones, Mike Colter's Luke Cage, and Finn Jones's Iron Fist against a menace dangerous enough to threaten the whole of New York.
The first Defenders teaser, at SDCC 2016, featured narration from Scott Glenn — who plays Stick in #Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2. We know that Stick is a key member of the Chaste, an ancient order who oppose the Hand, and Stick's involvement suggested that the key threat would be the Hand. Now, with Elodie Yung's Elektra confirmed as part of the cast, we can be certain that the mystical ninja cult are the threat facing New York.
Who Are the Hand?
Although we first saw the Hand in Daredevil Season 1, it wasn't until the Season 2 episode "Guilty as Sin" that we learned their history. According to Stick, the Hand originated in Asia, and were a band of bloodthirsty warriors who discovered a dangerous secret.
"Immortality. Bringing the dead back to life."
Now powerful enough to resist death itself, the Hand killed their master, took over, and — to again use Stick's words — "bathe the shores of the Far East with the blood of anybody who stands in their way." They ultimately took on the name of the Hand, as they continued to relentlessly pursue power.
Fortunately for the world, the Hand made enemies. For countless centuries, the Chaste have been a counter-force working against the Hand, striving to limit their power and kill their greatest warriors.
The Black Sky
Focused as always on growing in power and influence, the Hand have long been in pursuit of a being known as a Black Sky. We don't know much about what the Black Sky is; every time they've tried to "activate" one in the past, the Chaste have killed it. We do know that both the Hand and the Chaste consider a Black Sky to be less than a person, and refer to a Black Sky as 'it' rather than 'he' or 'she'. In Daredevil Season 1, the Hand attempted to bring their latest Black Sky into New York; the child was killed by Stick. Season 2, however, ended with the Hand successfully resurrecting Elektra as a Black Sky.
Where the Hand and the Chaste — not to mention Stick — have been lifted directly from the comics, the Black Sky is a whole new concept. As a result, comic book fans have struggled to work out just what it is. Most fans assume that the Black Sky is the Netflix version of the Beast, a demon that possessed Daredevil in the "Shadowland" arc. This idea seems to work (not least because the Hand refer to the Black Sky as the 'Bringer of Shadows'), but there are a few key details that are worth noting.
The first is that, where in the comics the Hand worship the Beast, in the Netflix shows they seek to use the Black Sky. To the Hand, the Black Sky is a weapon, and one they seek to use against the world. In line with this, the Hand have been carefully preparing New York for an unknown ritual. Daredevil Season 2 revealed that they've dug a mysterious pit deep into the Earth, with runes inscribed around it - runes that read 'Black Sky', and so are clearly connected to this somehow.
Why has Marvel created this 'Black Sky'? And why has it been called by that name? In mythology, the Black Sky is one of the 'Grand Creators' of Apache legend (the Black Sky's spiritual mate being the Earth Mother). Given the Hand originate in Asia, this is a very odd addition to make!
Is Sigourney Weaver the Snakeroot?
Given that the Hand are clearly being set up to be the major villains of The Defenders, we'd be expecting to see Elodie Yung as the real villain of the series. Surprisingly, though, Marvel has announced that this role will actually be filled by Sigourney Weaver, who plays an as-yet-unnamed character. How can this fit in with all that we know of the Hand?
In the comics, there is a reason the ninja cult is known as the Hand. They are actually the Hand of the Snakeroot; a sort of 'cult within a cult'. Over the centuries, the Snakeroot gradually took over the Hand, and it was the Snakeroot who introduced the Hand to the worship of the Beast. Only the most ruthless leaders can join the Snakeroot, but this dangerously obsessive group will accept anyone, from any position in the world. In the "Fall From Grace" arc, their members included a former U.S. General.
More recently, the "Shadowland" arc saw Daredevil attempt to take control of the Hand; naturally, his attempt to turn them into a force for good backfired drastically. He didn't know that the Snakeroot was working against him, and the rituals he went through to cement his leadership of the Hand actually opened him up to the Beast's influence. The Beast gradually took over, until Matt Murdock turned bad, and attempted to kill his friends.
The "Shadowland" Theory
It looks to me as though The Defenders is loosely inspired by "Shadowland". We know that the Hand claim the Black Sky will be their leader; but I'm theorizing that Sigourney Weaver's role will be as an agent of the Snakeroot, conspiring to ensure that Elektra is exposed to the extradimensional entity. Tellingly, "Shadowland" saw the Beast's influence radiate out of Daredevil's residence, causing riots and violence across New York. This sounds eerily reminiscent of the term 'Bringer of Shadows'.
Perhaps also significantly, though, "Shadowland" starred a group of street-level superheroes, most of whom have already been introduced in Marvel Netflix. The only exceptions are Wolverine (whose rights are owned by Fox), Spider-Man (I doubt Marvel Studios and Sony would let Tom Holland get involved in this anytime soon) and Ghost Rider (who's playing a key role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The battle against the possessed Daredevil was actually won thanks to Iron Fist, who channeled his Chi into Daredevil — so boosting his life-essence, and enabling Matt to throw off the Beast's possession.
I also wouldn't be surprised to see elements from the 1990s "Fall From Grace" arc. This was the arc where Daredevil discovered that Elektra had been resurrected after her death at the hands of Bullseye, and it featured an unusually prominent role from the Snakeroot. They took all of Elektra's darkness, and bonded it to another woman, a warrior who took up the name 'Erynys'.
- Sigourney Weaver is Playing the Villain in Marvel's 'The Defenders'
- The SDCC Teaser for 'The Defenders' May Have Revealed More Than You Thought!
- Which Cast Members Have Been Confirmed For Marvel Netflix's 'The Defenders' So Far? Here's Your Ultimate Guide!
As you can tell, this is only a theory. Marvel has confirmed that Sigourney Weaver is the main villain of The Defenders, which sits oddly with the idea of the series being focused on the Hand. Given what we know, it makes sense for Weaver to be playing a member of the Snakeroot, and to be manipulating Elektra. What's more, the moment you come up with that idea, you wind up looking to just two comic book arcs for inspiration; "Shadowland" and "Fall From Grace". I'll be watching with fascination to look for further hints that I could be right...
What do you think of this fan theory?
Poll Image: Marvel Comics