What do a man without fear, an alcoholic P.I., a bulletproof ex-convict and a living weapon all have in common? The urge to defend, of course. That's right, guys. This event has literally been years in the making, but fans of Marvel's Netflix shows can finally watch Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist unite in the first season of The Defenders.
While you're all casually watching the biggest TV event of the year, we mustered up zen levels of concentration to unpick every #Marvel easter egg, comic book reference and link with the #MCU to be found in The Defenders. Join us as we break down all eight episodes of Season 1 in microscopic detail.
Episode 1 — 'The H Word'
— While the title obviously refers to the word 'hero', something which The Defenders themselves are keen to avoid, The H Word also happens to be the title of a book by author Perry Anderson which explores the political theory of hegemony (leadership). We doubt it's a coincidence that Sigourney Weaver's villain Alexandra is positioned as a leader in this same episode during her interactions with Madame Gao.
— The Phnom Penh opening scene kicks things off with Iron Fist, soaking our hero during a fight that evokes the rain-drenched battle from Episode 12, 'Bar The Big Boss'. It's a bold move to open the show with the most derided of The Defenders, but already it seems as though both his character and his action sequences have improved in the interim. Also, was that Elektra!?
— The opening credits are lit with the individual color palette's of each solo Marvel Netflix show, literally threading the streets of New York City through the four Defenders. Symbolically, it's very clear what their purpose is and how the city has become a character in of itself in the TV version of the MCU. These unique color schemes and even theme songs then continue to appear throughout the episode, changing according to which character is onscreen.
— Kilgrave isn't mentioned by name, but his presence is felt early on during a conversation between Jessica Jones and Trish Walker, who explains that the city wants to thank our 'hero' for what she did.
— The cop who's interrogated in court by Matt Murdock is referred to as Mr. Berkowitz. In Dolph Lundgren's Punisher movie from 1989, Frank Castle had a cop friend called Lt. Jake Berkowitz. Given that the Punisher played an integral role in Daredevil, this may not be a coincidence.
— The harsh but fair pep talk that Murdock gives the boy in the wheelchair reflects Dardevil's own origins after an unfair accident robbed him of his ability to see. Matt can identify with this kid better than anyone after what he's been through.
— Eagle-eyed fans may have spotted that the plane itself is adorned with a 'R' symbol signifying that it's owned by the Rand corporation. Danny Rand claims that he'll never be used to riding airplanes and clearly, this refers to the tragic death of his parents in childhood.
— Rand's nightmare addresses criticisms that his solo show faced; namely, why would he leave the others in K'un-Lun to die? Interestingly, the ceremonial robes that he wears here are the closest we've seen to Danny wearing his Iron Fist costume — well, on the show, anyway.
— Jessica Jones tries to find a missing husband called John Raymond. While it appears that there may be no Marvel counterparts to his character, there is an obscure DC character who shares this name and adopted the moniker of Web. Also, did you notice that Jessica's fake phone voice is the exact same as her character from Don't Trust The B In Apartment 23?
— Jessica Jones still hasn't fixed her front door or the giant hole in her wall. To be fair to her though, it may have been two years since we saw her onscreen, but in reality, only a matter of months have passed for our heroine.
— Luke Cage takes a bus numbered 613 back to Harlem. In Marvel Comics, Earth 613 is a reality where Steve Rogers (Captain America) was shot to death, causing a whole new chain of events separate from regular continuity. On this earth, Luke Cage took over Danny's mantle, calling himself Power Fist by combining the codenames Power Man and Iron Fist.
— Luke Cage has another intense sex scene like he did on his own show, this time with Claire Temple. The scene was shorter than before, but to be fair to the guy, he did just get out of prison. Misty Knight then shows up to spark a whole lot of awkwardness between Cage and his two love interests.
— As Cage and Knight discuss Mariah, the villain from Season 1 of Luke Cage, posters in the background bear the phrase "This city is protected". Bit on the nose for a show called The Defenders, but there you have it.
Episode 2 — 'Mean Right Hook'
— During a Trish Talk radio segment, a caller refers to the events from Avengers once again as The Incident, instead of that bat-shit crazy alien invasion. Come on, Netflix! How hard is it to just mention the actual names of everyone involved like Hulk and Thor for a change?
— Colleen Wing realises that one of the swords used in Iron Fist's fight with Elektra is called a Tsukamoto, which is extremely rare. Coincidentally, the name Tsukamoto is also shared by a Japanese filmmaker who is most famous for directing the movie Tetsuo: The Iron Man in 1989. That film may star a different Iron Man than Marvel fans are used to, but it seems as though this nod may be deliberate nonetheless.
— Madame Gao may be over 400 years old, but the way she defers to Alexandra suggests that Sigourney Weaver's character is far older. Not only does she discuss the likes of Beethoven as if she knew him personally, but Alexandra also remembers a time when Manhattan was nothing but a forest. In real life, a Dutch fur trading settlement was established where Manhattan is today in 1624, so Alexandra must have been born before this. No wonder she's so scared of dying!
— During Jessica's investigation of the missing husband's paper work trail, one of the company names she uncovered was called Yoshioka, which was likely ran in part by someone related to Nobu Yoshioka. This Japanese businessman fought Daredevil alongside The Hand to convince Elektra that she should embrace her destiny as the Black Sky. Stick killed Nobu in Daredevil Season 2, but the impact of his actions is very much felt in The Defenders.
— Matt and Foggy reunite at Josie's, the bar they frequented in Daredevil. However, the two are no longer as close as they once were, still dealing with the ramifications of their fall-out from Daredevil Season 2.
— Watching one of the Defenders beat up small-time crook Turk Barrett has become somewhat of a tradition on the Marvel Netflix shows after he worked alongside the likes of Kingpin and Diamondback. To be honest, we're surprised that any criminals trust him with information now considering how often he's shook down by superheroes. Still, it's interesting to hear him mention how villains Mariah and Shades both "ghosted" after Luke Cage was sent to prison.
— In a tragic tradition first seen in the pilot of Jessica Jones, another person shoots themselves in her apartment, this time out of fear of what Elektra might do to them. A brief fight between Jessica Jones and the assassin quickly fizzles out, but we're sure the two will battle again, even though there's little precedent for this in the comics.
— Iron Fist and Luke Cage finally meet for the first time, but here, the two Heroes For Hire don't reflect their comic book counterparts. Instead, the two 'friends' discover that they're more evenly matched than they assumed after they share an impressive, yet hilarious fight scene. Finn Jones has clearly been training since Iron Fist, proving that his martial arts prowess has improved in the interim.
Episode 3 — 'Worst Behavior'
— Alexandra reminds us that she's old as balls in the opening scene by referring to Constantinople, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire that fell in 1453. We also discover that she's died many times in the past and yet is always brought back to life by The Hand.
— Elektra embraces her comic book faithful red outfit after being resurrected in a flashback scene. Re-birth looks remarkably like birth here, complete with strange, sticky fluids. We bet comic book author Frank Miller didn't imagine this when he penned the original story line this draws from.
— After being tortured ceaselessly by Alexandra's minions, Stick decides that he's had enough of The Hand and chops his own hand off in a symbolic and slightly amusing gesture of irony. Will Misty Knight lose a hand too and gain her bionic replacement from the comics? Anything's possible at this point.
— Daredevil name drops Kilgrave for the first time on the show, but Jessica argues that her current predicament has nothing to do with that.
— The White Hat continues to lurk in the background here, but the stylish villain doesn't have a comic book equivalent that we're aware of.
— The "skinny white kid" otherwise known as Iron Fist wears a green jumper and yellow trousers in the dojo, reminding us once again how the the show's creators bring in each heroes color scheme in subtle ways throughout each episode.
— Stan Lee pops up once again, reprising the same cameo that he gives in every Marvel Netflix show. Did you spot him? The comic book legend's face is plastered over a police poster that can be seen in the background while Jessica follows Matt.
— The future Heroes for Hire bond briefly at the dojo until Iron Fist mentions how he bested a dragon to gain his powers. Cage hilariously laughs this off, stating that there was no dragon. It looks like he must have been watching Season 1 of Iron Fist too...
— Danny Rand reveals some of his phone contacts in a blink and you'll miss it shot. While obvious names such as Hogarth and the Meachum siblings are obviously included, there's also a few surprising names, including Donald Hooper, one of the Rand Enterprise directors and Monika Delgado, a production assistant who worked on the Luke Cage TV show.
— We finally learn that The Hand operate out of a company called Midland Circle Financial, whose name has cropped up in the Netflix Marvel shows before.
— Alexandra hints at the extent of her power and the legacy of the Iron Fist while she's at it, explaining that;
"I've crossed paths with Iron Fist's before, but this time is different. This time I won't kill you."
Cue a signature hallway fight scene that numbers among the best seen yet on a Marvel Netflix show, proving that Iron Fist can be a badass after all during his fight with Elektra.
Episode 4 — 'Royal Dragon'
— The Royal Dragon Chinese restaurant is where The Defenders officially unite, so it makes sense that their four respective color schemes are all mixed together here in both the furniture and lighting on display.
— Jessica Jones and Luke Cage briefly address their tumultuous relationship in hilarious fashion, reminding us of their chemistry from Jessica's show;
"We met. We drank. I shot him in the head."
— Elektra wistfully looks at sai weaponry, perhaps remembering how she died in the first place.
— Stick reveals the history of The Hand and The Caste, naming the Five Fingers of The Hand, who include Bakuto and Madame Gao among their number. Most impressively though, Stick also calls Iron Fist a dumb ass, echoing the sentiment of many who watched him throughout his own show.
— Alexandra uses a number of fake names, but none of these seem to correlate with characters from Marvel comics. Here they are though anyway, just in case;
- Audrey Thompson
- Abigail King
- Angelica Fletcher
- Alberta Davis
— Luke Cage may not be looking for "super friends", but the Hero of Harlem sure does seem to be getting along with Danny Rand finally, hinting that the two will form a future partnership that echoes the comics.
Episode 5 — 'Take Shelter'
— Why would anyone mention Kilgrave to Jessica jones again? You're only going to piss her off even more!
"Have I gotten into your head the same way that he did?"
— After dying in Season 1 of Iron Fist, Bakuto returns and is revealed to be one of the Five Fingers of the Hand, one who has still seen better days than the far older looking Madame Gao.
— When Matt talks to Karen in her office, one of the newspaper headlines framed on the wall refers once again to the alien invasion in Avengers, describing the "Battle of NY".
— Daredevil is back kicking ass in his vigilante costume and we're not the only ones who are happy about it. After all, Jessica herself says she likes the horns and we already knew she didn't like him wearing her scarf.
— The Supporters all band together in the police station, finally crossing the shows over in ways never seen before. Claire, Misty, Karen, Colleen, Trish, Malcolm, Foggy... now we just need Hogarth to swing by and we have the whole set. Oh, and the moment when Misty Knight brings Colleen's katana to her foreshadows the eventual Daughters of the Dragon team-up that we're all dying to see.
— If that end scene in Matt's apartment is anything to go by, then Elektra may be remembering her old self, channeling some Winter Soldier vibes in the process. Both were resurrected from the dead and worked for the enemy before feeling a change of heart and both share a strong bond with our heroes.
Episode 6 — 'Ashes, Ashes'
— It wouldn't be a superhero team-up without a superhero fight of some kind and The Defenders delivered here full force in that regard. What particularly impressed us though was the one-on-one fisticuffs between Matt and Danny. What became clear here is that the Iron Fist employs a meditative approach to martial arts, Daredevil is more of a clear-cut brawler, influenced by his father's boxing style.
— Speaking of Murdock's father, Jessica runs through his origin story again here in a touching manner while further reference to his solo show arrives in the form of that giant hole in NYC.
— When Danny refers to himself and Luke as "Luke Cage and the Iron Fist," that's a reference to the comic book title Power Man and Iron Fist that they share. Also, did anyone else notice how adorable it was when Cage asked Danny to explain his ridiculous dragon origin story in more depth? That's winning chemistry, right there.
— The back-story shared between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage is also explored more here, providing some catharsis for fans who have waited to see the pair talk through their issues since they first met in Season 1 of Jessica's show.
— Elektra and Alexandra speak in the same cemetery where The Punisher was arrested in Season 2 of Daredevil before shit hits the fan completely.
— With great Marvel Netflix shows comes great surprise villain deaths. Aside from Kilgrave and the Kingpin, it seems as though every big bad is doomed to fall before the season finale. In this case though, the death of Alexandra made a lot of sense as Elektra has been the leader of The Hand for years in the comics.
— Side note: Is it just us or does Alexandra's brooch look like a group of tiny hands bunched together?
Episode 7 — 'Fish In The Jailhouse'
— Claire Temple refers to herself as a sidekick, but Colleen quickly reminds us that she's saved just as many lives as The Defenders during her time on the Marvel Netflix shows. While we haven't done an actual head count to confirm this, Temple certainly has played a pivotal role so far and it was gratifying to finally see this acknowledged in full onscreen.
— "Deep down inside, he's still a kid looking for his family." Critics may have laughed at the character of Danny Rand, claiming that he's too childish, but this naivety is key to the MCU version of Iron Fist and it's important to acknowledge that too.
— Daredevil alumni Mitchell Ellison may not have appeared in The Defenders in person, but the editor in chief of the New York Bulletin appears on Karen's phone while shit goes down in the police station.
— Now we finally know why the dragon from Iron Fist's origin story wasn't shown in Danny's show and it's because they wanted to make the skeleton reveal as surprising as possible. We must admit that it was extremely clever to continue mocking the story throughout this season before revealing how important the dragons would be to the overall arc.
Episode 8 — 'The Defenders'
— Trish Walker and Karen Page recount their experiences with The Hand, recalling key scenes from both Dardevil and Jessica Jones.
— Critics are suggesting that The Defenders show has saved the character of Danny Rand, so it's fitting that they physically rescue Iron Fist in the Season 1 finale.
— Comic book fans may have seen it coming, but it was still surprising when Misty Knight suddenly lost her arm to Bakuto's blade. Hopefully, this sets up the possibility of a cybernetic replacement arm, just like the one she wields in the comics.
— The whiteboard seen in Misty's hospital room contains a host of Easter Eggs, including;
- L. Carter is the original Night Nurse, a character we all suspected that Claire Temple might become.
- Dr. E. Wirtham is a Spider-man villain called Cardiac in the comics, which would make sense given that both the wall crawler and #TheDefenders are based in NYC.
- Misty Knight's creators are name checked here as the follow up physicians Dr. Tony Isabella and Dr. Arvell Jones.
- The numbers P03-12 refer to Misty's first appearance in the comics, which was in Marvel Premiere #21.
— The shot where Daredevil spits blood in a puddle before the bomb was detonated will be familiar to fans of his show. We highly doubt that the replication of this image was coincidental given that this occurred during such a pivotal scene.
— Who is Maggie? This nun who is name checked in the final scene of The Defenders is actually Matt's mother, Maggie Murdock. Her key role in the iconic comic book storyline Born Again suggests that this could be the focus of Daredevil Season 3.
Did you spot any Marvel easter eggs, comic book references or links to the MCU that we missed? Let us know your thoughts on Season 1 of The Defenders in the comments section below and continue to check back as we update this article.