You know those moments of realization? The epiphany, they call it, when you suddenly figure it out. All at once, you see the pattern, the shape of things becomes clear. The past tells you the future, and though you cannot see it in the dark, you know where the solid, reliable ground will be.
That’s a bit what it was like when this hit me out of nowhere. Not to be dramatic or anything! 😉
I, like many others, have been following and thoroughly enjoying Netflix’s contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The saga of The Defenders began with Daredevil, continued with Jessica Jones, returned to Daredevil again for a second season, and we just enjoyed their latest work, Luke Cage, just over a month ago. Up next is Iron Fist in March, soon to be followed by The Defenders itself. Very exciting!
There’s more to come after that, of course, but right now I’m thinking about this first major arc. We’ve basially had four seasons now, only two more to go, and my brain decided it was time to play connect the dots.
The question: what is the overarching plot? Who are the villains, what are their goals, and how are the heroes involved?
My proposed answer: the overarching plot is the Hand’s efforts to either create or, more likely, become beings who are, at the very least, immortal, super strong, and can compel obedience from others. They want to become superior beings, the new gods on Earth, and rule the world.
As for the heroes, the Defenders, I believe they don’t just become involved. I believe the Hand has already touched several of their lives. In fact, it is the Hand which is the source of their enhanced abilities.
…so, do I have your attention? 😉
Then allow me to explain. 😀
Be aware, of course, that considerable spoilers may follow! 🙂
If you are wondering, yes, I am loving this. It’s not often I’ve managed to grasp the overarching plot before it is all revealed! I feel just a little bit giddy! And maniacal! Mwahahah! 3:)
So, as is always the case when telling a story, the first question is, “Where to begin?”
Not to get too technical, but if we’re going to grasp the bull by the horns, let’s figure out where they are first.
When you look at “overarching plots,” there are usually two extremes that stories go to. Either they have it up front, in the open (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or they have it so far in the background that it’s barely visible and requires a memory like an encyclopedia to follow (like Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones). Sometimes they try for a happy medium, with dramatic references, every so often, to the ominous figures and machinations lurking beneath the surface, until it all comes to a head all at once (Smallville). Sometimes that works brilliantly (the first two seasons of Arrow) and sometimes it’s just campy and childish (Legends of Tomorrow). Of course there’s also those shows that sometimes don’t have “overarching plot” so much as “and endless series of developments” (Supernatural), but we’re ignoring those for the moment.
And then there’s those plots that have the protagonists encountering the fruits of the overarching plot without immediately realizing it, until they finally face the heart of evil head-on.
That is the sort of plot I sense is being built up in Defenders. Dots have been laid out, with clear connections between them, forming a spider’s web of plot. But things aren’t quite fully connected yet, leaving us with two sections of a web floating in the air, and that is where conjecture and guesswork come in. The lines connecting the dots are the influence that is being felt without being explicitly shown. At least, not yet.
So, going back again to the start, we have the three questions:
Who are the villains?
What is their objective?
How do the heroes become involved?
The first question is easily answered, and though we don’t yet know who Sigourney Weaver is playing in The Defenders, we know it will feature the collective villain, the Hand. That is fairly well established by the teaser trailer. No great surprise there.
It’s the other two questions which proved tricky, especially since the Hand hasn’t seemed to have that much presence thus far. Sure, one of them showed up in Daredevil‘s first season, and then they showed up in much greater numbers in its second season, and they clearly have some master plan in the works, but those are just a handful of dots, all packed in around one Defender. What about the others?
That’s one section of the spider-web, by the way: those that feature the Hand directly and explicitly.
So I was stewing for a bit, trying to figure it out. I could see other traces of an extended plot, but I couldn’t see the connection. Why was Marvel putting so much effort into these other details if they weren’t important?
I mean, just take a look at them.
Matt and Jessica were both in accidents, exposed to chemicals that gave them their enhanced abilities. Could it be the same accident, or two separate accidents?
Luke was experimented on, when he was at death’s door, also with unique chemicals, and he, too, developed abilities.
Kilgrave was also experimented on, to save his life, again with unique chemicals, by his own parents. He gained superpowers to.
Reva is directly connected to what happened to Luke, and her drive makes a connection between the group she worked for and Kilgrave’s parents.
Trish’s mother makes a connection between the people who experimented on Kilgrave and the company behind Jessica’s accident, or at least her medical bills: IGH. What a coincidence that IGH is behind at least two super-people and has connections to a third.
The mad scientist that gave Luke his powers, one Noah Burstein, mentioned experimenting on soldiers for the battlefield. This gives us a link between IGH and a fourth empowered person.
We saw Simpson – who is probably the MCU version of Nuke, Fisk’s assassin sent after Daredevil – a former soldier, partaking in an experimental program using drugs, aka chemicals, to enhance his abilities in the short term. That connects Simpson with Luke, who is connected to Kilgrave, who is connected to Jessica, and all gain their abilities from exposure to chemicals, exactly like Daredevil. What are the odds of Matt Murdock being the only one of this lot to not be connected to IGH?
So, it looks like IGH, this massive chemical company with high-placed connections in the military and in the prison system, is the overarching villain, right? But, wait… the Hand is supposed to be the villain of The Defenders, aren’t they? Yet where IGH seems to be dominating behind the scenes, we’ve only seen the Hand’s handiwork on Daredevil.
…or have we?
It struck me as odd when Burstein called Luke “the walking Fountain of Youth,” that his abilities were the precursor of immortality. It nagged at me that he’d say that. And then it hit me: The Hand desires immortality, thus the ordeal surrounding Elektra and other “black sky” individuals.
And speaking of Elektra, I actually forgot for a bit, after the introduction of the ninjas, how Elektra first roped Matt into helping her. She pretended to be going to this big company, Roxxon Corporations, which is pretty much everywhere in the MCU as the villainous businessmen who own a plethora of companies. They have ties to Hydra, and it seems like they have ties to the Yakuza too, except that these are not Yakuza: these are Hand ninjas pretending to be Yakuza with their fingers deep in an evil financial empire.
That’s at least two potential connections, and for a third: brainwashing. Kilgrave is the master of mental domination, uncontested, but the Hand does the same thing. They were draining five young people of every drop of blood, and when these youths were rescued, what did they do? They killed their guardians and the fled with the Hand, who came for them at the hospital. They were devoted to the Hand, and soon finished giving up every last drop of their blood. That’s some pretty severe brainwashing, that.
And that makes three theoretical connections between the Hand of Daredevil and the rest of the Defenders:
The Hand seeks immortality, which Burstain mentions by name.
The Hand can wear many faces, including criminal gangs and massive companies, like, say, IGH.
The Hand are also capable of brainwashing, much like Kilgrave.
…what’s that old saying? Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action, right? And for storytellers like Marvel has, that says something.
So now we have a theoretical connection: the Hand is behind IGH, the company that deals in the chemicals that gave all these people their powers. Among them: super strong warriors, mind control, and the potential for immortality. All things the Hand greatly desires. Also all things that Hydra pursued in the movies and on Agents of Shield.
So how can Iron Fist contribute to this theoretical web? Well, Danny Rand seems to be dealing with enemies in his large, successful company, and foes with great physical ability. The Hand, perhaps?
It doesn’t account for every loose thread just yet, like, say, the mystery of Madame Gao, where Diamondhead got his super hardware, etc. But the majority of the dots are connected now.
If this theory proves true, then I can’t help but notice: this saga began with the accident that blinded Matt Murdock, which means our heroes, and the audience, were encountering their enemy from the very first scene of Daredevil.
Cool, no? 🙂
EDIT: This theory has now been disproved. Oh well, c’est la vie, it’s still fun to think about! (and maybe they really should have gone this route!)