This article contains nothing but major spoilers for Marvel’s The Defenders. If you’d prefer a spoiler free review of the series, click here.
So I have to say, I’m a little surprised by The Defenders. While the show is an excellent return to form for Marvel’s stable of Netflix shows, it’s surprisingly light on Marvel Comics mythology. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (we don’t need easter eggs in every single scene), but given how jam-packed every other season of the Marvel Netflix shows was, I expected a little more. Then again, with all the world building they did in five other seasons of TV, I guess I can kind of understand why this is the way it is.
Anyway, I’m here (as usual) to break down all the cool Marvel stuff hiding in the margins, and hopefully to make your viewing experience a little more fun. But guess what? I need your help. I can’t do this alone! So if you spot anything that I missed (and I get the feeling I missed an awful lot this time around), drop it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Together, we’ll make this the best resource for The Defenders on the internet!
The Defenders Episode 1
The first thing you have to understand is the team we’re about to know as The Defenders is absolutely, in no way whatsoever, the team that was originally called The Defenders. That squad included Doctor Strange (yep), Namor (what?), the Hulk (for real?!?), and the Silver Surfer (no, we’re not messing with you). It’s only recently in the comics that we’ve had Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist using the name (although everyone except Jessica had, at some point or another, been a member of the comic book team). We have a much more detailed breakdown of all that weirdness right here for you.
– I’ve been to that impound lot on 49th that they threatened Trish with. It’s an absolute nightmare. Don’t get towed in NYC.
– Is the conversation with Trish and Jessica the first time we’ve heard the word “superhero” actually uttered on any of these shows? Or even in the MCU in general?
– This is a stretch, but I feel like Trish is wearing her Hellcat colors a little bit in these scenes, too.
– You can spot a sign for the “New Harlem Renaissance” on the bus that Luke gets off. Mariah and Shades’ plans from his series are clearly proceeding as expected.
– Claire compliments Misty’s “outfit.” While this is still a far cry from her comics look, that zipped up leather jacket is kind of a step in that direction. We’ll never go all the way there, though.
– The rooftop garden that Alexandra meets Madame Gao in appears to be the same one where Spidey dropped of Mary Jane in the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, right after the (ahem) “World Unity Day” festival/Green Goblin attack.
Luke’s yellow t-shirt and black hoodie is a little closer to his comic book costume, and probably as close as we’re gonna get (other than that insane flashback in season one of his show).
– Not an easter egg, but I think Charlie Cox’s performance with the young kid Matt was representing marks his finest dramatic moment in the role.
The Defenders Episode 2
– We get our obligator reference to “the incident” early in this episode, referring once again to the events of the first Avengers movie.
– Is that Gichin Funakoshi’s Karate-Do book laying by Danny on the floor of the dojo in this episode?
– The crack about how Misty, re: Jessica Jones, “thought she’d be bigger” kind of mirrors some of the dopey internet commentary when Krysten Ritter was first cast in the role. Hard to imagine anyone else now, ain’t it you dummies?
– I’m drawing a blank on both Elmore’s bar and Trouble in Para-Dice as far as Marvel history goes. Can anyone help me out? Are these super deep cuts from early Luke Cage comics?
– OK, this might be the nerdiest thing I end up writing for this entire guide. When Alexandra is hanging out listening to her private classical music concert, she’s overlooking Columbus Circle in New York City. If you walk out the front door of that building she’s in and hang a left and walk about two blocks, you’ll be in front of the building that Sigourney Weaver lived in as Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters. And that’s not all!
Visible from the huge windows in the scene, look just to the right, and you’ll see a tan apartment building. That building is the basis/exterior shots for Lois Lane’s apartment in 1978’s Superman: The Movie. So when Lois Lane is hanging out on her balcony with Superman, she could pretty much see Dana’s apartment from Ghostbusters. Go check it out yourself when you’re in the city!
Speaking of Superman…
– Luke’s “just remember, you started this” is another in what I consider his series of “Black Superman” moments. He’s always nice and polite, but the edge there reminds me of the earliest Superman comics, as well as George Reeves’ portrayal of the character on the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show. I could totally here Reeves delivering a line like that just like Colter does here. I catalogued a ton of Superman parallels with Luke Cage here, if you want some more reading.
Wait, I should back up…
So, Luke Cage and Danny Rand are destined to become best pals, and even partners. In the comics, they shared titles like Power Man and Iron Fist and Heroes for Hire. They’re just off on the wrong foot here, that’s all. But this is another superhero trope: before Marvel superheroes can become friends, they first have to fight because of some misunderstanding. It’s the law. Don’t @ me, I don’t make the rules.
– When Jessica is going through the archives, there are a whole bunch of different company names that come up, including Twin Oaks Shipping, Sherwin Holdings, Folgen Corps, and others. I’ve come up blank on all of them in terms of Marvel references. Please correct me if you have sharper eyes than I do!
– Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones have an interesting friendship in the comics. They’ve come to each other’s aid a number of times, with Jessica (and Luke) even serving as Matt’s bodyguards at one point. But what’s really important about how this episode ends is that, like he did with the Punisher, a classic Daredevil trope is having Matt Murdock show up to defend a fellow Marvel Universe resident.
The Defenders Episode 3
– Alexandra once again betrays her true age here with the “Istanbul/Constantinople” slip-up, and now I can’t get that annoying ass They Might Be Giants song out of my head.
– The Elektra “rebirth” sequence is chilling, but the very best part is her emergence from the “coffin.” The way the hand comes out first, that’s a classic cinematic Dracula moment, used in everything from the original Nosferatu, to Tod Browning’s 1931 version and beyond.
Speaking of which, can anyone tell me what the glyph/letter on Elektra’s “coffin” means?
– When Elektra is taking on various sacrificial Hand douchebags, that giant bearded guy looks like a classic martial arts movie heavy. Straight out of central casting from the 1970s.
– The way she dispatches those ninjas, and the strewn bodies of ninjas all over the place in various states of dismemberment, well, that’s some classic Frank Miller comic book imagery right there.
– If you look closely you’ll see that Jessica Jones has a bullet hole in her scarf. That’s a hilarious detail. I can’t remember where that came from, though.
– They got their Stan Lee cameo out of the way early this time. You can spot Smilin’ Stan on the same police poster we’ve seen him in on all the Marvel Netflix shows while Jessica is following Matt. Also, that whole following sequence has some really great score.
– Danny Rand is rocking his classic green color scheme when he meets up with everyone at the dojo. No costume yet, but Finn Jones told us he’s open to it!
– We’ve heard of Midland Circle in these shows before, notably in Daredevil, although I seem to remember it was also mentioned in Iron Fist.
This episode definitely has what I would consider Danny Rand’s best action sequence since he was introduced. And, y’know…I thought I was tired of the whole hallway fight thing, but this one is really tremendous.
The Defenders Episode 4
This one appears to be extra light on Marvel references, other than the return of Daredevil villain Nobu. BUT…
Let’s talk about all of the different names Alexandra has apparently used through history. Well, at least some of them:
Other than her obvious fondness for names that start with the letter “A” throughout, surely a clue in itself, anyone have any ideas if there’s anything in here that might reveal Alexandra’s identity? None of these names are ringing any Marvel bells. Anyone catch any that I didn’t? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
I’ll keep updating this with more episodes throughout the day!
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