Thursday, August 17, 2017

Final Defenders Preview

I posted a preview for The Defenders a few weeks ago, following it up with a thorough chronology of events leading up to it. Since then we've had another full trailer dropped as well as various teasers, so I thought prior to release (in about ten hours from when I'm writing this) I'd take one last stab at interpreting what we've been told and presented. First of all, here's when the various trailers have dropped:
First Trailer (May 3)
Second Trailer (July 21)
Third Trailer (August 13)
Featurette (August 14)
Fourth Trailer (August 17)
In addition there was the Stan Lee promo video from SDCC (which at this point has no new content) and a number of short teasers that have been posted on Twitter: 1) black and white camera with all four on an elevator, 2) Alexandra talking to Gao, 3) Matt Murdock in the confessional both with Father Lantom, 4) Jessica freeing Trish's car from being towed, 5) Foggy talking to Luke Cage, 6) Misty talking to Colleen at the police station, 7) Alexandra confronting a captured Stick, 8) Trish talking to Karen Page. Most of the teasers are without context so are hard to pin down, but we can safely say #3-#5 are early, #7 at the midway point, #1 the office sequence when they all meet for the first time. There are a few other teasers that are directly pulled from the trailers so I'm not including them here.

We know from comments that the script for the show was finished in May, 2016, long before the release of both Luke Cage and Iron Fist. We also know that:
[E]ach Defender begins to investigate a mystery separately, with the four all converging on the same location after "following their own trail of bread crumbs". Ramirez added, "We wanted them all caught off guard [by seeing one another at the same location]. Once they're in that room together, it's kind of like, 'Oh, shit, who are you?"
This is reflected in the trailers we've seen, as I'll get into below (for simplicity the trailers are referred to as T1, T2, etc, and the teasers as Te1, Te2, etc; the featurette is FE).

SPOILERS (for those who want to know nothing going in)

The Story of the Trailers

The simplest assumption here (Te5) is that this is episode one with Foggy, working for his new law firm as of the end of Daredevil season two (see the chronology above), getting Luke out of Seagate Prison. While most of us assumed Claire was referring to Matt Murdock in Luke Cage when she said she knew a good lawyer, she also knows both Foggy and Hogarth, so either she approached Matt and was rejected or else approached one of them and they got Luke out (at the end of Luke Cage Bobby Fish finds the evidence folder Shades and Mariah were trying to bargain with--the evidence that will vindicate Luke).

We know Matt's discussion about Elektra with Father Lantom (Te3) is from the first episode because that's revealed in the Tweet that released the clip. We know from comments made in interviews that Matt has retired from crime fighting since the end of Daredevil season two (after he revealed his identity to Karen Page), which is also at least part of the reason why he's not in costume in the subsequent Midlands Circle fight (see below).

There's good reason to think this scene with Alexandra and Gao (Te2) is early, as it's establishing both the plot and introducing us to the kind of person Alexandra is. In the clip Gao talks about a plant at the mayor's office and how it will be another three months to do whatever it is they are planning. This isn't fast enough for Alexandra, but we don't know why. Gao says "we all agreed" implying more people than just the two of them (so presumably Bakuto and others, as pictured above from FE). It remains uncertain if Alexandra is part of the Hand or simply using them. We have no idea who the man in the middle of the three is above, but he's seen several times opposing the Defenders.

We see an earthquake occurring and it's aftermath (T2, FE), which clearly is part of whatever the Hand is doing and likely happens early in the show (episode one or two, although there might be multiple earthquake effects). This is also clearly connected to the scene of Luke catching the lamppost before it hits the car (T2, FE).

From numerous comments we know Elektra is raised by the Hand with amnesia--no memory of who she was (something that slowly comes back). This clip (T2) is certainly early and likely part of Alexandra preparing her to be Black Sky--the weapon of the Hand.

Thematically Misty and Colleen's (Te6) meeting is similar to Misty and Jessica's below, although Colleen implies she could leave and she isn't in handcuffs, so it seems like officers picked her up and not as a suspect but as someone suspicious or in/around a crime scene. This seems solidly placed in the investigative part of the show and could be before or after the scene with Jessica below (likely before, as I'm guessing the meeting of the four leads is last).

We know from T1 that both Jessica Jones and Misty Knight are pursuing the same witness (although we don't know why there's a city-wide manhunt for him, or why Jessica was trying to help him). The witness dies, Misty arrests Jessica (presumably for stealing evidence from the crime scene), and Matt Murdock arrives as her attorney. As yet we don't know why Matt shows up to help Jessica (why not Hogarth, for instance, whom Jessica was working for in Jessica Jones?), as she does not know who he is in the clip. We don't know what's brought Matt to her--it could be related to the various activities of the Hand, or it could be that he, too, was looking for the man. There's a scene of Matt on a rooftop in his suit (T1), which could be Matt trying to find the same person and perhaps that's what leads him to Jessica. Given comments about plot having a slow burn, this could be anywhere from episode two to four in my opinion.

As for how the others get involved from comments it seems as though Luke gets involved because Harlem criminals are hired as support for the Hand; from T1 Luke and Danny run into each other while Danny is chasing a man through an alley; Claire talks them through their initial conflict in what looks like Colleen's dojo. Interestingly, Colleen is absent from most of these scenes--that might just be a trick of the trailer (we see her enter the building with Danny (T1) that he subsequently chases the man out of before having his fight with Luke), but it's also possible she's run into trouble (eg Te6 above). Incidentally, the two pairings (Jessica and Matt, Danny and Luke) make sense not just thematically but also logistically--the former two both operate in Hell's Kitchen, while Colleen's dojo is near Luke's territory (and thus a place Danny would spend time at).

There's a shot of a building on fire (T2 and T4)--while this could be the Midland Circle building after the big fight (see below), I think it's something that happens earlier--possibly a triggering event for Jessica and others. There's a shot of Claire next to a fire truck (T2) and Luke near sirens that might be connected to this.

This brief clip (Te8) could happen before or after the initial team-up--it reflects what Alexandra says to the group when they're at the Royal Dragon restaurant (T1-2 and T4, about the Hand going after everyone they know)--has this already started or was Alexandra saying it would be starting? Trish says in the clip that she thought Jessica was exaggerating the danger, so it could be after the Royal Dragon fight. What she and Karen are doing together is hard to say, but it looks like they are in Karen's office at The Bulletin--the two did not meet in Jessica Jones, but Karen is a reporter and likely investigating what's going on.

The event we've seen the most footage of is the Midlands Circle fight (the location confirmed by Entertainment Weekly's teaser article from January, but also FE; the site was last seen in Daredevil season two). In T2, FE, and T4 we see Danny being attacked in a corporate boardroom chaired by Alexandra--this scene appeared without that context in T1, but is clearly the one that leads to the hallway fight we've seen in all trailers (as well as the elevator shot we got in Te1 months ago). At first it seemed that all four entered the building on their own, but now I think Danny arrives with Luke backing him up, having met earlier. Jessica runs into Matt before the fight (FE), with her knowing him only as a lawyer. Danny's comment in FE ("who are you people?") seems to include Luke, but it's clear that he's encountered Luke before this, so he's referring just to Matt and Jessica. Elektra, now resurrected (see below) fights them here (multiple trailers). I think this is at least the mid-point of the series.

The foursome then goes to a Chinese restaurant (the Royal Dragon) to rest. This is where Danny attempts to bring them together as a team (he mentions the Hand hunting their friends and family, saying it in a way indicating all four already know this is actively happening, T2). Stick then arrives (T1, from T3 we know it's unexpectedly) to tell them to get it together, but is followed by Alexandra and Elektra (T4), who wants to talk first. One interesting note is that, while clearly Jessica knows who Matt is, he still has the scarf on in the Chinese restaurant to begin with, but not later, so I wonder if Stick is the one who gives away his secret identity or if he tells them himself. It seems as though Alexandra leaves before her people attack. It's incredible to think that two large fight sequences would occur virtually back-to-back like this, but presumably the show has a massive amount of frenetic energy (the Midlands might be the end of one episode with the Royal Dragon beginning another).

I believe Alexandra's verbal confrontation with Stick (T2 and Te7) happens before the Midlands Circle fight, as she believes the battle is over (presumably against the Chaste; it's possible that they have this talk after she's sent people to attack the allies and friends of the Defenders and believes them neutralized). What we don't know is why she isn't afraid of the Avengers stopping her (this might not be explained).

It's difficult to say when the brief scenes we get of friends looking worried is given that Danny says it's already happening and Alexandra threatening it in roughly the same sequence (the Royal Dragon)--there's a shot of Foggy comforting Karen, Jessica rescuing Malcolm (FE), as well as Claire's shot of concern (when she's next to the ambulance, T2).

When exactly Matt decides to put on his costume back on and resume being Daredevil isn't clear, but it's after the Royal Dragon confrontation. He's in costume in a fight between he and Danny (T2 and T4), something that Jessica stops--in T4 it's clear Danny is angry about something and punches Matt first. This is part of a sequence seen in most trailers that seems to be training of some sort, but I wonder if this escalates because of a debate over what to do about Elektra--Matt undoubtedly wanting to save her, with the others (perhaps goaded by Stick) believing she must die (we've seen clips of a couple of fights between Danny and Elektra). I also think Stick might help teach Danny better ways to control and use his abilities--we know from comments made by Bakuto in Iron Fist that there's much he doesn't understand about his abilities.

A later fight scene, one with Matt in full costume, appears to be in the tunnels underneath the city (likely the hole below Midlands Circle). This was barely seen in T1 (Danny fighting Elektra), but several shots appear subsequently. It's uncertain the context of the fight, but it contains the biggest Iron Fist moment we've seen from Danny since the money shot in his final episode, as one punch blows back a group of Hand fighters. Whether this fight is leading towards the show's climax or not can't be parsed from what we've seen.

There are a number of scenes that lack enough context to safely place them, but here's what I think we can squeeze out of them. The subway scene (T2) smacks of being towards the end of the show (it might even be the end), but it could be shortly after they've all met as well.

There's a scene of Colleen Wing fighting the resurrected Bakuto (T2), which could be at almost any time in the show.

There are a pair of disconnected Luke and Jessica scenes (T2) that could be in the middle or late: one where they are fighting as a team, another where an upset Jessica is storming away from Luke (presumably the latter is earlier).

Finally we have two Daredevil scenes without context. One he's leaping from a building to rescue a falling woman; in the other he and Jessica are fighting in what looks like a club of some sort (T2). We know these are later in the show because Matt is in costume.

That's as far as the trailers take us. It's reasonable to expect the first episode to be a recap--reminding people where the characters are, and also introducing them for those who haven't seen all the shows. The second episode will likely go into establishing the plot and villain, as well as setting up the initial mystery all four heroes are investigating.

I'd guess the amount we see secondary characters declines as the show moves forward--other than Colleen none are really able to battle the Hand in their current incarnation (if Trish was Hellcat we'd see her here). What's still unknown is what Alexandra (or the Hand) is trying to do. One of the frustrations of Iron Fist is the uncertainty of what the goal of the Hand was (to control Rand and gain wealth, but for what purpose?). I also expect Elektra to change sides--it's cliche, but also what happens to her in both of her comic book origins--the only uncertainty is if she survives the series. I think the original hope for her (DD2) was that, like Frank Castle (the Punisher), she'd land her own series, but she just hasn't proven popular enough to warrant it. At a guess she survives but departs--available for future use should they want it. I'm interested to see if the show serves to get rid of the Hand as central villains--this will be their fourth appearance (DD1, DD2, and IF) and for me that's enough--but they've been tied strongly to Danny so we shall see.

The show will also serve as a way for Danny to evolve. In the comics Danny is a funny, light-hearted character, but to service the plot in his own series we saw none of the former and only a little of the latter. Given how cynical Matt and Jessica are, and how much of a loner Luke is, Danny is important connective tissue for the group.

We've been told there's a post-credit scene for the series--will it set-up The Punisher? I rather doubt it, but perhaps it will lead into season two of Jessica Jones, or even tease an entirely new series. We know Netflix is heavily invested in Marvel at this point.

Another interesting question is what impact this will have on the respective series'? Cheo Hodari Coker (LC) basically ignored the events of Jessica Jones, while both showrunners of DD have been quite faithful in dealing with events occurring in other shows. Given the not-so-subtle hints that Misty will be joining the second season of Iron Fist I'd like greater awareness throughout, and I think Netflix would do well to follow the MCU's example to have more crossover between the shows. Certainly the comments we've heard is that it will impact the future and that's my hope as well.

As I predicted long ago, reviewers have given the show a thumbs up despite all the hubbub over Iron Fist. The exact number on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't really matter so long as it's "fresh".

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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