The Defenders start hurtling towards their finale in “Ashes, Ashes,” episode six out of eight. The fight with the Hand is looking ugly, and that’s not the only ugly thing this time around. The pieces are falling into place for a big confrontation, and there are a lot of changes coming. It’ll be very interesting to see how this all spins out.
The episode opens with Alexandra, alone as we usually see her. She’s listening to an old phonograph, the precursor to record players. The disc is old and warped and starts to skip. When it does, she pulls it off, examines it, and holds it in her lap, looking both sad and tired. It’s interesting that she’s showing more emotional attachment to that old record than she has to anyone on the show, with the arguable exception of Elektra. How much of that is real versus a ploy to keep Elektra under control is anyone’s guess.
The group, meanwhile, is standing around in varying degrees of shock in the aftermath of Stick killing Sowande. The Hand is down a finger. I guess they’ll need new gloves now. Stick points out they have learned that Iron Fist is an actual, literal key. Everyone debates what this might mean, with Danny himself among the ones that disagree. Stick also points out that the Hand needs Danny to win the war.
This leads to a big split among the characters. Most of them think the best idea is to keep Danny hidden so the Hand can’t find him. Danny isn’t keen on this idea. What starts as a debate devolves to an actual fight, as Danny fights Daredevil. I’ll point out that Stick earlier called Daredevil “the most gifted natural fighter he’s ever seen,” and Danny holds his own pretty damn well. There’s some great fight choreography, too. Unfortunately, the others side with Stick, and, while Danny’s damn good, he doesn’t do that well against all of them. There is a really impressive reaction when Iron Fist meets Cage’s body at one point.
After the opening credits, Luke carries the unconscious Danny into one of the side rooms of their warehouse base of operations. Jessica and Luke agree they’re both bad at keeping in touch as they acknowledge their shared pasts, while Stick and Daredevil tie Danny to a chair. It usually takes a lot longer for a hero team to fall apart like this. I guess they’re speeding everything up for Defenders. There’s more arguing about Matt’s past with Elektra. When Matt points out that they don’t know much about Jessica’s past either, she counters that her past is none of their business and not actively trying to kill them all right now. Fair point, really. Finally, Matt and Jessica go off to dig more into the dead architect that was how Jessica got mixed up in this in the first place, while Stick and Luke stay to watch over Danny.
Elektra has a nice dream about some of her and Matt’s time together. Then she wakes up, alone, in Matt’s apartment. She wanders around, pokes at a few things, and gets an unpleasant surprise when she finds a keepsake in Matt’s journal. Oddly, the journal appears blank. I didn’t even see Braille markings in it.
Stick and Luke talk about their pasts and the disposition of Sowande’s body. Luke isn’t happy with Stick’s methods at all. Matt and Jessica meanwhile visit his place so he can change to a suit and tie and banter a bit. He notices things out of place, but apparently hasn’t learned his lesson yet about keeping secrets.
The Hand gets Stick’s message, in the not so subtle form of Sowande’s head in a box. I wonder if UPS charges extra for that? Dissension continues in the ranks as almost no one is happy with Alexandra’s leadership. Finally, she stalks out after talking more about whatever their goal is. I have a theory or two, but we’ll see.
Matt and Jessica chat as they wander towards the Thomas’ home. She makes a bit of a faux pas that even she is embarased by for once. Finally, they get there, and champion sulker Lexie answers the door. After she mopes a bit, she finally lets them in.
Alexandra pops more of her pills before Gao comes in. They have a talk about their shared history and dedication to the Hand. Even while being something of a mediator between Alexandra and the rest, Gao doesn’t buy into Alexandra’s faith in the Black Sky idea. Gao finally leaves, and we get a hint her visit wasn’t quite what it seemed.
Danny wakes up in his chair, and thrashes around a bit. The knots Stick tied start choking him, while Luke sits nearby reading the paper. They debate about what’s going on, with neither one giving any ground. Danny’s still pissed off, and Luke is a bit overconfident. They also talk about Stick, who is drinking something or other and meditating. Luke still isn’t buying the more mystic aspects of the story he’s been dragged into. Jessica gets compared to Shao Lao the Undying, and there are hints that these two like each other despite themselves or the current mess.
Matt and Jessica talk with Lexie, and Jessica uses the story of Matt’s father, without naming names, to try and get through to the teenager. Elektra meanwhile visits her own grave and gets a very skewed version of her life story from Alexandra. Alexandra also shares her health concerns with Elektra and gives us a better idea what the Hand is after so desperately.
Stick and Danny debate the current situation with a few vague comments about what’s going on and the nature of chi. Lexie talks about her dad with Matt and Jessica, finally showing some grief and sadness, not just snark and sulk. Eventually, Matt figures out where the man hid something important and they take off to bring word to the others.
Stick and Cage talk more about their differing viewpoints. Stick shares some of his history as he starts burning some incense for focus and forgiveness. As they chat, Danny’s hand starts glowing. He’s not planning on staying prisoner for long. Matt and Jessica make their way back to the others, talking about what they found out and how Jessica knew about his dad, which I was wondering myself. I’m still not sure when she had time to look all that up since they met. Jessica even gives a rare compliment.
Stick has been biding his time, and has his own plan for how to keep the Hand from getting Danny. It’s not a good idea, but Stick is a wily and clever fighter, as well as being ruthless. Stick’s Machievellian idea gets interrupted when Elektra suddenly shows up. How she knew where they are I have no idea at all. Elektra shows that whatever they did to her to make her Black Sky, she’s not fighting at strictly human levels anymore. Matt and Jessica get back in time to witness a loss, get their collective butts kicked, and for Elektra to flee with her prize. Not a great day for the good guys.
Alexandra is, once again, eating alone in a restaurant she appears to have closed down except for her. Between her and the group’s stay at Royal Dragon, the dining industry isn’t doing too well in this part of New York. Murakami interrupts and they start having a really serious discussion. That gets interrupted by the arrival of Elektra and her prize. The Hand has a meeting to discuss recent events, and there are some permanent, and surprising, changes.
What I liked: The Iron Fist vs his friends fight was one of the best ones they’ve done yet in the series. Damn shame it was heroes fighting each other. Matt and Jessica make a great investigative team and their talk was fun to watch. Gao and Murakami are my two favorite of the Hand (and why does my spellcheck know who Murakami is? That’s disconcerting). Stick is damn brilliant in his twisted way. I’m glad they referred back to a few things from Daredevil’s past, like the big hole, his father, and even the neon sign.
What I didn’t: I’m not a huge fan of heroes fighting each other. I hate that Danny got ganged up on. For all the flaws in his series, and I’m not blind to them, Iron Fist is my favorite comic character of these four. I can’t help but feel bad for him. Alexandra still hasn’t shown me why she is so feared by the others. Even slimy Bakuto seems like he has more menace to him, not to mention being more useful. He at least provides their new fighters. I’m not clear on how Elektra found them so easily.
I’m enjoying, but this wasn’t their best episode. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5. Two more to go!