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Recap / The Defenders 2017 S 1 E 1 The H Word

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The first episode of The Defenders (2017).

In the sewers below Phnom Penh, Cambodia, an unnamed man is being chased and attacked by a hooded Elektra Natchios. The two exchange blows, and the man is clearly getting overwhelmed in the fight. Before Elektra can land the killing stroke, Danny Rand appears out of the darkness and engages her. Danny holds his own against Elektra, but she manages to score a thin slice across Danny's tattoo; in his shock, Elektra gets the opening she needs and stabs the mystery man to death. Danny tries to chase down Elektra as she flees, and manages to land one Iron fist-packed punch on her, but she disappears as quickly as she appeared. When Danny returns to the man, Colleen Wing has caught up with him, and he clearly has seconds to live. With his final words, the man tells them that their fight is in New York City. Danny is extremely frustrated, as this man has been one of their biggest leads in their search for the Hand, and just like that, he's gone.

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In Manhattan, Jessica Jones is passed out drunk in an empty bar. She gets rudely awakened by the bartender, who helpfully informs her that its morning and she should probably leave. Outside, it is raining as Trish Walker rushes to keep her car from getting towed, having parked illegally in a loading zone. The parking enforcement officer writing the ticket is unsympathetic and refuses to unhook her car, that is, until Jessica shows up and rips Trish's car off the tow cable with her bare hands. As they walk, Trish and Jessica talk about Jessica's life state ever since Kilgrave's death. Jessica's life apparently now involves a lot of drinking and zero working, which greatly concerns Trish. Trish lets Jessica know that she's been getting a lot of calls from publicists, and wants Jessica to take some interviews on Trish Talk, if only to make some extra money while dodging her PI business. Trish is disappointed that Jessica could take such a triumphant event like defeating Kilgrave and make it all negative, but Jessica tries to tell her not to worry. Trish takes a sip of her coffee and nearly spits it out. It turns out Jessica had accidentally handed her coffee to Trish, which is laced with whiskey.

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At Seagate Prison, Luke Cage is being escorted down a hallway by two guards while the inmates cheer him on. He's being released from prison now that all the charges against him have been dropped. As he's being discharged, he is greeted by his lawyer, Foggy Nelson, who thanks Luke for his friend Bobby Fish supplying the necessary evidence to exonerate him. Foggy congratulates Luke for his restraint, making it through his time served without a single incident. Luke asks for Claire, but Foggy tells him only the lawyers are allowed back here. As Luke leaves, Foggy gives him his business card and lets him know that he can always reach out to Hogarth Chao & Benowitz if he ever needs help. Luke assures him he doesn't need to start over, he just needs to move forward, always. Foggy helpfully lets him know that most people call him Foggy, to which Luke quips, "And you let them?" which earns an amused smirk from Foggy.

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In his apartment, Matt Murdock is brewing his morning coffee, rehearsing his remarks for an upcoming court case as his notes are being printed off on a Braille printer. He freezes up mid-speech when he hears the sound of a fight breaking out outside. Matt tenses, trying to resist the urge to get involve. He relaxes when he hears the police arrive to break up the situation and resumes practicing his speech. Mid-sentence, the scene switches to a courtroom, where Matt is cross-examining a witness in an injury lawsuit. He is representing a family that's suing a construction company for faulty construction and using substandard materials, which caused their son Aaron James to have an accident that has left him permanently paraplegic. Matt manages to pin the executive on the stand into a corner and goes in for the kill.

Ultimately, Matt wins his client $11 million in punitive damages. As they are emerging from the courtroom, Aaron's parents walk ahead to talk to the group of reporters that are there to report on the verdict, while Aaron hangs back. Aaron is very nervous, and clearly having a hard time adjusting to his new circumstances. Matt hangs back and gives Aaron a little pep talk. Remembering some things Stick once told him, he suggests to Aaron that he shouldn't let his disability and other people define who he is. Rather, he should define who he is by himself. Aaron seems to be won over by Matt's sage advice, and wheels away to join his family during their little hallway press conference. As Matt lingers, he senses someone standing right behind him. Much to his delight, it's Karen Page, who is here covering the case as a reporter for the New York Bulletin. Karen congratulates Matt on winning the case and is complimentary toward him and what he did in the room. She timidly mentions that she needs a quote from him for the Bulletin story, and suggests that maybe they could go out and do it over lunch. Matt seems surprised at the offer, and happily agrees to do so, once he's done his part giving a statement to the TV reporters.

Danny and Colleen are flying back to New York on a Rand Enterprises plane. Danny has a vivid nightmare in which he sees the dead bodies of the monks in K'un-L'un and himself being chastised for them getting killed. Colleen rousts him and tries to get him to talk about the screaming, which he tries to shrug off as turbulence terrors, but she's not buying it. They talk about the man they hunted down in Cambodia and its clear that he's feeling guilty about his death, and is still feeling guilty about the not being at K'un L'un to protect his city. Colleen insists that it's not his fault, but Danny remains unconvinced.

At a nondescript medical facility, a woman named Alexandra is waiting for an appointment. An employee comes up and leads her to a really bare, empty room, and asks Alexandra to change into a patient gown. The nurse brings her out of the room and to a larger room with a CAT scan machine. The doctor greets her warmly but has bad news for her, which she seems to be expecting: her blood cell count is precipitously low and her body's organs are starting to shut down. She asks what the doctor is going to do about it, and he says there isn't anything they can really do, which is an answer that doesn't satisfy her. When Alexandra asks how long she has, he guesstimates around a few months.

Jessica returns to her apartment, which has still not been fixed since the fight she and Trish had with Will Simpson. The window is boarded up and the apartment itself is still absolutely trashed with holes in the wall and the bullet holes from Simpson's gun right behind Jessica's desk. There are two people standing outside the door as she approaches: Michelle Raymond and her teenage daughter Lexi. They've heard about what Jessica did and want her to take a case: Michelle's husband John has been missing for a week, and she's worried for him. Jessica flat out refuses. As Michelle presses her case, Jessica goes into mocking mode, and suggests that everyone thinks their partner would never do anything like this, but usually they're always cheating. Lexi lobs a few snarky comments at Jessica and her mom, and finally the two of them leave. Jessica has a moment of remorse as she prepares to open her door, turns around, and calls out to them. Michelle turns around hopefully, but Jessica only says that she hopes they can find him soon. Just as Jessica is settling down in her apartment, her phone rings. A man using a scrambler to disguise his voice gives her a simple message: do not look for John Raymond.

Luke returns to Manhattan, reentering on a bus ride over the Queensboro Bridge, and he takes in the sights of Harlem, including Pop's Barbershop, which has been restored to mint condition since Diamondback tore up the place. He gets off the bus, which is plastered with a New Harlem Renaissance ad, hinting that Mariah Dillard is still active. As he disembarks, he's greeted by Claire Temple, who has been waiting for this moment and asks him if he wants that coffee. They end up back at her apartment and immediately have very passionate sex, overturning furniture, going at it all over the place, on the floor and on the dining room table. As Luke and Claire bask in the afterglow, they make small talk on what Luke might do now that hes back in New York. He calls Claire out a little bit, saying that he knows she kept some things from him in the letters they exchanged while he was away. She confesses a lot of things happened and are still going on in the city, and she's concerned about Luke trying to be a hero. Their post-coital chat is interrupted by a knock on the door. It's Detective Misty Knight, amused to see Luke at Claire's place so quickly after being let out. Misty politely asks Luke to come with her, as she's interested in getting his input on a case she's working.

Matt and Karen take lunch at an Upper West Side diner. They exchange some small talk about their jobs. With the closure of Nelson & Murdock, Matt has been doing pro bono lawyering. Meanwhile, Ellison has been giving Karen free reign as she gets settled in to her new career. Karen really feels like this journalism work is what she's meant to do, and a great way of honoring Ben Urich's legacy. She lowers her voice a bit and asks Matt whether he misses being Daredevil. He hesitantly admits that he doesn't regret it, but he doesn't miss it either. Karen seems to be satisfied with that response, and comments that she really feels like they needed some time to figure themselves out and, now that she knows Matt is Daredevil, they're in a much better place. She mentions she's been covering the police beat and she really thinks the NYPD are doing a good job. Matt cracks a bit of a cynical smile, realizing that maybe he actually did it-he was the hero this city needed when the NYPD were in Fisk's pocket, and now they don't need Daredevil anymore. But Karen thinks that right now the city needs more of Matt Murdock. She then remembers that she still needs that quote, which Matt quickly gives her.

Jessica gets on her computer and spends the afternoon researching information on John Raymond. At one point, Malcolm Ducasse pops in from his apartment down the hall to grab a soda from her fridge, much to Jessica's annoyance. She's apparently already told him to stop coming over unannounced, which Malcolm helpfully counters is because he made himself a copy of her key when he agreed to help her get her locks changed. He lights up at seeing that Jessica is on her computer and researching a case. She insists she hasn't taken it...yet, and he's already celebrating that she's totally taken the case and runs over to hover over her shoulder while she's researching, which pisses her off. They talk briefly about the missing man. John Raymond is an MIT graduate and an architect at Duncan & Dotter Designs, and has designed numerous skyscrapers in New York and the Middle East. Malcolm posits the possibility that the threatening phone call is actually from an amateur, and maybe Jessica could trace the call back by calling the phone company. Jessica immediately picks up the phone and calls the operator, pretending that she received a call from her grandfather who is missing from dementia and gets the number. The address the number is connected to is a payphone at 11th Avenue and 49th Street. Malcolm recognizes the address from his days as an addict in Kilgrave's employ is a shooting gallery - a super shady place that people generally use to get off the grid to use drugs, and other illicit vices.

Luke and Misty take an afternoon stroll through Harlem, exchanging small talk along the way about taking down Diamondback. Now that Luke's back, he's interested in taking down Mariah Dillard and Hernan "Shades" Alvarez, who have apparently been keeping a low profile the last few months. Misty has been made lead detective on a citywide task force combating a new crime syndicate that's popped up recently. Their conversation takes them to the charred remains of a parked car, which is decorated with flowers from an impromptu shrine. Misty explains that since Diamondback's arrest, Harlem has been hit by a string of suspicious murders that bear striking similarities: young black males in their twenties get recruited into some kind of mysterious well-paying job, move their mothers out of the projects into nice houses in Westchester County, then turn up dead. No one knows what sort of work they're doing, and whether it's drug running or it could be something more sinister, Misty doesn't know. But the real kicker, is that this burned out car belonged to Sean Miller, and if that last name sounds familiar, it's because his sister was Candace Miller, the Harlem's Paradise waitress that Shades killed on Mariah's orders so she couldn't testify to witnessing Mariah kill Cottonmouth. Candace and Sean had another brother, Cole, and last Misty heard, Cole wasn't exactly on the right side of the law. She hopes Luke can talk some sense into Cole before his mother loses her last child.

Following lunch with Karen, Matt goes to his church and sits down for confessional with Father Lantom. It's been three days since his last confession, and he's going more consistently and often since Elektra's death. Matt begins by talking about his reunion with Karen. Matt feels bad, telling Karen a white lie about not missing Daredevil. Father Lantom assesses Matt's mood about the conversation, and the conversation changes to Elektra and how Matt is dealing with her death. Matt is clearly hung up over how she died, and wonders if he's disrespecting Elektra's memory by hanging up the Daredevil armor.

Alexandra is in Central Park, sitting on a bench and feeding the pigeons. Madame Gao sits down and says she thought she'd find her here, as it's always been her favorite spot. Alexandra muses about how surprised she is that the park hasn't already been razed to the ground and replaced with high rise buildings, as she remembers when it used to be forest. She reminisces about how the Dutch bought Manhattan for 24 dollars, though in her opinion, it was 24 dollars too much. They move onto discussion of more important things, like the Hand's upcoming agenda. Madame Gao updates Alexandra about some part of this plan and says in a few months they should be ready to make their move. Alexandra quickly shuts this down, which seems to take Madame Gao by surprise. Instead, Alexandra wants to make her move now, which Gao tries to talk her out of. She doesn't think it's a good idea, they still need more time, but knowing what we know about Alexandra's updated life expectancy, she obviously can't afford to wait.

As night falls, Luke heads over to Cole's apartment, full with flickering lights and loud rap music. Luke encounters a group of guys in front of an apartment and asks them where he can find Cole. They're about to snap at him for interrupting them until Luke pulls down his hoodie, at which points their jaws snap shut and they direct him one floor up. Luke lets himself into the apartment, sees Cole, and walks up to an expensive looking speaker set up to turn down / off the music. Cole angrily exclaims, thinking that his friends are messing with his equipment and is surprised to see it's Luke. Luke says he's here to pay his respects for his siblings. But Cole pretty much stubbornly refuses to listen or provide any information on his brother's work. Luke notices that for a kid between jobs, Cole seems to have some pretty nice material possessions (the music / speaker system, a very spacious apartment, really nice shoe collection) and asks if he might have taken on the same job his brother had before he died. Cole is silent, and Luke exchanges a few words of wisdom before he leaves.

As Luke exits down the stairs of Cole's apartment, Jessica enters a similarly sketchy apartment building in Hell's Kitchen, with poor lighting, and the sounds of people fighting and/or having sex. She heads up the stairs to the specific apartment that John Raymond has apparently been renting. She bangs on the door, shouting to John that she knows he's inside. After getting no response, she breaks in by breaking the doorknob. The TV is playing the evening news, but the place is otherwise dim and deserted. Jessica slowly walks through, peeking into the bedroom and rounding back out to the living area. She spots some boxes, opens one up and immediately pales as she notices that the boxes are full of explosives.

On the rooftop gardens of Rockefeller Center where she once had a meeting with Wilson Fisk, Madame Gao lets Alexandra know that things have begun, which seems to please Alexandra greatly. We see the plans begin to unfold and affect the other characters.

Matt returns to his apartment from his confession with Father Lantom. Just as he's about to grab a beer from the fridge, the ground suddenly begins shaking and he freezes, unsure what to do. The shaking intensifies, his possessions get knocked off the table, and he can only freeze up in fear. He lies down on the floor by the couch and waits for the shaking to stop.

Jessica, in the sketchy apartment, is also looking around in a mixture of confusion and surprise as the pictures on the walls begin shaking and the TV newscast flickers out.

In Harlem, the tremors cause entire rows of parked cars to bounce up and down on their wheels and knocks down several streetlights. One of them nearly crushes Cole's mother, who is lighting candles at the memorial for Sean, but Luke appears in time to bear the weight of the falling lamp and pushes it back up and away from her.

Danny and Colleen have just gotten off a helicopter from an evening aerial tour of the city, but just as they walk off the landing pad, a large crack rips across the landing pad, they hear several loud crashes, and the lights of several nearby skyscrapers briefly go out.

As everything crumbles outside, Alexandra calmly turns from the edge of the rooftop and walks over to a hooded Elektra and tells her, "It's just a city. You'll get used to watching them fall."

As the shaking stops, Matt gets to his feet and is quickly overwhelmed by the sounds of sirens and cries for help.

Tropes

  • Action Prologue: We get one between Danny and Elektra in Cambodia.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Foggy's reaction as he greets Luke on his release from prison.
    Foggy Nelson: People call me Foggy.
    Luke: And you let them?
  • Bad Dreams: Danny appears to be plagued by night terrors about K'un-L'un. According to Colleen, it's not the first time he's been heard screaming in his sleep.
  • Bait-and-Switch: During the first season finale of Luke Cage, Claire tells Luke she knows a great lawyer that can get him off the hook. Luke's first scene in the episode reveals she was talking about Foggy Nelson, not Matt Murdock.
  • Call-Back:
    • Right before leaving prison, Luke says to Foggy, "I'm moving forward," like Pop would always say.
    • Matt and Karen's conversation at the diner heavily recalls the angry remarks Karen made to Matt in "Guilty as Sin" after Frank Castle's trial blew up in their faces.
    • The way Matt and Karen say hello to each other very much echoes their habit of flirting by last name as they did during their sole date in "Kinbaku".
  • Chekhov's Gun: The boxes of C4 that Jessica finds will become important for the finale.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome:
    • Matt Murdock has to physically restrain himself from going out to help people until he hears the cops coming to break up a fight.
    • Luke Cage wants to help more people the minute he's out of jail, and go back to bringing down Mariah and Shades. Claire can't help but suggest he take it easy, and Misty jokes about asking someone fresh out of lockup to do the cops' job.
  • Continuity Nod: There are many references to the previous seasons of each of the solo series for every individual Defender.
    • Matt Murdock still goes to Father Lantom for confession.
      • The opening scene of Matt in court, and him meeting Karen right after his little pep talk to Aaron, takes place in the same courtroom that Frank Castle's trial in season 2 and John Healy's trial in season 1 took place in.
      • Karen brings up Matt's vigilante life, which she learned about in the closing shot of season two.
      • When Karen runs into Matt in the courthouse hallway after the lawsuit, the music in the background is the same music that played over Matt and Karen's makeout scene in "Kinbaku". And even though Matt and Karen are still "working things out" (as Matt says to Foggy later on), Karen's crush on Matt is still visible when she encounters him:
      Karen Page: Congratulations, Mr. Murdock.
      Matt Murdock: Oh! Thank you, Miss Page.
      Karen Page: It's okay. You can be proud of yourself...a little. I won't tell anyone.
      Matt Murdock: Um, you're here for a statement?
      Karen Page: Uh, yeah. Hey, you maybe wanna...do it over a bite?
      Matt Murdock: Uh, sure! Yeah! Um, can you give me five minutes?
      Karen Page: Yeah.
      • It's not clear here, but Matt has moved his old desk from Nelson & Murdock into his apartment, positioned at the end of the entry hallway.
    • Jessica Jones still hasn't fixed the damage her apartment took in the fight with Simpson. She still has the bullet holes in the walls.
      • Jessica is still dealing with Kilgrave's death and her sudden rise in popularity.
      • Malcolm still has a habit of dropping in on Jessica unannounced.
      • Malcolm also makes a mention of knowing about the local drug dens because of his history as an addict under Kilgrave's control.
    • Foggy thanks Luke for having Bobby Fish supply him with the necessary evidence.
      • Luke tells Foggy that he's "moving forward", which was a variation of Pop's "Always forward".
      • Luke's bus passes Pop's Barbershop on his way to meet Claire. The bus also has a New Harlem Renaissance advertisement on it, telling us Mariah Dillard is still around.
      • Claire mentions "coffee" to Luke. Which they then act on.
      • Mariah, Shades, and Diamondback are discussed in great detail. Mariah and Shades at least, are still in operation.
      • The latest victim in the string of suspicious murders in Harlem happens to be a brother of Candace Miller, the would-be witness who would've put Mariah away for Cottonmouth's murder if Shades hadn't killed her.
    • Danny Rand is still afraid of flying and doesn't like turbulence. Ironically, he's been using a Rand Industries plane on his trip across Asia, no doubt given to him by Ward Meachum to make amends.
  • Destructo-Nookie: It's a miracle that none of Claire's bones were broken along with the table as she boned Luke.
  • Establishing Character Moment: For each of the Defenders.
    • Danny's introduction has him chasing down members of the Hand, first fighting normally before summoning the Iron Fist and knocking out his attacker in one blow. He then comes back to the one survivor, wanting to help him live, and is distraught at his death, showing his competency in combat and his compassion for others.
    • Jessica is introduced hungover, ripping Trish's car off of a tow truck, then vehemently denying being any kind of actual hero.
    • Luke is brought in being released from prison. He's being cheered on by his fellow inmates, who all are happy for his release. When the guard has trouble with his cuffs, he simply snaps them and tears them off like they were paper, handing them to another guard and showing that he could have left any time if he wanted to, but that he was truly a good person.
    • Matt's first scene has him practicing his performance for the court room, only to hear a commotion outside. He's on the verge of going out to break it up, but calms down when he hears some cops arrive to defuse the mess, showcasing his focus on his heroism nearly overstepping his law profession, but not to the degree of making either too badly handled.
    • Alexandra's first scene has her going to a medical facility to undergo a MRI Scan.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: We jump back and forth between Matt, Jessica, Luke, Danny, and Alexandra.
  • Greasy Spoon: Matt and Karen catch up at the Metro Diner on the Upper West Side.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Madame Gao is shown acting deferential to Alexandra and delivering her messages to the "others", presumably the other leaders of the Hand.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Matt seems to be taking lessons from Stick, as he tells Aaron not to rely on this and how other people think he should recover, instead to take power from the form of recovery itself and try his best to live his own life.
  • Match Cut:
    • A sound one happens from Alexandra in the MRI machine to Jessica getting off her elevator
    • A physical one happens as we see Jessica slam a glass down on a bar counter hard enough to break it and then cut to Trish stepping in a puddle of water as she runs to stop her car from being towed.
    • This is how we cut from Matt rehearsing arguments in his apartment to him cross-examining a defendant in court.
    • Luke exits down the stairs of Cole's apartment, and then we cut to Jessica coming up the stairs of the dive apartment.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jessica's search for John Raymond leads her to an apartment full of crates. Crates that are full of explosives. Whether or not they are going to go off is not the point. It scares Jessica enough to realize this is something that is better left in the hands of the cops.
    Jessica Jones: Holy shit...
  • Pet the Dog: Alexandra, despite obviously being up to no good, takes some time to feed the pigeons and tells Gao to continue doing so when she leaves.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • As Matt is getting ready for court, he hears the sounds of a fight a few blocks away. His hands ball up into fists, and he strongly fights the urge to go out and do something about it, only relaxing when he hears the police arrive to break it up.
    • Jessica refuses to take on the Raymonds' case to their faces, then upon getting into her apartment, gets a call from someone using an electronically disguised voice.
  • Reluctant Hero: Jessica refuses to admit she's actually helping people... while she's clearly helping them. Malcolm picks up on this and goes over her "I haven't taken the case" rhetoric to ask her about the various things she's doing that are clearly her having taken the case of a possible cheater.
  • Shown Their Work: Zigzagged in the MRI sequence. Alexandra is told to get in a hospital gown and remove all jewelry, which is accurate, yet she is not given earplugs, a necessity as MRI's are very loud.
  • Title Drop: As the case was for every episode of her home series, Jessica Jones indulges this as she and Trish are walking and discussing the aftermath of her fight against Kilgrave.
    Trish Walker: You've become a fullblown super—
    Jessica Jones: Do not say the h-word!
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Combined with a Match Cut, we see this happen in Matt's introduction as we cut from him rehearsing his remarks in his apartment to him brutally cross-examining a witness in court on the witness stand.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Despite their estrangement due to the events of season 2, Matt and Karen's attraction to each other is still visible first when Karen approaches Matt in the courthouse, and during the diner conversation.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Alexandra and Madame Gao discuss the plans they and their confidants have while feeding the birds in Central Park.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Shaft is killed by Elektra in the Action Prologue.
  • Wham Shot: After the city is hit by some kind of earthquake-like event, Alexandra turns to speak to a hooded figure standing behind her. The hooded figure is Elektra.
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