This episode continues the color desaturation begun in episode 5, as the Defenders begin to question each others’ loyalty again. Their animosity is sparked by the chaotic, homicidal influence of Stick, who has to be the worst army leader in the history of armies.
If there is a theme to this episode, it’s best summed up by the famous Vietnam War quote (which is often misstated), “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” Everyone runs around destroying or threatening to destroy whatever they’re sworn to protect, all in the name of some perceived greater good.
Alexandra sits alone and listens to classical music on a gramophone. The needle begins skipping, repeating the same few seconds over and over until Alexandra lifts the needle up to stop the play. The record and the gramophone are old, damaged, stuck, and nearly obsolete, just like Alexandra.
The Defenders are recovering from the shock of Sowande’s attack on Danny and Stick’s subsequent murder of him. Stick explains to the Defenders that he can tell from the way Sowande spoke that Danny is a literal key to something, not just a metaphorical key that they want on their side. Stick has heard stories of the Fist opening things up or sealing them shut.
Danny doesn’t want to believe it, but Matt points out that it doesn’t matter if the Defenders believe it. The Hand believes it, and they’re willing to kill and die for it. That only leaves them with one option. Keep the Iron Fist far away from the Hand. The rest of the Defenders agree and approach Danny menacingly.
Danny’s not interested in being sidelined from the fight he’s spent his life training for. He throws out every argument he can think of, but the rest of the group have already made up their minds to make the dumbest move of the season. This is what happens when you listen to Stick for anything other than folklore.
Danny points out that Sowande might have been lying, but Matt says that he wasn’t, based on his heart rate. Okay, that answers my question about heartbeats and the Hand. It also shows that Matt can be fatally distracted, but won’t admit it, since he doesn’t respond to Danny’s response of, “Where was this heartbeat when he came up behind me?”
Danny tries to leave, so the other four stop him, and a Defenders against Iron Fist fight ensues. Danny punches Luke with the strongest Iron Fist punch we’ve ever seen, creating an actual shock wave in the room. Jessica gets tired of the whole thing and knocks Danny out with one of her supersonic punches.
They tie Danny to a chair in a small unfinished room in another part of the building. Stick uses constrictor knots, which will tighten when Danny tries to loosen them. He estimates they have about an hour before Danny recharges his chi and can use the Fist to get free.
They discuss Midland Circle, the Hand’s HQ in NYC. Matt and Elektra investigated a giant hole in the basement floor while it was being built, but he hasn’t been able to sense anything there since the building was finished. The hole has something to do with this situation. Matt and Jessica will question the architect’s family again to find out more info.
The others are pissed off to find that there’s even more information that Matt withheld from them. But, no one ties him up and tortures the rest out of him, since now they’re shorthanded, and Stick’s homicidal urges are temporarily satiated.
Luke stays behind to guard Danny. He finds Stick looking over Sowande’s body, trying to find the right box to fit his head. They debate who’ll dispose of the body. Stick wins, since he’s had so much experience, and Luke is happy to avoid more serious crimes.
Elektra wakes up from a dream memory of her relationship with Matt. She explores the apartment, and finds his Daredevil trunk. His journal is inside, with a prayer card from her funeral stuck inside the pages. She takes the prayer card with her, which includes the address of the cemetery where she was buried.
Matt and Jessica stop by his apartment for him to change into respectable clothes. He notices that the prayer card is gone.
The remaining four fingers receive Sowande’s head in a box. Stick chose a good one. The head fits perfectly. There’s the usual back and forth over who’s tried to kill who in the past, who’s loyal now, the worthiness of the Black Sky project, and whether Alexandra is a competent leader.
Later, Gao visits Alexandra in her room to make peace, with some underlying threats. The cooperation of the other three fingers is contingent on cutting Black Sky out of the project. They will continue the plan to capture the Iron Fist, the search for the substance, and the quest to return to K’un-Lun, as always. But the Black Sky has been costly and brought them nothing but closer to death.
Alexandra doesn’t like this plan, of course. She sees the Black Sky as her lost daughter, returned to her in a more durable form, and one of the keys to retaining her power. The other fingers have tried to kill Alexandra in the past.
Before she leaves, Gao says, “The past is the past. Right now, I may be your only ally.”
Alexandra replies, “And you don’t believe the Black Sky is enough to save us.”
Gao: “I have learned not to believe in anything. But our time together is not over. Not yet. Consider my proposal. We could be ready to move tonight.”
The scene is shot from odd, low angles, sometimes partially obscured, sometimes as reflections in Alexandra’s vanity mirror. Gao’s last lines, in particular, are shown as reflections, reverse mirror images. Things are not what they appear to be and won’t work out as expected. Alexandra’s mirror is reminiscent of the magic mirror used by the evil queen/stepmother in Snow White. We know how that ended.
Danny wakes up and struggles against his bonds. Luke tells Danny what he missed while he was unconscious. Danny makes reasonable arguments for why it’s stupid to tie him up and take him out of the fight. Luke alternates between being reasonable and mocking him, but won’t untie him.
Stick pretends to meditate, and in reality prepares for his next murder.
Alexandra finds Elektra staring at her grave. She twists the story of Matt and Elektra’s relationship, and Elektra’s death, to make it sound like Matt didn’t love her and was careless with her life. In fact, Matt was more protective of Elektra’s life than Elektra was.
Alexandra also tells Elektra that she’s dying and only finding more of the substance can save her. They’ll both die if they don’t find more of the substance. Elektra goes back to Midland Circle with Alexandra.
Matt and Jessica talk to the architect’s daughter at the family’s brownstone. She tells them that he was a regular, boring guy until the Midland Circle project. Then his behavior changed. He stopped sleeping, stopped eating. He’d sit and stare at the piano. Matt asks if he can try the piano.
When he plays, the D# key is hitting something. The architect hid plans to the Midland Circle building inside the piano, with his notes on how he was going to blow it up. The plans for whatever’s under the building are there, too.
As they walk back to their hideout, Jessica tells Matt that the underground structure is 30 stories deep and a perfect dome. Matt notes that the architect wanted to collapse the building straight down, not explode it outwards. He wanted to bury and destroy the underground structure while minimizing the damage to the building’s surroundings.
Stick’s murder preparations are ready. He burns incense which knocks Luke unconscious. Stick’s already taken an antidote during his “meditations”. Then he prepares to slice Danny’s head off, talking to Danny like his idea is some kind of genius move that the others didn’t think of, and like Danny’s a dog he’s about to put down.
Elektra joins the party just in time. She and Stick fight. Matt and Jesica realize something is wrong, and race the rest of the way back to the hideout. Matt gets there just as she’s about to kill Stick. She’s happy to see him, but won’t let him talk her out of her mission. She stabs Stick in the heart. Lots of blood flows out of him. He might be dead, but his head is still attached, so he might come back in DD3. Fingers crossed that he’s dead for good.
Elektra fights Matt, Jessica, and Luke, throwing them around like they’re rag dolls. She picks up Danny, who has also passed out from the incense, takes one last look at Matt, and jumps through a second story window, shattering the glass. She lands on top of a car, setting off its alarm. Even with no one conscious to appreciate it, Elektra makes a dramatic exit.
Alexandra is having dinner alone when Murakami brings her a bottle of a rare vintage wine as a peace offering/I’m about to assassinate you gift. Just as the battle is about to begin, Elektra makes her dramatic entrance, dragging The Immortal Iron Fist, key to the Hand’s immortality and return to K’un-Lun, behind her.
The four fingers of the Hand, and Elektra, gather to greet Danny, who’s strapped to a gurney and propped upright. Elektra takes a moment to survey her weapons on the way into the room. Alexandra tells Danny that he’s the same as her, wanting to find a way back to K’un-Lun. Danny denies being anything like Alexandra. She tells him that, in the end, he’ll serve her, just like everyone else. She has him wheeled away.
Alexandra goes into a full on, grandiose villain speech. She starts by telling Elektra to kill Luke cage, Jessica Jones, and the Devil of Hell’s Kichen, “whoever he is.” Elektra slips out of the room as Alexandra blathers on about her superiority.
When Elektra returns, she stabs Alexandra in the back, telling Alexandra that the Devil’s name is Matthew. Then she says to the three remaining fingers:
“And my name is Elektra Natchios. You work for me now. (She dramatically slices Alexandra’s head off.) Any questions?”
The decision to sideline Danny is one of those plans that sounds like a good idea on the surface, but is idiotic when you think about it. The Hand is a global organization. No matter where they hide him, the Hand will find him.
If they’re worried that Danny can’t fend off the Hand, that will be even more true if he’s not with the other Defenders, which means they have to waste valuable resources to have fighters guarding him at all times, even if he cooperates with the plan to go into hiding.
The more isolated Danny is, the easier it is for the Hand to take him and hide him themselves before anyone realizes what happened. The best plan would be to keep him out in the open, surrounded by the Defenders and their strongest allies, while continuing to gather information and fight.
Tying Danny up and leaving half of the remaining team to guard him leaves them three out of five fighters down. Really dumb move. Especially when one of the guards is Stick, who’s shown repeatedly that he’s willing to eat his own young with very little provocation.
I hope the fact that Matt backs up Stick’s ideas is meant to show how much Elektra has already messed up Matt’s judgement just by being part of the mix. It’s not terribly believable that Matt would jump in on Stick’s plans so quickly.
For the other Defenders to take Danny out of the loop and treat him like an object and an outsider pushes all of his buttons, ending with him feeling betrayed. He thought he’d finally found a group of kindred spirits where he could be part of something. K’un-Lun was supposed to be that, but he continues to discover ways that they failed him.
The Defenders handled the risk of Danny’s capture in the worst way possible, because Stick only has one play in his book. Lock someone up, question them, then kill them. Or just kill them. And he never doubts himself.
While Jessica and Matt are at the architect’s house, she tells the architect’s daughter the story of Matt’s childhood and his father’s death anonymously, in story form, as a way to gain Lexi’s trust. He hasn’t told Jessica the story, she had to investigate him to know about it. For Jessica, that’s practically a confession of romantic interest, and definitely an expression of friendship, which Matt gets, because they have an intuitive understanding of each other. You only bother to stalk the people you care about.
Elektra killed both of her adoptive parents in this episode, and took back her own name. She also enjoyed having Alexandra’s blood splash on her face. She’s living in some dark fairytale, or is some dark goddess, but I haven’t figured out what or who yet.
Defenders Elektra is much more interesting than Daredevil Elektra was. DD Elektra was there simply to serve as a plot device to illustrate Matt’s two warring sides within himself, which were illustrated by his Madonna/Whore, light vs dark, good vs bad girlfriends. It was a gross, anti-feminist storyline, if you looked closely.
The name Black Sky sounds like a literal dark version of Snow White. At least one of the ways to look at this season is as a subverting of that story, which I’ll do in detail eventually.
Alexandra should have known better than to get all egotistical with the villain monologue. Distraction from overconfident megalomaniacal speechifying has taken out two fingers of the Hand so far.