Disclaimers: We can’t speculate much about the next Defenders season, since the continuation of this season’s storylines will be picked up in the individual series’ seasons that will be released long before we get season 2 of The Defenders. So my speculation is about where the story might go for individual characters or organizations, regardless of which show in the Netflix Marvel Universe they might be appearing on at the time. Also, there are a few previously published spoilers sprinkled throughout this post, such as casting news for the various shows. Spoilers are marked [Spoilers].
Characters & Relationships
I enjoyed The Defenders and its focus on the characters. The interplay between the various Defenders was fun, interesting and deepened each character. The interactions between the Defenders and the members of the Hand and other side characters also gave us some entertaining moments, and challenged the characters. Gao and Hogarth, in particular, are played by incredible, talented women, are well-written, and generally provide a challenge to whoever is on screen with them. The addition of Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra was genius, and it’s sad, in a way, that she seems to be definitively dead, so we can’t see more of her. It was also entertaining to watch the supporting casts from each show come together and play with each other.
But the Defenders themselves are the main attraction, and they deserve the attention. Watching Danny and Luke develop from two alpha males who didn’t like each other and stood in their corners snarling, to a big and little brother camaraderie and respect was tons of fun. Seeing the two damaged, suspicious orphans, Jessica and Matt, slowly let down their guard enough to trust each other and discover their matching sarcastic senses of humor was also good fun.
[Spoiler: Danny will be visiting Luke, Claire, and Misty on Luke Cage, season 2, so the bromance will continue. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see Danny supervise Misty’s fitting and rehab with her new cybernetic arm.)
We also saw the reunion between former lovers Jessica and Luke, who eventually came to terms with their complicated history and agreed to be friends. They promised to stay in touch, so maybe we’ll get some crossovers there too. They have great chemistry and an obvious bond with each other. They are the two grounded, practical defenders, who are more comfortable dealing with the real world.
Matt and Danny are both more mystical and spiritual, which draws them together. They both draw strength and guidance from their beliefs. Danny is infused with the essence of Shao Lao, so his faith is very immediate and undeniable to him, the things it asks of him well-defined, and his spiritual adviser, Lei Kung, spoke with utmost certainty.
Matt, on the other hand, is the darkness to Danny’s light. His spirituality is filled with guilt and uncertainty. His God never speaks directly to him in a clear way, or to his spiritual advisor, Father Lantom. Matt is defined by his quest to understand his proper place in the world, and what the right choices are for him. He and Danny are each intrigued by the other’s spirituality. Danny’s was raised in such confining certainty, that having the chance to question things is a marvel. Matt has been so guilt-ridden for his entire life that a positive spirituality is a breath of fresh air.
[Spoiler: Matt’s Catholicism may become even more important in Daredevil season 3.]
Ironically, Matt was exposed to Danny’s religion through Stick, but Stick warped the views of K’un Lun even more than the Hand did. Stick forgot what he was supposed to be fighting for, and became consumed with the fight alone. Had Danny been leading the Chaste, Matt might have been convinced to join, at least part time. It’s hard to imagine Matt actually abandoning Hell’s Kitchen for good. Stick was so corrupt that it only took him about a day to decide that he needed to kill the Iron Fist, the person that he’d sworn to protect with his life, while he kept the Black Sky, ultimate weapon of the Hand, alive for years.
Having each Defender express that NYC is their hometown and they were going to fight for it, was meaningful for lost kid brother Danny, who finally rediscovered it as his hometown too, and picked up where Matt left off as guardian of Hell’s Kitchen. That sibling relationship was also important for Danny, as he keeps trying on surrogate siblings for size. Before this, he hasn’t found ones that will stick and that he can absolutely trust to do the right thing, either in K’un Lun foster brother Davos or business associates Ward and Joy Meachum. The other Defenders are more likely to show up when he needs them and understand what he’s fighting for, hopefully making them Danny’s, and each other’s, real family.
It was important for Matt to spend time with Danny and Luke, who are committed to their hero personae, and live out in the open. Even Jessica, who is a reluctant hero, doesn’t hide her identity or history. Matt needed to see people openly and fully embracing who they are. He’s been struggling with his own identity issues, debating whether it’s okay to keep working as Daredevil, and whether he’s even needed. The others served as models to remind him why he’s needed and important, and that it’s okay to admit to himself and the people he’s closest to that being Daredevil is important to him.
Matt still has the issue of Elektra to deal with, since he’s been ready to walk away from his life for her twice now. Being with Elektra involves taking his acceptance to the opposite extreme, and denying his need for normalcy. The other Defenders tried to talk him out of his Elektra addiction, but it’s hard to say if that will ever be possible.
Jessica was feeling abused and like her life had spiraled out of her control after the Kilgrave psychic abuse case in her show’s season 1. Being dragged into working on this case, with surrogate brothers who both protected her and treated her like an equal, gave her some confidence back. She had specific expertise to add to the process that no one else could, both as a PI and as the superstrong, superpractical, no nonsense superhero. Her ability to take quick, definitive action made the difference more than once. She couldn’t save the architect, but she got answers for his family, and helped bring down the organization that killed him.
She’s a functioning alcoholic (sometimes barely functioning) who hadn’t been able to bring herself to go back to work after the Kilgrave case. Working with the Defenders gave Jessica her confidence back, and exercised some of her demons. She finishes the season by putting her private detective sign back in full view on her front door.
[Spoiler: It’s a good thing Jessica’s back in fighting shape, because rumor has it that Kilgrave will be back for Jessica Jones season 2.]
Luke tends to be a practical, down to earth, lone wolf, with a chip on his shoulder. The teamwork with different kinds of people was good for him, to break him out of some of his cynicism, especially his distrust of wealth and his refusal to think beyond the mundane. Between falling for Claire, going home to Harlem and deciding to fight for his town, clearing his name, and finding it in him to believe in people again, he’s a very different Luke from the depressed, suspicious loner that we met in Jessica Jones.
Luke was probably the Defender who had already evolved the most when the season started. His main growth this season was to have his eyes opened to the issues of the larger world that could affect his town, including mystical and magical issues that are sometimes beyond normal human comprehension. He is the most grounded Defender, and acts to ground the others, but he also needs them to lighten him up and get him to think more openly and flexibly.
It was wonderful to see the close friendship between Claire and Colleen continue. Female friendships tend to get forgotten on these types of shows, unless they’re essential canon like Jessica and Trish, so having those two talk about matters with substance more than once was a good sign. And we also got Jessica and Trish, Trish and Karen, Claire and Misty, Misty and Colleen’s new friendship, and Gao and Alexandra’s very complicated, old friendship. Plus, however you want to characterize Black Sky’s relationship’s with Alexandra and Gao. And many other more incidental encounters that could turn into more down the road, or do mean more on the characters’ own shows, like Jessica and Hogarth. That’s a wealth of attention given to female bonding on what would normally be a nearly males-only buddy show.
[Spoiler: It appears that Misty and Colleen’s partnership from the comics, Daughters of the Dragon, will be explored in Iron Fist season 2, since Misty will be joining the Iron Fist cast.]
I need a Daughters of the Dragon series, starring Misty, her cybernetic arm, and Colleen, where Gao is the main antagonist, with her protegés Joy Meacham and Davos. Maybe she’ll have a little help from Colleen’s former student Darryl, or maybe he’ll have broken Bakuto’s cult/Hand programming and returned to Colleen as her assistant. All of the other Marvel Netflix women can make guest appearances, obvs.
Gao & Stick: Dead or Alive?
While Hogarth is a cold mother who wishes she’d never had children, Gao is the overall dark mother of the Netflix Marvel Universe. She seemed relieved once Alexandra was gone and she could finally mentor Elektra herself. Unfortunately, Elektra is done with mentors.
Gao will always be able to find more children though. Like any number of fairy tale witches, she has a house made of candy. She can offer immortality, synthetic heroin, superpowers, worldly power in business or politics, and/or wealth and status. There will always be protegés who find those perks irresistible, especially if they also have a personal grudge to settle, like Davos and Joy on Iron Fist.
I can’t imagine that Gao is dead. They showed her using her powers without any strain too many times. We have no idea how powerful she actually is, or what powers she has beyond an energy blast. She could have kept the entire cavern from collapsing somehow, or just kept a pocket clear, then blasted a tunnel to the surface for herself and Elektra, dragging Murakami and Matt.
Gao is important to the Daredevil and Iron Fist worlds. Losing all of the leaders of the Hand would leave too big a vacuum on those shows. It would leave Danny without the stated reason for his existence as the Iron Fist.
Plus, Gao just isn’t that stupid. She knew things were going very wrong with the Defenders and the police well before the climactic battle. It would’ve been more in character for her to take what she could of the dragon bones and run, possibly all the way back to China, as she did once on Daredevil. The fact that she stayed until the end means that she had a reason to.
The most likely purpose for Gao to stay in the hole was to mark where those fossils were, so as not to lose track of them. With a little tunnel to the surface and the police on her payroll, she can continue to harvest the substance. She owns the land, and no charges were filed, so no one would stop her from sending people to excavate the debris.
Gao can now rule the Hand’s empire alone, or with Murakami, if he survived. She’s been in charge of what was likely their biggest money maker, the synthetic heroin trade, already. She already had a loyal army, devoted workers and apprentices. She was the peacemaker among the five fingers of the Hand, so it probably won’t take much for her to win the others’ people over to her. One question: Will she continue to work alone, or will she appoint replacement fingers from her lieutenants, and keep herself as supreme leader?
I also seriously doubt that Stick is still dead, because he wasn’t decapitated and we didn’t see how his body was disposed of. I suspect that someone gave him the substance long ago. The police did refer to 2 bodies in the warehouse where he and Sowande died, but we know from Iron Fist that it can take a few days for the substance to work its magic and bring someone back to life.
The way that he and Alexandra talked to each other about torture, and the ease with which he cut off his hand, makes me think that he’s not easy to kill. He may be able to regrow limbs, as we saw Harold Meachum do on Iron Fist. They showed us Misty nearly bleeding out when her arm was cut off by Bakuto, but Stick barely being affected by slicing his hand off. That suggests that his body could have already been using the substance to begin the healing process.
Stick also kills people the way the sociopaths who’ve had the substance do- at the first sign of a threat, and with no remorse. He accepts the deaths of others easily, and doesn’t want to get close to mortals that he’ll lose anyway. He felt comfortable getting close to Elektra because they share a blood lust, but maybe they were also both functionally immortal unless killed certain ways.
Alexandra used the substance to bring Elektra back, to make her even harder to kill permanently, and to wipe her memories. Danny is immortal, or so his title says, so K’un Lun has its own ways to confer immortality, probably a weaker version of the substance. Stick probably reused it too many times, and was too blood thirsty to begin with, the same way Harold Meachum was. It brought out the worst in both of them.
The Hand & Change:
One of the main themes of The Defenders is growth and change. Without growth and change, things die. It’s not a coincidence that the last two fingers left, Gao and Muakami, are the two that are most vibrantly alive and involved with the uncontrollable aspects of life. Murakami seeks out the essence of life and change through his big game hunting. He eats parts of his kill to retain their fierceness.
Gao is very hands on with everything that she does. She especially mentors young people. We see her with young people around her all the time. We’ve seen her trying to guide Danny by telling him the truth, with a little added advice and wisdom. Of course it’s also for her own gains, but I believe that she derives real pleasure from nurturing the growth of her charges as well. She’s approached Danny too many times, in too many ways, and simply offered him good advice, for it to only be part of a plan to bring him into the Hand.
Alexandra also created a surrogate child, but she was stuck in the past, focussing on an outdated prophecy and a child that she’d lost. Bakuto and Sowande created armies of young people who followed them, but it was solely in a controlled, cult like fashion. There was no actual concern for their children, only manipulation to form them into soldiers of the Hand.
We never saw the combination of independence and talent from their followers like we saw in Nobu, Scythe and the Bride of Nine Spiders. Gao took pride in their talents, and didn’t want them killed. Colleen is talented, but Bakuto kept her ignorant of the Hand’s true nature, turning her into a manipulated fool.
In the end, Alexandra and Bakuto were both killed by their surrogate children. Sowande didn’t have anyone looking for him after he was captured and killed. I don’t believe we’ve ever seen anyone turn on Gao, even when it meant dying for her. Nobu fought hard for Murakami, but other than that, Murakami’s been a hands off leader up until now.
Gao will be in a position to continue to benefit from change, as she rebuilds the Hand. MuraKami may be the father figure in the new organization, or may continue to be hands off. Gao may stay in hiding for a while, so as to have the element of surprise when she’s ultimately revealed to Danny or Matt. We might see the Hand still functioning on DD3, but not see Gao until IF2, or we might see Gao in DD3, but the characters won’t find out she’s alive until IF2. It’s hard to imagine a growth arc for Danny Rand without Madame Gao popping up to challenge his thinking.
The Defenders all go through a character growth arc. Stick refuses to change, and he’s killed by Elektra, his surrogate daughter. Elektra herself is the character who goes through the biggest changes of all. The Defenders is really the beginning of Elektra’s coming of age story.
Elektra has spent her entire life being the pawn of other people. She is a Black Sky, a mysterious human weapon that is very valuable to the Hand. There have been other Black Skies, but they were always killed before the Hand could activate them. The history and origin of the Black Sky weapon haven’t been revealed. It’s not known if it’s a genetic line, a reincarnated being, or a form of demonic possession.
Stick found Elektra when she was very young, and raised her like a daughter. He protected her and hid her from the Hand. The Hand wants to find the Black Sky when it’s a child. Why a child is preferred isn’t known, whether it’s to begin training early, stop the development of the individual’s personality, activate some unknown element, or some other reason.
Stick sends Elektra to recruit Matt into the Chaste when they are both college age, since all of Stick’s efforts have failed. Stick thinks that he and Elektra are the same, so she’s in no danger of developing feelings for Matt. He’s wrong. Or maybe they are the same, because Stick certainly also has feelings for Matt and Elektra, against his will though they may be. She and Matt fall in love, and begin a tumultuous affair. She leads him into a life of passion, violence and crime, then just leaves him, devastated.
Several years later, in Daredevil season 2, Elektra comes back into Matt’s life. He’s now an attorney and Daredevil. He’s in a period of questioning his choices. She leads him back into the same types of choices that they made in college. He keeps trying to turn her around.
This time around, he knows about the Hand, and understands more about the Black Sky. He convinces her that they should try to make a life together, and that she should try to be “good” according to his definition of the word. He spends a lot of time trying to change her. He puts very little effort into accepting who she is and working with that. She makes all of the compromises.
Before they get the chance to run away, they have a major rooftop battle with the Hand, in which Electra is killed. Matt is devastated again. His friends find out he’s Daredevil, he loses his law firm, he falls into a deep depression.
Members of the Hand dig up Elektra’s body from her grave and use the substance to wipe her memories and activate her as the Black Sky. She awakens frightened, but with an innate ability to use weapons and kill. The rest of her memories come back slowly, even though Alexandra didn’t think they would. Is that because Elektra searched for them, or because the process had never been used before and wasn’t fully understood?
Elektra works as Alexandra’s pet assassin for a while, until she gets enough of her memories back to become a free agent again. Then she kills her captor, Alexandra, and takes back her independence. This time she won’t let anyone tell her what to do. She keeps an eye on the other fingers of the Hand, who don’t trust or respect her as the Black Sky the way they should, now that she’s killed Alexandra.
She remembers Matt, and what they were to each other. She’s not sure she wants that again, because she’s done being controlled by anyone. But she does still care about Matt. He’s probably the only person she cares about. The only other thing she cares about is the substance, because Alexandra was right about that. Death was a bad place, and she’s not going back.
She kills Stick when she finds him on another murderous rampage near Danny and Matt. She was going to kill the old man anyway, and he’d gotten too close to important people this time. She’s had enough of controlling parents.
She and Matt end up together again in the cavern as the building above it is demolished. She’s not all that worried. She knows she’s hard to kill and the area around the fossils has had multiple levels of reinforcements added since the architect designed it. She’ll just need to keep Matt safe, then get him out.
Once things settle, she claws her way out, and drops Matt off somewhere safe. Continuing to dream about a life together is just that, a dream. He’s her soulmate, but her soul is as d*mned as his is good. And she’s done with trying to be something she’s not, or living for other people or their causes. It’s time for her to figure out who she is without Stick, or Matt, or the Hand, or the Black Sky mythology telling her who she is. She has to do this alone.
More on Elektra:
Elektra/Black Sky is associated with the underground, caves, darkness, destroying families, bringing chaos and death, and not caring who has to be hurt or die for her to accomplish her goals. Matt/Daredevil is associated with roof tops, seeing what’s usually hidden, bringing things into the light, revealing the truth, bringing order to chaos, creating families, and protection, especially of life and property.
Elektra began training as a child for the mysterious role of the Black Sky, a role promoted by the Hand, a cultish religious and tribal group from K’un Lun that didn’t necessarily have her best interests at heart or tell her the whole truth. Danny Rand began training as a child for the mysterious role of the Iron Fist, a role promoted by the cultish religious and tribal group from K’un Lun that didn’t necessarily have his best interests at heart or tell him the whole truth. Both were kept isolated from the world and had violent, strict training given by men who followed the same philosophy. Both were kept from getting attached to people. Danny by his vows, and Elektra by Stick’s rules. Both were kept so isolated that they became innocent killers: they know how to fight and kill, but don’t understand how to navigate the real world and relationships very well. Elektra has covered this up with beauty, sex and alcohol, while Danny uses money, charm and friends. Both saw their parents/parent figures die in front of them, and have been in some way responsible for the death of parental figures. Both are undertrained in the meaning and finer points of their role and innate magic. They both need to search out more training and a deeper understanding of who they are.
Black Sky is a modern version of Snow White. She and her wicked but loving stepmother, Alexandra, spend a lot of time around and looking in mirrors. In this version, her stepmother expects Elektra to procure the key to everlasting beauty and life for them both, rather than being jealous of Electra’s/Snow White’s beauty and youth. Black Sky has control of weapons and physics, rather than little forest animals. The huntsman who tries to help Snow White is Stick. In this version, they turn against each other, after he’s both helped and used her. The substance is the poisoned apple, that puts Elektra’s memories to sleep. The prince is Matt, who wakes those memories up. Elektra/Snow White saves herself, once she’s awake, and decides that she doesn’t need a prince at the moment, since this is a modern version.
Elektra says to Matt, during their final fight in the cavern, that he’ll be beside her in death, where he belongs. Then she keeps him down in the cavern with her, even though she’s been very determined not to die again. Did she mean that she’d let him die, then use the substance to bring him back, like Alexandra did with her? Before we see him in the convent, where it looks like the nuns have just found him, Foggy tells Karen that there’s no way he could be alive in the rubble, because it’s been days. Perhaps the 3 days that it take to resurrect someone with the substance? It seems pretty clear that Elektra is alive, and well enough to get them out of the cavern, so it’s surprising that Matt’s unconscious.
Besides the questions I’ve already brought up about the Black Sky, there are others that still linger: Can Elektra get the Black Sky directives out of her head and truly rule her own life? How much of Black Sky is genetic, and how much is environment and training? Is the Black Sky capable of being more than a weapon? Was there a Black Sky before the Hand? Who created the Black Sky? Did the Hand enslave the Black Sky? Was the Black Sky originally intended for something else? Does Elektra have more talents than she knows about?
A Little More Character Analysis:
Luke‘s color is yellow and his element is earth. He is sunshine and hope for the people of Harlem. They know he’s indestructible and willing to do whatever it takes to help them, but he’s not willing to resort to extreme violence. He is a calming presence when he isn’t fighting, because being centered and grounded comes naturally to him.
He is also immoveable like a rock, which can be positive when fighting an enemy, but can also turn into stubbornness and rigidity if ideas aren’t presented to him in the right way. He’s chosen to stand his ground in Harlem and clean out the corruption and organized crime.
Gao calls him The Man Who Does Not Break, and that’s his greatest strength. He knows who he is, and who he isn’t. He’s not pretending to be something he isn’t. He’s not ambitious to rise to some higher level of society. He’s just Luke, a man who wants to do what he can to make life better for the people in his neighborhood.
Since he’s done his time for the crimes he was accused of, there’s nothing left to blackmail him with. He’s not looking for wealth, fame, or any other kind of materialistic success that he can be bribed with. He has no addictions they can use to enslave him. That makes him virtually incorruptible. His enemies have nothing to break him with. He doesn’t break.
Claire would be a new weakness, and also Misty. Both can take care of themselves, and have other protectors as well, so the danger is vastly reduced. He’s currently trying to rebuild his place in the Harlem community after his prison stint, but he is instantly recognizable and loved as a hero by most people, so it shouldn’t be hard.
He’s the big brother of the Defenders. He thinks more traditionally than the others, as oldest children tend to do, and tries to get the rest to think things through before jumping into rash actions. He’s also very protective, jumping in front of bullets or obstacles to make sure they don’t hurt anyone else. He mentors Danny, collaborates with Matt, and agrees with, then checks in on Jessica.
Matt‘s color is red and his element is fire. Matt is a devil living in a h*ll on earth. God’s fallen angel sent here not as punishment, but to do important work. That’s why his h*ll is up in the sky- it’s not a true h*ll, since it’s chosen. His color is red because he is the most committed and connected to life and his people. He bleeds for them, and brings the red fire of h*ll to the people who hurt them.
He can become too intense, too caught up in his passion for his work, and forget to take care of himself, and that he’s a person who needs protection, too. Sometimes he turns himself into a sacrifice, forgetting how much it will hurt his loved ones. His relationship with Elektra burns too hot and takes them both down with it. He always has intensely good intentions, but is often figuratively blind to the full impact of the flaws of those he cares about, and of his own actions.
He thinks he can change situations and people through sheer force of will. His failure to realize what was coming with his dad is still in the back of his mind, and he’s determined to rescue Elektra to make up for that. He’s a complicated person, because he’s always conflicted and unsure if he’s doing the right thing. This leaves him open to temptation.
He’s surrounded by Catholic and biblical imagery and spends time dwelling on spiritual and philosophical issues that most of the other characters are too practical to bother with. Danny is the only other person in the 8-10 main characters who reflects on his philosophy of life and fighting regularly. But, Danny is still mostly parroting what he was taught in K’un Lun. Matt has spent the last 20 years figuring things out for himself, with a priest as a loose spiritual adviser.
Contemplation and self-doubt are at the core of Matt. He’s always struggling to make himself better and to make sure that he’s doing the right thing. He has the ability to see multiple different paths, which helps him guess what the people he’s hunting might do, but also makes him question his own choices.
Gao inverts his name, and calls him the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. As Daredevil, Matt is silent and stealthy. He is unpredictable, and has taken down large, organized crime organizations that no one person should be able to. He has bedeviled Gao and her compatriots for years with their inability to catch him, stop him, or find out his identity.
Gao will have seen Matt’s face in the cavern, and because of Elektra she now knows his first name. For someone of her resourcefulness, it won’t take long to determine his identity, changing the rules of the game.*
Matt is the reluctant leader and strategist of the Defenders. He tends to see the patterns first, and assign tasks. He also takes on Elektra, their greatest challenge, in group fights. He and Jessica tend to be teamed up for non combat work. Their working styles balance each other out, with Matt paying attention to his senses and thinking things through, while Jessica acts quickly in a crisis.
Jessica‘s color is blue and her element is water. She’s a woman who is unexpectedly strong and who’s been messed with psychologically by multiple people. She is protective of and loyal to the few people she trusts and cares about, but it’s a difficult club to get into.
As a private investigator and a person, she’s slippery and quicksilver, doing things her own way. She follows her own path, even when it seems crazy or unpredictable to others, just as water does. She’s also prone to depression and anger, and her independence can make it hard for her to find her way out of her personal troubles. She tends to climb into a bottle and scare away everyone who offers help.
When Jessica finds her suspect, she likes to use some creativity to question and punish him. She doesn’t trust the system, with good reason. She’s watched the system bow to and support corrupt and abusive authority figures for her entire life, as they’ve abused her and Trish, and tried to delegitimize both of them.
She is the Unyielding Woman, according to Gao. Jessica is stubborn and insists on seeing and deciding for herself. She won’t be patronized or condescended to. She also won’t be rushed. Much of her detective work is intuitive, the way water intuitively flows into every nook and cranny. She is persistent. She won’t give up on a case until it’s solved, no matter what threats are thrown at her. She yields for no one.
On the Defenders, she’s the no nonsense kid sister who keeps up with the boys just fine. She gets tired of their male blathering and posturing, and cuts directly to the chase. She can get prickly if she thinks the boys aren’t taking her seriously. It takes her a while to buy into the group mission, but once she does, she’s willing to act as peacemaker and negotiator to keep the group together and functioning.
Danny‘s color is green and his element is air. [Iron Fist Season 1 Spoilers Ahead.]
On Iron Fist season 1, his own show, his color was white, for spiritual purity and innocence. In the beginning of the Iron Fist season, he arrives in NYC as a homeless, penniless, barefoot wanderer, who only owns what he carries in his backpack. Over the course of the season, he’s betrayed over and over again by the people he’s trusted. Ironically, only his parents’ attorney, Hogarth, stands by him unwaveringly and remains trustworthy. Even Colleen is revealed to be part of the Hand, and Claire has many doubts about him.
He reclaims his legal identity midway through the season. His fortune and his parents’ corporation come along with that, though the material goods weren’t his motivation. Once he has the money again, he tries that lifestyle on for size.
He moves into a penthouse, a heaven on earth, decorated with all kinds of white and with uncomplicated floor to ceiling windows. He spends more time with the wealthy children of his father’s business partner, his surrogate brother and sister, the people who were the first to betray him.
He quickly remembers that this lifestyle means nothing to him, other than as a means to an end. He lives in the tower for a while because he thinks he should. Before long he goes back to spending most of his time down on the ground in the dojo with Colleen, where he’s more comfortable, and where we met him. Soon, we’ve seen the last of the penthouse.
We also stop seeing much white in Danny’s color palette. He starts the season having been raised in an isolated Himalayan monastery for the last 15 years. The culture of NYC is a shock to him. Part of his journey over Iron Fist, season 1 is to accept his identity as Danny Rand, heir to the Rand fortune, but not to let it define him.
He learns not to trust so easily and to use his money more judiciously. He spends it for purposes that are important to him, rather than the business investments that are important to others. Colleen can’t pay her rent after Bakuto abandons her, so Danny buys her building, giving them both a place to continue living. In The Defenders, we find out that he’s bought a hospital so that he can ensure that Misty gets the care she deserves.
So on The Defenders his color is green, both for him being the money man and for him still being the one who is green, in the sense of being younger and more naive than the other three Defenders.
At first, he’s not fully committed to NYC as his home to protect the way the others are, but he wasn’t fully committed to K’un Lun either. By the end of the season it seems like he’s found that commitment, through committing to the Defenders and Colleen. He’s a tree without roots, but the people of NYC are becoming his new roots.
Danny’s overall mission to fight the Hand is clear to him, and the details have become more clear over time. Like his element of air, he has trouble becoming and staying centered and grounded. It’s hard for him to stick to a commitment when the path becomes clouded and uncertain. His training fails him at these times. His enemies can feel that he lacks the gravitas that comes with certainty and experience. So can the Fist itself.
Danny has a lot of intense training, both physical and mental, but he hasn’t made it his own yet. He accepted as truth everything he was taught as a young child by his parents and everything he was taught by his mentors in K’un Lun. In order to fully come into his powers, he needs to challenge those beliefs and decide which he wants to keep and which to discard.
He began the process by reevaluating his father and father’s best friend in Iron Fist S1, as he looked at who his real family is and were, and what his real career calling is. The Defenders continued it by solidifying that he’s not open to temptation or corruption, expanding his NYC family, and giving him heroic partners and role models to guide his evolution.
He’s no longer caught between Gao’s motherly invitations to give in to the dark side and let her mentor him, and Lei Kung’s strict, uncompromising teachings, which failed to fully prepare him for the real world. He needs to spend time now finding his own path forward. Both Gao and Bakuto knew secrets about the Iron Fist that Danny wasn’t taught. There must be others with that knowledge, he just needs to find a way to access it without compromising himself.
Gao is fascinated by him. She longs to return to K’un Lun, her original home. An Iron Fist is a symbol of that home. Danny is a prophesied Iron Fist,** giving him an extra aura of mystery. She’s always testing him and trying to convert him to her side. He remains his own master, despite many tempting conversations with Gao.
Danny is the youngest brother of the Defenders, who’s thrilled to be part of the gang. He sometimes feels left out or teased, but he also soaks up all of the affection and learning from the others. He’s happy when he has something to offer in return, even if it’s just money. He tries hard to keep his newfound family together.
*This could be how a certain storyline is put into motion in Daredevil season 3.
[Potential Daredevil S3 Spoilers: Maybe Gao and Fisk will work together to find out Matt’s identity, then discover his close friendship with Karen. Targeting her as a way to get to Matt would trigger the Born Again storyline.]
** Quoted in Iron Fist Season 1 Episode 6 “Immortal Emerges from Cave”: “A child… touched by fire… delivered from heaven to become the greatest warrior, destined for victory.”