PLAYBOY – A blind lawyer-turned-vigilante questioning his purpose. An alcoholic private investigator trying shake off her hero status. A bulletproof convict atoning for his past. A warrior monk struggling with his return to the world into which he was born. Bringing these four troubled superheroes together for a shared meal seems difficult, let alone getting them to fight side-by-side.
But in the new eight-episode Netflix series, The Defenders, New York is in enough trouble to make them do just that, that Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) have no choice but to team up.
“Each of these shows has hinted that something bigger is coming,” says showrunner Marco Ramirez, who also headed up Daredevil in its second season. “The answer is, something wicked this way comes, and it’s Sigourney Weaver.”
The action franchise queen joins the Marvel Universe as Alexandra, the shadowy figure whose nefarious plans reveal themselves slowly. All we know is that she is working with the ancient criminal organization The Hand. That never bodes well.
At the beginning of The Defenders, we find that Matt Murdoch has decided to reject his secret identity after the death of Elektra (Elodie Yung). Jessica Jones is doing everything in her power to avoid discussions about destroying Kilgrave (David Tennant) and saving the city. Luke Cage is dealing with the emotional repercussions of his time spent in prison and Danny Rand is plagued with the guilt of not being there for the monks who helped him realize his destiny as the Iron Fist.
Finn Jones tells us the Iron Fist has a personal motivation for fighting the hand.
“Danny is responsible for the loss of a whole city,” Jones says. “He’s majorly fucked up. The guilt that is heavy on his heart is really making him spearhead forward with this mission to take down The Hand.”
Shared identity crises aside, there is nothing yet connecting the four, which meant the writers had to bring them together in a way that made sense to viewers who know them well.
“I don’t necessarily think that three minutes in, they’re all going to be in a room together and there’s going to be a mission statement on the wall. It needs to be organic,” says Ramirez. “It just really felt like in order to honor the individual character arcs of each of the shows, we needed them to realize this was the next big chapter of their lives, individually.”
The first two worlds to collide are those of Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an encounter that is hardly cordial.
“Danny’s very reckless in his behavior,” says Jones. “He’s just punching things, throwing his cash around. He comes into someone like Luke Cage, who is the complete opposite, and Luke’s just like, ‘Whoa, kid. If we’re going to work together, you need to really realize a few things.’”
While Danny is open – even eager – to learn from Cage, Cage is far less interested in engaging in male bonding. He’s dealing with emotional turmoil stemming from his prison stint.
“The first four episodes serve to get him out of that world, and out of the mentality of looking over your shoulder, and worrying about your past,” says Colter. “I think we will see a new Luke because of it.”
Daredevil and Jessica Jones also come into contact under less than ideal circumstances.
“They don’t like each other,” says Cox. “They’re too similar. They’re too stubborn. They’re too opinionated. They don’t have time for each other.” But as a common goal starts to form, so do relationships – however reluctantly. “The stuff that I liked filming the most were those scenes where they start to, against their will, like each other,” says Cox. “They kind of respect each other. They would never tell the other person that. That was really fun to play with.”
As the only superhero with a hidden identity and a costume, Matt initially finds it difficult to trust these strangers that appear in his life. It’s in the conversations that bring them together that the show’s tone also coalesces. “That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about it,” says Cox. “All of our shows had been quite serious, they’re tonally quite dark. But you can’t put someone like Matt Murdock, who wears a super hero costume in a room with Jessica Jones and not make jokes. You can’t.”
Creating a show that honored the characters’ differences – and the show’s differing visual styles – and established something new was a challenge for the series creators. “It was a tricky tightrope to walk because we had to do the math for somebody who’s never seen any of the shows,” he says. “On the other hand, we had to make a show that didn’t necessarily do too much filling in, so that the super fans aren’t like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t need to tell me Matt Murdock is blind. I’ve known this for 30 years.’”
The showrunner compares the writers’ room to a scene ripped straight out of Homeland.
“There were charts,” says Ramirez. “I mean, I was just popping pills, Claire Danes style, looking at the walls, going, ‘This doesn’t make sense!’ It was seriously color coded like, ‘This is where Luke ended. This is where Claire was.’ It was crazy town. I think ultimately, the goal is that in many years, if you ever want to sit down and watch the whole thing, chronologically, you can.”
While the Defenders will likely succeed on their mission, the repercussions of this series will be felt long after the foursome go their separate ways. “None of us wanted to do the procedural version where they’ll go back into their own shows completely unchanged,” says Ramirez. “The events of Defenders will affect each of them.” As they say, it’s all connected.