The Defenders: Royal Dragon
August 19, 2017 2:40 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

As the Defenders get to know each other over dinner, they're greeted by a series of party crashers--none of them friendly.

Vulture recap - I’m Not Looking for Super-Friends

*The foursome enter the Chinese restaurant, Royal Dragon, and barricade themselves inside to hide from pursuit. Jessica and Luke catch each other up on how they know Matt and Danny. (editorial aside - how did Jessica not know about Luke being in prison? His Netflix show had him all over the news. I know she's been drinking herself oblivious since Kilgrave, but, c'mon, really?)
*Danny expositions about his identity, K'un-Lun, and his fight against the Hand.
*Matt starts to bail, but Jessica tells him she's already figured out he's 'the Devil of Hell's Kitchen' and convinces him to unmask and stay.

*Elektra examines her old scars in the mirror, and Alexandra arrives for a pep talk.
Alexandra: Your life is new, but sadly, your body is not.
Elektra: This is how I died?
A: Don't worry about that. What matters now is how you live.
E: The Black Sky. This is all I am?
A: You say that like it's not enough.
E: It is. I just...
A: You just can't help but wonder. The woman who lived in this vessel. She was lost before she came to us. She was led astray by men who were afraid of what she was, of what she was capable of doing. But destiny is a curious thing, because this vessel landed right where it belongs. With us. With me. Who are you?
E: The Black Sky. I serve the Hand.
Both: "And together, we serve life itself."
A: You are my last hope. You have seen death, my child. And like me, you have conquered it. Don't forget who brought us back.
E: I will not forget.

*Back at Royal Dragon, Matt admits to being Daredevil. Danny tries to convince everyone they need to team up to help him defeat the Hand, then Stick arrives.

*In a high-rise, a Japanese guy gutting an animal on the counter is approached by Alexandra. She tells him they must reunite, that Sowande & Gao are ready and willing, and that "the other one" is on his way. He agrees to join the fight.

*Elektra in her weapons room is briefly drawn to her old daggers. Sowande arrives and questions whether she is effective enough, given the resources expended for her creation, so she effectively kills his two nameless minions.

*Back at the Royal Dragon, Stick explains that he is the last surviving member of the Chaste, and that the Hand is responsible for apparent natural disasters like Pompei and Chernobyl, and that NYC is next unless the 4 of them stop it.

*Matt: Why are you here, Stick?
*Stick: Because, this one, the Immortal Iron Fist, living weapon and protector of the ancient city [takes smartphone out of Danny's pocket] is still a thundering dumbass. [stomps on phone]

*Jessica can't take anymore mystical nonsense or calls for heroism and bails on the dinner. Luke follows her out to try to convince her to stay, and fails. He goes back in to continue the exposition-fest with the fellas.

Matt: I'm done taking lessons, Stick.
Stick: Lessons ain't done with you.
Luke: This isn't her fight.
Stick: Sooner or later it's going to be everybody's fight.

*Alexandra, dressing for elegance, is overcome by pain, takes some pills and calls to cancel some plan.

*Jessica goes home, drinks, and gets on her laptop and starts deleting images from her Hall of Records asset transfer documents, then realizes that many of the different names have the same handwriting throughout the centuries. She goes to check on Mrs. Raymond, tells her she wants to arrange for police protection, but Mrs. Raymond says there's a guy in a van outside already who said he was a cop. Jessica confronts the guy, pulling him out of the car and telling him to leave the Raymonds alone, then starts smushing him into the windshield and demanding he give up who he really works for.

*More exposition from Stick - the five heretics banished from K'un-Lun for seeking their own immortality became known as the Five Fingers of the Hand. They are Alexandra, Madame Gao, Sowande, Bakuto (who Danny says is dead - I guess that happened in Iron Fist S1?), and Murakami (the guy behind Daredevil's Nobu, who was gutting the bear earlier). Danny continues trying to convince Luke they should team up (and gives him the last potsticker) while Matt and Stick talk about Elektra. Matt says she has no heartbeat. Stick says there's no hope of bringing back the real Elektra, that the thing she is now must die, but Matt says she could have killed him but hesitated.

*A van pulls up to the Royal Dragon and Matt hears the guns inside cocking, then suddenly somehow Alexandra is sitting in the restaurant. She tries to convince Danny to come with her peacefully, that she means him no harm but that many will die if he resists. The guys all choose resistance, and Elektra enters. They start to face off, then Jessica rams a van through the restaurant wall and into Elektra, and joins the guys, as Elektra rises.
posted by oh yeah! (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ok, I loved that scene between Alexandra & Elektra about being The Black Sky, so I paused it to transcribe the lines. And, written down, they're nothing special, but I kept it in because to me it highlights what a good job Weaver and Yung are doing, making cliche dialogue sing.

And I agree with the Vulture recapper at how Danny is kind of endearingly earnest in this episode, trying to get the gang together. I probably wouldn't have been able to like him at all if I'd sat through his solo series. I much prefer him in these small doses and being called a privileged dumbass.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:49 PM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Finally! Luke's Carhartt sweatshirt gets ventilated! That always reminds me of how Richard Kadrey's similarly bullet proof character Sandman Slim is very hard on clothes. (In other product placement news ironfist's chauffeur driven Hyundai SUV seemed a bit silly for a billionaire.)
Jessica Jones seems adrift right now, I wish she could get started on something worthwhile storywise.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:43 PM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing I like is that pretty much everybody has absolutely no patience for Danny. He's the Wesley Crusher of the series, and everybody knows it.

I like that Jessica is as smart a detective as she is in her series, and fulfills the role of the cynical "I'm not buying any of this shit" person. Kind of like green Arrow in Justice League Unlimited.
posted by happyroach at 5:12 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

"... because to me it highlights what a good job Weaver and Yung are doing, making cliche dialogue sing."

I was very impressed how much Weaver personally brought to what was uniformly not-good writing. I always find it absolutely fascinating how a very good actor can somehow make bad writing work. There's a wordless extended scene of Weaver alone later in the series that was just amazing in how much she conveyed with her body language and subtle facial expressions and breathing.

One thing I take away from all these Netflix Marvel shows is that they aren't bad (except for Iron Fist), but they've only been good with the very best acting. By which I mostly mean, D'Onofrio in the first season of Daredevil. Wai Ching Ho (Gao) is quite good, too, as is Deborah Ann Woll (Karen) and Rachael Taylor (Trish). Of the leads, Mike Colter (Cage) is the best actor. I'm fond of Krysten Ritter and Jessica Jones is my favorite character, but I think Ritter is asked to do a bit more than she's capable. I'm only impressed with Charlie Cox as Murdock when I consider what he's actually doing. Among the rest are some pretty good and quite competent actors -- I think the casting directors have done well in avoiding any stinkers. But, generally, there's just a few who are talented enough to make the shows really enthralling and otherwise the (mostly entertaining) mediocrity of the writing is apparent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

My main complaint about the Alexandra-Elektra/Black sky scenes is that if movies have taught me anything, amnesiac assassins are supposed to be handled by Brian Cox. The Long Kiss Goodnight, X-Men 2, The Bourne Identity... they wouldn't all lie to me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:33 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Hand was the least interesting part of Daredevil to me and now they're here kind of ruining this. Weaver's doing a great job, but I just can't get interested in this story line.

I'd like it smaller time, please. Less "Millions will die!" and more "There are some shitty people doing evil things in our neighborhood." That's when I seem to enjoy these street level Marvel shows the most. You don't need to ratchet up the stakes to create more emotional investment. As we saw with Luke Cage and Cole's mother, connection on a personal level is what gives these characters heart.
posted by ODiV at 10:00 PM on August 21, 2017

I always find it absolutely fascinating how a very good actor can somehow make bad writing work.

If you get her started, my wife will rant at length about how acting awards go to people who get good material and never to people who sell garbage writing. Her specific hobbyhorse is Lana Parilla on Once Upon a Time, but it's really striking how much better Weaver is than the material. Even the super ridiculous stakes stuff, that I agree I'm over, is sold coming out of her mouth. I'm actually liking this more than I expected, and it's not all Weaver, but man, it would be a much worse show with an average actor in that role.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ok, again with the idiot stick. Jessica throws the van through the window, casually saunters passed Elektra and then goes and stands in line? Why not hit her with the car again? Why not kick her? Like, why did we need the snark before we got in line to wait for Elektra to get back up?

Also - she got hit with a car. How does the hand work? I thought they are mortal in the sense that normal injuries will kill them, but they take a blood bath and are right as rain again. Would getting hit by a product placement SUV do at least some kind of damage?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:46 PM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I know I'm going to regret having faith, but I'm really appreciating the Cage/Jessica interactions in this episode - still caring about each other, still able to reach deeper - it makes me believe maybe the showrunners are planning to give them a future after all of this.
posted by corb at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2017

Suffocating Kitty, I had those same thoughts! It also starts the snowballing of how inconsistent they show Elektra's power. I'll highlight that in later episodes discussions.
posted by numaner at 6:03 PM on August 23, 2017

Maybe I'm forgetting something but didn't Luke and Jessica part in her series very much not friends? Like Luke saying, "No I have not forgiven you for killing my wife, that was Killgrave messing with you"? And Jessica almost killing him with a shotgun? Their reunion seemed way too casual and relaxed unless they've supposedly met up again between then and now.
posted by straight at 10:02 PM on August 23, 2017

Well, to be fair, a lot has happened since then. Over the course of Luke's series, he discovered some things about his wife that maybe complicated his feelings toward her & now he's in a relationship with Claire.

And frankly, neither of them are much for talking about their feelings, so I totally bought their reactions to the reunion.

Seeing Danny Rand with the other characters makes me appreciate even more how bad his show was. One problem there is that everyone was telling him how great he was (besides Davos) when he was obviously terrible. Here he thinks he's great, but no one is taking him seriously & even the villain is relying on him to be the idiot she assumes he must be based on his previous actions.

It took me a second to realize that Jessica had thrown the car into the restaurant, rather than driven it, and I cheered a little.
posted by Jugwine at 4:55 PM on September 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Coming very late to this discussion (JJS2 convinced me to get back to this show), but I agree that the "Manhattan will be destroyed!!!11!!ZOMG" plot is pretty silly. What did Stick mention, Pompeii and Chernobyl? I can seem some immortals sabotaging the reactor, but make Vesuvius erupt as a cover-up? Sheesh. But Weaver is very good indeed, and I kind of dig Jessica passing up the opportunity to drop-kick Elektra through the roof in order to hit her mark in the classic comic-book team cover line-up.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:18 PM on March 17, 2018

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