Episode 2 of The Defenders opens with a shot of New York City at 90 a degree angle. The camera slowly rotates as sounds and sights of the chaos below are revealed. Matt perches on the rooftop, and tilts his head as he tries to process all the information he is receiving — the sirens, the smell of smoke, the screams, the terror. It’s disorienting in a sense that Matt doesn’t quite know if he should go out and help the city he loves or if he should keep his promise to Foggy and Karen to remain a civilian.
But Matt gives into the pull of his vigilante life when he hears a store owner pull a shotgun on young looters. What follows is an epic parkour run across the rooftops. Matt easily and effectively incapacitates the gun-wielding shop owners in a brutal display of violence — he does not simple disarm them but bloodies them quite a bit. This display of uncontrollable beating (by Daredevil standards, at least) effectively shows how much the adrenaline addition and the thrill of the fight has over Matt.
As for Jessica, she is still on the hunt for her missing architect after finding crates of C4 explosives in his rented motel room. Jessica learns that the architect’s last project was a building called Midland Circle. Her search for the property owners brings her to the city archives, where she finds suspicious shell companies dating back to 1820. Jessica’s search ends when she returns to her apartment to find the architect holding Malcolm at gunpoint.
But before Jessica can get any useful information from the man, Elektra appears armed to the teeth. And, rather than being taken in by the Hand’s new enforcer, the architect shoots himself in the head. Jessica gives chase after the mysterious ninja-like woman, but loses her after Elektra exits to building. Still covered in the architect’s blood, Jessica in taken in by Misty to the NYPD to answer some questions.
At the very end of the episode, Matt finally appears in the interrogation room. The scene itself was expected (having been shown in The Defender’s trailer), but as it turns out the meeting is completely by accident and not by design. A conversation earlier in the episode reveals that Foggy has been feeding Matt cases to keep him in the court room and off the streets. So when Hogarth tells Foggy to keep Jessica Jones far away from her firm and any potential trouble she might bring with her, Foggy sends her case over to his former colleague. I can only hope that the two will put away the snark and sarcasm just long enough to discover they both have pieces to the puzzle on how to confront The Hand.
The big action scene for this episode is the meeting between Luke and Danny in a back alleyway. Luke’s investigation into White Hat — a man who has been hiring Harlem’s youth to do his dirty work — leads him to a shady building where Danny and Colleen discover a room full of bloody bodies. But these aren’t just normal murder victims, they have some sort of connection to the mystical city of K’un-Lun.
Harlem youth arrive to melt away the evidence with acid, but before they can finish the job Danny and Colleen ambush them in an effort to find information. Danny follows one of the kids out into the alley. Under the mask, the kid is revealed to be Cole, the boy Luke was following. Just as Danny lifts his hand to strike Cole, Luke appears and tosses him to the ground.
What happens next is a brawl that is just as hilarious as it is brutal. Danny tries to use his kung-fu skill against the man with unbreakable skin. But after many failed attempts to knock the man down, Danny learns that his moves will not damage Luke. There are some refreshing moments of humor in this scene: Luke’s annoyed face when Danny tries to karate-chop his neck and the slow-motion shot of Danny unleashing a barrage of hits on Luke that don’t accomplish anything.
This scene is expertly shot. Every blow to Luke’s skin is recorded as if Danny is simply hitting a punching bag. Seeing Danny strike Luke to no effect amplifies the force of Danny’s mystic fist which he unleashes in the final moments of the fight. The punch is depicted with a slow-motion close-up of Danny’s glowing hand slamming into Luke’s face, sending a shockwave through his cheek before sending Luke’s entire body through the air and into a wall. (This shot of the punch mimics when a thug breaks his hand trying to punch Luke face in the restaurant fight scene in Luke Cage.) But before either man can react to what just happened, the police show up and Danny and Luke flee the scene.
Meanwhile, The Defenders gradually reveals more pieces of information about Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. It is implied that she has been alive for centuries, speaking as if she met Beethoven and Brahms first hand. This puts her apparent terminal illness into a new light; she is so old that her body is finally rejecting her. This explains her anxiety over the accelerated timetable. But her haste to see the fruits of her labor puts NYC as risk with the earthquake, thus putting a series of events into motion at bring the four Defenders together to challenge The Hand.
After all the exposition in the first episode I really hoped that our favorite heroes would finally meet. But it seems that The Defenders is taking a slower pace to put all their pawns in order before executing a power play. I would be extremely frustrated if this was a conventional tv series where I would have to wait a week to see the next episode. But Netflix’s binge model tv show allows a slower pace to set the stage, as it were.
It seems that by withholding the group’s formation, The Defenders is creating more anticipation for fans who are barreling through the series in a few hours. So now it looks like I’m going to have to wait at least one more episode until the super friends assemble.
[media courtesy of Netflix]