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Four years, four heroes, and well more than four episodes have passed since Marvel and Netflix launched a partnership leading up to this moment: The Defenders, the television answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers strategy.
Originally announced in 2013, the eight-episode limited series serves as the culmination of four different Marvel shows: Daredevil, starring Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a blind attorney who fights for justice using the law, super senses, and an impressive ninja background; Jessica Jones, starring Krysten Ritter as the title character, a hard-drinking and harder-hitting detective caught in an internal and external war against her inner demons; Luke Cage, starring Mike Colter as the hero for hire with bulletproof skin, working to keep his neighborhood free from corruption; and Iron Fist, starring Finn Jones as a man who insists he’s Danny Rand, the keeper of an ancient power known as the Iron Fist.
Throughout the four different shows, various characters weave in and out of the main heroes’ lives, including attorney Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne Moss) and medical professional Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), the latter of whom has appeared in every single one of the series, often in a major role. Even two of the main Defenders have crossed paths in meaningful ways, with Luke Cage debuting on Jessica Jones as the sardonic hero’s love interest. For the first time, however, the upcoming Netflix series will bring all four of these main protagonists together to battle a common enemy: a mysterious villain played by the legendary Sigourney Weaver.
With so much history from more than 60 episodes of television between the four shows, remembering every detail of the Marvel Netflix Universe is no simple task. Luckily, The Defenders only requires that you remember the broad strokes and emotional truth of where the characters were seen last. With that said, here’s a roundup of what you need to know about not just the four main heroes heading into The Defenders, but also the supporting characters in their lives that are poised to appear in the crossover series.
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox): Last seen confessing his secret life as Daredevil to Karen Page, a moment of honesty made possible by his rekindled love for and subsequent loss of Elektra Natchios, killed in battle with the Hand. His future as both a hero and a lawyer are currently in flux.
Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung): After her death at the hands of, well, the Hand, Elektra was subsequently placed inside of an ancient chamber where she’s presumably being brought back to life. It’s believed that she’s the Black Sky, a prophesied assassin who will one day lead the Hand.
Stick (Scott Glenn): The blind assassin experienced a turbulent end to his relationship with Elektra, his surrogate daughter. He avenged her death by beheading Nobu Yoshioka, one of the most powerful members of the Hand we have seen thus far.
Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll): Aside from weathering Matt’s news, Karen was pursuing a new career as a reporter for the New York Bulletin, following in the footsteps of her late mentor Ben Urich. Her breakout story centered on Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, and the truth surrounding his tragic life.
Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal): Having murdered the people responsible for ruining his life, Castle hit the road, and will next be seen in his own Netflix series, unless The Defenders has a surprise Punisher appearance up its sleeve.
Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio): Behind bars, large and in charge of his prison community. There’s currently no indication he will appear in The Defenders, but one certainly hopes the Kingpin will drop in.
Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson): Everyone’s favorite avocado at law disbanded Nelson and Murdock and took a higher-paying job, currently employed at the law firm Hogarth, Chao and Benowitz.
Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne Moss): After sustaining some literal and emotional wounds due to her association with Kevin “Kilgrave” Thompson, Hogarth went on to provide legal assistance to both Jessica Jones and Danny Rand, in addition to hiring Foggy Nelson as part of her firm.
Danny Rand (Finn Jones): Believe it or not, he’s Danny Rand, the immortal Iron Fist. He’s meant to destroy the Hand. The sooner you accept him at his word, the sooner you will find peace. By the end of the first season of Iron Fist, Danny had settled some personal and business-oriented beef, and now he’s fully on the hunt for the Hand alongside …
Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick): Outed as a secret member of the Hand, Colleen turned her back on the organization and went all in on her partnership with Danny. She and Danny discovered that the Hand attacked the ancient city of K’un-Lun, home of the Iron Fist. One assumes this crime won’t go unpunished.
Luke Cage (Mike Colter): Speaking of punishment, Luke ended the first season of his own series on a bus ride out of New York City and back to prison at Seagate, due to his escape from there years ago. Before he left, his girlfriend (and Marvel-Netflix mainstay) Claire promised she would find him a lawyer, opening the door for how Luke might connect back into The Defenders via Murdock.
Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey): Luke’s vengeful brother, also known as Diamondback, was last seen in custody at a hospital, nursing wounds sustained from his fight with the hero occasionally known as Power Man, and fielding a visit from a surprise guest: Doctor Burnstein, the man who gave Luke his powers. Likely more of a setup for season two of Luke Cage than The Defenders, but who knows.
Misty Knight (Simone Missick): The tough-as-nails detective suffered a devastating defeat at the end of Luke Cage, losing a key witness in her quest to bring down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodward). She’s slated for a comeback in The Defenders, where she will very likely cross paths with Danny Rand, a love interest in the comics, if not quite a guaranteed love connection on the show.
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter): At long last, Jessica conquered her abuser, snapping Kilgrave’s neck at the end of the season. She was subsequently arrested and swiftly released from prison for her actions. Now, it’s anyone’s guess how Jessica will move on without the burden of Kilgrave lurking over her shoulder.
Kilgrave (David Tennant): This mind-controlling psychopath exited season one of Jessica Jones in a body bag, though it’s since been confirmed the character will somehow appear in season two. Is it possible we’ll see the building blocks of that return here in The Defenders — revived by the Hand as a means of torturing Jessica, perhaps?
Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor): The former child star turned radio host was last seen helping her best friend Jessica out on her quest to defeat the vicious Kilgrave. No sign yet of her comic book alter ego, Hellcat, though she became an accomplished fighter over the course of Jessica Jones‘ first season.
Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville): With his Kilgrave-inflicted drug addiction behind him for now, Malcolm remains within Kramer-esque distance of Jessica’s apartment. He’s set to recur on The Defenders.
Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson): The gateway character for the series in many ways, Claire is the only person with connections to all four of the Defenders. She trained with and fought beside Danny, she helped Jessica save Luke’s life from a gunshot wound, she developed feelings for Luke and pursued a relationship with him, and she’s long since broken up with Matt Murdock, although the two maintain a level of trust. With all these connections in place, it’s understandable why fans fear she might be to The Defenders as Agent Coulson was to the Avengers — aka the person whose death unites the team. Fingers crossed it’s much ado about nothing.
The Defenders premieres Friday on Netflix.
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