The Defenders recap: 'Take Shelter'
The Defenders look after their loved ones, while the fingers of the Hand bicker amongst themselves
After a very expositional hour that doubled as a hangout episode, The Defenders tries to regain some lost momentum in “Take Shelter”; however, it stumbles a bit because, after an exciting opening, it settles into table-setting, wheel-spinning mode. There’s a lot of talking in this episode that, at least for now, doesn’t amount to much.
“Take Shelter” rewinds a bit to the moments leading up to the Hand’s assault on “Royal Dragon” and tells the last few minutes of the last episode from the Hand’s perspective. Set to the fourth movement of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, which makes it feel all the more dramatic, we follow Madame Gao, Murakami, and Sowande as they gather forces to attack the Defenders. The sequence crescendos to the moment when Murakami bursts through the roof of Royal Dragon, and we head back into real time.
While viscerally exciting, the ensuing fight is undercut because it’s been edited to hell and it’s hard to really keep track of what’s happening inside of the restaurant. The Hand is there for one reason: to get the Iron Fist. Stick instructs the Defenders to stick together because that’s the only way they’re making it out alive, but Matt breaks away the first chance he gets for some one-on-one time with Elektra. Again, she hesitates to kill him, which worries Murakami, who witnesses it. In the end, they all — minus Luke, who was hit and pushed in front of a tow truck by Sowande —, manage to escape via the sewers.
One of the reasons Daredevil season 2 and Iron Fist were so weak was because the Hand, at least as conceived by those shows’ writers, are pretty boring villains. They’re evil because they’re evil. Sure, they want to escape death, but the shows fail to give that desire any kind of nuance or real human emotion that we can connect with. However, the show definitely kind of tries to do that in the episode, beginning with Alexandra, who has a very revealing conversation with Elektra when she returns to their hideout. She opens up about how her daughter died in her first life, before she found everlasting life in K’un L’un and the Hand. In the intervening years, Alexandra has come to realize she wasn’t supposed to raise that daughter; she was destined to raise the Black Sky — well, until Elektra stops being useful. Clearly, Alexandra is aware that Elektra messed up in the field. Murakami enters and updates her on the situation, and Alexandra assures him that reinforcements are coming from South America. (Who could that be??)
The Defenders head back to Colleen’s dojo, and Luke Cage joins them there later with a captured Sowande, which, I guess, is a win for the good guys. After some bickering about whether they should keep running, they all head to a warehouse, where a tied-up Sowande proceeds to burn the Iron Fist, which is what everyone does on this show. If you’ve seen any other action movie before, you know how this goes: Sowande threatens all of their loved ones. It’s not entirely clear how he knows so much about Luke and Jessica already when they just encountered the Hand for the first time a day ago, but whatever.
The Defenders head out to gather their loved ones and take them some place safe, which involves one annoying superhero trope. Claire asks Luke what’s going on, but Luke says she’ll be safer the less she knows, which makes no sense and is incredibly frustrating. Matt pulls the same move when he goes to see Karen, who is far less receptive to his attempts to help keep her safe because she hates that he’s “doing it again.” (Recap continues on page 2)
The Hand shows up at Claire’s apartment, and Danny and Colleen head out into an alley to face them. There, they run into a newly resurrected Bakuto, who is just as cheesy as ever. He’s been sent there to capture the Iron Fist, but he’s more interested, at least at first, in bringing his old pupil back into the fold. Colleen refuses, and their little chat ends with him slicing her stomach when the rest of her friends arrive.
Back at the hideout, Stick tries to convince Matt that he needs to lead the Defenders, but Matt refuses. However, he does throw the Daredevil suit back on for the first time and arrives just in time to help Jessica, who ran into Murakami when she went to pick up Trish. With Jessica’s help, Daredevil is able to beat back Murakami (for now).
Tensions are building in the Hand. Gao and Bakuto still aren’t on the best of terms after the events in Iron Fist, and Murakami is concerned that the Black Sky won’t be the malleable weapon they were promised, especially since Daredevil has returned. However, the root of all of this anxiety is the fact that they’re out of their magical resurrection substance, which means their next death could be permanent. They’re desperate to return home to K’un L’un, presumably for more of this substance, and I find myself hoping the show will dig into what returning to K’un L’un means to them on an emotional level apart from escaping death. That’s literally where their story began. At this point, Bakuto, Murakami, and Gao have started questioning Alexandra’s leadership and consider coming up with a plan that doesn’t include her or the Black Sky.
Meanwhile, the Defenders send all of their loved ones to the police station, where Misty, who Luke is keeping in the dark for some stupid reason, is supposed to protect them. There, the show trips over itself to flesh out Colleen’s emotional arc in the series (note: we’re already 5 episodes in) by having her open up to Claire about how she feels adrift without the Hand and is looking for stability. Claire tells her she’s the foundation of this whole thing, which is a lie because that’s Claire’s job, but it’s cool. Now that Claire has repaired her wounds, Colleen recovers her sword from Misty (who, rightfully, thinks it’s weird that Colleen is walking around with a katana) and heads out to be a warrior.
The Defenders reconvene at the hideout for a good old-fashioned interrogation, which involves Matt choking Sowande until he coughs up info on what’s happened to Elektra. After knocking him out, Stick forces Matt to come clean to his new super-friends about his past relationship with Elektra. Obviously, they aren’t pleased Matt kept this a secret. Sowande wakes up as they bicker and manages to grab the Iron Fist by the throat, but then Stick intervenes and just simply chops off his head. Thus, the Hand loses one finger.
Meanwhile, downtown, Elektra escapes from her room and makes her way to Matt’s apartment, where she falls asleep on his bed.
Most Valuable Defender: The honor goes to Daredevil, the one who worries the Hand the most.
- “Dude, get off me,” Jessica, to Danny, who tries to shield her when it starts raining bullets at the Royal Dragon.
- Gao breaks out her Iron Fist-esque shove not once but twice in this episode.
- Sowande brings up Kilgrave when he’s taunting the Defenders. I wish the show would find more time to dig into what’s going on with Jessica psychologically. The premiere hinted that she was still recovering, but we haven’t heard or seen much of that since.
- “I tried death. It didn’t take,” Bakuto, to Colleen.
- “Okay, to be clear, we’ve now used the word ‘resurrected’ three times,” Jessica, to the others.
Marvel's The Defenders