The Defenders recap: 'Ashes, Ashes'
As the heroes bond, Stick's plan backfires with massive consequences
Just like last episode, “Ashes, Ashes” starts with some eccentric music. But rather than “sneak up on the Royal Dragon” heist music, this one is slower and sadder – it’s what Alexandra’s listening to now that Elektra’s gone. We’ve all been there – listening to classical music alone because we’re sad the assassin we brought back to life has gone off on her own.
Alexandra should cheer up, honestly. At least she’s faring better than her old comrade Sowande, whose head is now lying on the floor of Defenders HQ. The other heroes are upset at Stick for killing him, but the old warrior insists they got what they needed out of the warlord. Stick points to Sowande’s exact phrasing, that Iron Fist was “the key to what the hand desires.” Stick explains what we viewers have already figured out: These ninjas don’t mean that metaphorically. The Hand literally needs the iron fist to open a door. Apparently, the iron fist isn’t just a weapon – sometimes, it can be used to seal away important things.
As ever, Stick is nothing but practical. If the Hand needs Iron Fist to achieve their goal, then the logical thing to do is to keep him as far away from them as possible. For some reason, Danny takes major offense to this, and starts screaming that the Hand is poisoning their minds against him with fake news. Other characters roasting Danny might get tiring, but honestly everything that comes out of his mouth is so whiny and petulant, rolling your eyes is the natural response. Again, the Defenders process this disagreement in the most Marvel way possible: by getting in a fistfight. At one point Danny and Luke collide in an explosion of force that shakes the compound, but it turns out a Jessica Jones punch to the head is much more effective.
As the three conscious Defenders regroup, Luke and Jessica finally address why it took them until now to reconnect. Jessica admits she’s bad at keeping in touch, but also points out that Luke could have called her too. Speaking of awkward romantic pasts, Matt is once again being shifty about Elektra, reluctant to disclose that she accompanied him the last time he went to Midland Circle. Jessica rightfully chews him out over hiding stuff from them again. Since Raymond was the architect who built Midland Circle, she and Matt decide to follow up with his family while Luke stays and watches Danny.
Elektra wakes up in Matt’s apartment after a nice dream about their past life. Having seen the Daredevil costume in the dream, she looks for it when awake, but only finds the card from her own funeral. She’s cleared out by the time Jessica and Matt arrive. I love this little scene because it’s mostly Jessica and Matt talking about how crappy their apartments are (when Matt apologizes for the mess, Jessica tells him “you should see my place”). Jessica Jones has one of the most accurate descriptions of New York living I’ve ever seen — you live in whatever crappy hole in the wall you can afford and try to avoid rats. Matt does notice the chest out of whack, which shakes him up, but once again he keeps his internal thoughts from Jessica. (recap continued on page 2)
As you might imagine, the Hand are none too happy to receive Sowande’s head in a box. As they all snipe at each other, they almost give the impression of where the Defenders might end up if they live a couple hundred more years and keep fighting each other all the time. Surprisingly, it’s Gao who wards off any coup attempt by Alexandra, saying she’ll continue following her, at least until they get the iron fist in their possession.
Matt and Jessica visit the Raymond brownstone. Only the daughter’s home, but these two vigilantes are able to use their people skills to get her to open up about her dad. She says he used to be nice and boring until one day he changed — he stopped eating, stopped sleeping, and stopped playing the piano. At that, Matt (despite several side-eyes from Jessica) asks if he can play the piano. He soon realizes the D sharp is off, so they open up the piano and find blueprints stored within. These aren’t for the Midland Circle building itself, but for whatever horrible thing the Hand built at the bottom of that big hole.
Following the clues she found in Matt’s apartment, Elektra visits her own grave. There, she runs into Alexandra, who explains that the Hand has survived so long by using a mystical substance they first found at K’un-L’un (sounds a lot like Ra’s al-Ghul’s Lazarus Pits, honestly). However, Alexandra used the last of their supply to bring Elektra back to life, so now they really need to get back to the city if they’re going to survive. She dispatches Elektra to retrieve Iron Fist, once and for all.
Despite their earlier fisticuffs and their current guard-prisoner relationship, Luke and Danny are bonding. Luke tells him about his relationship with Jessica, and how, despite everything, he’d still face a dragon with her. Stick, unfortunately, doesn’t share this warmth of feeling. After knocking Luke out with some potent incense, he declares that he found a third way to beat the Hand, aside from running or fighting: Just kill Danny, and take away their win condition. Just as he’s about to strike the fatal blow, Elektra arrives, and they start fighting instead. Stick may be an experienced and wily old warrior, but he’s no match for the youth and ferocity of the Black Sky. Matt and Jessica return just as Elektra pins Stick to the ground. Matt tries to break through to Elektra again, but it doesn’t work this time — she kills Stick and takes off with Danny, who was knocked unconscious by Stick’s gas in the most horribly backfired plan ever.
She arrives back at Hand HQ just as Murakami was trying to kill Alexandra. Now that they have the one thing in the whole world, you’d think the Hand would be unified, but no dice. Gao warns that they can’t underestimate the Defenders coming after Danny, which sends Alexandra over the edge. After ordering Elektra to kill Luke, Jessica, and “the devil of Hell’s Kitchen, whoever he is,” she declares that they shouldn’t underestimate HER, that she was the one who destroyed their enemies and retrieved their prize, and — well, we don’t get to hear the end of this monologue, because she gets literally stabbed in the back by Elektra, who whispers “his name is Matthew” in that great Elodie Yung pronunciation we’ve been waiting all season for. Black Sky who? Like O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill, Elektra cuts off her rival’s head and declares that she’s in charge now. Any questions?
Most Valuable Defender: Everyone kind of failed in this episode, but I’ll give it to Daredevil for finding the Midland Circle blueprints and (inadvertently) inspiring Elektra to betray Alexandra.
- This is a kind of random reference, but Elektra’s outfit in this show really reminds me of the latest incarnation of Lady Shiva, as seen in recent arcs of Batman: Detective Comics. Long dark trench coat, long dark hair, two swords — it’s a good look.
- I think I enjoyed the Jessica/Matt bonding in this episode even more than the Danny/Luke scenes. I also love that the show takes care to emphasize Jessica’s detective skills as being on par with her super strength, such as doing research into Matt’s background while no one else was looking. Maybe she should teach him to cover his paper trail better, though…
- RIP, Stick. I’ll miss your cranky attitude and the nonchalant way you would cut people’s heads off.
- Interested to see how the show wraps up without Sigourney Weaver. I had really liked her work so far, but I’m also glad to see Elodie Yung’s Elektra back at full strength.