The Defenders recap: 'Fish in the Jailhouse'
When The Defenders premiered, we all hoped that the show’s eight-episode order would lead to tighter storytelling, something even the best Marvel Netflix shows have lacked. All of them usually ran out of story in the second half of the season and had to stall as they waited for the inevitable final boss battle. Unfortunately, The Defenders has fallen into this trap too with “Fish in the Jailhouse,” an episode that’s thin on plot and puts the show in a holding pattern until the big finale.
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The episode begins with a flashback to Elektra meeting with Stick “some time ago.” From their conversation, we know it’s from around the time when Elektra first approached Matt. She tells Stick that it’ll be impossible to convince Matt to kill, even for the Chaste. This is not what Stick wants to hear, because he truly believes they need Matt. Elektra wonders if there’s a way to win the war without so much death, but Stick says they need to prepare for even more of it. Honestly, this flashback is rather unnecessary. When we pick back up with Elektra in the present day, she tells her Hand-mates that she really doesn’t care about the organization. All she wants is the Substance. Killing Stick and Alexandra was about Elektra becoming the master of her own destiny, and acquiring the Substance will help accomplish that.
Meanwhile, the Defenders are busy licking their wounds at the police station since the cops picked them up after Elektra KO’d them at the end of the last episode. Things aren’t looking good, because the cops found two bodies with them in the warehouse. Misty tries to help as best she can, but the Defenders aren’t giving her anything to work with, which frustrates her and her captain.
Matt asks for a moment alone to speak to Jessica and Luke, but before that happens, Karen pulls him aside for a chat. She thinks diving back into this crazy world means he’s throwing away all the work he put into rebuilding his life. But that’s just it, he says: “This is my life.” This might be Matt’s strongest character moment in The Defenders so far. He has finally embraced the side of himself that he was trying to keep at bay in the season premiere. For such an important moment, it does feel rather underplayed in the episode.
Colleen and Claire use this downtime to discuss heroism. Claire doesn’t understand how she ended up here since she tried to avoid people with powers, but Colleen points out that she doesn’t seem like the sort of person who could ever just stand on the sidelines and watch. It’s nice that the writers are using this opportunity to acknowledge that Claire is also one of the heroes of this universe, because she does quite a bit. Colleen, on the other hand, is worried about Danny, because she knows that he too is just a boy looking for a family and almost found it with Luke, Matt, and Jessica.
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Matt, Luke, and Jessica meet in a corner of the police station to recap everything they (and the audience) know so far. Foggy, who is worried that Matt’s two lives are close to colliding, pulls Matt aside and basically tells him he needs to throw his costume on and put an end to all this and avoid ruining both their processional careers. With Foggy’s blessing, Matt, “Super Joan Jett”, and Mr. Bulletproof punch a hole through the wall of the precinct and escape
The NYPD assumes Luke and Jessica kidnapped their lawyer, so they put out an APB for them. This forces the Defenders to take the subway to Midland Circle, which is where the Hand is probably holding Danny. As they ride the subway, Jessica steals a beer from a homeless man who’s passed out in their car, which might be one of the funniest things she’s done. “It’s been a long week,” she says in response to the looks she gets from her companions.
Elektra and Danny take an elevator down the huge hole underneath Midland Circle, which leads to dark cave with a wall covered in an ancient script that Danny recognizes from K’un-Lun. Elektra tells him that one of the previous Iron Fists used his fist to seal something behind the wall, which means Danny is the only who can open it. “Behind that door is the true power of the Hand,” she says.
Daredevil, Jessica, and Luke try to infiltrate Midland Circle via the parking garage, where they come face to face with Madame Gao, Bakuto, and Murakami. The ensuing fight, which is cross-cut with Elektra and Danny’s underground duel, is quite possibly the most confusing and poorly executed combat scene of the series so far. It’s incredibly hard to understand what’s going on because the sequence has been edited to hell and back. Eventually Colleen shows up to aid them, but the Hand, realizing they might lose, manage to make their escape. Meanwhile underground, Danny does the stupidest thing he could do: He tries to use the Iron Fist on Elektra, who anticipates his attack, counters by trapping his fist with her sai, and steers it into the wall. The Iron Fist making contact with the wall creates a shockwave that knocks out all the power in New York.
Misty and Claire show up at Midland Circle, and Misty offers to stall the police in order to let the Defenders, Claire, and Colleen do what they need to do. I have a feeling Misty wouldn’t have been so kind if she knew what their plan was: Colleen stole the explosives from the NYPD evidence room and wants to use them to bring the building down. As Jessica points out, that’ll allow the NYPD to arrest them for both obstruction of justice and domestic terrorism. Luke doesn’t want to take lives, while Daredevil thinks the only way to save the city from what’s coming is to bring it down on top of the Hand’s leaders. This is a stupid plan, but at least Daredevil is assuming that leadership role.
Below ground, Danny wakes up inside a huge skeleton…
For the most part, “Fish in the Jailhouse” fails to follow through on the thrilling ending of “Ashes, Ashes.” Nearly three-fourths of the episode is spent with the Defenders walking around the precinct recapping what we already know, and it doesn’t feel like we receive any new information except in Elektra and Danny’s conversation. The thought of Elektra fully embracing the darkness is interesting and I wish we had more time to explore this side of her, but I doubt we’ll dig into what this really means for her because I have the feeling the final episode will just be one huge underground battle.
Most Valuable Defender: Daredevil, for fully embracing this side of himself.
- The Defenders is trying hard to shoehorn in an emotional story arc for Colleen, and it’s not working at all. It feels forced, like an aside rather than something vital and necessary to the story. They shouldn’t have waited until episode 5 to really introduce it.
- Gao spends most of the parking garage fight just force-pushing objects at Luke and Jessica.