It isn’t typical that the ladies are as well represented in screen adaptations of comics as they are in Marvel’s The Defenders. It’s surprising to note that the ratio of female characters to male characters is nearly perfect, and not a single one of the women could be called a damsel in distress. At the same time they are all particularly authentic and diverse.
Spoilers ahead, so watch before you read.
Sisters are doing it for themselves
Classical music groupie Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) is acknowledged by The Hand to be the leader of their inner circle. In the centuries after her expulsion by the masters of K’un Lun she has managed to gain influence, wealth, and according to records she even held property before most women could trade and possess capital. Though we don’t get a full picture of her power, Alexandra gives us a taste of her legendary maternal instinct when she tames the resurrected Black Sky, as though she were a feral Newt.
Life got served
At first, Elektra (Elodie Yung) is satisfied to be a killer for the Hand. When recognized by Daredevil, however, she begins to question her master. After taking Danny Rand (Finn Jones) hostage, Elektra finds the remaining members of The Hand unhappy with her surrogate mother’s leadership. Alexandra orders Elektra to kill the Defenders including the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen (Charlie Cox). Elektra stages a deadly coup and corrects the dismissal of his identity, before taking Alexandra’s place as leader.
She’ll be back
Criminal savant, Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), withheld her fighting ability in previous appearances. From her stoicism to her massive influence, we could tell she had more power than her size or age would suggest. Even when she lifts one veil in an attempt to convince Alexandra of another course, she lifts yet another and reveals her true assessment to Murakami (Yutaka Takeuchi). The air of mystery gives Gao a Master Yoda quality as she wields Chi with typhoon force, before slipping into the shadows to fight another day.
There are no pillow fights in a womance
Inside Harlem Precinct we see friendships form among the female characters of each series. In an act of trust, detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) allows Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) to keep her Katana while in custody. Journalist Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Radio talk show host Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) form a natural bond searching for answers on the evidence board. Nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) lets Misty in on why Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is the man their city needs. Colleen and Claire take timeout to give each other emotional pep talks in moments of self-doubt and team up to bury the Hand.
Not your sidekick
Former Hand Operative Colleen Wing proves herself to be resourceful, tough as nails, and a deadly fighter. Whether stopping swords with her bare hands, stealing C-4 out of the evidence room, escaping police stations undetected or taking slashes to the torso before decapitating her former sensei, Bukudo (Ramon Ramirez), Colleen could school each of The Defenders on reaching next level Hero status. The only thing holding Colleen back from accompanying the super-human Defenders to rescue the Iron Fist is the need to protect Claire.
After stalling the police force and giving her friends time to bring down the building on The Hand, Misty Knight shoots her way in to find Colleen and Claire in what looks to be a losing fight. Misty doesn’t hesitate to fire at Bukudo, to no effect. When Bukudo stops Colleen by cornering Claire, Misty intervenes and in a tense struggle he slices her arm off before Colleen takes his head. In the aftermath we learn that Rand Enterprises will foot the bill for her recovery, setting up the addition of Misty’s cybernetic arm as well as the friendship between her and Colleen Wing.
The unyielding woman
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is back on the job after a missing architect leaves a mess in her office. In a game of cat and mouse Jessica gets the jump on Matt Murdock and the goods on his double life. Though he ruins the evidence and her scarf, Jessica ID’s the Devil and convinces him to unmask over dinner. After running into her ex and his new friend, Jessica has to leave the lithium party and get a drink. Properly lubricated, she puts two and two together and returns to throw cars and one-liners, and she’s fresh out of cars. In the final battle, Jessica agrees to be a decoy, gets cozy with Luke, and is even polite enough to hold the elevator.
A story of sisterhood and feminine strength boils beneath the plot of The Defenders on both sides of the fight. Even though several characters might have a lingering pull toward the same man, there isn’t a cat’s paw in sight. Instead, the ladies lean on each other and support one another by listening and offering encouragement. The remarkable authenticity and ability to relate to each of these women is where The Defenders gets it right.
Image Credits: Marvel, Netflix