This is the review for the seventh episode of The Defenders. To discuss subsequent episodes or the series as a whole, please visit our Spoiler Space.
A little momentum can go a long way. After years of build-up in the individual series and the six preceding episodes, the Defenders (they’re not actually going to refer to themselves as that, right? Seems more likely the press will say it, and Jessica will roll her eyes) are finally on their way to the end game. The door to K’un Lun has been opened, the heroes and villains have all converged, and there’s going to be one more building-toppling showdown. It’s all breathless forward movement at this point, and that energy carries “Fish In The Jailhouse” through a number of weaker elements, maintaining a sense of excitement even when the show makes odd choices in editing.
A lot of those odd choices come during the climactic fight between our heroes and the surviving members of the Hand. Director Félix Enríquez Alcalá does right by the story up until this point, and he’s shown a proficiency with combat sequences in the past, but there’s some unusual staging and framing at work in this sequence that ends up making it almost feel more like a rapid-fire montage than a fight scene. The camera is often placed intimately close to the actors, removing a coherent frame and making it difficult to follow where they are in between cuts. It’s split between the Luke/Jessica vs. Madame Gao side of things, which fares the better of the two, and the Bakuto/Murakami vs. Daredevil side, which is the choppier and less effective battle. Whereas both have abrupt cuts that lessen the impact of some of Gao’s mystical blows in the former and the martial arts mastery in the latter, the way Luke and Jessica work together helps render that struggle in a more appreciably inventive way. (Luke tossing the pipe towards Gao, only for her to realize too late it was going to Jessica, was the best moment.) Things improved once Murakami attacked Luke and Colleen joined the fray, but it was still unnecessarily choppy. I enjoyed the fight between these long-brewing forces; I only wish it impressed more.
But let’s talk about the other fight, because that’s the one that demonstrates a key maxim of the Marvel Netflix universe: You can almost always count on Danny Rand to do the dumb thing. While there was more clarity to their movement, it was still a little too dark and chopped-up to get a full sense of Danny and Elektra’s actions, though the show also slowed things down periodically to show off their moves. But then Danny went and did the only thing that put everyone at risk: He started throwing the Iron Fist around. A simple “you had one job” remonstration would be sufficient, but it’s painfully easy to imagine Danny losing his temper and doing exactly what Elektra wanted him to. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it: That’s precisely what happened. And now the door to K’un Lun is open. She wasn’t lying when she drew a comparison between them, but she also was more than ready for his rejection.
This might be the rare case where everyone standing around talking about the plan was more fun than the plan itself. Being trapped in the police station for the first half of the episode turned out to be an inspired choice, as it reinforced the sense of time slowly ticking away and the walls closing in, every minute that passed increasing the possibility of citywide catastrophe. By the time the chief is threatening to have them all arrested and thrown in lockup, it’s clear they’re going to have to bust out of there. But they each get to that conclusion on their own. Jessica isn’t having any of this from the first moment we see her in cuffs being interrogated by Misty. (I was honestly impressed with her restraint in not just popping them in half.) And Luke will always be driven by doing the right thing, as Claire tells Misty. He knows there’s no time to waste on legalities, even if it means the loss of his freedom when this is all through.
But surprisingly, the best get-it-done moment is between Matt and Foggy. After Matt wakes up freaked out (really freaked out) in the office and he and Foggy have another round of “lawyer good vigilante bad” debate, Foggy’s unhesitating support here was a great demonstration of the bond they still share. “That’s what family’s for,” he says as they hug, and hands over the bag with the Daredevil suit inside. He wants to keep Matt’s lives separate, and unlike Karen, who still doesn’t understand that the costumed hero isn’t any less Matt Murdock than the lawyer, Foggy knows that right now, the city needs the hero.
These people all ended up in this precinct for a variety of reasons, but they all share a common hope and goal, and more than that, they all bring out the best versions of one another. Colleen talks Claire through the remembrance of her own heroic actions; Claire then reminds Colleen of the same, before talking down Misty and emphasizing that Luke will always do the right thing. Claire, increasingly, is the voice of reason—perhaps she should be in charge of the Defenders. She articulates nicely the fundamental drama that drives these stories. There’s always going to be a conflict between the right thing and the legal thing—well, not always, but when it comes to saving the day against supernatural forces that threaten everyone in New York, yeah, that’s beyond what the law can do.
“More death is coming, and you and me gotta get out of its way,” Stick tells Elektra in the pre-credits flashback, and now it’s clear why that might have stuck with her. Death is the thing Elektra has faced, and knows she never wants to face again. She’ll make temporary common cause with the Hand if it allows her to get what she wants, just as they in turn set aside their distrust and dislike in order to let her open the door. That conversation among the four of them was wonderfully executed, as they all slowly shift positions in an unspoken but obvious dance to see if there is some possible way to get the drop on Elektra. They needn’t have worried; by episode’s end, she’s gotten them what they’ve spent all this time dreaming of. They better hope a building doesn’t come down on their heads before they have a chance to enjoy it.
- I’ve watched that final scene five times now, and it’s still unclear. Danny is waking up in K’un Lun, it seems, but what is the spatial layout of the place in which he’s been dropped? Is that the skeleton of a dragon? It’s very murky and ambiguous, not so much a cool tease of an ending as a, “Huh. Okay.”
- Colleen and Claire. “Some people run into the fire.” “Dumb people.”
- Luke, confirming Misty’s suspicions. “There is no plan.” “I can tell.”
- Nice use of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” in the transition from the opening flashback to everyone laying unconscious on the ground.
- Jessica’s response to Matt’s costume will never not be funny. “There it is again.”
- Also, you know it’s been a long week if she’s stealing beer from a homeless guy.
- Hero of the episode: Jessica, for having her Metrocard on her like a true New Yorker.