It was hoped that by cutting down to an 8-episode schedule The Defenders would avoid hitting the Netflix wall, that there would be no need for wheel-spinning, time-filling episodes with only 8 hours to tell the story instead of 13. “Ashes to Ashes” doesn’t quite hit the wall, but it comes close, meandering somewhat as it works double time to tie everything together and even circle all the way back to a plot hole (actually, a literal hole) left over from Daredevil’s second season. It’s an episode bookended with two fight sequences, one good, the other not so good, and introduces real stakes as two characters fail to make it out alive. In-between that, there’s a whole lot of sitting and talking and investigating as Jessica’s missing person case turns out to be the key to everything.
Let’s start with the first fight scene. As per the apparently unavoidable Avengers superhero teamup DNA, “Ashes to Ashes” is when our heroes turn on each other. More accurately, it’s when Jessica, Luke and Matt turn on Danny. He’s like the Gilligan of the group, and this is like them doing what the Skipper, Ginger and the rest should have always done which is gang up on Gilligan and either throw him off the damn island or tie him up so he can’t hurt their escape efforts anymore. In this case, they want Danny stashed away somewhere because it’s become clear that he’s the key to The Hand’s plans. He, on the other hand, wants to take the fight to the enemy because he’s the sworn protector of K’un-Lun and…
Ugh. Danny’s just the worst.
I don’t know that I completely buy this conflict, but maybe I should because it’s mostly built around Danny’s stubbornness. You’d think he’d realize they were right, especially considering everything Alexandra said to him about not wanting him dead, but, then again, he is Danny. And, to be fair, he has been trained since he was 10-years-old to fight The Hand. To order him to the sidelines just does not compute. At the very least, the fight gave us our first truly super punch from Iron Fist (something he barely even did even on his own show), and offered the internet the highly memeable moment of Jessica knocking Danny’s lights out.
The final fight scene was long overdue because it finally gave Elektra a victory. All this talk of her power was starting to become laughable what with her never winning any of these group fights. Finally, she easily took out the entire team, albeit with Danny and Luke drugged and nearly incapacitated by Stick’s sleepy time gas. These scenes especially highlight just how out of place Luke and Jessica are when everyone starts kung fu fighting. Their style of bar/prison fighting isn’t getting them very far, no matter how strong they are.
The in-between sections had some fine moments, as the preferred pairings of Matt/Jessica and Luke/Danny continue to pay dividends. Luke and Danny, in particular, bounce off of each other nicely. But you could sense the lull starting to creep in before Elektra kicked some ass and then pulled a Spike to Alexandra’s Anointed One (for you Buffy fans). For those who didn’t watch Iron Fist, just know that people who are brought back from the dead by “the substance” usually come back wrong and increasingly homicidal (as was the case with Harold Meachum). That might explain why Elektra just took a hard right into supervillainy (or at least it appears she did) even though she’s regained some of her memories. Why exactly this hasn’t also happened with the leaders of The Hand despite all the times they’ve come back from the dead, I’m not sure.
Assuming this is the end for Alexandra, I’d have to regard her as a disappointment. There was far too much “because she’s Sigourney Weaver!” behind the show’s continued references to Alexandra’s power and prowess but not a whole lot of actual visual evidence, even though Weaver played the hell out of the part. It’s a shame that such a supreme talent and genre icon was wasted on so many scenes where she easily out-acted Finn Jones, and the notion of her treating Elektra like her second chance at motherhood didn’t add the degree of tragedy to her death that it was probably meant to. A Kingpin she was not, but, dammit, she’s Sigourney Weaver. That at least always made her watchable, and without her the season has taken a turn toward Matt vs. Elektra, acting as a spiritual Daredevil: Season 3 and just something Jessica and Luke are doing until their shows come back.
THE NOTES (WRITTEN AS I WATCHED THE EPISODE)
- Poor Alexandra. Lost her adopted daughter AND her favorite record is bent. It’s just not her day.
- How “insane” must an idea truly be for Danny freakin’ Rand to scoff at it?
- Oh, this little mutiny can’t be helping Danny’s trust issues.
- So, Stick totally wants to kill Danny for the greater good. Luke, Jessica and Matt get that, right?
- The hole from Daredevil season 2? I’d almost forgotten about that.
- Luke and Jessica are starting to see what it’s like to be Matt’s friend. It means getting lied to a lot.
- The secret to making Danny suck less is to pair him with Luke. There’s a reason those two have made such great partners in the comics for so long.
- “The two of us will serve life, always” then pan up to highlight the headstones behind them. I see what you did there, episode director.
- If someone had to die it might as well be Stick. He no longer served any purpose to the story other than to dole out some not-so-fatherly advice and remind us how much Scott Glenn looks like Iggy Pop.
- When it comes to fashion, Alexandra sure does love her oversized….um, everything.
- “The truth is, you and I, we’re not so different” – And take a shot if you’re playing the villain cliche drinking game.
- Holy shit. Elektra just killed Alexandra! Gotta say – didn’t see that coming. Great cliffhanger.
Jessica: “So you wanna tell me how a pro bono lawyer can afford a loft like this in New York City?”