so what are your thoughts on elektra's arc in defenders
Wow, no way to give a short answer here, so I guess I’ll just jump in haha. Spoilers abound, obviously!
Overall, and there’s really no way for me to be truly objective about this gut response, but Elektra’s arc kicked all sorts of ass for me and I was thrilled to see her be given this level of focus in the storyline. I have to admit it’s not something I ever expected from the series.
That being said, I think there were some definite mistakes made and things I wish they had done better…so let me run through a quick list of those, and then follow up with my list of highlights :).
Things that could have been better:
- No significant Black Sky payoff. This was one of my biggest personal disappointments with the storyline. The limitations of the way they set up the Netflix universe leading up to this team up show really showed in this one…I have a feeling whatever they were planning for the Black Sky and the Hand in DD S1 got totally derailed by the time they got to Defenders, what with all the retconning of the Hand mythology to fit the K’un-Lun storyline. I’m not sure if this is because the individual shows had too much leeway with how they set up their individual character origins and storylines or how much input they get from high up to keep the plotting consistent…my impression was the former, and as a result, it seems like the Defenders’ writers were tasked to pick up all of the disparate pieces and just try to fit it into one semi-coherent storyline, with mixed results. Given how much they leaned into the Iron Fist stuff as a huge part of the Hand stuff, I’m not sure why they didn’t just retcon the concept of the Black Sky into one where it’s the Hand’s own Immortal Weapon…that would have been pretty easy and at least lends consistency if you’re going down that route in the story. Ultimately though, if I could have done it, I would have done a flashback scene (or I mean, even just someone monologuing about it, whatever) to Alexandra’s past where she actually has the prophecy / vision of the Black Sky. Like, that tidbit in the conversation between Gao and Alexandra was SO intriguing and it’s like, what does that even mean??? It would have been a cool way to better establish both Alexandra – show us why she became the leader of the Fingers, let her do some cool fighting / getting her hands dirty, AND provide some context on why she’s obsessed with the Black Sky and what she intended to do with one once she got it – as well as Elektra’s role in the context of being a Black Sky – give us some clarity on what it means to be one, define her powers / abilities better, and maybe even shed some light on why she was able to break out of her brainwashing (like maybe the Black Sky was never meant to be a weapon, but was meant to be something else, I don’t know). But I don’t write for the show so whatever, lol.
- Elektra’s motivations after she kills Alexandra were way too opaque. I think a lot of people were rightfully confused at where her arc was supposed to go, which is totally fair given how it unfolded. I feel like we could have used one more episode to flesh out what was going on but ultimately, I think there were two issues: the progression on the slow but steady turnaround on her character may have been too subtle, and second, there just wasn’t enough time in the last two episodes to properly map out a way to sensibly show what her real endgame was since they basically needed her to stand-in for the face of the other side and help get the story rolling on into the final act.
Here’s my general interpretation of what happened…
We know she was brought back as an empty vessel to become the ultimate weapon / killing machine for the Hand…I read a great description of this that compares Elektra’s resurrection as the Black Sky as the same as if you were to erase and reboot a phone, except this time you’ve unlocked EVERYTHING…this is the same for Elektra…she has these latent abilities that allow her to be an incredible weapon, but it took a very purposeful reboot to bring it out. Anyway, all is well and good until Elektra encounters a glitch in the programming…this glitch, of course, is Matt, and this tiny little crack in her system throws open the door to uncovering a side to herself that she had thought was lost…basically, her humanity. As she’s remembering / recovering, she’s also remembering what happened in her past life – and that was also used and trained to be someone’s weapon. That back then, just like now, she had no control and no say over her own life. And what she ultimately wants is to wrest back control from people who never viewed her as anything more than just an empty vessel for their desires, and to finally be able to control her own destiny.
So this is why it’s significant that she kills BOTH Stick and Alexandra – they may have both felt genuinely toward Elektra and treated her as a surrogate daughter, but they also made her do terrible things for their own ends. Killing them symbolizes her wresting back her agency and I think, to me, clearly shows that she is on no side but her own. Taking control of the Hand was really not supposed to be the main point or anything permanent aka ‘look I’m a bad guy!!’, imo…but I think it was both a self-preservation move (you’re not gonna kill the head of the ancient ninja cult and then try to take them ALL down without securing an out for yourself first and working with them guarantees you some more time to do that) as well as a bit of a lazy storytelling way to slot someone in as the leading antagonist heading into the final fight. I think her conversations with Danny clarifies that to some degree, but not as much as I would have liked.
The jump from here to the last fight is exactly why I think we needed one more episode of screen time to bridge the gap, but as to why she’d suddenly go from ‘I need to get more substance’ to ‘Let’s die here together’ – well, the whole last episode is setting up an impossible scenario for everyone involved. So we know the stakes are high and people gonna die. A newly independent Elektra without her humanity would have gotten everyone neutralized as quickly as possible and hauled ass out of that pit with some dragon bones and called it day. And that was probably her goal. But once the Defenders take the fight to the Hand in the bottom of the pit, and Elektra is face to face with Matt again…well, things get a little more muddled.
At some point, it seems that everyone left in that pit knows that they’re running out of time – Gao herself is so pragmatic about the damn thing that she doesn’t even attempt to bother getting out. I imagine Elektra has this knowledge too, and we know that she the one thing she doesn’t want is to go back to that dark place, to death…but the one thing that is perhaps a saving grace for her is that Matt is there too. Someone who can face the darkness with her. She probably thinks the only way to keep him there is to fight him, antagonize him, lie to him, but what she doesn’t realize is that he’s been ready this whole time to stay down there with her…and GAH, okay I gotta stop there.
SOOO yeah, basically, I think there was a plan there, but the writers didn’t do a super job connecting the dots at the end, mostly b/c of the limited time to get the last act rolling…this is my interpretation and I’m sticking to it :).
Okay, now things that were AWESOME:
- All of Elektra’s fights!!! Omg so one of my major annoyances in DD S2 was that it really felt like they nerfed Elektra’s skill level on the show. On the one hand I understood that she’s a much younger, impetuous presence on the show than she is in the comics, but still, she should have been able to handle Yazuka goons with no issues. If it took becoming the Black Sky to activate OP Elektra mode then well, I’M HERE FOR IT!! She was such a badass and I loved every single moment she was fighting someone on screen. Of course there were inconsistencies with her level of Black Sky amplified abilities, but then again, that was an issue with all of the heroes. But ughhh she truly became the fighter I wanted to see on screen. And all of her fights with Daredevil / Matt were particular delights. I spar best with you!!!
- Elektra regaining her agency!! As I mentioned above, I don’t think the writers did the best job they could in executing this storyline but all I wanted from this show was for Elektra to really take control of her life again and SHE DID IT. Just like I had predicted in this post here. It literally went down exactly as I had hoped it would hahah.
- MCU Elektra inching closer to becoming comics Elektra. Okay so I had a lot of theories on how things were going to turn out for Elektra by the end of the show, my prevailing theories being based on what I thought I could expect from Marvel TV – either get the trite but not entirely unexpected ‘Elektra rediscovers her goodness and switches sides’ direction OR you get the ‘Matt angsting over Elektra but realizing she’s a lost cause and tries to kill her’ direction. My personal hope was that Elektra would wrest back her agency, ultimately survive the show (b/c killing her again would have been so dumb) and become a free agent, true neutral type of presence in the background of the Netflix Marvel universe, coming in to help bail out Matt’s ass from time to time on DD, but not necessarily having to operate in any romantic capacity, just a super skilled and reliable ally of Matt / Daredevil when he faces bigger antagonists. Given the unexpected level of Mattelektra in the show overall, I’m an optimistic fool and wondering if there may be more in the cards for them…but I’m not going to dwell too much on that now.
- Elodie Yung!! The most awesome thing about Elektra’s arc was that we were blessed enough to have Elodie Yung cast as Elektra in the first place and the fact that she’s the head of the Mattelektra Protection Squad. I’ve always believed the role of Elektra could have become real hot garbage in a lesser actress’ hands but Elodie brings such thoughtfulness and presence to material that can sometimes be a little weak and potentially one dimensional. Her transformation over the course of the Defenders was such a treat to watch and I will love her forever. So yeah, I love Elodie as Elektra and I will love her as Elektra til the end of time.
AND THAT’S IT! Thanks for asking and making me write all of this out. This is a great way for me to continue emotionally processing everything that’s happened on the show lol.