Playing “odd one out” with The Defenders

Hey guys! Well, the bad news is I’m back at work. The good news is that we’re only just over one week away from the premiere of The Defenders! For both seasons of Daredevil, I’ve actually taken the day off, but that won’t be doable this time, so I’ll start watching in the late afternoon my time and just make an evening with.

There’s a lot to get to before then, but to warm up I thought it might be fun to compare and contrast the Defenders and look at what the various team members have in common. When I was a kid, there was a hugely popular children’s show on Swedish television called (roughly translated) “Five ants are more [numerous] than four elephants.” It was one of those shows that managed to be both entertaining and pedagogical – making it a big hit with both parents and kids – and one regular segment was called “Which one should go?”, a game of picking which of four animals (for instance) was the odd one out. The big teaching moment came when you realized that there was more than one way to slice it. You could argue that one of them didn’t belong because it wasn’t mammal, another one didn’t belong because it wasn’t a particular color shared by the others, and so on.

When you look at the Defenders, you realize that there are quite a few parameters shared by three of the members, but not all four, and who is the “odd one out” tends to vary. Some traits are superficial and obvious (gender, skin color, ability to pass an eye test…) and thus not really worth explaining further, others could potentially be a little more interesting. So, yeah, this is a lightweight exercise but a bit of trivial fun is allowed, right?

Super strength

Odd one out: Matt

Luke Cage is the obvious power house out of the rest of the trio, but Jessica also has superhuman strength – and even the power to jump high and execute a form of “controlled falling.” Danny doesn’t have obvious powers of strength unless he’s focusing his chi into his fist. Still, if you can use that “glowing fist” to punch through a wall, I’d say that counts. Daredevil certainly brings something else to the table, but his powers are of a very different kind.

Source of powers

Odd one out: Danny

Speaking of powers: Matt, Jessica, and Luke are the “freaks” of the group. Jessica and Luke have been experimented on. Matt’s “experiment” was more of a fluke, but his powers also came out of a dose of mysterious chemicals. Only Danny’s are mystical in origin. He had to fight a dragon for his. In a city that exists in a different dimension. Sort of.

Family background

Odd one out: Luke

While we’re on the topic of origins and roots, let’s look at who had the least messed-up childhood. Matt never knew his mother, lost his father at a young age, grew up in an orphanage, and developed a dysfunctional relationship with his ersatz father figure Stick. All things considered, he’s actually doing pretty well. Jessica lost her parents and brother in a car accident, and was adopted (sort of) by Trish Walker’s abusive mother. Danny lost his parents in a plane crash and was raised by abusive monks. Congratulations, Luke! His father may have cheated on his mother and his half-brother grew up to be a super-villain, but compared to the rest of the group, his was the most normal childhood.

Substance abuse

Odd one out: Jessica

If the name of this category was “spends a significant amount of time in bars,” Danny would be the odd one out, but it’s not. Jessica is a full-fledged addict, and if the second trailer is any indication, she won’t be giving it up anytime soon. It might be argued that Matt sometimes approaches his vigilante lifestyle as if it were a drug, but aside from the occasional Josie’s induced hangover, he’s not addicted to any actual drugs (in the comics, he rarely even drinks). Whether this will be addressed in any meaningful way in The Defenders remains to be seen.

Has been to prison

Odd one out: Luke

He may have been innocent, but Luke did go to prison, which is where he got his powers. In fact, at the start of The Defenders he’s just been released again (well, the first time was an escape). The rest of the gang haven’t sampled life behind bars yet, though Jessica looks to be in some legal trouble when Matt finds her in The Defenders.

Career choices

Odd one out: Danny

Speaking of prison, Danny is the only one who doesn’t or hasn’t at one time worked in a field related to law enforcement. Luke is a former police officer, Matt is a defense attorney, and Jessica occasionally serves up subpoenas. At this point, I’m not sure Danny is working at all, after having failed miserably at running a company. On the other hand, it’s not as if he has to. In terms of having an advanced education, it appears that Matt is the only one with a graduate degree though.

Chooses to be a “superhero”

Odd one out: Matt

Luke and Jessica are very reluctant to take on the hero role, and initially shy away from using their powers to go out an help people. Danny, on the other hand, is very proud to be the Iron Fist, though he doesn’t actually seem to know what to do with his abilities when he returns to New York, especially since he’s effectively abandoned his “post” in K’Un L’Un. Matt is the only one who takes it upon himself to go out and be a bona fide vigilante, conflicted as he might be. Heck, he’s the only one with a costume and a secret identity.

Team attitude

Odd one out: Danny

You get the sense of this in the trailers, and it has been confirmed by cast and crew, that Danny is the only one who doesn’t initially hate the idea of a team-up that all of the other characters have to be dragged into kicking and screaming. Of course, someone has to be the one who wants the relationship to work.

Has killed someone

Odd one out: Jessica

Charlie Cox has joked about how the fact that Daredevil hasn’t actually killed anyone yet might be as much a result of sheer luck as anything else. Yes, Daredevil resents killing, but he’s probably caused his share of brain injuries and fractured spines at this point. The same goes for the other heroes, of course. Jessica, however, is the only one who has actually deliberately killed her adversary. Considering that we’re talking about Killgrave, no one can really blame her, but it does make her a bit darker. If rumors are to be trusted, Jessica is still having a hard time in the wake of her first season as we head into The Defenders

Can you think of other interesting links between these heroes? I’m sure there are tons of them. Add yours in the comments!

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

10 comments

  1. Danny’s also the only one of the four to be from an upper-class background. Everyone else comes from working-class roots or caters to working-class clientele in their day jobs.

  2. Jessica is the only one of the four to not have a love interest coming into The Defenders. All of the guys have love interests, since you have:

    Matt Murdock and Karen Page

    Luke Cage and Claire Temple

    Danny Rand and Colleen Wing

  3. I guess Nobu’s deaths don’t really count for Matt, since he kept coming back, and Stick finished him off for good (maybe).

  4. Well, according to Danny’s character as portrayed in the show, it appears that he would be the one most likely to more so need help and more times, I guess because if it weren’t for Collen Danny would have been dog meat rather early on in the season.

    This is a nice right down to it categories selection.

    Super Strength. Luke’s case would be the pinnacle in twists of fate considering he initially selected to serve and help people and even put his life on the line as a law enforcer and, with him rewarded by going in undeservedly, innocent, and exiting ten times the man we, almost all of us, are, and still innocent PLUS bulletproof (HA, take that corrupt systems). It’s feels ironically fitting that he is the strongest.

    I’m not quite sure what to support regarding the tough upbringing here except to further ponder on what they say about the thorny bush blooming the rose.

    Jessica’s drinking. Well, I have to say this one really bugs me folks. I feel as if she’s the one still abusing, banging her self up. She was also kind of torn between Trish’s goodness all the while being victimized by their mother’s manipulation dividing the two girls. And adding to the “pluk it all” yes, she is indeed the only one to have taken an adversary’s life. I am just guessing, but you may have included this category, and as the finale, because it somehow gives you an itch as it does me and maybe the others here, and in a place where we can’t quite reach to scratch it fully.

    Does knowing who it was that she (deservedly) killed help or further confuse things (meaning as in, all the more reason to not kill the enemy) if we were to do an evaluation of contrast in codes with a consequences forecast acting as levee to guideline our characters final actions and one that must be abided, and I believe Matt’s contrast pops first into most our minds. It feels kind of essential that an agreement be reached if four superfolks are to be working together.

    Perhaps here is where some of the other categories could maybe shed a bit of light. Temporarily most likely. Both Luke and Danny, or rather Coleen, restrained from ending Diamondback and Bakuto, in Danny’s case Davos. Should this mean we should be more worried about Jess? A link, maybe in reverse, perceived could sort of partly explain when we consider Danny’s power coming from somewhere beyond and Jessica’s arch-enemy using a somewhat related weapon and especially against the heroin. Danny is the hero though while Killgrave was the villan. Killgrave was killed (did we hear a standing-O?) while Danny remains the most, hmm shall we say, skeptical of the four Defenders in terms of audience appeal or acceptance, so far as I’ve understood from many sources stating this to be the more general consensus. Hmm, maybe this is why Danny’s the eager one to gain a family.

    Or maybe there exists an underlying fear that Jess could somehow stray away and onto the same or a similar path as Elektra? This surely was a dominant theme concerning Matt’s relationship in regards to the same aforementioned anti-heroin, and Matt’s supposedly the #1 no-kill-code-post-grad super guy. And Jess is going into the new series with past troubles too? At any rate, this just gives more support to the view that the mysticism/mind-control and related kind of stuff most definitely needs a “handle with care” tagged into the scripting.

    Well, I’ve written more than intended, and still have to produce anything conclusive. It would take too long at this point. But it was a fun exercise and a chance to think about a lot of the stuff going on in these shows and some of the elements connecting but also differentiating them. And you were inspired from childhood game show experiences? That’s pretty cool. This was a good little work out. Glad you thought it up and thank you for it, it was enjoyable.

  5. Matt is the only one who hides his identity with a mask.

  6. “Jessica and Luke have been experimented on.” I thought Jessica gained her powers by accident when her family’s car crashed into the truck with the questionable chemical. (Similar to Matt and the truck whose chemicals blinded him while giving him powers.) It seemed as though the company was keeping an eye on what happened to her, but not actively experimenting on her. Kilgrave’s treatment of her later didn’t change her powers, just how and why she was using them.

  7. @ Elizabeth: “It seemed as though the company was keeping an eye on what happened to her, but not actively experimenting on her.” Oh, I totally never considered that she may have come into contact with that stuff on accident. You’re probably right. Anyway, she still “fits” as she got her powers from weird chemical stuff.

    Was there ever any suggestion that Kilgrave changed or affected her powers? (Other than her ability to resist him.)

  8. @Christine: I agree that she still fits in the scientific powers group, even though it was via an accident like Matt rather than an experiment like Luke. Danny is the only one that was granted his powers via spiritual/magical means.

    As for Kilgrave, I don’t think so. He just told her to do things while under his control (ex: dig up the box through a cement floor with her bare hands). I don’t remember them saying anything specific about what he made her do beyond that or whether he had her stretch her abilities, although just the fact he had her using them rather than avoiding them would conceivably make her better at them.

    I took her ability to resist him as something anyone with a strong will who was pushed too far could do, not because of her powers. The fact that no one he’d met so far had the strength of will didn’t mean that she was the only one who would have been able to do it in the right situation. Matt comes to mind. Although the Purple Man has controlled him in the comics several times, he hasn’t been able to make DD kill someone.

  9. Spirituality, or religion, if you like – odd one out: Jessica.

    Matt has fallen back on his Catholic faith, Luke was raised in the Baptist church, and of course Danny is immersed in Eastern spiritualism. All three even have biblical names!

    But not Jessica. She’s also the only one with an identifiable addiction . Now I know next to nothing about 12-step programs, but I’m confident rehabilitation involves acknowledging a greater power. I’m not suggesting that she embark on a journey of the soul, but the fact that the men all have had devoutly religious upbringing, and she hasn’t – coincidental or not – is a fascinating aspect of this team-up!

  10. That’s really cool and supportive what Elizabeth says, about anyone with a strong will being able to build up eggplant immunity. I really, really like that.. well, because it is true for the right people.

    I was a bit mixed up too.. as to the just what the role that the corporation played was.. in both Jessica’s and Killgraves chilhoods I mean.. I think?

    The only conflicting aspect for me was, just exactly when, how and why Killgrave went out of orbit. His parents were trying to, save him but, somehow it got all mixed up? Hm. I think I need another review.

    Tagak has a very, very heavy argument there also. It feels as though Jessica’s role and influence on the direction of the team is, or will be, or should be much, much more than we may be be expecting. Jess’ ability to bust through where even Matt was borderline though, as Elizabeth confirms, still really tosses the salad up and opens up questions as to what extent “The Lady Makes Demands.”.. hm, I just don’t understand.

    Checking again.

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