Psychology of the Defenders

EP 1: The H Word

Alive and well (?) Elektra fights a man in Cambodia, stabbing him fatally. Danny pops up and fights Elektra, but he beats Danny enough to get away. Danny rushes back to the dying man with Colleen. Danny and Colleen say that they are hunting members of the Hand, that they've been looking for this man as their next lead. Before he dies, the man sends them back to New York.

On the plane ride back to New York, Danny has a night terror of the people from K'un-Lun hurt. In the nightmare, Danny walks into a scene of death and meets himself saying that "You abandoned them. Because of you, the Hand has won. After they raised you. After they gave you everything you are, you let them die."

Night terrors differ from nightmares in several ways, but namely in their intensity. Even though the recommended course of action is to not wake up a person experiencing a night terror, Colleen wakes Danny when he screams. This night terror has not been his first, but Danny doesn’t want to talk to Colleen about his guilt and fear. Danny does say that he blames himself for the man’s death: "I let that woman escape."

Focusing on Danny’s negative language which contribute to his negative way of thinking, Colleen points out, "You didn't let anyone do anything.” She points out that Danny did not just stand by while Elektra killed a man; he did attempt to stop her. But Danny continues to take on the responsibility.

After the events of her first season, Jessica still refuses to call herself a "hero." Despite how her season ended, Jessica also refuses to answer calls or take new cases at her detective services. Trish tells Jessica to rejoin society, but for whatever reason, Jessica still isn’t ready.

At her office, a wife and teenage daughter ask Jessica for help finding their husband/dad. At first Jessica brushes them off, but after being threatened to not look for the guy, John Ramsey, Jessica takes the case. She tracks down John’s temporary apartment, empty except for cases of dynamite.

Months of legal battles later, Luke leaves jail an innocent man. The prison guard fumbles with the keys to uncuff Luke, but Luke just breaks off the handcuffs. Almost as if to say, the guards held Luke because he allowed them to, not because they are more powerful than him.

Luke comes back to Harlem, and despite being the reluctant hero before, now he is ready to take care of the people in Harlem—after coffee, of course. Two women voice their opinion of Luke’s next actions. His girlfriend Claire tells Luke, "I want to see you take care of yourself," that he’s not responsible for saving everybody. But detective Misty Knight tells Luke that he should look out for young men in Harlem, like Pop used to do.

Luke does reach out to a young man who's lost both his brother and sister and could be involved in some unknown shady business. The young man, Cole, refuses Luke’s help, and says "It's too late for heroes."

“It's only going to get harder from here on out. You realize you're only at mile one of a marathon, right? Everybody is going to tell you how to feel. Doctors are going to tell you to stay positive. Your family's gonna tell you not to feel sorry for yourself. Your therapist is gonna tell you not to be angry--…your ability to get through it...as this gets harder...that is a hundred times more powerful than slapping a smile on your face and pretending like everything is just fine. No one can give your life back, Aaron. You have....you gotta take it back."

Since the events in Daredevil season two , Matt is focusing on being a lawyer, not a costumed hero. Without his best friend and legal partner Foggy, Matt now does pro bono work. Instead of helping people by punching the bad guys, Matt helps by achieving justice through the legal system.

Unofficially, like Luke, Matt also goes out of his way to counsel a young man. While Luke tries to advise young men making decisions that will land them in prison where he’s already been, Matt advises the young man in a wheel chair because he’s also dealt with traumatic loss. Both men can be honest with a younger generation.

Catching up over coffee, Matt tells Karen that he doesn't miss being Daredevil, that it's a closed chapter of his life. Almost immediately after this conversation, Matt confesses to his priest that he lied. Matt does miss being Daredevil. The priest tells Matt that lying points out indecision. If Matt’s heart and mind agreed, he would have no need to lie about his feelings.

EP 2: Mean Right Hook

An unexpected “earthquake” hits New York, sending citizens into a panic. Matt’s protective instincts take over, and he saves looting teenagers from being shot by store owners. Knowing the danger the city is in, Matt considers getting the suit back out.

Instead, Matt grabs a drink with Foggy to catch up and maybe repair their relationship after season two events. Foggy asks Matt if he is doing the vigilante thing again. Immediately defensive, Matt is ready to walk out on his friend, but Foggy offers Matt extra legal work, to keep him too busy to fight at night. Foggy calls it a short-term solution, but says that he's trying to help.

Oddly, Foggy sounds almost like he's helping his friend with an addiction. He gives Matt a distraction, knowing that it won’t solve the problem, but hoping that it will lessen temptation.

In season one of Daredevil, Claire was romantically interested in Matt, but ended the relationship because, while she admired Matt for his work, she didn’t want to be with a vigilante. Now, Claire is dating Luke, a bulletproof man tracking down criminals. While Luke wants to protect his community, Claire presses him to also look out for himself: "Is the NYPD gonna pay you for doing their job?" Eventually, Claire comes around and gives Luke a lead.

Still in his mindset from Iron Fist season one that only he can save the world, Danny tells Colleen, "This is my responsibility. My fight." At the end of his first season, Danny realizes that by leaving K’un-Lun, the place is he sworn to protect as the Iron Fist, open, the Hand infiltrated, possibly killing all the people and monks who raised Danny. While Colleen tells him, "You're not alone in this," Danny still blames himself for his selfish choices. Now rather than accept help to right those wrongs, Danny wants to take down the Hand himself.

John Raymond, the focus of Jessica’s investigation, breaks into Jessica's apartment and holds her neighbor Malcolm at gun point, telling Jessica to stop following him. While Jessica tries to talk him down, Raymond says that "they" are coming after his family, that he's protecting his family, that he's actually a good man. He wanted to take "them" down before they take down the city.

Suddenly, Elektra appears to kill Raymond, but before she does, Raymond shoots himself. Jessica chases after Elektra and gets arrested by Misty. During questioning at the station, Matt walks in and says he's Jessica’s lawyer.

EP 3: Worst Behavior

“I know privilege when I see it.”

Months ago, White Hat tells Alexandra that they have the Black Sky, or Elektra's corpse. They place Elektra in a ceremonial coffin and pour in a magical dark goop. Through the goop, Elektra revives, emerging from the liquid.

Scared and lashing out, Elektra gets taken down in hand-to-hand by Alexandra. Elektra's new mentor says to her, "Language will come back to you. So will your instincts. But everything else, I'm afraid it wasn't worth keeping anyway."

In being reborn, Elektra is essentially a newborn. She has no language, no memories (or at least ability to access them yet) of herself or how the world works, and certainly no emotional maturity.

Slowly, Elektra starts remembering her skill. In the same way that babies are born predisposed with reflexes that grow into more purposeful motor behaviors, Elektra's muscle memories from her first life help her re-develop her fighting ability.

If Elektra is like a newborn, then Alexandra has become her new mother. Alexandra had been revived many times and talks Elektra through her experience. Mentioning the horrifying emptiness in death, Alexandra's mission is to never die.

Claire arranges for Danny and Luke to actually meet. Luke challenges Danny for beating up a kid just because he works for the Hand when he doesn't understand his involvement, that the kid is just doing a job.

"I know privilege when I see it. You may think you earned your strength, but you had power the day you were born. Before the dragons. Before the chi. You have the ability to change the world without getting anybody hurt. If I were in your shoes, I'd think twice about using that thing on people who are trying to feed their families."

EP 4: Royal Dragon

"We make a good team." "Don't use that word."

Matt resists considering himself a part of the group and even lies to them about knowing Elektra. Somehow, even though she's characterized as the most difficult person to get along with in this group, Jessica is the one who talks Matt into showing his true identity underneath Daredevil.

The four of them talk to each other over Chinese food. While Danny is eager to take down the Hand as a group, everyone else not so much. Danny makes a case for serendipity, that the four of them, being super powered and connected to the Hand as they are, could not have just met by random chance.

Out of nowhere, Stick from Daredevil seasons 1 and 2 walks into the restaurant. Says that he's part of Iron Fist's army (the last one), that the Hand causes historical disaster, like the earthquake.

Jessica walks away, despite Luke trying to convince her to stay. Says she doesn't care about people like he does. Obviously Jessica hasn't seen Jessica Jones season 1 because she truly does care for people. Enough to later come back to the restaurant once Elektra shows up and wipe her out with a car.

If Jessica does actually care about people, then why say that she doesn't? Why do soft-hearted people put on a tough act?

Sigmund Freud came up with the term "defense mechanisms" to describe unconscious behavior that saves us from anxiety, hurt, or guilt. One of the most common is denial, simply rejecting those thoughts or feelings that would provoke

Whether conscious or unconscious, perhaps Jessica acts like she doesn't care because she feels like if she allows herself to care about people, then she will loose those people. Historically, Jessica has lost the people closest to her; so often that now that pattern is a norm in her life. In Jessica's head, it's better to protect herself from the inevitable pain of losing people if she pretends to not care about them.

EP 5: Take Shelter

"We work together, we walk out of here alive."

The group does the opposite of work together. They separate in the fight, each working as an individual for their own agenda. Specifically Matt deviates from the group and attempts to get through to Elektra. Despite Elektra's inability to access memories of her own life, hearing her own name stops her.

In her original life before K'un-Lun, Alexandra had a daughter who she has now, of course, out-lived by centuries. Now from Elektra Alexandra feels some sort of maternal fulfillment left unmet from her daughter.

Bakuto returns from the dead after events in the Iron Fist season one. Colleen accuses her former sensei of brainwashing her for years. "Brainwashing? You flourished under my training." Similarly to the way Kilgrave tried to convince Jessica that she enjoyed her literally mind-controlled time with him, Bakuto tries to gaslight (make her uncertain of the truth) Colleen into believing that their relationship was positive rather than manipulative and abusive.

Once Bakuto has awakened these uncertainties in College, Colleen starts having doubts about her usefulness to the group. She worries that despite her incredible fighting skill, she should hide away from the action, be left behind.

"When you're raised in something like that, when they've formed the foundation for who you are, breaking away is like... I fee lost. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but... all I want... is something stable. Something I can hold onto."

Finally Matt tells the others about his feelings for Elektra. Similarly to the way the members of the Hand turn on Alexandra, also over Elektra, the others in the group turn against Matt.

Elektra leaves the Hand and breaks into Matt's apartment. At this point, she must have regained access to the memories from her past life, breaking even further away from her reincarnated infant state.

EP 6: Ashes, Ashes

"You seem like you're making this up as you go along." "I am, kid. That's what survivors do."

The group wants Danny to lay low since the Hand wants him for his fist. He refuses to not be a part of the fight. Rather than hide from the Hand, Danny fights the people on his side. But Jessica knocks Danny out, tying him up in a hiding place away from the Hand. While Luke guards Danny, they begin to get past their initial hostility and form a bond.

Back in Matt's apartment, Elektra dreams about waking up to Matt. She keeps looking at the sais, her weapon of choice in her past life. She even finds a card from her funeral. Seeing different objects in Matt's apartment helps Elektra access her old memories.

Elektra finds her grave, where Alexandra meets her. Alexandra tells her that Matt let her die, that she's not Elektra anymore. To keep her from reconnecting with Matt, Alexandra tries to convince Elektra to stay with her: "Seeing you, I realized that after all this time, and even with the others at my side, I was tired of being alone."

When he lies to her, Jessica says to Matt: "I don't read heartbeats, but I do read people." Both heroes study people, or read them, but in different ways. While Matt looks at physiological reactions, like heartbeat and breathing patterns, Jessica looks at behavior, like body language and facial expressions.

Like psychologists, Matt and Jessica want to understand people and determine their truth and motivation. But they have different perspectives, called theoretical orientations in the psychology field, on how to best interpret people.

The five members of the Hand and the group of New York superheroes mirror each other. While they have similarities, the groups have a difference in leadership type. The Hand has one obvious leader, Alexandra. Having a single, authoritarian leader promotes centuries of distrust, dissension, disloyalty in the Hand.

The other group has no clear leader, and the members decide their actions more democratically. This democratic process leads to the group members, except for Danny, feeling important and bonded to the group

EP 7: Fish in the Jailhouse

"We have time to grab a drink? Or three?"

The episode shows a flashback to Stick and Elektra talking, after she tried to recruit Matt for the Chaste, before he became Daredevil. Stick says that Matt changed her, made her softer. Now that the Hand has raised her from the dead, Elektra is even more wild and ferocious.

Before, an intimate connection with another person calmed Elektra. Her relationship with Matt at the very least started her empathy development. Now, Matt is hoping that their connection can pause her new level of violence.

Social support (or lack) of close friends and significant others has consequences also on the superheroes. Karen continues to invalidate Matt's behavior as a vigilante superhero. She talks about Matt putting on the Daredevil suit again like an addict falling off the wagon: "You were finally rebuilding your life." What she fails to understand is that, "[Being Daredevil] is my life." Her lack of acceptance causes a divide in their relationship.

Previously Foggy voiced his issues with Matt's crime fighting as well. Foggy even goes so far as to stop talking to his best friend. But at the end of the day, Foggy loves and supports Matt's decisions, even enough to bring Matt his suit to do the thing Foggy disapproves: "That's what family's for." They are able to move forward to rebuild their relationship.

While everyone just becomes annoyed, Colleen tries to understand Danny: "Deep down inside...he's still just a kid looking for his family. With me, and with them, almost had it." To support Danny and his decisions, Colleen looks past his outward behavior to his core motivations. This way Colleen is able to view Danny with an empathetic perspective, rather than just being frustrated with him.

Claire says about Luke, "Look, I just don't want him to lose everything that he's worked hard for." Sounds just like Karen about Matt. True, Luke has worked to get his name cleared and start rebuilding his life, but like Matt, Luke finds purpose helping his community with his unique powers.

EP 8: The Defenders

"For what it's worth, I know Luke and the other guys have abilities, but so do you. You have saved just as many lives, helped just as many people. You just don't make the headlines."

In a short amount of time, Luke, Jessica, and Matt have created a bond. Not the hugging type of bond, but still. Together they confront the Hand and Elektra to find their kidnapped member.

Matt stays to talk to Elektra. Fighting each other while the building threatens to crumple on top of them, he asks her, why doesn't she just kill him? She responds that it's all just a game, that she's having fun. He counters, "No, it's because you still feel. For all your talk about embracing the darkness, I don't think you want to be alone in it."

Despite her anti-social behavior, a connection to another human pulls out a softness in Elektra. As Matt nurtures this softness the Hand tried to stifle, the building collapses on them.

After the show's climax and Matt's death, Luke meets Jessica at a bar. They talk about moving forward, being friends. Luke returns to Harlem, and Jessica returns to her apartment. At the beginning of this season, Jessica is hesitant to reopen her private investigation service and questions her ability to actual help people. Now, she tears down the paper covering her sign on the door.

Before the building collapses on him and the others escape, Matt whispers to Danny, "Protect my city." The series ends with Danny defending the city. Originally as the Iron Fist, Danny was charged with protecting K'un-Lun. But he neglected his duty, and his city was destroyed. Now, Danny has a new charge and motivation to not neglect his duty again.

Created By
Heather Ness

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