When Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist come together in the The Defenders, they’ll have to set aside their differences to battle Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, a powerful adversary as influential as she is mysterious. What becomes apparent early on in The Defenders is that despite looking like the 67-year-old Sigourney Weaver, Alexandra is far, far older. She’s as ancient as the Hand itself.
The Hand factored majorly into both Daredevil Season 1 and 2 and Iron Fist, during which Matt, Danny, and the viewer learned a lot about the organization and their pursuit of immortality. We even saw Nobu and Harold Meachum both come back from the dead through some mysterious ritualistic process involving a lot of blood. In The Defenders we learn that Alexandra herself is one of the five “fingers” of the Hand, and she’s perhaps the de facto leader of them all. Even Madame Gao behaves with reverence around Alexandra, which speaks volumes to Alexandra’s power.
A series of details emerge in the first several episodes of The Defenders, first hinting at Alexandra’s extreme age before spelling it outright: Centuries ago, she led a group of five ancient elders of K’un-Lun that splintered from the mystical city in the pursuit of immortality. They found it, and have been waging a war against K’un-Lun as they try to control the world.
Alexandra’s died and come back before, not unlike Harold Meachum’s transformative experiences. The term “ancient” is thrown out there as a loose descriptor of her age and that of the Hand.
In the present day, Alexendra’s terminally ill, and it’s spurred her to accelerate the Hand’s plan to do something to New York City (presumably sink it right into the ground if the series of earthquakes is any indication). Were she to die, she’d probably self-revive again just like Harold Meachum did, but she has no interest in going through the experience again.
So just how old is she then? One answer: Way older than Stick.
She probably knew composer Johannes Brahms.
In Episode 2, Alexandra enjoys a private New York Philharmonic concert from a string quartet — because of course, she’s a major donor. A spokesperson for the Philharmonic mentions that Alexandra’s song request is a “curious one” as it’s one of the seldom times Johannes Brahms wrote in C minor, which was “Beethoven’s key of choice.” She notes that Beethoven’s influence is “quite pronounced” in the piece. Alexandra cuts her off with an anecdote that feels so personal that we’re forced to imagine that she once knew Brahms personally:
“It’s not influence. It was direct response. All Brahms wanted was to prove that he could do it, too. [Chuckles] He was petty like that.”
Brahms lived from 1833 to 1897.
She remembers when Istanbul was still “Constantinople”.
Episode 3 opens several months prior to the start of The Defenders, where Alexandra is dining in a closed Turkish restaurant somewhere in New York City. We assume that it’s the owner and his wife, the chef, fussing over a meal in the kitchen. The owner delivers the meal to a waiting Alexandra, who compliments them, saying, “Please tell your wife that she makes it even better than they did in Constantinople.”
If we’re going super ancient, the modern city known as Istanbul was once called Byzantium. But it was reinaugurated in 324 AD as the capital of Emperor Constantine’s Roman Empire. When the Ottomons took over in 1453, they couldn’t quite pronounce the word and renamed it with some variations. “Constantinople” remained in use by some cultures until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, when Turkey was founded and the city formally renamed Istanbul.
This history lesson tells us that the Hand, Alexandra included, left K’un-Lun and spent time in Constantinople sometime between 324 and 1453.
She’s lived many “lives” or at least has had multiple identities on record.
In Episode 4, when Jessica has reservations and temporarily leaves the rest of the Defenders, she returns to her apartment to review some pictures she had taken of historical records. She discovers a series of formal documents with various signatures in the same handwriting across the centuries.
In 1845, she was Audrey Tempest. In 1820, she was Abigail King. In 1998, she was Angelina Fletcher. In 1947, she was Alberta Davis. Now, she’s Alexandra Reid.
Much like how the Hand itself uses shell companies to transfer money around and keep the organization functioning secretively, the key members of the Hand also ditch old personas and assume new identities.
Moments after Jessica’s discovery in Episode 4, Stick recounts to the rest of the gang that the founding of the Hand could be “centuries” or even “millennia” old. Not helpful.
The oldest dates we have for Alexandra and the Hand come from her “Constantinople” comment, which means that she remembers eating food in that city sometime between 324 to 1453, aka between 564 and 1,693 years ago. Keep in mind that the founding of the Hand would have been even earlier. Stick describes the five fingers of the Hand as some of the “elders of K’un-Lun.”
She’s at least 600 years old, but likely far older. She might even be older than Jesus.
Will we ever get a straight answer? We’ll have to wait to see if we find out when the rest of The Defenders releases.
The Defenders drops on Netflix August 18, 2017