In The Defenders, the insane war that Stick warned Matt Murdock about in Season 1 of Daredevil is finally here, and it’s up to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist to put aside their differences — and plots from separate shows — for the sake of a superhero team-up to save New York City. It’s them against the Hand, the ancient organization that’s been pulling the strings behind most of the more sinister things happening in NYC for who knows how long.
Mild spoilers for the first four episodes of Defenders below.
We finally get answers from Stick about the origin of the Hand four episodes into The Defenders. He reveals that the “five fingers” of the Hand were Elders of K’un-Lun banished for “darker intentions” that involved conquering death: “They wanted immortality, power, to never face death, to regenerate themselves again and again.” (They succeeded, by the way.) Stick even went so far as to compare their banishment to Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven.
“When they dispersed,” Stick says, “they all went back to their mother countries, each finger ruling over its own domain, growing in power and influence.” Thankfully, they don’t really call themselves “fingers” but the analogy still works; they’re five co-conspirators that have been leading the Hand for a very long time.
Here are the five fingers of the Hand:
We’re most familiar with Madame Gao’s dealings in New York City, as she’s been around since the very beginning of the MCU’s Netflix corner back in Daredevil Season 1 when she was running her own heroin ring in Hell’s Kitchen.
She initially emerged as one of Wilson Fisk’s shadowy associates, but it quickly became apparent that she was the one bossing him around. She left NYC for a time but returned during Daredevil Season 2 to manipulate Daredevil and Punisher into taking down the Blacksmith, her competitor.
She emerged more directly as a leader of the Hand in Iron Fist, where she was pitted against a rival leader in the Hand:
Initially, Bakuto is presented in Iron Fist as Colleen Wing’s sensei, long before we ever even know that Colleen had anything to do with the Hand.
In Episode 10 of Iron Fist, Danny spends some time behind enemy lines alongside Bakuto, and he learns all about a compound somewhere in New York City where Bakuto recruits and trains young soldiers for the Hand’s army. For a time, Colleen function as something of a recruiter for the Hand under Bakuto’s leadership.
In the back-half of Iron Fist, Bakuto and Madame Gao are seemingly embroiled in some kind of political conflict, and he even imprisons her in his camp for a time. This could have been a genuine take-over attempt by Bakuto or it could have easily been a ruse the two came up with to fool Danny.
Towards the very end of Iron Fist, Colleen boss battled with Bakuto and stabbed him through the stomach. We assumed him to be dead, but knowing the ways of the Hand, and based on the trailers so far, he’ll definitely be back in The Defenders.
In Episode 3 of The Defenders, when Danny confronts the Hand at their generic business location, Alexandra tells Danny that she is the Hand. Throughout the first several episodes of the team-up show, even Madame Gao acts with deference towards Alexandra. Stick also confirms that Alexandra “led them since the beginning.”
She’s lived for centuries, perhaps even longer, but it’s quickly revealed in The Defenders that she’s terminally ill and doesn’t have much time left. That’s why she accelerates the Hand’s plan to destroy New York City.
Alexandra is the de facto leader of the five fingers, so does that make her the middle finger or the thumb? Maybe the pointer?
Stick calls Sowande an “African warlord” and a “gunrunner,” saying that with a “couple of moves,” Sowande can “slow your heart ‘till your pulse fails.” Like Alexandra and the remaining fifth finger of the Hand, Sowande is introduced for the first time in Defenders.
He leads the criminal branch of the Hand that hires young men from Harlem to serve as the clean-up crew for the Hand’s messier activities. Before long, these young men wind up dead. Sowande’s involvement in Harlem attracts the attention of Luke Cage, which is how the bulletproof hero initially encounters Iron Fist and later joins up with the rest of the Defenders.
Whereas Madame Gao and Bakuto participat in some infighting during Iron Fist, Sowande appears to fall in line in direct support of Alexandra.
Murakami is allegedly the “guy who pulled the strings behind Nobu,” the Hand villain in Season 1 and 2 of Daredevil that Stick killed for good in the final minutes of Season 2. We don’t meet Murakami until several episodes into The Defenders in a peculiar and tense scene when he’s dissecting a Moon Bear that he hunted himself in Japan.
Whereas Madame Gao treats Alexandra with more respect, Murakami is somewhat indifferent towards Alexandra’s leadership. “Since when have you come to me for advice?” he says to her, pulling a pancreas out of a dead bear.
Stick calls Murakami “the most secretive” but also an “evil piece of shit,” so we can only imagine what horrors Murakami will unleash on the Defenders.
All 8 episodes of The Defenders are now available on Netflix.