Not only does The Defenders provide a wonderful payoff for stories introduced across five seasons of four TV shows, but it's a roadmap for the future of Marvel's Netflix series mini-universe. The mentions of the bigger movie continuity are few and far between, but there's plenty to be excited about in this intimate world, which may seem absent talking raccoons and Infinity Stones but recently gave us dragons.
Related: Watch The Defenders Opening Credits
Here, we look at 10 Easter eggs in Marvel's Defenders, sweet little moments that echo the crew's comic book origins, the shows that came before, and what we might be able to expect from future seasons of each standalone series. For long time fans of the comics, there will be some fun to have, as they are surprised and genuinely touched by some of these detailed references. And for newcomers, this is further opening up a world that has yet to be fully explored.
Jessica Jones, Stop Talking
While at least two of the show's heroes had met onscreen before, one of the most exciting prospects for The Defenders since it was announced was the chance to see how these troubled ragtag knuckleheads would collide, to say nothing of the killer interactions between so many members of each of the respective show's supporting casts. The meeting between Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones, the first two of The Defenders heroes to star in their own TV series, is as much ripped from the comic book page as TV's Law & Order is "ripped from the headlines." When Matt bursts into a police interrogation room and declares himself the attorney for Ms. Jones, it's adapted in pretty straightforward fashion from an issue of "Alias," by Jessica Jones co-creator and much beloved Daredevil comics veteran scribe Brian Michael Bendis.
Protect Ya Neck
The Defenders features multiple stylistic callbacks to the four shows that preceded it, from the various lighting choices, to color palettes, to the music choices. Fists were raised in the air around the world when the Wu-Tang Clan's "Protect Ya Neck" kicked in during one of The Defenders biggest fight sequences, as the heroes battled both Elektra (Elodie Yung) and the Hand deep underground where a big dragon skeleton dwells. #5 on Pitchfork's list of the Top 200 Tracks of the 90s, the debut single from Shaolin's finest has a line about Spider-Man that's clearly audible in The Defenders. More importantly, Wu-Tang music showed up in both Luke Cage and Iron Fist and the group's members are not only clearly outspoken devotees of martial arts and kung-fu movies, but of Marvel Comics, too. Ghostface Killah often calls himself "Tony Starks." And Method Man goes by the alias Johnny Blaze, a nod to Marvel's Ghost Rider. In 2016, Meth even penned a Christmas themed Ghost Rider comic for Marvel.
Speaking of callbacks and crucial meetings between iconic characters, Jessica Jones made her first comic book appearance during this Millennium, but the first meeting between Luke Cage and Danny Rand goes all the way back to 1977's "Power Man" #48! It was a story that combined Power Man, Iron Fist, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing, from the legendary X-Men team of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. The two characters went on to star in multiple series together, as both Heroes for Hire and general BFFs. So this all-important meeting needed to be special in The Defenders and it was: one of the most memorable scenes from Luke Cage was recreated in The Defenders, the first showing us how strong Luke's jaw was against one of Cottonmouth's henchmen, and the second establishing what kind of damage the immortal Iron Fist can actually do once his chi has him powered up and glowing.
Speaking of that BFF bromance between Luke and Danny in the comic books, the two of them are so close that Luke even named his kid Danielle. So who gave birth to Cage's little daughter, you ask? None other than Ms. Jessica Jones! Yes, in the comic books, the two end up together, as parents, no less. Netflix binge watchers will recall all of the steamy love scenes between the two of them in Jessica Jones Season 1. To call their relationship complicated would be an understatement and of course, Luke Cage's standalone series and The Defenders saw Harlem's hero in a relationship with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). However, there was a bit of flirtation between Luke and Jessica in the first season of the team-up series, culminating in a little joke between the two of them about maybe "getting coffee" sometime. Sweet Christmas! We all know that for Luke Cage and the ladies who love him, "getting coffee" is code for "getting busy."
Daughter of the Dragon
Speaking of potentially doomed relationships and possible future pairings, Danny Rand hooked up with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) in Iron Fist and continued the relationship into The Defenders. But in the comic books, he has a thing with Misty Knight. Wherever these shows choose to go, there's a bunch of killer material to pull from, not the least of which is the crime fighting partnership between Colleen and Misty (Simone Missick), aka the Daughters of the Dragon. In the comic books, Misty ends up with a super-powered metal arm, something clearly hinted at in The Defenders, which sees her bedridden in a hospital owned by billionaire Danny Rand with what seems like some high-tech potential. It's Tony Stark who gives her that arm in the comics, but as he'll likely be off getting a moon thrown at him by Thanos, that task will likely fall to Danny in Luke Cage Season 2.
The Night Nurse
Eagle eyed viewers caught something else from the comic books in that hospital scene with the Daughters of the Dragon. On the board behind Colleen, there's a nurse named "L. Carter" listed. That "L. Carter" is most certainly Linda Carter, aka Night Nurse, star of a short lived Marvel Comics series from the early 70s. In the comics, Carter played, you know, "night nurse" to characters like Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Elements of that character were repurposed into Claire Temple and Rachel McAdams' Doctor Strange character in the greater MCU. But whether it's a throwaway gift to the faithful that will never be revisited or the doorway to another character's introduction, we now know Linda Carter exists in the MCU.
The Iron Fist of Hell's Kitchen
Before Daredevil is seemingly crushed under a building while in the arms of his sai-wielding resurrected ex-girlfriend, he whispers something into Danny Rand's ear, like a super powered Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. We find out later that Matt asked Iron Fist to protect - or ya' know, defend - New York. In the comic books, Danny Rand actually assumes the guise of Daredevil at one point, which is echoed by that killer shot we get of him in a DD like rooftop pose. But here's the other great thing about that: we finally see Iron Fist in costume. Granted, it's more akin to the tracksuit wearing modern incarnation than his garishly flamboyant '70s garb, but we'll take it! The Netflix neighborhood of the MCU isn't as costume loving as DC's TV Universe or even the Marvel movies, but we're happy to see this Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) wearing the skull (sorry, Dolph Lundgren) as well as Matt and Elektra suited up more like their comic book counterparts. So this seems like a step in the right direction for Iron Fist Season 2. Now can we just get that cool mask? For what it's worth, Finn Jones has expressed his own wish to see Iron Fist in costume, too. While we don't see them "suit-up" by any means, there are color choices made via wardrobe for several characters that pay homage to their comic book origins, most notably on Luke Cage, as well as Misty, Colleen, and talk radio DJ, Krav Maga trained badass, and Jessica Jones BFF Trish (Rachael Taylor), who becomes Hellcat in the comics.
An Amazingly Spectacular Roof
Danny Rand wasn't the only comic book hero to temporarily don the devil's duds. As Charlie Cox pointed out in a post-Defenders interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Peter Parker suited up as his pal Daredevil at one point, too. While Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy predates the current shared Marvel Universe, there's at least one solid connection between the webhead's earlier movies and The Defenders. In Daredevil Season 1, we saw Wilson Fisk meeting with Madame Gao in a scene that brilliantly communicates the Kingpin's deference to her and the Hand. In The Defenders, we return to that same place, where it's established that Gao answers to Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra, the boss lady of the other four fingers that make up the Hand. Take a look at that rooftop again. Yep, we saw Spidey and MJ in that same spot!
Stan 'The Man' Lee
Stan Lee co-created so many of Marvel's legendary heroes alongside artists and storytellers like the late Jack Kirby, aka the King of Comics, and Steve Ditko. So naturally, filmmakers and producers have been eager to give Stan a nod, going all the way back to at least 1989 and the TV movie Trial of the Incredible Hulk. He's been all over the MCU, as well as the X-Men and Fantastic Four films produced by Fox (excluding the reboot), the multiple Spider-Man movies made by Sony, and even Fox's 2003 Daredevil movie. He's shown up on the small screen in Agent Carter and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. though he's yet to get on camera for any of the Netflix shows. However, Stan "The Man" Lee is visible in them, often showing up in pictures as the literal "Man" - a cop! - like the framed photo seen in Daredevil. In The Defenders, you can spot Stan's friendly cop propaganda as Matt and Jessica play cat and mouse on the sidewalk.
In what is unquestionably the most exciting Easter Egg in The Defenders, the show's creators stuck in a massive visual nod to a classic comic book storyline, with a bit of dialog audible to seal the deal. After Matthew's apparent death in the final episode, it's revealed that he actually survived his injuries, albeit unbeknownst to the other characters. He's shown recovering, looked after by nuns. As he comes to, someone says to alert "Sister Maggie." Comic book fans know, Sister Maggie is Daredevil's mom. The shot itself looks nearly identical to a panel from Born Again, the acclaimed 1986 comic arc that appeared in Daredevil #227 through #231.
Born Again was written by Frank Miller, the comic book giant responsible for the Caped Crusader's brooding edge in The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. His run on Daredevil is the stuff of legend, even partly inspiring a satiric doppelganger in the form of a little black and white indie comic book called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Daredevil Season 3 isn't likely to follow this storyline exactly any more than movies like Captain America: Civil War mimic their comic counterparts. However, there are sure to elements from Born Again and riffs on its various themes, based on what we already know, from the Catholic iconography to the role of the villainous Kingpin. Part of Born Again involves Wilson Fisk discovering Daredevil's true identity and systemically destroying the lives of both the blind attorney and his superhero alter ego. After a physical altercation between Murdock and Fisk in Daredevil Season 2, we see the crime lord begin a search for information on the blind lawyer from Hell's Kitchen. It's clear that he suspects something after seeing how Matt handled himself.
Born Again sees the wonderful Karen Page falling on some serious hard times. While hopefully Deborah Ann Woll's version of the character won't suffer through anything nearly as awful, we do know that the TV version is carrying some darkness, with references to a mysterious past, not to mention her still secret killing of the Kingpin's most trusted advisor. It will be interesting to see what develops for Karen in the forthcoming first season of The Punisher, which was teased in a post-credits trailer attached to The Defenders, leading her into whatever Daredevil Season 3 may hold.