[Spoilers ahead for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage]
Right now, the characters who make up The Defenders—Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones)—are still pretty separate. The only two that have met are Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and Jessica didn’t even show up in Luke’s solo series. The only character that unites these four heroes is nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). She’s patched up Daredevil and Luke Cage, and she’s met Jessica Jones. The final episode of Luke Cage gives us a hint of how she’ll cross paths with Iron Fist since Claire makes note of a flyer for Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a martial arts instructor who will be featured in Iron Fist.
We don’t know how The Defenders will come together. We know that Sigourney Weaver will be the villain, but beyond that, we’re in the dark. Also, as far as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are concerned, the characters are pretty far apart right now. Matt Murdock is mourning the loss of Elektra, but revealed his true identity to Page. Jessica is back at work at Alias Investigations. And Luke Cage is going to back to Georgia to finish serving his time at Seagate. We don’t know where Iron Fist will go, but what’s clear is that these Marvel shows thus far haven’t been trying to bring these characters closer together. No one suggests, “We should form a team” or says, “I would like to meet Daredevil.” If a Defenders series hadn’t been announced, nothing would indicate that a team-up was coming.
For starters, killing off a strong, female character to give motivation to a team that’s 3/4th men falls into “Women in Refrigerators” territory. It’s a lazy, thoughtless trope that reduces female characters into nothing more than a body that exists to make heroes act heroically. Even if it spurs Jessica into action, it probably won’t be a major motivation for her (unless the two develop a closer connection) since the two barely interact in Jessica Jones. Claire is much closer to Daredevil and especially to Luke Cage, who she kisses in the final episode of his solo series.
Second, Marvel has already done it. And when Joss Whedon killed Coulson in The Avengers, it was genuinely shocking. However, it didn’t feel like a lazy shortcut because Coulson’s death wasn’t used to unite the Avengers as much as serve as a reminder about what was worth fighting for. He was the person who believed in their team, and he died fighting alongside them. While Defenders could position Claire into the same role, that’s what it would be—the same. It’s a card that’s already been played in the MCU, and so Claire’s death wouldn’t even stand on its own; it would be compared to how Avengers played Coulson’s death.
We’ve already seen lazy writing rear it’s ugly head in the Marvel Television Universe (MTU), especially in its weakest show thus far, Luke Cage. For example, while antagonists like Wilson Fisk and Killgrave are certainly better than most of what the MCU has to offer when it comes to bad guys, Fisk, Killgrave, Cottonmouth, Mariah Dillard, and Diamondback are all bad guys because they had bad parents. While it explains their villainy, it shows that despite three shows coming from five different showrunners, there’s really only one backstory, and it’s an uninteresting way to create sympathy for antagonists. Pointing out that a murderer had an abusive parent doesn’t make them any less of a murderer.
That’s not to say The Defenders will have the same problems, or that anyone involved with the making of the show has even suggested killing Claire. But watching Luke Cage, I kept getting a sinking feeling that the MTU was building up a large amount of sympathy for this one character so that when The Defenders get together—and only have eight episodes to tell their story—they can speed things along if they’re all motivated by grief. I just hope that they find better motivation and keep Claire around because she’s shown herself not just to be the connective tissue of the MTU, but also the person who can inspire heroes with her words and actions. Taking her away won’t make The Defenders any better.