Marvel’s The Defenders brings together four other Netflix shows, combining their casts for an ensemble miniseries. Fortunately, you can still follow it if you haven’t seen some—or any!—of Marvel’s other Netflix series.
In other words, don’t worry. You don’t have to watch the unbearable Iron Fist.
The Defenders, arriving on Netflix on Aug. 18, sees Daredevil team up with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and several supporting characters like Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Elektra (Elodie Yung). To make sure you’re up to speed, we’ve put together a quick guide to the backstory from previous shows, including relevant spoilers.
The basics: Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who moonlights as the vigilante known as Daredevil. His other senses are heightened, and he received martial arts training from a cruel mentor named Stick. He fights local criminals in his home neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, and his main enemy is the criminal cult known as the Hand.
The spoilers: Season 2 ended with Matt breaking up with his friend and legal partner Foggy Nelson, who now works at a big-shot law firm. Foggy and their former assistant Karen Page (now a journalist) both know about Matt’s secret identity, but Foggy disapproves of Matt using violence to fight crime.
The Hand have built a criminal empire in New York, aided by a ninja army. (They also dug a giant underground hole, for reasons that will hopefully be revealed in The Defenders.) Matt’s ex-girlfriend Elektra is a trained fighter who helped him battle the Hand, though she died at the end of season 2. The season ends with the Hand placing her body in a mysterious device, hoping to resurrect her as a supernatural weapon knows as the Black Sky.
The basics: Danny Rand is the long-lost heir to the Rand business empire, raised by monks after his family’s plane crashed in the Himalayas. After years of training in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, he earns the title of Iron Fist, destined to protect K’un-Lun from the Hand. He can channel his chi into his fist, giving him the strength to break through walls and stop bullets.
The spoilers: When Danny returns to New York as an adult, the Rand business has been taken over by his childhood friends, Joy and Ward Meachum. Their father, Harold, had Danny’s parents killed, then faked his own death and secretly manages the business through his children. He also works for the Hand.
Danny teams up with local martial arts teacher Colleen Wing to take down the Meachums, and although Colleen is revealed as a member of the Hand, she ends up falling in love with Danny and becoming his closest ally. The season ends with Danny and Colleen traveling to K’un-Lun, where they discover the doorway closed and surrounded by corpses.
The basics: Luke Cage is an ex-con who gained super-strength and bulletproof skin after being experimented on in prison. He lives in Harlem, where he uses his newfound powers to protect his community and fight the local crime bosses, who are not related to the Hand. NYPD detective Misty Knight is his friend and ally.
The spoilers: The season ends with Luke Cage going back to jail, although he’s now a local hero in Harlem. He’s dating Claire Temple, a nurse who appears in each of Marvel’s Netflix shows, helping Daredevil with his injuries and befriending Colleen Wing in Iron Fist. She’ll be a main character in Defenders, although she doesn’t (yet) have a superhero identity.
The basics: Jessica Jones has super-strength, but she’s a less traditional superhero than the other three Defenders. She’s a private detective with a bad attitude and a drinking problem, plagued by PTSD. Her life was turned upside down by Kilgrave, a man with the power to make anyone do whatever he says. Kilgrave forced her to do terrible things, isolating her from her family and best friend, radio host Trish Walker.
The spoilers: Jessica kills Kilgrave at the end of season 1, so she no longer has to live in fear. Her neighbor Malcolm (a recovering heroin addict and fellow Kilgrave victim) is her new assistant as a private detective. Jessica and Luke Cage slept together, but we later find out that she killed Cage’s wife while she was under Kilgrave’s control. So while Daredevil and Iron Fist have the closest link to the Hand’s central role in The Defenders, Jessica and Luke probably have the most complex relationship backstory.