‘The Defenders’: What’s the Deal With ‘The Substance’ and That Skeleton?

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(Note: This post contains spoilers for Netflix’s original series “The Defenders” through its final episode, as well as “Iron Fist” and “Daredevil” Season 2.)

Across three of Marvel’s superhero series on Netflix, the evil organization known as The Hand has played a major role and, slowly, the goals of those bad guys have become apparent. In the latest Netflix series, “The Defenders,” audiences finally learn what The Hand is all about.

Also Read: “The Defenders”: What is K’un-Lun? A Quick Explainer of the Heavenly, Mystical City 

Midway through “The Defenders,” the leaders of The Hand, the five people known as the Fingers, start to lay out what they’re up to. The Hand was originally born in K’un-Lun, the mystical city from which the Iron Fist hails, and were exiled for, uh, being evil. As the Iron Fist, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is sworn to try to root out and destroy the evil organization wherever and whenever he can.

But before the Fingers and their followers were banished from K’un-Lun, they discovered “the Substance,” which is a powder that, mixed with the right black goo, has special properties. It’s the stuff The Hand uses to bring people back from the dead and effectively gives the Fingers immortality. We’ve seen that power in other shows, like “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist,” when The Hand used the Substance to resurrect Harold Meachum (David Wenham) in order to control the Rand Enterprises.

As revealed in “The Defenders,” though, The Hand’s stock of the Substance has run out. Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver), the woman who leads The Hand, uses the last of it to bring back Elektra (Elodie Yung) to become the living weapon known as the Black Sky. For the first time ever, The Hand doesn’t have the ability to resurrect its members, and it can’t get into K’un-Lun to get more.

Also Read: “The Defenders”: What the Hell Does It Even Mean That Elektra Is the Black Sky? 

It turns out there’s somewhere else to get the Substance, though: New York City. The Hand has been working on tapping a big deposit of the Substance for a while now. Back in “Daredevil” Season 2, The Hand made a giant hole in New York, and while Daredevil (Charlie Cox) threw a wrench in their plans, he never stopped them or figured out what the hole was for. In “The Defenders,” we learn that The Hand is trying to get more of the Substance so they can ward off their mortality.

The final episode of “The Defenders” reveals a few more hints about what the Substance is. When The Hand finally gets to the deposit, we see what their resurrection juice is made of — huge, weird bones. Apparently, The Hand can actually cut into, or grind down, those bones to make the Substance.

While he’s in the deposit, Danny runs into Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), who says that The Hand and the Iron Fist get their power from the same place. In “Iron Fist,” Danny explains that he got his powers by defeating a dragon in K’un-Lun — so it seems those bones under New York are also dragon bones. That raises the question of whether there might be other dragons in the world, as well, even though The Hand thinks the New York deposit is their last chance to get more of the Substance.

Also Read: So What Exactly Is Going On with Daredevil at the End of ‘The Defenders’? 

How digging up the dragon bones will collapse New York City — the collateral damage the Defenders are trying to stop in the show —  isn’t really clear. And by the end of the show, the deposit is destroyed, along with the Fingers of The Hand.

But with more seasons of “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist” in the works, like fans of Netflix’s Marvel shows shouldn’t assume they’ve seen the last of The Hand… or (at least one) of its evil leaders.

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