One of the many, many reasons to watch The Defenders is the fact that Sigourney Weaver stars as the main villain, Alexandra. Spoilers for The Defenders premiere ahead. But audiences find out in the very first episode of the Netflix series that Alexandra isn't operating at full strength. She's ill, and her doctor says it doesn't look good. But what disease does Alexandra have in The Defenders, exactly?
After just the first episode, it's unclear what her illness is. But what is clear is the fact that it's terminal. When fans first meet Alexandra at a doctor's appointment at a top medical facility, it feels like this physician is the last stop along the line. It seems that she's already gotten multiple opinions. This particular doctor tells her that the disease is not treatable — and she interprets his diagnosis bluntly: "My red blood cell count has dropped precipitously, and every one of my major organs is close to collapse." He tells her that she has months — possibly weeks — left. And then he ushers her into an MRI machine that he promises will provide more answers.
Between the widespread nature of the disease, the mention of a low red blood cell count, and the introduction of an MRI machine, it certainly seems like the show is telegraphing some form of metastatic stage 4 cancer — though it's never made explicit, which leaves the door wide open for speculation.
And there's quite a lot to speculate about — after all, as fans know from past dealings with high-ranking members of the Hand (and certain select allies), they tend to be, well, immortal. As for Alexandra herself, private eye extraordinaire Jessica Jones discovers evidence that she's been alive for centuries, maybe more. (At one point, she even slips up and calls modern day Istanbul by its ancient name, Constantinople.) So, what's a terminal illness to someone who's been cheating death for centuries?
Well, there's the very real possibility that the involved process of turning a dead Elektra into a very alive Black Sky somehow depleted the Hand's resurrection stores — after all, as they bring Alexandra Elektra's body, they tell her, "This will use the last of our resources. Are you sure that it's a risk worth taking?" She replies with a succinct, "I have never been more sure of anything." Of course, this scene takes place in flashback, months before the start of the show, so it's possible that Alexandra didn't know about her own illness yet — or even if she did, maybe she thought they'd have enough time to replenish whatever resources they needed.
In her flashback scenes with Elektra/Black Sky, Alexandra makes it very clear that she's been through the exact same gloopy clay pot stew resurrection ritual — she offers comfort, saying that she's seen the horror of the other side. "I've seen it too," she says, "More than once. And all I want in this life is never to see it again." Mere months after she said that, she finds herself staring that terrifying void in the face, perhaps for the last time.