With Marvel’s The Defenders, almost upon us, Matt Waters is here to catch everyone up on the four individual shows of the Netflix-verse that got us here, acting as a primer for newcomers and a refresher for those with fuzzy memories. Finally we have reached Iron Fist. Heavy spoilers, obviously.
Much like Luke Cage, a movie based on Iron Fist had been in development hell since 2000, going through multiples writers and directors and even being planned as a part of the MCU before ultimately getting selected to join Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage as part of the company’s new stable of adult oriented dramas.
The red-headed step-child of the group, rumours of the difficulties in making Iron Fist leaked out, with Jeph Loeb even admitting they considered dropping the series in favour of The Punisher or going ahead with a movie again after all. This, combined with Luke Cage’s popularity in Jessica Jones, led to the series being pushed to the back of the schedule and more than likely led to the… mixed quality of the show.
Scott Buck was assigned as the showrunner and an awful lot of criticism has fallen at his feet. True enough, Iron Fist is the worst of the four shows, featuring a lower standard of writing, acting and production, as well as less likeable characters. Furthermore, Iron Fist lacks the kind of social commentary that is abundant in its sibling shows.
That being said critics went a tad overboard in tearing the show apart and those that are able to stick with it through the admittedly very rough early episodes should find it’s the only one of the four Defenders properties that closes stronger than it starts.
Buck’s efforts earned a promotion of sorts as he has been chosen to helm another Marvel show for ABC, The Inhumans, and so season two will be headed up by Raven Metzner, hopefully to better results.
But what the heck is it actually about? What do you need to know before watching Defenders? To answer these questions we first need to meet the cast, a couple of whom will be popping up in Defenders.
The (possibly) Immortal Iron Fist.
Disappearing in a plane crash as a boy, Danny was found by monks and taken to K’un-Lun, one of the seven capital cities of Heaven and trained as a warrior, passing a trial to become The Iron Fist by defeating a freakin’ dragon. By harnessing chi he can infuse his hands with enough energy to punch through walls, as well as healing others. Martial arts badass. You probably won’t like him for a few episodes. Likes rap music.
Plucky martial arts teacher.
Colleen is bae. She runs the Chikara dojo, teaching self defence to troubled teens, while also participating in underground fight clubs. Trained in martial arts by Bakuto, she sends her most promising students to his secret ninja academy. Danny’s love interest and by far the best character in the show. Walks around New York with a sword and nobody seems to notice.
Less tired former nurse.
Having quit her job in season two of Daredevil, and with her sort-of-boyfriend Luke Cage back in prison, Claire decides she should take some self-defence classes with Colleen given all the trouble she keeps getting in. Still charming, she spends a lot of the season teasing Danny and Colleen.
Danny’s childhood friend.
Daughter of Harold Meachum, former co-head of Rand Enterprises with Danny’s father. Joy and her brother Ward now run the company. While the nicer of the two she is also shrewd and manipulative when called for.
Joy’s brother. Dick.
Runs Rand Enterprises alongside his sister, Joy. Sees himself as a hotshot 80s businessman but is actually not as effective at his job as Joy. Bullied Danny as a child and desperately wants the adult version to go away. Has a boring drug problem for a while and becomes nicer after his dad is mean to him.
Danny’s best friend/rejected Iron Fist.
The son of Danny’s sensei in K’un-L’un, Davos and Danny were best friends, but Davos holds a miiiiighty grudge against Danny for being chosen as the Iron Fist ahead of him and for abandoning his duty and their friendship. Still, he hates The Hand (and is enthusiastic about murdering them) and is thus an ally… for now.
Seeming remarkably unphased by the whole death of her ex-wife and incarceration of her girlfriend In Jessica Jones thing, Jeri continues to be a hotshot lawyer, and helps Danny prove his identity as well as providing general legal advice. Danny has called her ‘J-Money’ since he was a child, which makes her a little more endearing than when she seemed like she was being set up as a future villain in Jessica Jones.
Joy & Ward’s undead father.
Former co-head of Rand Enterprises along with Danny’s father, Harold assumed control after arranging for the deaths of Danny’s parents. Died of cancer 12 years ago but was resurrected by The Hand who took control of Rand in exchange. Harold is forced to stay in his luxury penthouse day and night, which he is less than pleased with. Has returned from the dead twice, each time more insane.
Elderly asian stereotype.
After small mysterious appearances in Daredevil, Gao assumes a much larger role in Iron Fist. Revealed to be a high ranking member of The Hand and claims to be hundreds of years old and to have fought Iron Fists before. Remains charmingly badass in her own unique way.
Nefarious ninja clan.
“Like the illumanti, but real” according to Harold Meachum, The Hand continue their mysterious plans from Daredevil, buying up large swaths of land in New York through their control of Rand Enterprises, much as they did with Wilson Fisk, for still undetermined purposes.
Colleen’s sensei/secret villain.
Martial arts badass who runs a training academy full of students supplied by Colleen, it turns out Bakuto is actually part of The Hand, albeit with slightly different goals to Gao.
The Mystical Hobo
Danny Rand returns to New York after over a decade in K’un-L’un and attempts to meet with the Meachums who are obviously freaked out by the shoeless, filthy man claiming to be their legally dead childhood friend.
Living on the streets for a while and attempting to befriend local martial arts instructor Colleen Wing, Danny’s further attempts to prove his identity get him sent to an asylum where he is heavily medicated.
Danny eventually convinces Joy of his identity, and escapes the asylum using his powers. He stays with a slightly sympathetic Colleen at her dojo.
Harold Meachum, forced to remain inside his penthouse by The Hand, is also convinced of Danny’s identity through his surveillance of the asylum and plots how to use him to escape his captivity.
Back In Business
Finding Jeri Hogarth and convincing her of his identity, Danny is able to legally prove his claim and thus regain his 51% stake in Rand Enterprises and billionaire fortune.
Naive to the ways of the business world, Danny haphazardly attempts to make Rand more ethical (with Karen Page of Daredevil reporting on his endeavours, now a fully-fledged journalist). Danny also does what he can to shut down The Hand’s distribution of heroin through the company.
Discovering hidden information about The Hand’s deals through Rand, Danny tracks Madame Gao to China. Flying out with Colleen and Claire in tow, he defeats her guards and takes her prisoner, though Colleen is poisoned in the process.
Danny is frustrated by his inability to get information from Gao, with even truth serum from Claire having no effect. When Colleen’s condition worsens she has Danny call her sensei, Bakuto, who teaches Danny to unlock his healing powers.
Joy blocks an attempt to force her and Ward out of the company by hiring Jessica Jones to get dirt on the board and then finally learns that Harold is still alive.
Taking Gao to Bakuto’s academy, Danny trains with him and learns more about his abilities but senses something isn’t right. After interrogating Gao again he learns that Bakuto works for The Hand and that Colleen knew all along, supplying him with students from her dojo, but claims Danny has it all wrong.
Bakuto claims Gao is part of a renegade faction and that The Hand are in fact not evil. Danny doesn’t buy it and discovers evidence of shenanigans, ultimately having to fight his way out, assisted by Davos who has arrived to take him back to K’un-Lun.
The Final Showdown
Colleen defeats Bakuto but refuses to kill him. Davos feels differently, murdering Bakuto and then challenges Danny but loses. Danny apologies to him for leaving but Davos skulks off anyway. Bakuto’s body vanishes during the fight.
Ward warns Danny seconds before the DEA raid Colleen’s dojo, with Harold having framed Danny for the illegal activity carried out by The Hand. Danny, Colleen and Ward raid the Rand building with Ward ultimately shooting his father and then clearing Danny’s name with Hogarth’s help.
Davos meets with a despondant Joy and states his intention to kill Danny. An eavesdropping Gao smiles.
Danny asks Colleen to return to K’un-Lun with him so he can apologise and complete his training but upon their arrival they find the passage closed and the bodies of multiple Hand operatives.
So there we are. Danny and Colleen cannot return to K’un-Lun, Joy and Ward have swapped places and Davos’ transition into the villainous Steel Serpent is well under way.
From the looks of it the creative team behind The Defenders are going to be doing their best to use the weakness of Danny being less likeable than the rest of the cast to their advantage by having Luke immediately call him on his privilege, levelling some of the audience’s criticisms directly at the character in hopes he will change from it.
Also Bakuto will be in the show alongside Gao (obviously) so I expect there will be some sort of meeting of the senior members of The Hand with Sigourney Weaver’s character.
Time will tell. Mike and I will be back with some sort of roundtable question type thing at some point next week after we’ve watched Defenders. See you then.