It’s almost time. In a few days we will be introduced to the last Defender, Iron Fist, and get that much closer to seeing the entire team assembled together on the small screen. After two seasons of Daredevil and the introduction of Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Luke Cage (Mike Colter) to the streets of NYC, it is time to see the last hero take his place in the Marvel Universe. But with this newest hero has comes his complex origin story, the controversy surrounding the casting of Finn Jones, and the comparisons to Arrow or Batman.
Many of the concerns fans have with regards to show and its casting comes from the character’s comic book origins. Iron Fist is the adaptation of the 1970s comics that were in turn inspired by the kung-fu films of the time. It tells the story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), who returns home to New York after being stranded in K’un Lun, a mystical Asian nation. He’s gifted with the power of the Iron Fist, which gives him the ability to harness energy, have super strength, and heal himself and others.
Keeping in mind fans’ apprehensions surrounding the show, here are the 15 Things We Want to See in Marvel’s Iron Fist.
Warning: This article contains some spoilers for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Iron Fist comics.
15. Connection to the Wider MCU
The thing that sets Marvel apart from other superhero franchises is the interconnectedness of their storytelling. Both the TV shows and films exist in the same universe so it is time they start acting like it. Obviously we don’t expect to see Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Iron Man on television any time soon, but there are plenty of other ways this could go. The Netflix shows have done a good job so far of mentioning “the Incident” in New York, aka the Chitauri invasion from The Avengers, and also hinting at the existence of some characters like “the dude with the hammer“. Luke Cage took this one step further by featuring weaponry created by Justin Hammer and his company Hammer Tech from Iron Man 2.
So while television has been connected to the films in small ways, it is time to see the Netflix shows acknowledge Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It doesn’t mean Phil Coulson and his team have to head to NYC to track down Danny Rand (although Iron Fist superfan Clark Gregg would love that), but it could be as simple as showing a press conference held by Director Mace (Jason O’Mara) on TV in the background of a scene or mentioning the organization by name (especially now that they are out of the shadows). Just something to remind us that these properties exist in the same world.
14. (Everybody) Kung-Fu Fighting
The Netflix shows are a step above the rest when it comes to their fight scenes. Starting with Daredevil season 1 and the now-infamous hallway fight scene, each show has tried to raise the bar when it comes to superheroes brawling. Daredevil season 2 gave us Frank Castle fighting his way through an entire jail full of prisoners, Luke Cage gave us Luke acting as a battering ram through Crispus Attucks, and even Jessica Jones got to beat up some bad guys. However, Iron Fist needs to set itself apart because of Danny’s background and training.
Danny Rand is a talented martial artist. His skills were honed in K’un Lun, where he was taught by the powerful warrior, Lei Kung. Danny’s fighting style therefore must be different than the other Defenders. He and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), who is a strong fighter in her own right, have to show a level of fighting that is technically more advanced than what we have seen before.
Stunt performer, martial artist, and actor Lewis Tan, who plays the villainous Zhou Cheng, can help Iron Fist immensely in this area, as he is a multi-talented performer who really knows the style of fighting the show is hoping to achieve.
13. Claire Temple As More Than Just A Love Interest
Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is the thread connecting all the Marvel Netflix shows. As the Night Nurse who saves superheroes, she is the only character to appear in all four shows. Claire’s a strong woman who can hold her own against muggers and perform surgery without flinching (and with minimal tools). However, she is also a character who has been a love interest status twice now – first in Daredevil season 1 and then in Luke Cage. While there is little fear she will be hooking up with Danny in Iron Fist, the show needs to take steps to show Claire with agency and a storyline of her own.
Claire’s future looks promising already. The ending of Luke Cage showed her taking a number from a flier to learn martial arts, taught by none other than Colleen Wing. Hopefully we will get a chance to see Claire bonding with another non-super powered female character while learning how to better protect herself. Just because Jessica Jones is the only female-led show does not mean it should be the only one to portray a strong female friendship.
There is also hope that because of Claire’s unique position she will be the one to bring the Defenders together. This would be a great way to recognize the importance of her character outside of her romantic entanglements.
12. Family Matters
Like any good superhero origin story, Danny Rand is left orphaned at a young age when the plane he is on with his parents crashes in the mountains. However, the Rand family is not alone on the plane, but accompanied by Wendell Rand’s business partner and friend Harold Meacham (David Wenham). Harold is directly involved in Danny’s father’s death and the subsequent takeover of his company.
Iron Fist needs to delve into the complicated relationship and history between Danny and the Meacham family. Betrayal and the desire to avenge a dead family member or two are familiar superhero territory, but it’s important in establishing Danny’s emotional mindset. Through the trailers we know Danny wants to take back his family’s company, but we need to see why.
The relationship between Danny and the Meacham kids, Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward (Tom Pelphrey), is also an area the show needs to explore. The same trailer shows Joy seemingly concerned about Danny’s return, but whether it is for nefarious purposes or because she really cares is hard to tell as of yet. The actors have been tight-lipped about their roles so far, hinting that maybe this family has more to hide than we may think.
11. A Distinct Visual Style
One of the many strengths of Netflix’s superhero shows is their ability to appear visually different and yet still feel as if they are part of the same universe. Daredevil gave us a gritty action-packed adventure, Jessica Jones gave us neo-noir detective drama, and Luke Cage is a complex, homage-filled look at black men in America. Iron Fist needs to establish its own aesthetic and tone that is fundamentally distinct from the shows we have seen before.
To separate itself, Iron Fist really needs to lean into its mystical side. It has the ability to go places and do things the other shows cannot. Like Doctor Strange, the portrayal of Danny’s powers can be more over the top and visually stunning than the street-level fighting we’ve seen bin previous series. It would also help tie the grounded world of the Netflix shows to the increasingly fantastical world of the MCU films.
10. Daughters Of The Dragon
With the way things ended in Luke Cage, it seems unlikely that Luke and Danny will meet before their team up in The Defenders. This means we probably will not be seeing the creation of the Heroes for Hire any time soon. However, we can hope to see the beginnings of the Daughter of the Dragon.
In the comics, Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Colleen Wing team up to run their own detective agency called Knightwing Restorations (later dubbed the Daughters of the Dragon). While it has been confirmed that Missick will not appear in Iron Fist (despite what IMDb says), we can hope that Colleen will see the need to start an organization of her own, maybe after teaching people like Claire at her dojo. It could go a long way to establishing some of the other characters as heroes in their own right, ready to fight to protect their city, outside of our main four Defenders.
9. Magical, Mystical Story
Danny Rand’s training and the origin of his powers both come from the mystical city of K’un Lun. K’un Lun is one of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven – separate, hidden cities that come together once every 88 years. The city is in another dimension, but is accessible from earth once every ten years, when it appears in the Himalayan mountains. Oh and it was also built by aliens.
Introducing K’un Lun is a great way to expand the Marvel TV universe. This is a world where magic and dragons exist and warriors compete to be their city’s champion. There is much Iron Fist can do to explore the city’s rich culture and history, as well as Danny’s place in it. Because K’un Lun will be more culturally and ethnically diverse in the show than in the comics, his story should not be that of a “stranger in a strange land”, but one of a man learning to be a hero and what it means to take up the mantle of the Iron Fist. Showing Danny living in K’un Lun as one of the people and taking part in the city’s traditions is another way the show can avoid straying into stereotypes.
8. Crane Mother
Since Daredevil season 1, eagled-eyed fans have noticed there may be more to Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) than meets the eye. She is a ruthless businesswoman who runs the heroin trade in Hell’s Kitchen. In season 2 she manipulates Daredevil and Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) into killing her rival, the Blacksmith, so she can maintain her control over the city’s drug supply.
Easter eggs, like the markings on her heroin, point to the fact that maybe Madame Gao is not only a drug kingpin, but also Crane Mother, one of Iron Fist’s foes from The Immortal Iron Fist, written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with art by David Aja and Travel Foreman.
Crane Mother is the ruler of one of the other Legendary Cities of Heaven, K’un-Zi, a frequent rival of K’un Lun. When asked if she is returning home to China, Madame Gao remarks that her home is a “considerable distance further” than that. It is possible that her homeland is in another universe altogether?
If Madame Gao does turn out to be Crane Mother, it would show the impressive planning that Marvel puts into each show, measuring out every small detail in advance. It would also be a nice payoff for comic book fans who love to look for new clues in each property. Easter eggs are fun, but when they have real meaning, they reward close watching and patience that much more.
7. History Of The Iron Fist Mantle
Danny Rand is not the first Iron Fist nor is he the only one. Iron Fist is not just a cool superhero name Danny’s given himself, but a title held by different warriors throughout the years as they are granted the power of the Shou-Lao the Undying. Danny is the 66th person to hold the title of the Iron Fist.
It’s important that the show delves into the history of the Iron Fist and how it differs from being a “regular” superhero. Danny has not only the pressure of saving the world, but carrying the mantle of all those who have come before him. It is a different kind of burden; unlike the one Daredevil carries that is mostly self-inflicted or the pressure Luke has to face with the protection of his Harlem community. Danny has to manage the expectations of an entire culture and a long history that goes back centuries.
Jones has spoken about how Danny will be fighting in the show to gain his own identity and will have trouble understanding what being the Iron Fist means. It will be interesting to see another reluctant superhero– one who’s coming from a much different place, trying to find himself amidst the history of his title.
6. Unleash The Dragon
Danny Rand becomes a skilled warrior through his training on K’un Lun, but that is not the only reason he becomes the Iron Fist. Part of the process involves defeating the dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying. Shou-Lao guards his molten heart, which is the source of the power for each Iron Fist. Danny is the one who defeats the dragon and is therefore granted his powers.
With the impressive visual effects Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled off this year in introducing the character of Ghost Rider, there is no reason why Iron Fist can’t show a dragon. Sure it might be a little harder (okay, a lot), but it would be worth it to see an actual dragon in what has so far been a very grounded universe. It would separate Iron Fist right away and prove that the show isn’t messing around when it comes to going all in on its magical elements. Plus what comic book fan doesn’t want to see Danny Rand facing down Shou-Lao?
5. Steel Serpent
Every good superhero has an archenemy and the Steel Serpent is the nemesis of Iron Fist. His real name is Davos and he is the son of the man who trains Danny on K’un Lun, Lei Kung the Thunderer. Both young men learn to fight together to see who will be worthy of taking up the mantle of the Iron Fist. However, Davos is unable to defeat the dragon and is exiled from his community in shame. Jealous of Danny’s success, he goes to K’un-Zi and works for Crane Mother on a mission to kill the Iron Fist and get revenge.
In Daredevil season 1, Madame Gao’s heroin is known by the name Steel Serpent. This could be just another fun Easter egg or a clue at the direction Iron Fist could be going. If Madame Gao does turn out to be Crane Mother, having the Steel Serpent show up would not be completely out of the question.
4. A Different Kind Of Defender
Sometimes it seems like to be a superhero you don’t just need superpowers, but super-angst as well. This seems especially true of our Netflix heroes, who are more brooding than their MCU (and ABC) counterparts. The shows have darker tones and more serious subject matter, so this makes sense. They’re not all doom and gloom, though; there are some fun moments that make the shows more than enjoyable to watch.
Danny Rand however is a different kind of hero. He is more laid-back and naive than the other Defenders, a trait that comes from spending so much time away from New York City and its darkness. Jones has described Danny as having a “lighthearted hopefulness that tends to gets him in a lot of trouble” which will be a nice change to see.
It is this lightness that we need before Danny meets up with the rest of the Defenders. Part of the fun in seeing these unlikely heroes teaming up will be seeing how their different personalities come together (or don’t). Danny looks to be the one to provide some comic relief and a positive attitude, especially in his interactions with the sarcastic Jessica Jones and the strong and silent Luke Cage.
3. Balancing Personal & Superhero Life
Daredevil season 1 gave us conflicted lawyer Matt Murdock by day and Devil of Hell’s Kitchen by night. It struck a delicate balance between Matt’s personal, professional, and superhero lives and how he managed them all (and how that all fell apart by season 2). Iron Fist can learn from this. It needs to tell the story of Danny adjusting back to normal life while also learning to use his powers and take back his father’s company.
Because Danny Rand is not as well-known a character as Matt Murdock or even Jessica Jones, it is important to establish who he is and his mindset before he is introduced to the other characters. He comes from a different place, both literally and figuratively. He presumably doesn’t know about the Avengers or the Sokovia Accords – all things that can be played up for a comedic effect as part of a learning curve. It’s important to know who Danny the person is, outside of his guise as the Iron Fist.
2. Tackling New Ground
The biggest concern fans have when it comes to Iron Fist is the idea that Danny Rand will fall into the typical stereotype of the “white savior” fighting indistinguishable hordes of faceless ninjas. The actors and showrunner Scott Buck have all spoken out about being aware of the problems the show could face and the fact that they were actively working to avoid falling into tropes.
Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, is especially vocal about her character not just being another Asian martial artist, but someone with complex motivations and relationship to the fighting style. Buck has also spoken about how Danny’s main goal is to save himself, rather than anyone else.
Since it is too late to change any casting decisions now, the most important thing Iron Fist can do is focus on having a respectful portrayal of the mythology of Danny’s powers. Also, strong characters -of any race- and good storytelling will go a long way towards making fans happy.
1. A Nick Fury Moment
“I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.” Those words spoken by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at the end of Iron Man shaped the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and sent a chill down the spines of every comic book fan). It confirmed the fact that Marvel would be introducing us to characters who would one day fight together on the big screen. And it started the Marvel hype machine, which pretty much hasn’t stopped since.
Seeing as Iron Fist is the last solo show we are going to get before The Defenders, it would be great to get the same “Avengers assemble” type moment to hint at what is to come. Maybe Claire will be the one to tell Danny there are other people like him who could use his help. Or perhaps Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss), who knows of the existence of at least one other hero, will see the need for a future team-up. What better way would there be to end the beginning of Danny’s story than by starting excitement for the next one?
All of Iron Fist season one will be available on Netflix on March 17th.