Netflix decided to surprise us all today with the second trailer for next month’s Iron Fist. The fourth Marvel series to hit the streaming platform and the last major component before this summer’s Defenders crossover event will dominate all our lives, the show has a lot to live up to – particularly considering just how well-done and -received its three predecessors (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage) were.
Luckily enough, this new sneak-peek is packing plenty of punch (pun certainly not intended), even if it recycles some of footage from the previous teaser: from action to character to intrigue to shared-cinematic-universe world-building, Iron Fist seems to have it all, making it more than a worthy successor to Danny Rand’s (Finn Jones) Defenders brethren.
Here’s our breakdown of the most notable aspects of this latest tease.
If this were a Marvel movie, a teaser packing plenty of comedic chops would be nothing to write home about. But the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a whole different story – dark, gritty, and intense, the Defenders series place a premium on drama, leaving comedy a distant second.
Iron Fist may, when all is said and done, not end up changing this narrative status quo, but showrunner Scott Buck seems determined to both start off and end on a light-hearted note. Danny walking barefoot into his family company’s massive headquarters, gleefully telling the clearly-freaked-out receptionist that he’s at long last come home, is, indeed, hilarious – though nowhere near as much as when young Master Rand solemnly proclaims that he’s the Iron Fist, eliciting a typical “The hell does that mean?” response from Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson).
In a move out of the classic Marvel playbook, such humor makes the audience more likely to buy into the show’s rather out-there premise – following a billionaire Zen Buddhist monk who has spent most of his life training in the mystical arts on the other side of the planet (if not the multiverse) – while still not making the show feel too distant from the likes of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
A kung-fu bonanza
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Daredevil’s first season when it dropped back in April 2015 was the insanely-choreographed fight sequences that the show provided. On the one hand, these scenes were as polished as anything found in the Marvel films, but, on the other, their intensity and grittiness (and, in one memorable instance, their one-shot nature) set them well apart from any other part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Neither Jessica Jones nor Luke Cage followed up on this martial arts angle (nor did they have to, given that each was meant to be a different variation on the theme), but Iron Fist looks set to – in spades. From Danny taking on multiple security guards to being engaged in ninja-esque sword fights, action promises to be an even bigger element in a Marvel production than ever before – and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Even better, with both Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Daniel Rand set to fight side-by-side in The Defenders later this summer, we just might be seeing some of the very best action set pieces in any comic book adaptation, on the big or small screen, yet.
The reason for Danny’s return
It has already been confirmed that those individuals who have taken over the Rand Corporation in the Rand family’s absence aren’t too keen to see their power and influence taken away, and we’ve now seen Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) in both of the trailers, establishing the mysterious – and quite possibly superpowered – woman as another source of antagonism for Iron Fist. But what today’s footage perhaps establishes is a link between the two sides of the main character, uniting the family history of Danny Rand with the supernatural responsibilities of the Iron Fist.
“Why have you come back?” Daniel is asked. “Some bad people have gotten on the inside,” he responds. “Criminals.” Gao was originally introduced as a drug dealer in Daredevil’s two seasons, with hints of her connections to the MCU’s more mystical side – connections that seem to at least partially manifest themselves in martial-arts form. It could be that the diminutive Chinese woman’s organization has either infiltrated or aligned itself with Harold Meachum (David Wenham), the head of Rand Corp, and that, furthermore, this group has its roots going back to K’un-Lun, the fantastical land where Danny learned the ways of the Iron Fist.
There would be no better way to tie all the various Netflix shows together – or to help set up The Defenders.
Speaking of which…
Meet Harold Meachum
Marvel TV and Netflix both have been rather reluctant to divulge too much about Harold Meachum, who, in the comic book source material, plays a rather substantial role in the Iron Fist mythology (yes, we know that Meachum and his two children will brandish at least a few key differences on the small screen). Still, the two clearly don’t have any problems setting the character up as the show’s primary villain, depicting him acting in angry, controlling ways – such as declaring that Rand is his company, having his face covered in blood, and, apparently, bashing someone’s brains in.
In this way, Meachum fits in rather nicely with all the previous arch-villains in all the previous Marvel series, ranging from Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) to, most recently, Luke Cage’s Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey). His apparent connection to Madame Gao only seals the deal – Meachum wasn’t the first corporate big-wig she’s allied herself with, and he probably won’t be the last, either.
There are few characters as incredibly important to the Defenders corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick). A martial arts expert who runs her own dojo in New York City, she is well positioned – and equipped – to assist Iron Fist on his quest to clean up the city of the Meachums, Madame Gao’s heroin, and whatever other unsavory elements are congregating there (the Hand from Daredevil, perhaps?). But her occupation also allows her to come into contact with Claire Temple, who is last seen in Luke Cage looking at an advertisement for self-defense classes from Wing’s dojo, and it lines her up perfectly for a possible future with another mainstay from Luke Cage: Misty Knight (Simone Missick), an NYC detective who, in the comics, loses her arm, has it replaced by an Iron Man-supplied robotic appendage (thereby granting her super-strength), and then teams up with Colleen to form the Daughters of the Dragon.
Hey – if Cage’s second season might play out the long-lived Heroes for Hire comic, which sees Luke and Danny become a freelance superpowered duo, then there’s no reason to believe that Netflix wouldn’t also want to pursue a Misty-Colleen tag-team in a future season, somewhere or other.
Easily the biggest question heading into Iron Fist – and, more than likely, one of the key reasons why the series seemed to be trapped in development hell for as long as it was – was just how much Marvel TV was going to embrace (or shy away from) the titular character’s mystical origins. In the comics, Danny winds up in K’un-Lun after his parents’ death, one of the seven capital cities of heaven that actually exist in a different dimension; it is only accessible to those on Earth once every several decades or so (it’s a variable amount of time and a complicated story), when an interdimensional nexus forms.
It gets even better. Eternal K’un-Lun, City of the Immortals’ power source is none other than a dragon named Shou-Lao the Undying, who, during a ceremony involving the city’s dragon riders years previously, rebelled against his masters. His punishment was first death – by having his heart cut out – and then resurrection and eternal imprisonment in a cavern on the outskirts of K’un-Lun.
It is doubtless that executive producer Scott Buck will rework much of this mythology, as is common for these properties during their transitions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but just how much is an open question. Given that Daredevil has been slowly-but-surely dipping its toes into the supernatural pond, including the ability for certain individuals to resurrect themselves, much of the Iron Fist backstory is actually fair game for the small screen.
What we get in the trailer, unfortunately, isn’t much – we see shots of the legendary city’s monks training Danny Rand and of the young man meditating in various spots around K’un-Lun. Obviously, just how mystical the series will get is meant to still be kept a mystery for the time being.
As previously mentioned, there are two main elements that have originated from the previous Defenders series that show up in the new trailer. Claire Temple is the most recognizable: after originally being introduced as a nurse in Hell’s Kitchen in the first two seasons of Daredevil (and in her guest-star spot on Jessica Jones), Claire loses her job and ends up making the move back to Harlem, where her mother still lives. There, she gets romantically involved with Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and once he is forced to leave town, she decides to take matters into her own hands, electing to register for one of Colleen Wing’s martial arts classes. Having her a part of Iron Fist is, at this point, logical as well as unavoidable, as she’s become the glue that holds all these various shows together.
As for Madame Gao, she too is a familiar face from Daredevil’s run, where she is revealed to be one of the major movers and sellers of heroin in New York. However, there are plenty of hints that there’s more than meets the eye with the elderly drug baron: she speaks multiple languages (supposedly, all of them), possesses super-strength, and hints that she’s from another place, possibly another dimension (possibly even K’un-Lun itself). If a mystical hero needs mystical enemies to battle, there is no better choice than Gao and her henchmen.
And with the dramatic stakes needing to be sufficiently raised for the crossover-to-end-all-crossovers, The Defenders, both characters’ roles here will be sorely needed.
The Iron Fist
Above and beyond immortal dragons and interdimensional cities, the supernatural heart of the Iron Fist comic books is, of course, Iron Fist himself. Gaining his powers from besting the pesky Shou-Lao the Undying, Daniel Rand plunges his fists into the beast’s molten heart, which has been separated and encased in ice as part of his resurrection/punishment. This allows Danny to absorb all the mystical energies that resided in the dragon, which, in turn, allows him to channel his chi into his fist, making it glow, rendering it impervious to any injury, and transforming it into a nearly-unstoppable weapon that can crush or otherwise punch through nearly any material on Earth. (Oh, yeah – he can also heighten his strength and speed, heal either himself or others, and, most fantastically of all, telepathically fuse himself with another individual.)
K’un-Lun may barely be in the trailer, and there may be no trace of dragons whatsoever, but nearly everything else in Iron Fist’s backstory and power set is there. Danny’s ability to take on multiple foes simultaneously is showcased time and again, and even his ability to make his hand glow with focused energy (a really cool effect on film, it must be said) is spotted a few times – including with its after-effects, such as knocking metal doors off their hinges or, in the money shot of the entire trailer, sending everyone in a crowded room flying off their feet.