Iron Fist is finally available for streaming, and many seem to agree that it’s the biggest disappointment that Netflix and Marvel’s collaboration has cooked up so far. There are a multitude of reasons why people aren’t keen on the show, from its controversial casting to its plodding legal dramas, via shoehorned romance and the lack of any dragons.
There’s another big reason why you might not be into Iron Fist all that much: you’ve seen it all before. Indeed, if you’re a fan of The CW’s Stephen Amell-starring superhero series Arrow, a lot of the plot points of Iron Fist will feel strangely familiar.
Finn Jones’ Danny Rand and Amell’s Oliver Queen share a lot of similarities, as do the journeys they go on and the worlds they exist in. And since many have already spent five years with Ollie, it’s a little hard to engage with Danny’s story beyond the level of weird deja-vu. Here are 15 Ways Iron Fist Is A Rip-Off Of Arrow…
15. Presumed-Dead Billionaire Returns To The Company
The basic core concepts of Iron Fist and Arrow are, essentially, exactly the same. Years prior to their series starting, the protagonists were both away from home – in transit – on trips with their families. Oliver was on a boat with his father, and Danny was in a plane with his father and mother. The plane/boat crashed, and people died. For Oliver it was his dad, and for Danny it was both of his parents.
Also, Ollie and Danny just so happen to be the heirs to companies worth billions of dollars. Years after the tragic incidents, and long after they were presumed dead, they return to their home cities and try to reclaim their companies.
This causes frictions, obviously, but Ollie fares a little better initially. He does a decent job at proving who he is, while Danny is fairly naff in that regard. The quest to prove his identity takes up multiple Iron Fist episodes, removing the air from its sails before the show even got going.
14. He Forms Weirdly Intense Friendships Very Quickly
Okay, you could say this about most TV shows, but it still seems worthy of pointing out: both Oliver Queen and Danny Rand form highly intense friendships unrealistically quickly. Ollie recruited David Ramsay’s John Diggle to his vigilante crusade within four episodes, and Danny had Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing lurking at the docks and fighting with him within a similar timeframe.
It turns out that, despite being cut off from normal society for years, both of these billionaires have serious people skills when the writers need them to. Diggle went from disgruntled bodyguard to superhero sidekick in a number of days, and the same can be said for Colleen, who dismissed Danny as a hobo in the first Iron Fist episode but joined his quest shortly afterwards.
Admittedly, it’s easy to understand that the writers of both shows needed to rush these character development plot points along, in order to keep the show moving and maintain audience interest. Still, impeccable recruitment skills is another shared trait between these heroes.
13. Trained By Warrior Zealots
The idea of mystical outsiders training up hero characters in their years abroad is another shared piece of DNA between these two shows. There’s nothing quite like a mysterious order to endow ordinary people with amazing abilities, after all.
In Arrow, Ra’s al Ghul and the League Of Assassins trained Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance – who eventually became the Black Canary, and then the White Canary on Legends Of Tomorrow – in the ways of their ancient traditions. Ra’s’ daughter Talia also turned up, in later flashbacks, to teach Oliver a thing or two.
In Iron Fist, it’s revealed that Danny Rand spent years living in K’un-Lun, being trained in the martial arts and magic stuff by robe-wearing monks. Their fashion sense and their moral compasses don’t exactly match the League from Arrow, but the religious undertones mixed with superhero training is a fairly similar shtick.
12. Violently Targets Those That Mess With The City
Of course, you don’t spend years learning new skills and then return home just to run a successful business. When you’ve been through all of that and completed the long journey back there’s only one thing to do: save your city from criminals! It seems a bit obvious to type this out, but yeah, Danny and Ollie both came back from their origin story/elongated gap year and promptly started beating people up.
Interestingly, drug dealers were one of the first foes that both of them faced. The deadly hallucinogens of Count Vertigo were one of The Hood’s early challenges on Arrow, and Madame Gao’s heroin ring was one of the first things that Danny had to deal with in Iron Fist.
Of course, stopping corporate corruption is on both of their to-do lists as well, with Oliver putting arrows in his dad’s old work buddies (who were planning to murder the working class with an attack named The Undertaking) and Danny trying to stop his own company from giving people cancer/selling medicine expensively.
11. Naff Flashbacks To The Missing Years
Arrow fans have suffered through five years of hell in the shape of Oliver Queen’s recurrent flashbacks, so there were probably a few groans when they started tuning into Iron Fist, only to see the same old trope being rolled out here. Instead of telling the story from the start, both of these shows opted to begin with our heroes returning home before flashing back to the missing years.
In the first few episodes of Iron Fist, the flashbacks were even signalled by a literal flash of white light on the screen. This visual clue that you’re about to head back in time for a scene or two is used pretty much every week in Arrow, and has been since the start.
Thankfully, because Danny’s origin story is such a barmy one, filled with ninja monks and dragons, the flashbacks never last long, and they dry up for a while after the first few episodes. But if they wanted to avoid Arrow comparisons altogether, Marvel shouldn’t have tried to borrow its origin flashbacks at all.
10. Awful Fake Beards
With Arrow approaching the end of Oliver’s five years of flashbacks, fans have been thrilled at the prospect of seeing Stephen Amell wearing a naff fake beard once again. To tide them over, Marvel was kind enough to give Danny Rand the same brand of awful face fuzz at the start of Iron Fist. How nice.
Of course, Arrow wasn’t the first show to use a big old beard as a signifier of some time off from the world, and Iron Fist certainly won’t be the last. Again, though, if they wanted to do something more original, the team behind Iron Fist could have thrown this trope out and tried some new ideas instead.
Speaking of Danny Rand’s hair, isn’t it funny that he left the USA with straight hair and came back with curly locks? The monks in K’un-Lun must love giving people perms. That’s one thing that Oliver Queen doesn’t have, anyway.
9. He Can Speak Foreign Languages, And He Has A Tattoo! How Mysterious.
Speaking of easy writing shortcuts for ‘ooh, look how much he’s changed during his years away’, a big deal is made of the fact that Danny Rand can speak Mandarin in the first episode of Iron Fist. He uses the language to try and impress Colleen Wing (or something along those lines) when they first meet in the park and he doesn’t own any shoes.
In Arrow, Oliver Queen can also speak Mandarin, thanks to his time in Hong Kong. In fact, he can speak it so well that, when a Triad member could only hear his voice, they actually though he was Chinese. He also speaks Russian, Cantonese and Arabic. Top that, Rand!
The pair of billionaires-turned-vigilantes also picked up some mysterious body ink on their travels, but both tattoos are actually more meaningful than they initially appear. Danny’s chest dragon is linked to his powers, and Oliver’s ink is actually proof his Bratva membership.
8. Turns Out He Trained For The Exact Right Thing
It’s unclear if it’s intended to be a running joke or not, but the fact that Oliver Queen’s past comes back to haunt him in perfect chronological order on Arrow (with the five-years-ago flashback of the week never failing to sync up with the modern day action), but, at the very least, it always makes this writer chuckle.
When Oliver was having flashbacks about Slade Wilson, Deathstroke showed up in Starling City. When Oliver was having flashbacks about Constantine, magic was causing problems in the main plot. When Oliver’s flashbacks took him to Hong Kong, it turned out that his main chum from that era was now in the League Of Assassins. When Oliver had flashbacks about Talia, she popped up in the modern day a couple of weeks later, and so on.
The creators of Iron Fist clearly love this idea, since they introduced the plot point that Danny Rand has been training for 15 years to face one singular threat… which just so happens to rear its ugly head when he returns to New York. Like Oliver, he’s got a knack for training for the very specific thing he needs to be ready for.
7. Dad’s Friend And Dad’s Friend’s Son Are Very Shifty, And Our Hero Is Close To Dad’s Friend’s Daughter
Now this is getting ridiculous. In Arrow season 1, John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn – the best bud of Ollie’s dead dad – loomed in the background as the big bad. He had a son played by Colin Donnell, who was a bit shifty at times. And it was later revealed that Oliver’s sister, Thea (played by Willa Holland), was actually Malcolm’s daughter.
In Iron Fist, David Wenham’s Harold Meachum – the best bud of Danny’s dead dad – looms in the back ground too. He has a son played by Tom Pelphrey, who is an utter psycho at points, and very shifty at others. He also has a daughter, Joy (played by Jessica Stroup), who Danny is a lot closer to.
At least Iron Fist goes in some different directions with these characters, rather than following the same beats as Arrow. But in those first few episodes, before any of them has developed, these three feel very much like copies of the Merlyn family.
6. People That Don’t Age
When Danny bumps into Harold for the first time, he remarks that his father’s business partner doesn’t seem to have aged at all in fifteen years. Harold explains that Madame Gao and The Hand made him this way, and everyone just kind of leaves it at that and asks no further questions. Y’know, as you would.
Arrow fans will remember that the Lazarus Pit gave a similar agelessness to Ra’s al Ghul, his daughters and a number of their followers. When Matt Nable’s Ra’s showed up in Legends Of Tomorrow, decades earlier in the timeline than the events of his main Arrow storyline, he still looked exactly the same.
Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao has clearly used The Hand’s as-yet-unexplained anti-aging powers on herself, too, as evidenced by the fact that she’s apparently 400 years old and counting. It’s a minor similarity in the grand scheme of things, but they all count.
5. People Being Brought Back From The Dead
Speaking of Lazarus Pits, in Arrow, these ancient hot tubs were used to bring characters back from the dead. Thea Queen and Sara Lance both took a dip in one, and had to deal with bloodlust for a little while afterwards as penance.
Earlier on in the Marvel Netflix saga, in Daredevil season 2, it was established that The Hand is capable of resurrecting people too. Of course they are, because they’re basically just the Marvel equivalent of the League Of Assassins, in this universe at least. Elodie Yung’s Elektra woke up post-death in the finale of that season. More recently, it was revealed in Iron Fist that The Hand has been using this technique for ages.
Harold Meachum was brought back from beyond the grave years before the series kicked off, with The Hand offering him an isolated life in a penthouse as an alternative to death. It isn’t stated that Harold has a bloodlust, but, at certain points, it looks a bit like he does.
4. Introducing Magic To The Shared TV Universe
Iron Fist, based on his comic book origins, has every right to be a magical character. It’s just shame that The Green Arrow – who doesn’t come from that sort of comics background at all – beat him to the punch.
In Arrow season 4, Oliver learned how to harness magical powers thanks to some training by Matt Ryan’s eponymous character from Constantine. Oliver used these skills in the finale, with his eyes glowing yellow as he defeated Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk with the power of positive thinking, or something.
Iron Fist doesn’t come across as particularly original, then, as it endeavours to introduce magic to the shared world of Marvel’s Netflix heroes. Since Oliver Queen brought comic book magic to his own TV universe last year, and Doctor Strange introduced it to the MCU even more recently, there’s nothing particularly exciting about Danny giving a crash course in mysticism here. It doesn’t help that his attempts to explain his chi-based powers largely sound like pretentious nonsense.
3. Shoehorned Mini-Crossovers And References
Every comic book adaptation these days is stuffed with Easter Eggs, cameos and references, and Iron Fist does nothing out of the ordinary to make its own knowing nods extra thrilling. Mentions of ‘The Incident’ and ‘the incredible green guy’ are par for the course at this stage, and Rosario Dawson showing up as Claire Temple is hardly surprising anymore.
Arrow’s references and crossovers are far better. For example, the show gave fans an early introduction to Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, before he became the fastest man alive and span out into The Flash. The aforementioned John Constantine also showed up, and the iconic Green Lantern by the name of Hal Jordan was teased once in an excellent blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.
With Iron Fist being the fourth show in its universe, you’d think they could’ve pushed the boat out a bit more with the connectivity stuff. Alas, fans will have to wait for The Defenders to see proper crossovers with Danny and the rest of them.
2. New CEO Doesn’t Understand Working Hours Gimmick
To delve even deeper into the minutiae of Iron Fist’s similarities to Arrow, there’s a sentiment in the early episodes – when Danny, Joy and Ward are all working at Rand – that literally could’ve been copy and pasted from The CW’s scripts. The idea, and it’s even spelled out in dialogue at one point, is that Danny Rand doesn’t understand the concept of working hours.
Of course, he’s actually out doing vigilante stuff when he should be in boardrooms, but it just comes across like he’s an irresponsible slacker with a tendency to miss meetings. This concept was used heavily in Arrow’s first few seasons, before Oliver lost his company to Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer. And it’s come back again in season 5, with Oliver’s mayoral commitments consistently clashing with his hectic heroic schedule.
If Arrow hadn’t brought this idea back in such a big way recently, Iron Fist might’ve got away with it. But unfortunately, Ollie has been missing important appointments since season 5 began back in October, which just makes Iron Fist look even more unoriginal.
1. Awkward Tech Support / Assistant Dynamic
This is the one that really makes Iron Fist feel like a knockoff version of Arrow. Of all the things they shouldn’t have included, the idea of a superhero CEO having regular awkward exchanges with his assistant – where he asks her for weird stuff and won’t tell her why – really didn’t need to be redone.
Barrett Doss holds her own in the role of Megan, but everything she’s asked to do is just pure Felicity Smoak, right down to the lingering looks while Danny is getting changed. Considering that Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity was so popular with Arrow fans that she went from being a funny supporting character to a core part of the show, Iron Fist’s Megan didn’t stand much of a chance in comparison, especially not with the limited screen-time they give her.
Whether it was a conscious decision to emulate Arrow or not, Iron Fist shouldn’t have bothered trying to introduce its own hero boss/confused assistant dynamic. It’s been done before, and like most of the things on this list, it was done far better on Arrow than Iron Fist.