BY RICHARD SUPLEE Friday marks the debut of Iron Fist, Netflix’s latest foray into the Marvel universe, which, unless you’re a total comic book nerd, begs the question “who the hell is Iron Fist?” Lucky for you I am just such a nerd. The short answer to your blunt question is that Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand (played by Game of Thrones’ Finn Jones), is a billionaire kid who was stranded in the wilderness after his parents were murdered by their business partner Harold Meachum ( David Wenham, Lord of the Ring and 300). Danny was rescued by archers from the mystical city of K’un-Lun, where he learned martial arts from The Thunderer. Danny is chosen as K’un-Lun’s champion The Iron Fist, as all Iron Fists had before he fights an immortal dragon and plunges his fist into the beast’s molten heart. The training and magic of the dragon makes Danny able to channel his life energy or chi into punches that break cement, crush steel, etc.
The show begins with Danny Rand, now grown up returning home from K’un-Lun to reclaim his Rand Enterprises (which the comics never fully explain what it did aside from make money). Assuming the show is at least semi-faithful to the comics, Iron Fist hew closer to martial arts fantasia than Marvel’s previous Netflix shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage). Adding to the martial arts roster is the addition of Colleen Wing (played by Jessica Henwick, Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Wing is another Marvel martial artist (although without superpowers) who helps Iron Fist avenge his father’s death.
From the above, you can tell that Iron Fist is similar to Daredevil (who had the first Marvel show on Netflix). The more mystical side of Iron Fist should make the show stand out if used correctly. That said, fans of Daredevil should expect some familiar faces. In that first season, heroin dealer Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) hinted she was from someplace other worldly. This had comic book fans pecking out theories on the Internet about her being from K’un-L’un before they even finished binging the season. Ever since she held her own against both Daredevil and The Kingpin, fans were excited to see the tiny old lad go up against Iron Fist. The trailers show her working with Rand Enterprises executive Harold Meachum.
Rounding out the cast is Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix) from previous Netflix show Jessica Jones. Hogarth was the Rand family’s personal lawyer in the comics and it looks like she will help the presumed dead heir legally return from the dead and regain his company. It is also likely that she will be the force that unites Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil into The Defenders (much like how The Avengers teamed up characters with solo films) this summer. While she does not know all those characters, she has been trying to help out superheroes. Being a vigilante (fighting crime without a badge) is a crime so heroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are criminals. Hogarth’s run in with the mind controlling supervillain Killgrave made her appreciate vigilantes that can handle what the police can’t. That superhero team up is what Marvel has been leading to ever since Daredevil season 1 aired in 2015.
Here’s hoping showrunner Scott Buck (who previously worked on Dexter and HBO’s Rome) emphasizes the more mystical or fantastical side of Iron Fist. While the shows are all teaming up later this summer for The Defenders, each Netflix show has felt like a different genre so far (unlike the Marvel films). For example, Daredevil is a martial arts action show mixed with a legal drama while Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller. At it’s best Iron Fist will remind the viewer of the old anime Dragon Ball Z, at it’s worst it’s Daredevil with corporate board rooms.
Iron Fist debuts today on Netflix.