Warning: This article contains big spoilers for Season 1 of Iron Fist.
It’s all been building up to this: When Netflix first got into the Marvel game in 2015, the plan was to release four individual superhero series followed by an all-star team-up called The Defenders rather than The Avengers. And over the past two years, we’ve met three out of the four members of this new supergroup: blind lawyer/ninja Daredevil (Charlie Cox), superstrong private eye Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and man of steel Luke Cage (Mike Colter). On March 17, the final Defender made his debut — martial artist Danny Rand, aka the Iron Fist (Finn Jones).
Unfortunately, the Iron Fist series has proven to be both the final piece of the Defenders puzzle and its biggest stumbling block. That’s because — as many would-be binge-watchers have already discovered — the series is a bit of a creative dud. That makes watching all 13 hourlong episodes more of an endurance test than any of the actual battles Danny gets caught up in during the course of the show’s first season. At the same time, many might feel that it’s a test they have to pass in order to properly appreciate The Defenders, which wrapped production in mid-March and will likely premiere in the back half of 2017.
Normally, we here at Yahoo TV don’t condone cheating on big tests, but in this case, we’re willing to make an exception. We’ve made it to the end of Iron Fist and are going to share with you the six things you need to know before The Defenders debuts later this year. Read this, and then go forth and use those 13 hours to binge-watch a series that packs more dramatic punch than Iron Fist.
Danny can’t go home again
Iron Fist begins with Danny leaving his home of multiple years — the magical, mystical Himalayan land of K’un-Lun — to return to New York City, where his life began and where his father’s company still stands. Thirteen hours later, an emboldened Iron Fist heads back to the mountains, having avenged his parents’ deaths at the hand of their mutual friend and business partner Harold Meachum (David Wenham). And he’s not alone: Danny has brought along fellow kung fu fighter Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) to aid him as he goes about performing the Iron Fist’s main task: protecting the place from a rival ninja organization, the Hand. But when they arrive, they’re greeted by the sight of multiple dead bodies of Hand soldiers in front of the gate that previously led to a now-vanished K’un-Lun. Since Danny’s Iron Fist won’t prevent them from freezing to death, he and Colleen will have to hop the first plane back to their New York stomping grounds, where he’ll presumably try to piece together what happened to his missing city, whether the other Defenders want to help him or not.
The Hand’s plans are afoot
Introduced in the first season of Daredevil, the Hand initially seemed like a small-time organization. But Iron Fist reveals that they’ve actually got a much bigger reach, and stronger grip, than previously assumed. Individual operatives — including Danny’s ally, Colleen, a revelation that causes a rift in their romance — go undercover in such ordinary settings as hospitals and dojos, while higher-ups like Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez) conduct a larger surveillance operation for as-yet unspecified reasons. (The bit about surveillance is valuable intel that a certain Hell’s Kitchen-dwelling daredevil will be particularly interested to learn as the Defenders prepare to… well, defend their hometown against the Hand’s machinations.) It’s worth noting too, that the villains may not be presenting a united front, as Danny comes to learn that there are competing factions within the Hand. For example, Colleen swears that her branch is distinctly separate from a shadow group overseen by a familiar face for Daredevil fans…
Beware Madame Gao
Netflix nearly caused a geek meltdown at New York Comic Con last year when it revealed that the Defenders would be taking on none other than Ellen Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver. The action icon — who doesn’t appear anywhere in Iron Fist — will play the mysterious Alexandra, who resides in a towering skyscraper miles off the ground from the kind of street-level crime that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage deal with. Unclear as of now is if and how Alexandra connects to the Hand’s master plan. That’s why we have to wonder if the real Big Bad of The Defenders will prove to be Madame Gao, who oversees a particularly militant finger within the larger Hand. Gao is temporarily captured and imprisoned by the clan’s leaders in the course of Iron Fist, but the last episode reveals that she’s back in play for whatever blows the Hand throws at the Defenders.
Danny vs. Davos
Becoming the Iron Fist isn’t just something you’re born into. You only earn that title, and its accompanying power, through hours upon hours of bruising training, culminating in a series of trials adjudicated by the K’un-Lun monks. Danny emerged victorious from the long, laborious competition, but the runner-up is still very much in the picture. His name is Davos — not to be confused with Ser Davos Seaworth from Jones’s former life as Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones — and he follows the champion to New York to convince him to return to the place he vowed to protect. But he quickly sours on Danny’s insistence on putting his New York affairs in order, and the fact that he’s cozying up to Colleen, an admitted Hand foot soldier. The men inevitably come to blows, and Danny gives him a good Iron Fist-assisted thrashing. When last we see Davos in the season finale, he’s chatting with Harold Meachum’s scheming daughter, Joy (Jessica Stroup), about getting rid of a mutual Rand-shaped thorn in their sides while Madame Gao gleefully listens in. With a second season of Iron Fist in doubt after the negative reaction to the first year, this trio of potential allies might want to use The Defenders as their launching pad.
Iron Fist may not be a great showcase for Iron Fist, but boy is it an enjoyable introduction to Colleen Wing. So far, Henwick’s spirited performance is the one element of the show that almost everyone agrees works. Similarly, Luke Cage was frequently stolen away from its titular star by Simone Missick’s no-nonsense Harlem cop, Misty Knight. The good news is that both Misty and Colleen will be featured in The Defenders, and their adventures may not stop there. In the comic books, that duo formed its own crime-fighting team, the Daughters of the Dragon — which is a much cooler name for a superhero show than either Iron Fist or The Defenders.
Don’t you forget about Claire
Iron Fist is now the fourth Marvel hero that stalwart nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) has had to patch up. Here’s hoping the Defenders have her on speed dial, because they’re probably going to be in a whole world of hurt after taking on the Hand, as well as Alexandra. Thanks to Colleen, Claire now has some new fighting moves in her medical kit. So maybe she’ll be part of the action, for once, instead of just mopping up the fighters afterward.
Iron Fist is currently streaming on Netflix.
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