Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist is not good TV. It is bad and boring TV with terrible fight scenes and a lead actor who comes from the “petulant grimace” school of acting. The only reason to watch Iron Fist is so you can be prepared for The Defenders, the epic series that will cross Iron Fist over with the casts of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Instead, let us save you some time.
Danny Rand began life as a precious and very wealthy child with locks so luscious Rapunzel was jealous. Then his dad (and presumably his mom*) died in a plane crash and he was raised by sort of sadistic monks to be a lean mean fighting machine. Then he fought a dragon and became the Iron Fist, a fierce warrior who can channel his chi into his fist to stop bullets or annihilate walls.
The Iron Fist has one job: to defend the passage to K’un L’un, the magical monk land, from the Hand, that group of evil ninjas that kept showing up in Daredevil. Danny decides this is dumb and he would rather return to New York to run a company he hasn’t set foot in since he was 10 years old. He complains whenever someone points out this makes no sense and generally makes terrible decision after terrible decision as the leader of a business—presumably because while others were learning math and science and how to do their taxes Danny was learning how to punch ninjas instead.
In the comics, Danny Rand gained the title of Iron Fist after defeating a dragon without using any weapons. In the TV show, this very awesome moment is somehow embarrassing to both Danny—who only sheepishly, reluctantly admits it late in the series—and to the makers of the show itself, because they don’t bother to show us the fight.
The show wants you to believe Colleen Wing has a problem, that she’s fully of incredible rage and a love of partaking in cage fights. Colleen’s real secret is that she’s a member of the Hand, that ninja clan that Daredevil and Elektra fought constantly in Daredevil season two. She was recruited after the death of her grandfather, who also taught her to fight with a katana. Although she meets Danny by chance, when she learns he is the Iron Fist she is charged with recruiting him to the Hand’s cause.
The scope of the organization known as the Hand is finally revealed in Iron Fist; they are mystical ninjas out to manipulate and run the world in true supervillain style. Besides secretly invading New York, infiltrating Danny Rand’s company, orchestrating the death of his family, and building an enormous hole in Hell’s Kitchen, we’re still not entirely clear on what the Hand wants beyond a nebulous sense of “order.”
In Iron Fist we learn there are multiple Hand factions. Madame Gao, the criminal overlord from Daredevil, is a leader of the Hand in addition to being a drug dealer peddling magical heroin. Colleen Wing and Bakuto are more peacefully driven members of the Hand, out to save and recruit the forgotten children of New York.
All of them want to control Danny Rand and his mystical hand—except for Colleen. She has other, naughtier plans for that hand.
Danny Rand was too busy fighting dragons and being beaten by warrior monks to use his Iron Fist for more salacious purposes. Danny, of course, falls for Colleen, and their romance is actually sweet—even if it does demand that Colleen falls for a stinky hobo ninja who tracks her to her dojo and then brutally beats one of her students because he’s not respectful enough.
Just before Danny’s plane crashed his mother was sucked out of a gaping hole in the plane. The monks never recover her body and it is presumed that she is dead. Then Iron Fist makes efforts to mention her body was never found. Repeatedly. Also, Madame Gao claims that before the accident, she lured Danny’s mom into joining the Hand so that she could use her connections to Danny’s father to give the Hand an easier time of infiltrating the company.
That all means Danny Rand’s mother is almost certainly currently alive and a villain. Also, please note that she was a brunette before she was sucked into the ethers. You know who else is a brunette? Sigourney Weaver in The Defenders.
Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple returns to the Netflix Marvel universe in Iron Fist, and she is every bit as good as she’s been in every other series. But being as this is now her fourth time at the superhero rodeo, she is not impressed by Danny’s glowing hand or his and Colleen’s tendency to punch first and talk later.
Madame Gao briefly suggests that Claire is jealous of all the heroes and only works with them in the hopes of their greatness rubbing off on her. But by the end of the season, Claire has been trained by a Hand ninja and the Iron Fist and is pulling some sweet Hellcat-style claws so she can go off and be her own hero, a badass nurse who works at night and who can punch a ninja in the face. Claire rules.
One of the reasons Claire spends so much time with Danny and Colleen, despite finding everything they do sort of stupid, is because Luke is in jail. We don’t know much beyond that, and that, according to Claire, the legal system sucks.
Jeri Hogarth makes an appearance as Danny’s attorney and old family friend. As in Jessica Jones she continues to be a ruthless but brutally effective attorney who really has no time or energy for superheroic shenanigans or magic or superpowers.
But Jeri isn’t the only Iron Fist cast member who has connections to everyone’s favorite alcoholic private investigator. Joy, Danny’s best friend from childhood and a member of the Meachum family (whose antics takes up a bulk of Iron Fist’s running time despite mattering very little to the overall plot), hired Jessica to investigate all the board members of Danny’s company so she could blackmail them into letting her keep her job as the Rand Corporation’s general counsel.
Note: This does not mean Jessica Jones has a physical cameo in Iron Fist, of course. Sigh.
Speaking of Joy, even she’s completely disenchanted with her childhood friend Danny, and has teamed up with his pal Davos from his K’un-Lun days to orchestrate Danny’s murder.
Again, the Iron Fist isn’t just a title, but a job given to K’un-L’un’s greatest fighter to protect the magical city—a job Danny leaves in the show’s first episode. By the final episode, Danny has a hankering to show Colleen the land he was sworn to protect, but abruptly abandoned so he could play at being a business man and superhero in New York.
When Danny and Colleen arrive in K’un-Lun they find a crater where the city once was and dead Hand ninjas everywhere.
As Davos is fond of saying: