Iron Fist, the latest in Netflix’s string of Marvel superhero shows, arrives on Netflix March 17th. It should serve just fine as the standalone story of Danny Rand, a superhero trained in mystical martial arts. But the show’s story is richer if you know its elaborate setup. Iron Fist is the fourth and final Netflix series leading up to team-up show The Defenders.
The Defenders are the Netflix equivalent of The Avengers, and like Marvel’s films, they are a massive media investment: the three other superhero shows span four seasons with 13 episodes each. That’s 52 hours of binge watching. Even if you’ve watched everything, you may need a refresher.
And if you’re just joining the program? Well, here’s what you need to know.
Who is Danny Rand?
Danny Rand, specifically as we meet him in Netflix’s version of Iron Fist, is the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents. He’s also heir to a very profitable family company that, in the wake of his presumed death, has gone straight into the hands of siblings Joy and Ward Meachum. They’re family friends, sort of, and much of the show’s initial arc focuses on Danny returning and trying to reclaim his place. That’s all temporary, however, because the show’s conflict revolves around...
Yes that’s right I said...
Like a specific type of ninja, or—
Yeah, they’re a little different from the “go ninja, go ninja, go” kind. Danny Rand isn’t just any lost-boy-billionaire-turned-super-warrior-turned-lost-man-billionaire — he is the Iron Fist, the latest in a long lineage of powerful warriors who serve as the sworn enemy of the Hand.
The Hand, aside from having a downright asinine name, is an ancient order of evil ninjas first introduced into the Netflix universe in Daredevil. They live to serve the Black Sky, a special person (or persons — more than one exists at the same time) they believe is destined to lead them. At least two have been seen in Daredevil alone. Aside from Iron Fist, their greatest enemy is the Chaste, although it’s a shame they’re not called something like “Steel Boot” to fit the theme we’ve got going here. Like the Hand, the Chaste is another historical society stacked with fighters. In Daredevil, it’s Matt Murdock’s mentor, Stick, that champions the Chaste.
Although the Hand makes an appearance as early as Daredevil season 1, it doesn’t become critically important until season 2, wherein they pull some really freaky stuff. They have the power to resurrect the dead (that includes a whole plotline with children’s blood) and appear to have nefarious plans overall for New York City.
From what little we’ve seen of The Defenders, it’s safe to assume the Hand will have some part to play. It’s Stick that gets a voice in the teaser trailer, which features a literal hand enclosing The Defenders logo. Based on Entertainment Weekly’s coverage, we also know that the Defenders will have their initial meet-and-greet at Midland Circle, home to Daredevil season 2’s big ol’ hole of mystery — another weird plotline tied to the Hand.
Okay, wait, who are the Defenders?
Sort of like a low-rent version of the Avengers, the Defenders are a superhero supergroup. In this case, they’re all based specifically in New York City and include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
To date, the only two Defenders that have made on-screen contact (heh) with each other are Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. However, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have been known in the comics as best buds who occasionally team up as the “Heroes for Hire” duo. Finn Jones has teased that dynamic already in talking about the Defenders, as well as a maturing for his (currently) plucky young character.
We still know very little about The Defenders show, other than it’s coming this year and will feature Sigourney Weaver as its big bad.
Are there any other characters to know about?
Yes. You’ll want to take note of Jeri Hogarth, who acts as Danny Rand’s lawyer. Hogarth first appeared in Jessica Jones as a high-powered lawyer who would hire the heroine for private investigator work. Hogarth played an important role in the show, eventually crossing paths with Jessica Jones’ villain Kilgrave and getting everyone into a fine bloody mess. She reappeared again in season 2 of Daredevil, where she offered Matt Murdock’s former partner, Foggy Nelson, a job. Given how often these vigilante-types land themselves in criminal trouble, Hogarth’s lawyer presence seems practical. She’s also one of the few characters to cross into multiple shows, much like Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson).
Claire Temple, running nurse to all of the aforementioned superheroes, has appeared in each one of these Netflix shows to date, starting with season 1 of Daredevil. She’s acted as a love interest to both Matt Murdock and Luke Cage, but more often is stuck patching up these heroes after they almost get themselves killed, repeatedly. She was last seen in Luke Cage, where she helped Luke uncover secrets from his past (and kept him alive, of course). She returns once again in Iron Fist, though it appears she’s had her fill of playing backseat nurse.
There’s one more important character to mention, and that’s Madame Gao. She was introduced in season 1 of Daredevil as an associate of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin. Madame Gao was mainly known back then for running a massive heroin operation in Hell’s Kitchen (which contrary to Daredevil’s apparent belief, does not make up the entirety of the city). She temporarily leaves New York after things go south with Fisk, only to return for season 2 back on that heroin game. Daredevil pays her a brief visit on his hunt for the Blacksmith, a rival heroin dealer.
Madame Gao’s role in Iron Fist is still unclear, though she appears to also have ties with the Hand. Doesn’t everybody these days? Maybe Iron Fist can finally shed some light on this mess of a web.