There are a number of valid criticisms you can make about Netflix’s The Defenders. It takes almost half the season to get our four heroes — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist — in the same room, despite the fact that we’ve already had five seasons of television to put down the foundation for the moment. A lot of time — too much time, one might say, especially if one were me — was spent following Iron Fist around, often in a way that forced him to explain the wilder aspects of the plot to his incredulous co-heroes, which is not ideal. Sigourney Weaver did kung fu once near the beginning of the season and then we never saw her do it again, even though it was awesome. Did you expect to see Sigourney Weaver do kung fu in 2017? I did not. But now I must have more.
All that said, there were positive aspects in there, too. Krysten Ritter is still great as Jessica Jones. Mike Colter is still great as Luke Cage, even if he was forced to spend most of the season as a babysitter and exposition sponge. The fight scenes were good, especially when they involved Elektra and/or when they were set to Wu-Tang songs. (Between the Wu-Tang fight scene and Sigourney Weaver’s character literally saying the phrase “The truth is, we’re not so different, you and I,” I feel like parts of this were made specifically for me.) And hey, glass half full, we did get to see Sigourney Weaver do kung fu one time, which is once more than I expected.
But my favorite part of The Defenders, when the season really shined, was when people busted on Iron Fist for being a dope.
Here, look at this one:
Many took issue with the Iron Fist standalone series for a lot of reasons, all of them justified, but my biggest problem was that this version of Danny Rand is a huge doofus. Just a big ol’ dummy, all the time. And insufferably naive, which somehow got worse the more he learned or supposedly learned. As the lead of his own series, he just didn’t work.
But now, take that same doofus character and put him on a team of relative equals, who can call him on his half-brained statements and lunatic ideas, often in a forceful and/or profane matter, and suddenly he’s not so bad.
Here is Jessica Jones suggesting he’s chemically imbalanced.
Like, don’t get me wrong, he’s still a galactic doofus. But it became more tolerable with other people on the screen pointing it out. Now it wasn’t just me saying “God, what a thundering dumbass.” Now it was also Stick, the man who trained Daredevil and Elektra and is played by the always delightfully unhinged Scott Glenn, saying that as well.
The end result of it all was that he kind of became the group’s annoying little brother. Or maybe their Milhouse. Either way, it worked better than when he tried to carry a show by himself. He became the guy on the team everyone busts on, which is a surprisingly important part of a team. Even his repeated insistence on introducing himself by saying “I am the immortal Iron Fist” in a half gravelwhisper, C+ Keanu Reeves “I am an FBI agent” voice started growing on me by the end. I started looking at him less as a bland zero — Danny Bland, one might say, again, especially if one were me — and more as an extremely earnest dimwit. I really recommend you try this. I also really recommend someone make me a supercut of every line he says in the whole season, because I have a suspicion that if you line them all up back-to-back-to-back, the whole thing might give the legendary supercut of Chris Klein’s lines in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li a real run for the unintentional comedy title.
Here’s Madame Gao roasting him in a cave.
I realize that this is probably coming off as the mildest, weakest possible defense anyone has ever made regarding anything. “Yes, he’s still an idiot and not a compelling character, but at least people are mean to him!” It’s one or two steps short of suggesting season two of Iron Fist just be 13 episodes of Danny getting kicked in the jimmies. Fine. Fair. But I think my point holds up. By steering into the skid a bit, they were able to take a potential negative and wring some positive elements out of it. Some. Danny Rand is still a huge doofus, to the degree that the entire plan by the season’s villains hinged on exploiting what a doofus he is. (And it basically worked.) But at least everyone else saw it, too. That’s… something. Right?
I don’t know. I just liked it. I wish there had been an entire episode of Jessica Jones and Stick roasting him. And even if the character still bugged you and made the show less enjoyable, hey, at least we’ll always have Sigourney Weaver doing kung fu. Gotta count for something.