CAUTION: Spoilers for the first season of Iron Fist follow below.
As Uproxx‘s Alan Sepinwall concludes in his review, Iron Fist amounts to the “first complete misfire” of Marvel Netflix series. Its dull dialogue, lackluster fights and poor pacing present a seemingly insurmountable problem for audiences who’ve come to expect great things after two seasons of Daredevil, and one season each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Yet with The Defenders posed to unite all four later this year, an important question remains. Is it absolutely necessary to dredge through all of Iron Fist in order to “get” the upcoming miniseries? This depends on showrunners Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez, who previously ran Daredevil‘s second season. What will their latest use from the fourth Defender’s solo story? What will they leave out?
In other words, do fans need to know all the ins and outs of Danny Rand’s (Finn Jones) individual story before they binge all of The Defenders upon its release? Not really — especially if you found yourself skipping sizable chunks of the first half out of boredom. If that’s the case, then you probably won’t enjoy the rest of Iron Fist. Though things improve slightly when Colleen Wing’s (Jessica Henwick) sensei, Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez) teaches Danny a few new tricks in “The Mistress of All Agonies.” It’s then, when Iron Fist finally dips into the rich history of The Hand, that knowledge of the plot may prove essential enough for a satisfactory viewing of The Defenders.
That’s mostly because it finally delves into the finer points of Danny’s time in K’un-L’un, and what the Iron Fist really is. Most importantly, however, the back half of Iron Fist finally delivers on the promise made by Daredevil‘s first and second seasons with the Hand — a prominent villain in the Daredevil comics. Marvel adapted them for em Iron Fist‘s mystical, Doctor Strange-esque story, and considering what they were up to, they may play a huge part in The Defenders. Whether or not they support Sigourney Weaver’s mysterious Alexandra, the series’ announced villain, remains to be seen. Though it’d be silly for Netflix to suddenly forget the group’s existence in light of the known baddie’s presence.
Created by Frank Miller, the Hand operates as a secretive criminal organization with ties to Japanese history and samurai culture. The group frequently uses occult and magical operations, and has memorably faced off with Matt Murdock and his trainer, Stick and the latter’s group, the Chaste. Daredevil, the Netflix series, adapted aspects of this story for its own — especially with the mysterious Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), who briefly encountered Murdock (Charlie Cox) and figures more prominently in Iron Fist. Through her and Bakuto, viewers learn some more about this otherwise shadowy organization that, as Danny often notes, is his sworn enemy.
Davos’ (Sacha Dhawan) arrival in later episodes, like “Lead Horse Back to Stable” and “Bar the Big Boss,” also makes sitting through Iron Fist more bearable. His knowledge of Danny’s time in K’un-L’un fills in a few gaps otherwise not accounted for — especially his ongoing anger issues and how they signal his inability to fully embrace the Iron Fist. A native of the mystical region, Davos zealously supports Danny’s short tenure (despite jealously desiring it for himself) before the young billionaire absconds to New York. Davos tracks Danny down and tries to bring him back, resulting in a showdown that sets the stage for the former’s becoming the Steel Serpent — one of Iron Fist’s chief villains.
Of course, the use of Davos prominently in two episodes (and less so in two others) feels like filler, though it does provide some context for the Hand. As for the Hand itself, its inclusion feels rushed at times and leaves more questions than answers for fans — and not in a good way. Even so, beats like these offer Iron Fist‘s audiences a far more interesting story than anything pertaining to Danny’s awkward reunion with the Meachum family. Yes, Harold (David Wenham) is a weird, violent foil for the Iron Fist, but he’s ultimately nowhere near as satisfying as Davos or the Hand. Unfortunately, fans will just have to wait until The Defenders streams to see whether or not their forced Iron Fist binge watching pays off.