Netflix’s Marvel shows are a mostly enjoyable mixed bag, with the critically slammed Iron Fist as the worst of the bunch. While the lazy writing and shoddy choreography were definite strikes against the show, the biggest issue of Iron Fist was a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. For some crazy reason, many fans were just not into a boyish billionaire who was completely unable to see his privilege due to his wealth and his whiteness. He can whine about how hard life was in Kunlun, but it still doesn’t mean that it’s not good to be Danny Rand (minus the murdered parents).
While work on The Defenders began before Iron Fist landed with a huge thud, the show worked overtime to turn Rand into a more sympathetic character, and one of the key elements of that change was his burgeoning friendship with Luke Cage. While Jessica Jones may have razzed on The Immortal Iron Fist™ the hardest, Cage took his incredulity at Rand’s naïveté and turned it into one of the best scenes of the series.
After their first interaction turns violent, Cage and Rand are left licking their wounds and expressing their own frustrations. Somehow, Marvel managed to turn this into a teachable moment for Rand without becoming over the top or preachy. After calling him out for beating up a scared black teenager for information about the Hand, Cage explains that Rand will always have a leg up on most people simply because of who he is. Although Rand pushes the fact that Cage is bulletproof, Luke is quick to clarify that he’s “not some billionaire white boy who takes justice into his own hands and slams a black kid into a wall over his personal vendetta.”
Later in the scene, Cage verbalizes how many people felt about Rand’s inherent whininess and why it was so frustrating.
“I know privilege when I see it. You may think that you earned your strength, but you had power the day you were born. Before the dragons, before the chi … you have the ability to change the world without getting anyone hurt.”
It was a quietly powerful moment, and Rand’s eventual acceptance of this truth did a lot to make him a more sympathetic protagonist and to humanize both superhuman characters. Showrunner Marco Ramirez told Indiewire that this was a pointed and important creative choice.
“It always felt like the most organic thing. That Luke Cage would say if he ever encountered a Danny Rand in the world, is ultimately, ‘When I came upon you, your entitled ass was doing some specific things that I’m not cool with.’ I really think it also helps understand the optics — it helps us understand the dynamics of how these characters are going to interact for the rest of the season.”
The man behind Rand, actor Finn Jones, expressed his satisfaction with the scene to Vulture, explaining that Danny tends to be “Scrappy-Do, [and] will run at it with his fist and punch the hell out of it.”
“Whereas, actually, what Luke is saying in that scene is, ‘Look, you’re a man of power. You’ve got a good heart. Think about this responsibly. Don’t just go with things with reckless intention. Actually take a step back and think about this stuff.’ And Danny, obviously, it’s the first time he’s heard that, and he responds to it.”
As fans look ahead to season two of Iron Fist, hopefully the Danny Rand represented onscreen is one with a bit more awareness and a broader view of the world. Getting a little better at kung fu would be icing on the cake.