SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Marvel Netflix series Iron Fist. If you have not yet finished watching the first season of the show, please bookmark this page and save it for later!
While Iron Fist has spent many years as a popular superhero in Marvel Comics, his step into the bigger pop culture world hasn't exactly gone well. The new series has not only gotten far worse reviews than any of Marvel's previous Netflix shows, but has also gotten a worse response than any Marvel Studios title released in the company's nine-year history. As a result, there are definitely some key problems that need to be solved... but these issues luckily come with fairly simple and straightforward solutions.
So what does Marvel Studios have to do to redeem Iron Fist and fix the problem that they have created for themselves? Below and beyond, we've outlined some particular strategies that we hope to see the company utilizing, both involving Danny Rand's role in the upcoming Defenders crossover show and everything after. Read on, and be sure to hit the comments section below with your own thoughts!
Make Iron Fist Actually Stand Out Among The Defenders
With Iron Fist being an underwhelming show all by itself, it definitely doesn't help that the rest of the Marvel Netflix franchise. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all got nearly perfect reviews coming out the gate, since that just tips the scales even harder when it comes to direct comparisons. The good news is that the perfect opportunity to level the playing field in this department is coming up in the form of The Defenders, and we can only hope that the creatives take advantage to give Danny/Iron Fist a more distinct platform.
Because The Defenders is already deep into production, we can only hope that the writers started working on the series acknowledging that Iron Fist isn't the brightest bulb in the Marvel Studios chandelier. Why? Because if there is a particular focus to make him look cool on the team-up show, then there's a chance that the character's pop culture status could be redeemed after a rocky start. It's kind of silly, but whether Danny is the one who comes up with the brilliant strategies, or winds up saving everyone with his impressive display of powers, Iron Fist has the chance to look much cooler if he is utilized properly among his superhero friends.
Give Iron Fist His Proper Costume
The fact that Danny Rand isn't given the proper Iron Fist costume is absolutely ludicrous, as he is actually one of the only characters in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe who has a completely understandable and logical reason for wearing a very specific outfit and mask. Iron Fist as a series could have easily explained that the classic comic book look comes part and parcel with the title and abilities, and yet no one even bothered with it. It's not too late to fix this.
By not featuring some form of the classic costume in the first season of the show (unlike every other Marvel Netflix series), Iron Fist sends the message that it is embarrassed by the original design -- and while we'll agree that it surely isn't the easiest superhero get-up to adapt, it's still a modest insult to fans to not even try and bring it in. Lord knows there are thousands of great looking cosplay images out there that the producers and costume designers can use for live-action inspiration. And while it's true that the ship has now sailed on the uniform idea for the standalone show, hopefully The Defenders will figure out a smart reason for its inclusion; perhaps Matt Murdock can introduce Danny Rand to Melvin Potter in an early episode.
Show Us K'un L'un
As I noted in my Iron Fist review, the show seems completely allergic to the city of K'un L'un, despite the fact that the mythical city should be a dream project for any passionate production designer - and when the credits rolled on the 13 episode, the first thing that struck me was just how little we get to see of the magical city. One can imagine The CW's Arrow causing the writers to hesitate over any kind of flashback-heavy narrative, but the fact that audiences get nothing more than a few incredibly brief looks at K'un L'un, in 13 hours of content, is mind-boggling.
I'm admittedly concerned that this situation is a result of a "robbing Peter to pay Paul," with the Marvel Netflix producers "saving" K'un L'un for appearance in The Defenders. If that's the case, that's pretty crappy franchise-building because of how it truly handicaps Iron Fist's solo narrative. That being said, the way to have people get over it is by making the Capital City of Heaven as jaw-dropping as possible in its beauty and expanse, not to mention compellingly used within the larger plot (such as, perhaps, a full scale invasion of The Hand). And please, everyone involved, find some way to inject some kind of kung-fu filmmaking and editing influence into any and all K'un L'un sequences, because it's sad that aesthetic wasn't also part of the Iron Fist playbook from the start.
Bring Danny To Luke Cage Season 2, Not Iron Fist Season 2
In the comics, Luke Cage and Iron Fist go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are the best of friends, and have operated as a pair going back to the late 1970s, when they first met on the page. As such, we fully expect that The Defenders will play up this relationship, and that there are going to be at least a few episodes that have Mike Colter and Finn Jones pairing up. We still look forward to this, of course, but it's not quite enough. The real move that Marvel and Netflix should make is abandoning any and all ideas for Iron Fist Season 2 to instead write him in as a supporting character on the second season on Luke Cage.
The way things play out in The Defenders might ultimately change certain things, but the franchise has a fairly straightforward path it could take in this direction. After Luke Cage and Danny Rand become buddy-buddy post-Defenders, they decide it's in their mutual interest to go into business together. As a result, the location in Harlem that used to be Pop's Barbershop gets transformed into the headquarters for Heroes For Hire, the comic book private eye firm that has vigilantes get paid for their good deeds. Luke Cage and his experiences in Harlem are still at the forefront of the story, while Iron Fist doesn't get totally abandoned. (Though the Meachums are.)
*Give Colleen Wing A Spinoff With Misty Knight *
The biggest issue with not making an Iron Fist Season 2 would be the potential disappearance of Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The good news is that there is another straightforward direction to go here, and that's to let her star in her very own series. Much like how Jon Bernthal's The Punisher is now getting a show thanks to Daredevil Season 2, the adventures of Colleen Wing could continue in Daughters Of The Dragon, a show that would team her up with Simone Missick's Misty Knight from Luke Cage.
Like Luke Cage and Iron Fist, the friendship between Colleen Wing and Misty Knight has decades of history, and it would be wonderful to see their dynamic explored as they team up for their own kind of New York style crime-fighting. It might be too much to set up Knightwing Restorations Inc., as having that compete with Heroes For Hire and Jessica Jones' Alias Investigations might be too much for the small screen franchise -- but there's truly an infinite number of adventures you could send the characters on that would stand out from the bunch. Plus the stories could have a special narrative element by specifically weaving in and out of the aforementioned goings-on in Luke Cage Season 2.
For now, we'll just be waiting to see what the folks at Marvel will do next with Iron Fist and the rest. The Defenders is set to hit Netflix at some point in the future, and you can head to our Netflix 2017 schedule, as well as our midseason guide and our summer TV schedule, to see everything coming to your TVs in the near future.
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.