Now that Marvel’s Defenders team up has had a chance to simmer and those who were super concerned about it have had ample opportunity to see it without being spoiled, it’s time to talk about it. Namely, I feel like it’s time to talk about the most unsung hero of unsung heroes. I'm here to celebrate a man who is truly the most important character in the batch of Netflix’s Marvel shows.
Of course, I’m talking about Danny Rand.
No, that wasn’t a typo. Let’s just reflect on how important the Immortal Iron Fist is.
First off, right there; how would we have all gotten to the exact level of properly sloshed we needed to be to properly enjoy both Iron Fist and the Defenders if we didn’t have so many characters enabling us to take a shot every time they referred to Danny specifically as the Immortal Iron Fist? Without that, we’d only be doing drinks every time someone referred to Daredevil as “The Devil in Hell’s Kitchen,” and that’s like maybe a light buzz, at best. Drinking when someone says “The Incident” was, of course, canceled after the first alcohol poisoning.
Then let’s consider episode runs. Of the rest of the Defenders shows, critics and even many fans, myself included, have lamented the overstretched feeling that comes with just about four too many episodes of every single season, save perhaps the very first of Daredevil which may have only been two too many. Iron Fist has such a completely incoherent, meandering plot, feeling at times as if each episode’s writer was only allowed to read the script prior to theirs as part of some strange creative exercise, that it allowed us to ignore the nagging sense that the eight episodes of Defenders felt just as overly stretched. After all, at least it was only eight and not twelve like that which had just come before it.
And that plot. The fact that not nearly enough, as in seemingly any, consideration was put into the question of maybe a super-rich white kung fu expert superhero doesn’t hold up as well in 2017 as he did in 1974 is obvious and glaring. Iron Fist the series took that a step further and decided to focus almost as much screen time as Danny on yet a second super-rich white family that we were, I guess, supposed to care about? It was exactly because of that "Dynasty with a touch of the undead and super heroin" B-story that we can remember Luke Cage way more fondly.
We can just focus on the fact that a superhero show set in Harlem with a cast made up almost exclusively (way to ruin it, Shades) of people of color exists, and not think about how initially it squandered Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard by sidelining her as a villain immediately after she killed her cousin Cottonmouth. I mean we get it, you wanted to hold Mariah for a second season so you had her stand aside while Diamondback who cares’d it up through the rest of the season, but you did Alfre dirty and you know it.
Like I said though, we don’t have to think about that because Ward Meachum’s dead father was kind of a dick.
Finally, speaking of that dead father, or more importantly, The Hand, the shadowy organization of super villains who helped keep him alive for... reasons. Thank goodness for Danny Rand, who actually did manage to fulfill the sacred duty of the Immortal Iron Fist (drink) and combat The Hand. He didn’t battle them with his immortal fist (don’t drink, that doesn’t count). He faced and defeated them on the field of mediocrity.
Danny was so effective in his complete yawn of an existence, going so far as to make even something as exciting as literally punching a dragon in the chest seem as interesting as Grandpa Simpson hanging an onion from his belt (which was the style at the time.) Actor Finn Jones’ choice to play his Danny with an absolute lack of any of the three e’s (engagement, emotion, or energy,) was so well handled that we didn’t even notice how utterly boring The Hand was.
The villains who had been pulling the strings behind the Kingpin in Daredevil's first season, who interrupted the stellar Punisher plot in its second, the big bad of post-Incident New York, were little more than a sub-par Hydra but with kung fu. Maybe the truth is that adapting an antagonist that has already been so soundly parodied by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that they somehow come across as the derivative ones wasn’t the best hook to hang your multi-series franchise on? The Hand were so boring that even the great Sigourney Weaver couldn’t make us care about them.
Luckily, just when that was becoming readily apparent, Danny Rand stepped up to the plate. We don’t have to think about anything else that happened in the Defenders ever again. We can just remember that moment, at the start of episode six, when Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage stood in a room, woke up and said: “Hey, you know, this show would actually be a lot more fun if the three of us just beat him up instead.”
And they did. And it was.