In Netflix’s new Iron Fist, based on the Marvel comic-book series, hero Danny Rand—the Iron Fist, the latest in a long line of martial-arts warriors—only occasionally uses his superpower: the ability to concentrate his chi into a stupendous knockout punch. But as is often the case, especially in the Marvel universe, Danny’s extraordinary gift is also a burden: Throughout the season, which premiered in March, his superpower is something that he seems at times to fight against (consciously or otherwise).
Iron Fist is the most recent addition to Netflix’s roster of Marvel series, and it’s the fourth and last before the premiere of The Defenders this summer. The Defenders will unite all of the previous series’ heroes—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist—into what you might call the New York City union local for the Avengers.
When we first meet Danny (played by Finn Jones, a casting decision that has not been without controversy), he’s dressed like he might be a surfer dude wandering the beaches of Southern California—except that he’s walking through midtown Manhattan, barefoot and listening to OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” on an early-generation iPod.
Danny’s come on a mission to reinstall himself as the rightful heir to Rand Enterprises, an ambiguously defined multinational corporation founded by his father, Wendell Rand (David Furr), and Wendell’s business partner, Harold Meachum (David Wenham). We see flashbacks of the plane crash in the Himalayas that killed Danny’s parents and forever changed his life. His mother is sucked out of the crumbling jet in midair as she reaches for young Danny; his father tells him that he loves him just before impact. A group of monks finds Danny, nearly dead, at the crash site and takes him to their mystical priory, K’un-Lun.
Back in New York many years later, Danny gets in touch with his former childhood friends Ward and Joy Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup), who now run Rand Enterprises since their father’s apparent death, and spends a few episodes trying unsuccessfully to convince them that he really is who he says he is. The Meachums even go so far as to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. It is there, in episode two, that we finally get a glimpse of the Iron Fist in action. Ward sets up Danny to be beaten to death in the hospital, and just as it looks like he’s about to receive the fatal blow, a yellow glow begins to emanate through his straitjacket. Danny bursts free of his restraints and subdues his attackers, then punches out a steel door (and the wall around it), enabling him to escape. We’ve seen Danny engage in fisticuffs before, but this is the first time we’ve witnessed his glowing wrecking ball of a power punch, and it’s clear by Danny’s reaction that he’s as surprised by it as we’re supposed to be.