A few days ago, Netflix made the announcement Marvel fans knew was coming, and yet were still dreading. After unceremoniously cancelling Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil, the streaming service put the final nail in its Marvel coffin by axing The Punisher, which recently wrapped its second season, and Jessica Jones, which has yet to air its now final third season.
The news put an end to what was once a promising partnership between Marvel and the streaming service. When Daredevil premiered on the streaming giant in 2015, fans know they could look forward to season of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist before all of these characters would be brought together on The Defenders. Along the way, The Punisher was added to the mix, and everything seemed fine.
Well, almost everything. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were all warmly received by fans and critics, but Iron Fist was skewered upon its release. But now that we have seen the full breadth of Netflix's corner of the Marvel Universe and take a look back, the initial adventures of Danny Rand weren't;t really as bad as they seemed at the time.
An Elaborate Origin Story
One of the main criticisms Iron First received was in its depiction of its leading character. Fans lamented the fact that Danny was rash and immature, that he wasn't the serene, level-headed character he is in the comics. They wanted to see an established Iron Fist, from the get-go.
But here's the thing: Matt Murdock wasn't fully established as Daredevil until the end of his first season; in fact, he wouldn't even get his signature weapon, the billy club, until late in Season 2. Similarly, Luke Cage didn't grow into his superheroic persona until the end of his first season. It would take Frank Castle two full seasons (not to mention an introductory storyline in Daredevil) before he would embrace his identity as The Punisher.
Fans were patient for all of these characters, so why should Danny Rand be treated any differently? Even before the season began, we were warned that Danny's origin story as the Iron Fist would extend into The Defenders, and that is exactly what we got. Season 1 introduced a naive and angry Danny Rand, a man who would grow into the calm living weapon fans praised in Luke Cage's Season 2 episode, "The Main Ingredient." An elaborate story was being told -- we just had to understand that the transformation wouldn't happen overnight.
An Unfair Pressure
Iron Fist's first season was the final solo hero series to debut before The Defenders, which placed an enormous amount of pressure on the show due to the high expectations and excitement that surrounded the team-up storyline. This anticipation would never be replicated for any other season of Netflix's Marvel shows.
For that reason, Iron Fist might have been seen as something that it was never intended to be. While it set the stage for The Defenders, it was its own thing first, spinning its own, carefully constructed standalone story. It didn't simply rush through Danny's development to position him as the Iron Fist. The thing most viewers saw as the series' biggest flaw was actually one of its most commendable efforts.
An Iron-Clad Cast
One Iron Fist's biggest strengths was its stellar cast, led by Finn Jones. From Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing to Tom Pelphrey's Ward Meachum, there was no shortage of fascinating and complex supporting characters for the actors to sink their teeth into. The love story between Colleen and Danny alone was enough to binge the series for, to see if these two would ever find the time to stop fighting and find comfort in each other.
Another source of criticism stemmed from the antagonists of the season, who many perceived as ill-defined. But the truth is, both Harold Meachum and the Hand were intentionally vague in their presentations. They needed to maintain an air of secrecy in order to keep the audience guessing their true motivations for most of the season. Iron Fist played with our expectations and finally revealed the full picture when the time was right -- when its hero was ready.
Season 1 of Iron Fist was unfairly judged from the start, even though it fit right in with the rest of Netflix's Marvel Universe, and brought the right balance between gritty, street-level drama and a mystical, super-powered hero. Despite the criticisms, in Season 2, The Defenders and Luke Cage, its leading actor showed that he was more than up to the task of bringing Marvel's Living Weapon to life. The character just had to get there first. Like all great heroes, he has to start from the bottom to build himself up.
Streaming now on Netflix, Marvel’s Iron Fist stars Finn Jones as Danny Rand, Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, Sacha Dhawan as Davos, Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum, Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum, Simone Missick as Misty Knight, and Alice Eve as Mary Walker. The Punisher Season 2 is currently airing on Netflix, with Jessica Jones Season 3 expected to arrive this summer.