Marvel’s Iron Fist, or simply Iron Fist, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Scott Buck, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise and is the fourth in a series of shows that will lead up to The Defenderscrossover miniseries. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and Devilina Productions, with Buck serving as showrunner.
Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand / Iron Fist, a martial arts expert with the ability to call upon the power of the Iron Fist. Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, Ramón Rodríguez, Sacha Dhawan, Rosario Dawson and David Wenham also star. After a film based on the character spent over a decade in development at Marvel Studios, development for the series began in late 2013 at Marvel Television, with Buck hired as the series showrunner in December 2015 and Jones cast as Rand in February 2016. Filming began in New York City in April 2016 and concluded in October 2016.
Iron Fist had its premiere on March 15, 2017, in New York City, with the full season of 13 episodes releasing on Netflix on March 17, 2017. The series received generally negative reviews from critics, particularly for its pace and storytelling, underwhelming fight sequences, and Jones’ performance. However, Henwick’s performance as Colleen Wing and the use of established characters Claire Temple and Jeri Hogarth was met with some praise. Third-party data analytics determined the series had strong initial viewership, but this was shortly cut in half.
Danny Rand returns to New York City, after being presumed dead for 15 years, to reclaim his family company from Harold Meachum and his children Ward Meachum and Joy Meachum. When a threat emerges, Rand must choose between his family’s legacy and his duties as the Iron Fist.
Cast and characters
- Finn Jones as Danny Rand / Iron Fist:
A billionaire Buddhist monk and martial artist proficient in kung-fu, with the ability to call upon the mystical power of the Iron Fist. Jones described the character as “someone struggling to find his identity”, and identified with the character’s loneliness being an orphan like Rand. He noted that “Danny gets really stressed and really pissed off sometimes, and I understand that … [his] optimism and where that comes from.” In preparation for the role, Jones studied kung fu, wushu, and tai chi, along with weight training, Buddhist philosophy, and meditation. Toby Nichols portrays a young Danny Rand.
- Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing:
A martial artist ally of Rand who runs her own martial arts dojo called Chikara Dojo in New York City. Henwick felt the most defining word for Wing was “alone”, saying, “She doesn’t want to be anyone’s love interest and open herself up in that way.” Henwick also tried “to pull out that sort of very dry humor that [Wing] has, and that no bullshit New Yorker demeanor” from the comics version in her portrayal.
- Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum:
The son of Harold and childhood acquaintance of Rand, whose work building up Rand Enterprises with his sister Joy is threatened to be undone with Rand’s return.Ward is a character from the comics, though Pelphrey noted “we’re not necessarily beholden to representing him [in the series] exactly as he appears in the comic book.” Stroup said that Ward would experience some “male angst” on Rand’s return, because “Ward would have been the one who picked on [Rand] when he was little so as pure and innocent and great as Iron Fist is, he comes in and he causes some problems” there. Ilan Eskenazi portrays a teenage Ward Meachum.
- Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum:
The daughter of Harold and childhood acquaintance of Rand, whose work building up Rand Enterprises with her brother Ward is threatened to be undone with Rand’s return. Stroup said that Joy “absolutely loves” Rand, and his return to New York is “like this rebirth of what she once was, and she gets to ask these questions about herself because he’s posing them to her.” Stroup said that Joy would initially be unsure whether Rand is who he says he is. Aimee Laurence portrays a young Joy Meachum.
- Ramón Rodríguez as Bakuto: A leader of a faction of The Hand and Colleen Wing’s sensei.
- Sacha Dhawan as Davos:
A skilled martial artist who is the son of Lei Kung and Rand’s former best friend in K’un-Lun, who grew envious when Rand became the Iron Fist. Although Dhawan first appeared in the ninth episode of the first season, Dhawan noted that the majority of Davos’ storyline was intended to be explored in a potential second season.
- Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple: A former nurse from Hell’s Kitchen who joins Wing’s dojo. Dawson reprises her role from previous Marvel Netflix series.
- David Wenham as Harold Meachum:
A ruthless corporate leader and co-founder of Rand Enterprises who was partners with Rand’s parents at the time of their deaths. Regarding Harold’s relationship with his children, Joy and Ward, Wenham said the dynamic between the three of them “is complex, to say the least. It’s multilayered, it’s multidimensional, it’s surprising and it’s forever changing, depending on the circumstances.”
- David Furr as Wendell Rand: Danny’s father and co-founder of Rand Enterprises.
- Barrett Doss as Megan: A secretary to Danny Rand and the Meachums at Rand Enterprises.
- Alex Wyse as Kyle: Harold Meachum’s personal assistant.
- Marquis Rodriguez as Darryl: A student at Wing’s dojo. Rodriguez reprises his role from Luke Cage.
- Wai Ching Ho as Gao: An accomplished woman and former ally of Wilson Fisk with her own heroin trade in Hell’s Kitchen who has connections with The Hand. Ho reprises her role from Daredevil.
- Ramon Fernandez as Kevin Singleton: Harold Meachum’s loyal bodyguard.
- Clifton Davis as Lawrence Wilkins: A member of the Rand Enterprises board of directors.
- John Sanders as Donald Hooper: A member of the Rand Enterprises board of directors.
- Elise Santora as Maria Rodriguez: A member of the Rand Enterprises board of directors.
- Victoria Haynes as Heather Rand: Danny’s mother.
- Esau Pritchett as Shannon: The chief of security at Rand Enterprises who is loyal to Ward Meachum.
- Murray Bartlett as Paul Edmonds: A psychiatrist at the mental hospital where Rand is first sent.
- Donte Grey as Caleb: A student at Wing’s dojo.
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth:
An attorney who helps Rand once he returns to New York. Loeb noted that “Carrie-Anne obviously lives in a different kind of world [from the optimistic Danny], and so being able to see those two worlds collide is just the beginning of the many obstacles that he goes through.” Moss reprises her role from previous Marvel Netflix series.
- Craig Geraghty as the ringmaster of an underground fight club.
- Henry Yuk as Hai-Qing Yang: The leader of the Hatchet Men triad whose pier was bought out by Joy Meachum.
- Samantha Herrera as Becca Woo: One of Wing’s students who trains to become a doctor with the help of The Hand.
- Jay Hieron as Jim Pierce: One of the fighters that Colleen Wing takes on in the cage match.
- Olek Krupa as Radovan Bernivig: A chemist who creates a synthetic heroin used by The Hand.
- Shirine Babb as Sandi Ann: A Rand Enterprises employee who helps Danny with lab work.
- Jeanna de Waal as Sophia: A sales representative for The Hand at Rand Enterprises, selling their synthetic heroin throughout New York.
- Tijuana Ricks as Thembi Wallace: A reporter from for WJBP-TV. Ricks reprises her role from Luke Cage.
- Hoon Lee as Lei Kung: Rand’s mentor in K’un-Lun and Davos’ father.
- Nikita Bogolyubov as Andrei Veznikov: A Russian butcher who fights with his brother Grigori for The Hand.
- Stan Demidoff as Grigori Veznikov: A Russian butcher who fights with his brother Andrei for The Hand.
- Jane Kim as the Bride of Nine Spiders: An arachnologist warrior who fights for The Hand.
- David Sakurai as Scythe: A skilled Japanese mercenary who fights for The Hand.
- Suzanne H. Smart as Shirley Benson: An administrator at Metro-General Hospital and Temple’s former boss. Smart reprises her role from Daredevil.
- Lewis Tan as Zhou Cheng: A servant of Ch’i-Lin who is tasked to protect Madame Gao’s heroin factory in Anzhou, China. He proficiently uses the Drunken Fist martial art style. Tan originally auditioned for the role of Danny Rand.
Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance through an on-set photograph, the same seen in previous Marvel Netflix series, as NYPD Captain Irving Forbush.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||“Snow Gives Way”||John Dahl||Scott Buck||March 17, 2017|
|Danny Rand enters Rand Enterprises asking to meet Harold Meachum, but is ignored due to his appearance. He fights his way through security and reaches Harold’s children Ward and Joy, who state that Harold has been dead for years, not believing him to be Rand. He starts spending his nights in a park, befriending a beggar calling himself Big Al. He also meets Colleen Wing, whom he asks for a training job in her newly opened dojo; but she ignores him too. Rand makes another attempt to convince Joy, and later Ward. The siblings believe that the rivals of Rand Enterprise are planning to show a leadership struggle within the company now that they are going to announce their expansion in China. Rand is attacked by Ward’s mercenaries. Wing attempts to save Rand, but witnesses him overpowering them. Harold is revealed to be alive and in hiding, being in contact with Ward. Harold considers the possibility that Rand is alive and orders Ward to leave the situation to him. Rand faces Joy and tells her about Ward’s actions. However, she drugs Rand, who is taken to a hospital. Flashbacks show Rand as a child when his family plane crashes in the Himalayas.|
|2||“Shadow Hawk Takes Flight”||John Dahl||Scott Buck||March 17, 2017|
|Rand is revealed to be at a psychiatric hospital, assigned to Dr. Paul Edmonds. Rand continues insisting on his true identity. Harold is revealed to have the hospital on surveillance. He has Ward talk to Wing. Ward offers her money in exchange for her confirmation of Rand’s alleged condition. Harold secretly visits Rand, who reveals that he is the current Iron Fist, the sworn enemy of The Hand. Wing visits Rand, who reveals his true identity and why Ward is afraid of him. She refuses Ward’s offer. Joy deduces that Rand is right and tells Ward, who refuses to free him. Edmonds also learns the truth and asks Rand about after the crash. The latter states that he was transferred by two monks to K’un-Lun, another dimension that becomes connected to the Earth periodically. Edmonds does not believe it and diagnoses him with an anxiety disorder caused by trauma. Harold decides to move Rand to a safe place since he can be useful. Instead, Ward orders his men posed as patients to kill Rand, who overpowers them by summoning the Iron Fist, which he uses to break out of the hospital.|
|3||“Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch”||Tom Shankland||Quinton Peeples||March 17, 2017|
|Harold is revealed to be under the control of an unknown woman who punishes him for temporarily leaving the penthouse. Wing is attacked by Ward’s security personnel, whom she overpowers before being confronted by Rand, whom she allows to stay at the dojo. Rand visits Joy, who offers him 100 million dollars if he changes his identity and leaves the Meachums. He refuses and later meets Jeri Hogarth, an old friend of the family. She promises to reclaim his identity in exchange for a permanent contract between her firm and Rand Enterprise. Rand attacks an impolite student of Wing’s, provoking her to expel the former, who goes to an apartment owned by Hogarth. In a meeting, Hogarth and Rand show Ward and Joy a handmade ceramic bowl of Joy’s containing a younger Rand’s fingerprint, thus proving his claim, promising to present it in the upcoming court. Deducing that Harold is alive, Rand follows Ward to the penthouse, where he climbs to the window, which he opens before being pushed down by an unknown person. Meanwhile, Harold forces Ward to buy a specific pier, which he does, with help from Joy. Flashbacks show Rand being beaten by the monks.|
|4||“Eight Diagram Dragon Palm”||Miguel Sapochnik||Scott Reynolds||March 17, 2017|
|After falling unconscious on the ledge, Rand wakes up in the penthouse where Ward reveals that he was the one who pushed him off the window. Upon his arrival, Harold reveals that his cancer was secretly cured by The Hand, which demanded his loyalty in return and allowed him to reveal the truth only to Ward. Harold asks Rand to destroy The Hand in order to free him, which Rand accepts. In exchange, Harold orders Ward to accept Rand’s return to the company, where his return is announced in a press conference. In a board meeting, Rand uses his position as the majority shareholder to enforce his decision to sell a newly developed leishmaniasis drug at cost in order to save more lives. At his apartment, Joy is attacked by Triad operatives, whom Rand overpowers. He takes her to the dojo before confronting the Triad leader, who reveals that they hold a grudge against Joy for robbing the pier. However, he completely surrenders to Rand’s position after Rand reveals that the Hand was behind it. As a reward for securing the pier, The Hand allows Harold to observe Joy from distance. He notices she has been wounded and asks to be allowed to kill the Triad member responsible, which is accepted. Rand receives a message from Yang Hai-Qing.|
|5||“Under Leaf Pluck Lotus”||Uta Briesewitz||Cristine Chambers||March 17, 2017|
|A new synthetic heroin appears in New York City. Rand connects it to The Hand; but Ward dismisses it. After a chemical factory owned by the Rand Enterprises on Staten Island produces carcinogenic waste chemicals, Rand personally apologizes to a complaining citizen, with the conversation being recorded by a lawyer and later disclosed to the media. In a board meeting, where Rand is absent, Ward convinces the shareholders to stand against the accusations instead of accepting responsibility. However, the anxiety of being always watched by Harold causes Ward to have a drug overdose. Rand meets Claire Temple, who trains at the dojo. He convinces Wing to help him infiltrate the pier in order to prove his theory. At the pier, they find the containers apparently loaded with normal supplies. Rand enters one of the containers, where he finds a hidden room housing Radovan, the chemist who created the formula since The Hand has his daughter hostage. Rand engages and overpowers a bodyguard after said bodyguard critically stabs Radovan, whom Rand takes to the dojo, where Temple stabilizes him. Wing vows to help Rand defeat The Hand, which is revealed to be run by Wilson Fisk’s old ally Madame Gao where she kills her operative King for letting Rand make off with Radovan.|
|6||“Immortal Emerges from Cave”||RZA||Dwain Worrell||March 17, 2017|
|In order to satisfy Joy, Ward throws all of his drugs away. He and Rand start searching the warehouses of Rand Enterprises in order to find clues. They find a message left by The Hand in the form of the severed head of Radovan’s guard challenging Rand to a combat. Rand tells Ward to proceed to the crisis management meeting about the video alone. Rand enters the building, demanding The Hand to free Sabina, Radovan’s daughter, and leave his company if he wins, which Gao accepts in exchange for Rand to leave The Hand alone if he loses, which he accepts in return. The first round has Rand facing Andrei and Grigori Veznikov. The second round has Rand facing Bride of Nine Spiders. The third round has him facing Scythe. Rand wins all three rounds by the spiritual help of his mentor from K’un-Lun Lei Kung; but Gao threatens to kill Sabina if Rand kills Scythe. Rand spares him, against Lei Kung’s orders. Gao frees Sabina, revealing that she has been in K’un-Lun before, and also knowing Rand’s father. She easily overpowers Rand and allows the duo to leave. Meanwhile, Radovan’s condition becomes critical, forcing Temple and Wing to take him to a hospital, where The Hand abducts him. Ward shows withdrawal symptoms in the meeting, forcing him to leave in order to search for drugs. Joy stops him from causing trouble at an infirmary.|
|7||“Felling Tree with Roots”||Farren Blackburn||Ian Stokes||March 17, 2017|
|Two Hand operatives named Alexi and Vando arrive at the penthouse to interrogate Harold. Rand arrives and engages them with Harold, who kills both. Harold and Ward disfigure the corpses and Ward dumps them in a river. Rand develops a romance with Wing. He starts investigating his father’s past. Gao arrives at Rand Enterprises, advising Rand to stay out of The Hand’s way. She leaves, with him tailing her to an office, where she discusses business with an employee loyal to her. After Gao leaves, Rand confronts the employee Sophia and convinces her to leave the city and give him her password. Rand and Wing persuade Yang to help them fight The Hand. Joy convinces Ward to go to a vacation. In a board meeting, Rand announces his decision to close the Staten Island plant while keeping the workers on payroll. Rand, Wing and Yang’s operatives attack a Hand facility, where a dying Radovan reveals that Gao has departed for Anzhou, where Rand’s family was headed fifteen years ago. The board ousts Rand, Ward and Joy. Ward learns that his personal account has been depleted. He confronts Harold, who humiliates him. Ward stabs Harold several times to his death. He dumps the body in the river.|
|8||“The Blessing of Many Fractures”||Kevin Tancharoen||Tamara Becher-Wilkinson||March 17, 2017|
|Rand deduces that his father was going to Anzhou to shut down Gao’s operations, but was targeted by her on the plane. Rand, Wing and Temple head to Anzhou, where they acquire information from a nearby beggar. They infiltrate the facility just as Gao arrives. Rand engages Zhou Chen; who uses an advanced kung fu style, drunken boxing. The former overpowers the latter and continues beating him until Temple and Wing arrive and stop him. Gao arrives and her men engage the trio, who overpower them. Rand deduces that Gao poisoned the pilots. He spares her life and apprehends her. Meanwhile, the board offers Ward and Joy $100 million each as severance. He attempts to accept it; but she refuses, later showing him photos of the board members that can be used to blackmail them. Ward decides to tell her the truth about Harold and takes her to the penthouse; but guilty hallucinations about blood make him change his mind.|
|9||“The Mistress of All Agonies”||Jet Wilkinson||Pat Charles||March 17, 2017|
|Rand takes Gao to the dojo, where Temple offers using truth serum to force her to talk. Rand steals the serum from Rand Enterprises. Temple injects it, with Gao stating some stories about Rand’s parents before they turn out to be lies and Gao being resistant to torture. Wing is revealed to have been poisoned in Anzhou. She contacts her mentor Bakuto. Gao’s military operatives attack the dojo, but are defeated. Bakuto arrives and instructs Rand to use the Iron Fist to heal Wing. Rand’s energy is depleted and he falls unconscious. Bakuto, Wing and his men take Rand and Gao, leaving Temple at the dojo. An unknown assassin arrives at the dojo. Meanwhile, Harold recovers from his wounds and gains relatively normal mental function after hours, returning to the penthouse where he confronts Ward and feigns absolution. Ward learns from Yang that those revived by The Hand become more psychopathic after each revival, and attack those closest to them first. Harold kills his assistant Kyle and places heroin in Ward’s car, leading to his arrest and transfer to the psychiatric hospital where he is assigned to Dr. Edmonds. Joy arrives at the penthouse and reunites with Harold.|
|10||“Black Tiger Steals Heart”||Peter Hoar||Quinton Peeples||March 17, 2017|
|Rand wakes up in a martial academy run by Bakuto, who teaches him how to recharge his “chi”. The former becomes suspicious and infiltrates a restricted area, where he learns from an imprisoned Gao that Bakuto is a Hand leader. Rand confronts Wing who states that Gao is the leader of an evil faction of The Hand. Bakuto offers Harold partnership during his visit to him; but the latter later determines to kill him. Rand learns that The Hand is conducting mass surveillance. He is confronted by Bakuto, whom he overpowers and attempts to escape before being surrounded by Hand operatives. The assassin, revealed to be Davos, comes to his aid. Bakuto stabs Rand with an unknown object. The duo fights its way to the gate, which needs to be destroyed by the Iron Fist, which Rand is unable to summon. The duo continues fighting The Hand until Wing opens the gate, allowing the duo to escape while she escapes in her own direction. Davos tells Rand that they need to return to K’un-Lun. Meanwhile, Harold kills board member Wilkins upon finding out about his prostitution record, staging it as suicide. Joy manages to convince the board to reinstate the Meachums and Rand. Harold denies his involvement in Wilkins’ death to her.|
|11||“Lead Horse Back to Stable”||Deborah Chow||Ian Stokes||March 17, 2017|
|Rand tells Davos that they will not return to K’un-Lun until The Hand is destroyed. They go to Temple’s where she extracts the fragment of Bakuto’s weapon from Rand’s wound, stopping the bleeding, but failing to control the infection due to lack of antibiotics. Wing arrives and tries to reason with Rand. She goes to a hospital where she asks an extern, also a Hand member, for antibiotics. Rand goes to the penthouse where Joy has discovered that Bakuto has been transferring Rand Enterprises’ money to his own accounts. Harold formulates a plan to flush out Bakuto and his operatives from the compound by having Joy freeze the accounts. The former and Rand agree to kill Bakuto, opposed by Joy. The Hand captures Wing and take her to the compound where Bakuto decides to use her for revival. Outside the compound, Rand and Davos wait for Bakuto. Davos continues questioning Rand’s motive for staying in New York. Joy freezes the accounts. Wing frees herself and escapes, spotted by Rand, who rushes inside and calms her. Davos learns about the romance.|
|12||“Bar the Big Boss”||Andy Goddard||Scott Reynolds||March 17, 2017|
|Ward escapes the hospital and goes to the penthouse, holding a gun and demanding Harold to let him take Joy. Bakuto and his operatives arrive, with the former calling Rand, shooting Joy and giving him half an hour to arrive at the penthouse in order to save the trio. Against Davos’s objections, Rand decides to go, arriving just before Bakuto can decapitate Harold, the only way to kill him for good. The Hand locks Rand and takes him to the lobby, where Rand uses the Fist to free himself just as Davos and Wing attack The Hand, with Rand overpowering Bakuto, who escapes outside before he is cornered by the trio. Wing engages and overpowers him, refusing to kill him, which Davos does after Rand’s refusal. The latter engages Davos and overpowers him, stating that he wishes to be both Rand and the Iron Fist. Davos departs and the pair finds Bakuto’s body gone. Harold and Ward take Joy to a hospital. Rand and Wing return to the dojo. The next day, Ward texts Rand, alerting him that Harold has set him up. The dojo is attacked by DEA agents, whom the pair defeats and escapes.|
|13||“Dragon Plays with Fire”||Stephen Surjik||Scott Buck & Tamara Becher-Wilkinson & Pat Charles||March 17, 2017|
|Harold enters Rand Enterprises and takes control of it. Rand and Wing go to Bakuto’s facility which is abandoned by The Hand. However, they find Gao, who reveals that Harold was the mastermind of the plane crash fifteen years prior. Ward tells Joy about Harold’s actions. She confronts the latter, who denies framing Rand. She leaves for an unknown destination. Ward allies with Rand’s team to defeat Harold. The former enters Rand Enterprises, but is spotted by Harold, who wounds him. Temple creates a distraction for Rand and Wing to infiltrate the building. Harold instructs his men to shoot Rand, since the Iron Fist is not bulletproof after all. Rand and Wing manage to overpower Harold’s operatives. While Ward acquires evidence of Rand’s innocence, the latter follows Harold to the rooftop, where they fight until Ward arrives and shoots Harold, who falls to his death. Ward has the body cremated. Rand convinces Wing to accompany him to K’un-Lun. In a meeting with Joy, Davos tells her that Rand must be killed which is overheard by Gao. Rand and Wing arrive at the gate, but find it closed and surrounded by bodies of the slain Hand assassins.|
An Iron Fist film had been in development at Marvel Studios since 2000, originally to be co-financed by Artisan Entertainment. Ray Park was hired to star, but the project went through multiple directors and ultimately did not come to fruition. Development continued after Marvel Studios began to self-finance their films in the middle of the decade, with Marvel hiring a group of writers to develop some of their “lesser-known properties”, including Iron Fist. In 2010, Rich Wilkes was hired to write a new draft for the film, and by May 2013, Iron Fist was said to be one of the “projects on the horizon” for Marvel.
In October 2013, Deadline reported that Marvel Television was preparing four drama series and a miniseries, totaling 60 episodes, to present to video on demand services and cable providers, with Netflix, Amazon, and WGN America expressing interest. A few weeks later, Marvel and Disney announced that Marvel Television and ABC Studios would provide Netflix with live action series centered around Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders. In April 2015, the official title was revealed to be Marvel’s Iron Fist. That November, Marvel Television head and executive producer Jeph Loeb addressed unconfirmed rumors that Marvel was having a difficult time balancing Iron Fist’s mystical elements in its grounded world, and that the series could be replaced with a film or a Punisher series. He explained that Marvel and Netflix deliberately held off on Iron Fist news until Marvel’s Jessica Jones premiered so that series, revolving around a character largely unknown to the general audience, got the spotlight. Loeb promised that news on a showrunner would be coming, and Marvel announced that Scott Buck would serve in the role a month later. The series was originally intended to be the third of the announced series from Netflix, debuting after Jessica Jones, but was switched with Marvel’s Luke Cage after Luke Cage became a breakout star of Jessica Jones and Marvel wanted to “follow the momentum”. John Dahl, Cindy Holland, Allie Goss, Alison Engel, Kris Henigman, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Jim Chory, Loeb and Buck serve as executive producers on the series.
Also in January 2015, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos stated the series was “eligible to go into multiple seasons for sure” and Netflix would look at “how well [they] are addressing both the Marvel fanbase but also the broader fanbase” in terms of determining if additional seasons would be appropriate. In July 2015, Sarandos said some of the Defenders series would “selectively have multiple seasons as they come out of the gate.”Sarandos stated further a year later that a potential second season would not debut until 2018 at the earliest, after Marvel’s The Defenders released on August 18, 2017.
Tamara Becher serves as a writer on the series, for which each episode is named after a kung-fu move. Quesada stated in July 2016 that “there’s a lot going on” in Iron Fist, with Buck and the series’ writers weaving together “some great legends from Marvel present and past” including what Quesada believed to be the most antagonists in a single season of a Marvel/Netflix series. That October, Buck stated the series would have a lighter tone to it than the previous Marvel Netflix series, given that “Danny Rand himself is a much lighter character. He’s someone that has optimism and hope, and despite whatever the odds are, everything is always going to work out.” Buck also likened Iron Fist to a mystery, saying, “It’s very much about how do you go about proving who you are when there’s no way to do that, and that’s not just the story, that’s also the theme of it, which is ‘How do you go about proving who you are when no one knows, including yourself, what’s happened to you?'”
On first discovering Rand’s powers, Buck described them as “not the greatest superpowers. All he can do is punch really hard … you can use it in some ways but in rest of his life, it’s not really all that significant. His greatest gift is his martial arts skills, and that’s something he suffered and worked for.” The writers and producers approached “scientists to discuss how someone could potentially have that type of super strength in the real world.” Loeb described the series as “Marvel’s foray into martial arts films”, and Buck stated that the comics were just “a starting-off point” for the series, which would be “very grounded [and] character driven”. The series begins with Rand returning to New York after having been missing, presumed dead, for 15 years. Buck said that “a lot of [the series] is about a journey of finding self … in terms of what he wants to be as far as ‘Who is Danny Rand? What is the Iron Fist?’ and then, ‘How do these things get together?'” Loeb described the structure of the first season as building “through a series of sort of metaphorical fights, which is very important in a martial arts film, to sort of show how the character needs to grow from the innocent, wide-eyed person to someone who has to come to terms with ‘this is the way the outside world works—how am I going to make it work for me?’ It’s a journey of self, which is something that we haven’t really had a chance to do” in previous Marvel series.
Continuing on the idea from the previous Marvel Netflix series that New York City is a “fifth Defender”, Loeb said the series would examine the high-end financial world of New York City, examining “the One Percent of the One Percent and how that affects our world on a day-to-day basis… high-level corporation, Big Pharma, things like that”. Jones added the series examined “corporate corruption and corporate responsibility in the modern world, and… [h]ow much do corporations have impact on society? And what we actually look at in the show is the heroin epidemic of the city, and how corporations maybe actually fund the heroin epidemic, and what that means to society”.
Jones felt the series was “actually a feminist television show” calling the female characters “incredibly strong, incredibly unique, and they really hold the men up in that world… All the men in our show are falling apart. They need these women to hold them up”. In terms of Rand donning a costume in the season, Buck stated, “There was no good reason we could imagine to put Danny Rand in a costume. Because Danny Rand is still discovering who he is as a hero and where he is going to be, so he’s not yet ready to put on a mask or a costume. [A]t the same time he is someone who is rather well known as a billionaire, so he can’t necessarily go out in public and do the things he does without being recognized. It does become an issue for the character.”
Casting for Iron Fist began by November 2015, with Finn Jones being cast as Danny Rand / Iron Fist in February 2016, but not officially confirmed by Marvel until March. On casting Jones, Buck said, “we saw him and I think we all just knew immediately this is our guy… He just seemed to be able to display [the character’s youthful optimism and badass attitude] when needed and sometimes all at once, so he was very capable and flexible as he brought the character to life.” By April, Jessica Henwick, David Wenham, Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey were cast as Colleen Wing, Harold Meachum, Joy Meachum, and Ward Meachum, respectively, and by June, Sacha Dhawan had been cast as Davos, though he was not revealed to be in the role until March 2017. In October 2016, it was revealed that Rosario Dawson would reprise her role of Claire Temple from previous Marvel/Netflix series. Ramón Rodríguez also stars as Bakuto.
Recurring throughout the series are David Furr as Wendell Rand, Danny’s father; Barrett Doss as Megan, a Rand Enterprises secretary; Alex Wyse as Kyle, Harold Meachum’s personal assistant;and Ramon Fernandez as Kevin Singleton, Harold Meachum’s bodyguard. Wai Ching Ho recurs as Gao, reprising her role from Daredevil, and Marquis Rodriguez recurs as Darryl, reprise his role from Luke Cage.Clifton Davis, John Sanders, and Elise Santora portray Lawrence Wilkins, Donald Hooper, and Maria Rodriguez, respectively, members of the Rand Enterprise board. Also returning from previous Marvel Netflix series are Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth, Tijuana Ricks as Thembi Wallace, and Suzanne H. Smart as Shirley Benson.
Stephanie Maslansky is the costume designer for Iron Fist, after serving the same role for the previous Marvel Netflix series. Maslansky noted one of the differences in the series compared to the other Marvel Netflix series was the neighborhoods it spent time in (“the wealthier neighborhoods; Midtown, Upper East Side, that sort of thing”) compared to Hell’s Kitchen for Daredevil and Jessica Jones and Harlem for Luke Cage. As such, Rand wears more suits than the other heroes, and given the amount of fighting he does in the series, a lot of spandex was added to increase the suits’ flexibility. Rand’s look evolves throughout the series, with Maslansky noting, “When we first meet him he’s clearly traveled a long way. I wanted people to look at Danny and not be sure exactly what he was. A backpacker, or a homeless man. His look needed to reflect a variety of culture… almost … otherworldly.” Once Rand enters the corporate world, he settles on an “Urban Cali” style, which is “a little looser, little more relaxed. But it’s still a suit. His tie is never tied tightly and he always wears sneakers.” This relaxed style for Rand also provided “a strong contrast” to Ward Meachum who is a “far more corporate looking person.” The monk costumes and Rand’s warrior costume was based on “real Shaolinwarrior monk costumes… I took that distinctive silhouette from the Shaolin warrior monk clothing, and we combined it with the traditional colors of the Iron Fist, green and gold.” Regarding Gao, Maslansky stated “Her particular look is influenced by ancient China,” particularly the Terracotta Army and further progress the “villany” look of the Marvel Netflix series of ” surround[ing] themselves with [money], with beautiful things.”
Marvel announced in February 2014 that the series would be filmed in New York City, with Quesada stating in April that the show would be filming in areas of Brooklyn and Long Island City that still look like the old Hell’s Kitchen, in addition to sound stage work. Filming began in April 2016, with the working title Kick. Manuel Billeter served as director of photography for the series, after doing the same for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and Brett Chan is the series’ stunt-coordinator and second unit director. Additional filming locations included Mariners Harbor and Sailors’ Snug Harbor on Staten Island, which served as Bakuto’s compound; 28 Liberty Street for the exterior of Rand Enterprises, while some interiors were filmed in the MetLife Building; 19 Gramercy Park South for Joy Meachum’s home; City Hall Park; Chinatown, including Mott Street; the lobby of the General Electric Building for Harold Meachum’s penthouse; the Manhattan Bridge; Green-Wood Cemetery; Bank of America Tower; Bryant Park; the Presidential Suite in the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel, serving as Rand’s temporary apartment; the STK Midtown restaurant; Brooklyn Navy Yard; Pelham Bay Park; the Bayonne Bridge, which doubled as Anzhou, China; and Sutton Place Park.Filming wrapped on October 8, 2016.
Iron Fist was filmed in high dynamic range (HDR), which Billeter stated added “a learning curve” to his work, forcing him to rethink how he would shoot certain scenes, such as a car lights or street lights, which become much brighter in HDR than previously. To compensate, lights would be painted on set to help “bring down the highlights”. Post-production vendor Deluxe worked on the series to adjust colors the filming team did not have the chance to tweak on set.
In late October 2016, Trevor Morris was revealed to be composing the music for the series. A soundtrack album featuring Morris’s score was released by Marvel digitally on March 17, 2017, coinciding with the release of the series. Also included is the album-only single “Come Down”, by Anderson .Paak. Additional music in the series includes “So Fresh, So Clean” by Outkast, “Krystal Karrington” by Camp Lo, “Heat of the Moment” by Killah Priest, “Black Mags” by The Cool Kids, “Hang N’ Bang” by Vince Staples, “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1” by Run the Jewels, and music from A Tribe Called Quest.
All music by Trevor Morris, except where noted.
Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-ins
Iron Fist is the fourth of the ordered Netflix series, after Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, before leading into the miniseries, The Defenders. In November 2013, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that if the characters prove popular on Netflix, “It’s quite possible that they could become feature films,” which Sarandos echoed in July 2015. In August 2014, Vincent D’Onofrio, Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, stated that after the “series stuff with Netflix”, Marvel has “a bigger plan to branch out”. In March 2015, Loeb spoke on the ability for the series to crossover with the MCU films and the ABC television series, saying, “It all exists in the same universe. As it is now, in the same way that our films started out as self-contained and then by the time we got to The Avengers, it became more practical for Captain America to do a little crossover into Thor 2 and for Bruce Banner to appear at the end of Iron Man 3. We have to earn that. The audience needs to understand who all of these characters are and what the world is before you then start co-mingling in terms of where it’s going.”
In working around the other Marvel Netflix series, Buck described “a fair amount of freedom”, but “because we are leading into The Defenders, we have to leave our show in a very specific place with our character, because we do sort of plant seeds and stories that will then come to fruition in The Defenders. There does have to be a lot of cooperation between all the different” series’ showrunners for that aspect. “But other than that,” he continued, “we work distinctly by ourselves.” The series makes references to the events of The Avengers, the Hulk, Stark Industries, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Seagate Prison, and mentions the Dogs of Hell biker gang, New York Bulletin editor-in-chief Mitchell Ellison and reporter Karen Page, Roxxon Oil and Midland Circle. The events of the second season of Daredevil, such as The Hand’s attack on Metro General Hospital, is noted throughout the series, and The Hand’s blood draining facility is also seen.
Iron Fist was released on March 17, 2017 on the streaming service Netflix worldwide, in Ultra HD 4K and HDR. The 13 hour-long episodes were released simultaneously, as opposed to a serialized format, to encourage binge-watching, a format which has been successful for other Netflix series.
Disney Consumer Products created a small line of products that cater to a more adult audience, given the show’s edgier tone. Paul Gitter, senior VP of Marvel Licensing for Disney Consumer Products said, “We’ll be focusing less on products that are targeted at the very young consumer,” and more on teens and adult with products at stores or outlets like Hot Topic. Additionally, the series will be supported by a Marvel Knights merchandise program that will open new opportunities for product lines as well as new collector focused opportunities. Despite not being a feature film property, licensing partners wanted to pair up with Marvel given its previous successes; “When we go to partners, they pretty much rely on history as being reflective of the future,” Gitter said.
In October 2016, Buck and the series’ main cast promoted the series at New York Comic-Con, debuting exclusive footage from the series and the first look at the first trailer. In early February 2017, the official trailer for the series was released. On March 15, 2017, the series held its premiere at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City.
As Netflix does not reveal subscriber viewership numbers for any of their original series, Parrot Analytics determined the series was generating the second-highest demand among the Marvel Netflix series during their respective launch weeks. Parrot calculated that Iron Fist was generating over 63 million “Demand Expressions” at its peak, behind Luke Cage‘s 69 million, with Parrot calculating expressions “by evaluating streaming video, P2P-sharing, social chatter, and more.” 7Park Data, which measures the number of streams on subscription video services, determined Iron Fist to be the most binge-watched premiere for Netflix in 2017. It found that 54.7% of Iron Fist streams on March 17, 2017 were of three episodes or more, against the average hour-long show binge score of 46.9%. 7Park Data also determined that Iron Fist accounted for 14.6% of all Netflix streams on its premiere date, the highest percentage of any series premiere measured by the company, beating the second season of Daredevil (13.8%) and Luke Cage (12.8%) on their premiere dates. Parrot later revealed that demand for Iron Fist a week after it launched was cut in half. This was the largest drop in retention between the four Marvel Netflix series, potentially indicating “that people started binge-watching the show in its first few days and then didn’t come back to finish the season the next weekend.”
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 17% approval rating with an average rating of 4.2/10 based on 52 reviews. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Despite some promising moments, Iron Fist is weighed down by an absence of momentum and originality.” Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 37 out of 100 based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating “generally unfavorable reviews”.
Reviewing the first six episodes of the series, Daniel Fienberg for The Hollywood Reporter had negative thoughts, calling Iron Fist Marvel and Netflix’s “first big misstep” adding, “Iron Fist feels like a step backward on every level, a major disappointment that already suffers from storytelling issues through the first six episodes… and would probably be mercifully skippable in its entirety if it weren’t the bridge into the long awaited Defenders crossover series.” Fienberg noted the many things lacking in the series from previous Marvel Netflix series, including: “street-level authenticity”; “subtext” as “There’s no specificity to Danny’s experience other than the most generic of identity crises…and Jones is far too placid a leading man to give any sense of Danny’s internal torment,” which leads him to come across like “a spoiled frat boy”; and “a worthy adversary to our hero”, which added to the “baffling” number of basic character archetypes missing in the series, as there was also “no comic relief or voice of wise authority and well-delivered exposition.” He called the series’ fights “weakly staged and all-too-brief, without any effort to even pretend that the show’s leading man is doing any of his own stunts” and felt “Danny’s strength and his enhanced abilities are barely explained and inconsistently depicted.” Fienberg also felt of Dawson’s appearance, that “after five seasons of four Marvel-Netflix shows, nobody has yet figured out what [Claire Temple’s] role in this universe is other than ‘continuity’.”
Variety‘s Maureen Ryan gave a negative review for the first two episodes, calling the series “frustrating”, “ferociously boring” and “inessential”. Ryan added, “Not one element of this plodding piece works. The action scenes lack spark, snap, and originality. None of the flat, by-the-numbers characters makes any lasting impression… It takes forever for anything to happen on Iron Fist, and as it stumbles along, the uninspired production design, unexceptional cinematography, and painful dialogue fail to distract the viewer from the overall lack of depth, detail, or momentum.” Ryan also questioned why Henwick could not have been the star of the series, after claiming she was “underwritten” as Colleen Wing, or another Asian actor, to stand out with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage where “the distinct identities and concerns their protagonists carried into battle… Those kinds of social, political, and moral clashes among specific characters and cultures could have amped up the drama”.
Allison Keene of Collider.com awarded the series 3 stars out of 5 after seeing the first six episodes. She called the series “a confused, choppy mix of the supernatural seen through the lens of business casual… Despite a very good cast and a great origin story, Iron Fist is predictable, a little hammy, and has no real sense of how to tell a cohesive story. As such, it has a few moments that are great and many that are not.” Keene also noted the “glacial pace forces plot points and character interactions to be drawn out to a ludicrous degree. Even when things do pick up from there, the editing is choppy, the narrative doesn’t connect particularly well, and Danny’s personality and decision making abilities are split somewhere between an adult man and a 12-year-old boy (which is no real fault of Jones’ — he comes off as charming). It leaves the show with a lot of moving parts and a lot of potential, but ultimately without a central drive or clear motivations.” Keene agreed with Fienberg on the lack of villain the series presented as well as, “a very awkwardly shoe-horned Claire Temple”, noting at this point it is “less and less believable as each show wears on that the eventual Defenders haven’t run into each other, or that these connecting characters don’t bother mentioning other supers they know in the same neighborhood.” She concluded that instead of presenting “what could have been the boldest” of the Marvel Netflix series, it instead “doubled-down on the problems” the other series had instead of learning from them.
In his review for Screen Crush, Kevin Fitzpatrick stated, “The honest truth is that Iron Fist needed to be so much weirder than it actually is, akin to how Doctor Strange essentially re-told the Iron Man story with enough out-there visuals and eccentric supporting characters to paper over any shortcomings. Iron Fist starts to show signs of life in its sixth episode… but the slog in getting there is too great an ask, especially when the vast majority of the principal characters feel so spectacularly underdeveloped.” Fitzpatrick felt that Henwick’s Colleen Wing was “the most fully-realized character” with “a rich supporting performance” that is overlooked in the early episodes. Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall felt of the first six episodes, “Iron Fist is virtually all talk — most of it painfully dull — and the fighting is both brief and unconvincing. It’s easily the worst of the Netflix Marvel shows — where the others tend to start off well and then run into massive pacing problems around episode 8 or 9, Iron Fist begins as if it’s already at that sag point — and an unfortunate illustration of the perils of miscasting.” He also criticized Jones’ fighting ability and the way the fights were filmed and edited. Some of the few positive for the series were the appearances of Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth and Dawson. Sepinwall concluded, “the biggest problem with the new show is that no one involved seems to have any kind of take on the material. They’re just making a mostly faithful but personality-free adaptation because someone at Marvel decided four years ago that Danny (who often partners with Luke in the comics) had to be the final member of the team… [As a result,] we got a show that’s so lifeless that I have no interest in finishing out the season”.
Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone criticized Jones’ performance, stating, Jones “plays Danny as a case of a secret identity that might be just too well disguised – because he’s so totally devoid of charisma, more cub than lone wolf. With his scruffy beard and dazed “who, me?” eyes, Jones could be one of the twinkling boy-men who populated Hollywood comedies a decade ago, except now the party’s over and he can’t understand why bad hombres keep trying to kill him… Iron Fist has no humor either, so it ends up just looking like a superhero drama where they forgot to invite the superhero…. Iron Fist‘s hero can’t seem to muster any inner turmoil beyond the occasional harshed vibe. There doesn’t seem to be much of anything going on his skull. His mystic Zen quotes go over like a Wayne’s World set-up minus the punch line.”
Dan Jolin offered more positive thoughts on the series, giving it 3 stars out of 5 in his review for Empire. He felt it was beneficial that Iron Fist released after Luke Cage, instead of before as originally planned, in order for Doctor Strange to release to introduce the MCU to “all his Eastern-mystical baggage”, and called Iron Fist “a fresh presence” compared to “the less ostentatious power-sets and moody, conflicted heroism” of the other Defenders. Jolin did criticize that showrunner Buck had “no sense of connection to his subject” as previous Marvel Netflix showrunners had, and felt it was not until the sixth episode “that you really feel the pulp martial-arts-movie-riffing origins, and that’s thanks to its director, RZA. He finally gives the show a proper sense of flair, shamelessly reveling in the genre’s campier elements through a fun, three-act combat-challenge structure. It’s enough to make you wish they made him the showrunner.” He concluded, “Iron Fist works some fantastical flavor into the MCU’s down-to-earth Defenders nook, but it needs more proper kung-fu flair than showrunner Buck allows.”
In response to the criticism of Danny Rand as a white savior, showrunner Scott Buck said that he had approached the character without knowing of the racial issues surrounding him and his comic history, and that Rand is “trying to save himself, if anything,” a sentiment Jones agreed with. Roy Thomas, co-creator of the character, also defended the series following accusations of cultural appropriation.