Iron Fist was always going to be the Defenders' weak link. Criticized even before his debut show aired, it's safe to say that the character of Danny Rand has not chimed with fans in the same way that Matt, Jessica, and Luke have. We were all concerned for what Danny's role in the long-awaited The Defenders would mean for the show, but unfortunately the writers didn't have the same qualms. Much of the new show's plot hinges on #IronFist's mythology, which may be its biggest flaw — and this is the last thing The Defenders should have been about.
Relying Too Heavily On Iron Fist's Mysticism
After the Hand plagued Daredevil for two seasons, The Defenders unveils their leaders' endgame: To recover more of "the substance", which will ensure they can continue to evade death. At best this is a generic, cartoon-worthy villain's plot, but it's one that could have worked were it not for one thing — it relies too heavily on the plot of Iron Fist.
Everything leads back to K'un Lun and the legend of the Immortal Iron Fist. For those of us who didn't watch Iron Fist — or who just really don't care about Danny Rand — the driving force of The Defenders just isn't engaging. We're not clued into all these plot points that the villains keep dropping, and the show doesn't feel like it can stand on its own two feet.
In many ways, The Defenders feels like Iron Fist Season 1.2 (with a hefty dose of Daredevil Season 2.2). And that's not fair to Jessica and Luke, whose character development is thrust aside so that Danny can protest that he's the Immortal Iron Fist yet again. So many of the emotional payout moments in The Defenders are followups to Iron Fist — Colleen's battle with her former mentor may have been cool, but it was connected to nothing within The Defenders show. Meanwhile, Jessica's transition from hardboiled detective to actual superhero was glossed over, though this should have been a compelling plot point in the new show.
Then there's the mysticism itself. Jessica and Luke's constant eye rolls at the talk about harnessing chi, fighting dragons, and ancient orders might be funny, but their frustration is just a little too relatable.
When Daredevil Season 1 first aired, it soon became immensely popular, lauded as a revolutionary step for superhero TV shows. Of course, this was thanks to the high production values, good writing, and serialized storytelling, but ultimately what made Daredevil special — and what all the #Netflix Marvel shows became known for — was its grounded realism. That all went out the window with Iron Fist, which would have been fine, if it had been contained within one show.
But The Defenders, which should have been a glorious fusion of each show's themes, instead focused heavily on the Hand, and their roots in the same mythology that created the Immortal Iron Fist — not to mention, the secret to their plan was a dragon skeleton under New York City. For a series of shows that started out as the grounded alternative to outlandish superhero plots, that's really disappointing.
It's Hard To Believe Danny Is THAT Important
Issues with the main plot aside, there's another huge problem with The Defenders: Danny isn't a strong enough character to support the weight the show puts on him. He's the key to the Hand's plan, so the show is ultimately all about his fate. We should be rooting for him, but he doesn't make this easy. Danny's angst is difficult to understand — man, you're a rich superhero, why are you complaining? — and his character lacks depth and nuance. Although The Defenders is eager to take pot shots at him, his pivotal role in the story makes the whole show fall a bit flat.
The aggravating thing is Danny could easily be a very endearing character if his personality was tweaked just a little bit. His scenes with Luke prove that he's got potential, and their interactions were some of the best the show had to offer.
If we had just seen their relationship develop a bit more, Danny's presence in the show would have been much more enjoyable and satisfying, as Luke's influence encouraged Danny's attitudes to develop.
Then there are the little moments when Danny is the eager newbie on the team. They're fleeting, but fun, and we should have seen more of this side of Danny. It would have been easy to make him the upbeat character who just wants to get the gang together, whom the other characters look down on for being inexperienced — and then they discover that he's actually been through just as much shit. Alas, instead we got a lot of Danny spouting the same kind of downbeat superhero angst that is usually Matt's M.O. And the similarity between Danny and Matt is yet more proof that Danny as a character lacks distinction.
Then there's Danny's fighting style, which is lacking in a way that isn't just a flaw in the production, it's an honest-to-God plot hole. Iron Fist is supposed to be one of the most powerful heroes in #Marvel's roster, and yet he's easily beaten by every other Defender, not to mention the villains. Even the immense power in his glowing fist is underused, and we're left wondering, yet again, why he's supposed to be so important.
We can only hope that by the time The Defenders Season 2 rolls around, Danny's had enough character development (and fight choreography training) to earn his place on the team — because I really don't want to have to fast-forward all his scenes in the next season too.
Tell us in the comments: Do you think The Defenders focused too much on Iron Fist?