Warning: Major (and awesome!) spoilers for Iron Fist to follow!
The wait is finally over. When it comes to Netflix, Marvel's been playing a game of chess like a grandmaster — moving every piece into place, introducing us to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and now the immortal Iron Fist. With the release of Iron Fist, everything is now set up for what's sure to be the greatest moment of Marvel Netflix: The Defenders, the televisual checkmate that's sure to leave fans cheering.
But just how does Iron Fist pave the way for #TheDefenders? How does the series continue the ongoing narrative of #Marvel's Netflix universe, and how does it set up the triumphant team-up? Here are some of the key elements...
The Hand Are Becoming Ever More Dangerous
We were introduced to the Hand in #Daredevil Season 1, but it wasn't until the second season that we really got to understand just how they work. We learned that they're an ancient sect who discovered a dangerous secret; a deadly ritual that unlocks eternal life. We learned that the Hand venerate a mysterious being known as the 'Black Sky', a mysterious warrior-figure who the Hand consider to be their ultimate weapon. In the past, whenever the Hand sought to 'activate' a Black Sky, the Chaste killed it, thwarting their plans. But this time round, the Hand succeeded. Although Elektra died, she was resurrected by the Hand's dark magic.
The Defenders is set only a couple of months after the events of Daredevil Season 2, meaning that Matt Murdock is still grieving. With Elodie Yung's Elektra confirmed to appear in The Defenders, though, his grief is sure to be interrupted when he learns of Elektra's fate.
Iron Fist further developed the threat of the Hand, revealing another twist in their resurrection narrative. David Wenham's Harold Meachum was hardly a nice man before he died of cancer — after all, he had the Rand family killed. But his son is horrified at the resurrected Harold, declaring that a part of his father's soul was left behind in the grave. If he's right, if those resurrected by the Hand do indeed lose a part of their humanity, then the reunion between Elektra and Daredevil will be very bittersweet indeed.
Sigourney Weaver's Character Explained
With the mysteries of the Hand becoming ever clearer, Iron Fist also explained the philosophy that drives them. The Hand believe that the age of government is over; corporations rule the world now, and the Hand work to rule the corporations. We saw hints of that in Daredevil Season 2, but Iron Fist made it explicit, and showed us just how insidiously the Hand have infiltrated companies across the world.
This dovetails perfectly with the little we know of Sigourney Weaver's mysterious character in The Defenders. We know that Weaver will be playing the show's main villain, and we know that her character is named 'Alexandra'. Most fans have assumed that she's a gender-swapped version of a Marvel villain named Alexander Bont, who's particularly notable for causing serious problem for Daredevil. Fans have long struggled to work out how the character fits with the concept of a mystical ninja cult.
Now, thanks to Iron Fist, we know. The Hand believe corporations are the real powers in the world today, and are working to take control of companies worldwide. It makes sense that some of their key figures — their leaders, their 'Snakeroot' — will be businessmen and businesswomen.
The Enemies of the Hand Gather
Crucially, Iron Fist reveals that the Hand have more enemies than we thought. The Iron Fist is a living weapon, just as in the comics; but crucially, he's a weapon forged to be used against the Hand. Danny Rand is trained specifically to go up against the Hand, and he understands their dark sorcery in a visceral way that Matt Murdock will never get. That makes him a crucial member of the Defenders, although ironically, he's one of two weapons trained to take on the Hand — Daredevil, after all, was trained by the Chaste.
That said, the stakes have never been higher for Danny Rand. Iron Fist ends with his attempting to return to K'un L'un — and finding it gone, disappeared, with its guards murdered by Hand weapons. Just as Davos warned, with the Iron Fist in America, the way to K'un L'un was open — and nobody stood in the Heavenly City's defence. Iron Fist will return to New York having just lost his home, and desperately seeking knowledge of the Hand's actions.
No Real Direct Setup — But A Notable Presence!
It's worth noting, though, that the series doesn't end with the direct setup many fans had expected. A lot of fans had thought Iron Fist would end with the first hint of the Defenders gathering, but that's been saved for the event series. The showrunners revealed a while back that the team would come together during a fight scene in the first episode of The Defenders. What's more, don't watch Iron Fist expecting to see the series end with a trailer for the next Marvel Netflix show — this time round, we don't get a trailer.
What we do get, of course, is more of Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple. This character is clearly the thread that ties the Marvel Netflix corner of the #MCU together, and her presence has been teased for quite some time. Most excitingly, Iron Fist adds a fresh dimension to the character, showing Claire training under Colleen Wing. Let's face it: Claire's seen everything from superhuman brawlers to ninja assassins, so it's about time she decided to improve her self-defence skills. It looks as though she's going to be abandoning the 'damsel in distress' role, and it's possible The Defenders will show Claire as a fighter in her own right.
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So far, it looks as though Daredevil and Iron Fist will be the most important members of the Defenders. Both have a history with the Hand, and both now have a very personal stake in the battle to come; Iron Fist seeks answers to the fate of his home, while Daredevil will be shocked to learn of his lover's fate. With the threat of the Hand looming ever larger over the Marvel Netflix universe, Iron Fist has set us up for one thrilling series.
Are you looking forward to 'The Defenders'?
(Poll Image Credit: Netflix, via Entertainment Weekly)