From the outset, Marvel’s Daredevil established Netflix as the perfect home for darker, more violent stories set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans rejoiced that The Man Without Fear was finally done right after the disappointing 2003 film starring Ben Affleck. The promise that this specific subset of the MCU had exhibited, was subsequently paid off in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, which established their titular heroes as complex figures that audiences could root for. And then came Iron Fist.
After three home runs in a row, some fans assumed that the fourth and final member of the upcoming The Defenders miniseries was sure to deliver the same nuanced storytelling and high-octane thrills. Yet, reaction to the show has been more than a little mixed, with the general consensus labelling the series the weakest of the bunch to date.
Even so, star Finn Jones is set to return as Danny Rand in The Defenders and (presumably) beyond. Here are a few ways in which Marvel could set the character right going forward.
1. Give him some solid fight choreography
Danny Rand is supposed to be the world’s greatest martial artist, whose duty it is to destroy The Hand. Yet, the action scenes in Iron Fist pale in comparison to much of Marvel’s Netflix run so far. Most notably, Daredevil — whose series is closest to the narrative threads of Iron Fist — amazed viewers with cinematic-level fight scenes that show off the intricate stunt work and an attention to detail rarely given to TV series.
Meanwhile, Iron Fist offered choppy, subpar fight choreography almost across the board. That needs to change.
2. Team him up with Luke Cage
Sure, Luke Cage and Iron Fist may make up one half of The Defenders, but they also have their own team-up in the comics: Heroes for Hire. Because both of these characters’ shows were less warmly received than Daredevil or Jessica Jones, why not combine them? Instead of individual second seasons for Luke Cage and Iron Fist, just let the former’s Season 2 evolve into Heroes for Hire.
If Daredevil can fit the Punisher into the mix, then we see no reason why Luke and Danny can’t share top billing.
3. Give him a distinctive role in The Defenders
Even though Iron Fist may not be anyone’s favorite Marvel Netflix series, there’s always the chance that The Defenders is able to better contextualize the hero. After all, Captain America became much more of a fan-favorite after his appearance in The Avengers. So perhaps playing off of Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage will help define Danny Rand’s role in the larger story at hand.
4. Suit him up
Comic book purists are always clamoring that an adaptation should be a direct translation of page to screen. In this case, they may have a point. Danny Rand’s missing green and yellow costume (or even just his mask) robs the character of some of his intrigue and actually makes it harder for the show itself to sub in nimble stuntmen for Jones’ action scenes.
If Daredevil can pull off the horned red suit, Iron Fist can slip on a mask the next time he fights crime.
5. Make him a supporting player in other shows
Rather than giving Iron Fist a second season of his own, the character could easily just remain a key supporting player on the other series. For example, no one is exactly clamoring for a Hawkeye standalone movie, but the character brings a lot to the table when he shows up in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.
If the current version of Danny Rand isn’t strong enough to carry a show, then a smaller dose of him might just do the trick.
6. Punch up his mystical backstory
We know that Danny Rand acquired the mystical powers of the Iron Fist at K’un-Lun, but there’s still a lot about the circumstances surrounding Danny’s experience there that could present some compelling storytelling possibilities. Rather than spending multiple episodes with Danny moping about, the series should mess with nonlinear structure and tell us more about what happened during Danny’s 15-year absence.
7. Take away the title of Iron Fist and make him earn it
One of the most popular superhero stories is that in which the hero loses his or her abilities and must fight to earn them back, often leading to a stronger understanding about who they are and how those powers define them.
When we meet Danny, he already has the Iron Fist, and yes, its power does falter at times. Yet, stripping him of the title entirely and using his desire to earn it back, might further endear him to viewers.
8. Drop the Rand Corporation
If there’s one thing no one ever asks for in their superhero shows, it’s a ton of boardroom scenes. There’s a reason why Bruce Wayne is rarely at the office in those Batman films; it simply isn’t the crux of the story. It’s not where the stakes lie, and in Iron Fist, there’s little reason for viewers to care what happens to the Rand Corporation — or, for that matter, the Meacham family.
Do us a favor and cut that subplot loose.
9. Introduce a worthy adversary
Rather than creating well-developed villains with clear motivations and a role to play in the story, The Hand has become a narrative crutch that Marvel’s Netflix shows have relied on. Like Daredevil Season 2, Iron Fist leans on this same tactic.
What makes Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones soar, is the multifaceted villains that our heroes go up against (Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave, respectively). To become a truly beloved character, Danny Rand needs a villain to serve as a counterpoint.
10. Recast the role
We have nothing against Jones. He’s a perfectly fine actor, but he just might not have what it takes to make Iron Fist a particularly interesting character. Marvel Studios has recast roles before — most famously with the Hulk — and might want to consider bringing in another actor to retcon some elements of Danny Rand’s character, allowing viewers to start fresh with a new interpretation of the role.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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