Critics have been less than kind, denouncing the inconsistent plotting, "flat, repetitive" writing, and "borderline unwatchable" fight choreography. What's worse? The latest Marvel and Netflix collaboration has been panned as just plain boring — not even the show's standout performers, Jessica Henwick or Lewis Tan, save it. (Why are we watching Danny Rand negotiate the price of a pharmaceutical drug when he has a magical fist that can punch through stuff?!)
So if you have no desire to binge-watch Iron Fist, but you still want to get caught up before Marvel TV's superhero team-up, The Defenders, hits Netflix later this year, look no further than this handy guide of essential spoilers to know.
Danny Rand is not a very good Iron Fist.Netflix
At one point in the season, his childhood friend from the mystical city of K'un-Lun literally calls him the "worst Iron Fist ever," so it's not like we're inferring anything here. The Iron Fist is the sworn enemy of The Hand, and as Danny Rand likes to mention, he's been training for the past 15 years to defeat this one organization. And yet, when faced with the opportunity to do so (multiple times!), he just can't do it. He had to FIGHT A DRAGON to become the Iron Fist, a mighty warrior who channels his chi into his fist to punch through walls and deflect bullets and katanas, and yet Danny routinely gets performance anxiety when it comes to summoning his power.
We get it. He's still learning. This is an "origin story." But if you have a show about a dude with a magical, indestructible fist and awesome kung fu skills, you can at least show us the goods. So, yeah, Danny is not very good at his job, so who knows how useful he'll be to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage in The Defenders.
There are different factions within The Hand.Netflix
The Hand is more complicated than we thought. In Daredevil, The Hand is seen as a seedy underground organization with a horde of skilled fighters and the uncanny ability to revive the dead. The second season of the Marvel series revealed that The Hand's sole motivation was to locate a secret weapon known as Black Sky, a harbinger of evil who we now know is Elektra. But in Iron Fist, we learn that The Hand is also extremely divided. Madame Gao's synthetic-heroin operation is actually a rogue, drug-pushing faction of the organization.
Meanwhile, the main faction is more of a recruitment operation. The Hand has been recruiting and teaching kung fu to young, disadvantaged teens, who are then stationed throughout the city like a spy network. Basically, The Hand has eyes everywhere, all over the world. Colleen Wing is part of that organization, and her dojo has been feeding The Hand scrappy recruits for years. Though she thought she was part of a peaceful operation, once Colleen becomes privy to her sensei Bakuto's shady and extremely violent dealings, she begins to question The Hand's real motivations. It's only after Bakuto tries to have Colleen's blood fully drained — a direct tie-in to Daredevil Season 2's creepy blood-draining facility and those zombie teens — that she renounces The Hand completely.
But what is all of that blood for? A popular theory is that The Hand is draining the blood of young people to feed to Elektra, their now-immortal weapon, who's currently resting in her stone urn. It might also have something to do with IGH, the nefarious medical operation that gave Will those red and blue pills that drove him crazy in Jessica Jones.
Danny Rand and Colleen Wing are kind of a couple.Netflix
In the comics, Danny and Colleen are just friends and colleagues who kick butt together. In fact, Danny is most often romantically paired with Misty Knight, who made her debut in Luke Cage. But Iron Fist makes things official between the Iron Fist and the Daughter of the Dragon, turning their platonic companionship into a sexual relationship in Episode 7. Danny and Colleen clearly have a deep connection. He even invites her to travel to K'un-Lun with him by the end of the season. (More on that later.)
But we have to agree with Claire Temple on this one: Danny and Colleen both have some anger issues that need to be addressed before either should commit to a healthy relationship. (He should probably sell her building for starters, because buying her building in the first place was a very creepy move.) This also brings Danny's canonical relationship with Misty into question for The Defenders.
K’un-Lun has vanished.Netflix
At the end of the season, Danny and Colleen travel to K'un-Lun, only to discover that the ancient city where Danny received his power has vanished. The only clues Danny has to go on are the several dead members of The Hand left behind at the gateway by the monks. Assuming that these corpses belong to the main faction of The Hand, and not Madame Gao's drug-pushers, then why were they there in the first place? And did the Order of the Crane Mother move K'un-Lun because its location was compromised? You had one job, Danny!
Without the Iron Fist, K'un-Lun is extremely vulnerable, so it's not surprising that Danny's selfishness resulted in the city's destruction — and that's probably going to stall Danny's training. Danny's chi is very sensitive.
Davos is working with Madame Gao — and Joy Meachum.Netflix
Davos's arrival in Episode 10 of Iron Fist confirmed the birth of the Steel Serpent, otherwise known as Danny Rand's biggest rival. The character's backstory in Iron Fist closely follows that of his ink-and-paper counterpart: He was Danny's best friend in K'un-Lun, but Danny's inability to protect the city, as well as Davos's own jealousy, drove an indefinite wedge between them. In Iron Fist, Davos is Danny's ally, but there's obvious tension. He's upset that Danny abandoned K'un-Lun and took the Iron Fist with him. But it's Davos's decision to kill Bakuto, the leader of The Hand, that drives them apart in the season's penultimate episode.
The end of Season 1 teases Davos's pull to the dark side. He's seen recruiting Joy Meachum to join his anti-Danny Rand club, while Madame Gao quietly eavesdrops. It's clear that Davos went back to K'un-Lun after his fight with Danny only to discover his home had disappeared in the Iron Fist's absence. Honestly, that would drive any man to seek vengeance. Gao seems like the obvious partner for Davos because she's no fan of Danny or the main faction of The Hand. Plus, she already has the perfect emblem for him, as the steel serpent is the symbol printed on her heroin.
Midland Circle is significant, but we’re still not sure why.Marvel
We know Midland Circle was responsible for that mysterious giant hole in New York City that Daredevil and Elektra once stumbled upon under the cloak of darkness. But now, thanks to Entertainment Weekly's eagle-eyed Shirley Li, we know even more about the enigmatic company. In Iron Fist, it's revealed that the Rand Corporation has been quietly funding Gao's heroin operation for years. According to the spreadsheets Harold Meachum gives to his daughter Joy, the bulk of that coin has gone to Midland Circle Financials. Adding more fuel to the fire, the Midland Circle offices will be where all four Defenders meet for the very first time. As for what brings them there, we still have no clue, but there's definitely some shady business going on — and Sigourney Weaver's Defenders villain Alexandra has to have something to do with it.