Meet Mavel’s Final Defender, Martial Arts Master Iron Fist …

After four seasons of superlative street-level heroics, the Defenders’ kick-ass quartet is almost complete. The final piece in the puzzle: Living Weapon Iron Fist, whose 13-episode Netflix series isn’t just an introduction to the world of Danny Rand, but also a sort of prologue to Marvel’s highly anticipated team-up mini-series. “I see Iron Fist and The Defenders as the complete journey of Danny Rand,” says Finn Jones, the man with the you-know-what. “If Season 1 of Iron Fist is Danny’s adolescence, then The Defenders is Danny becoming a man.”

But before the Fist(s) can fly alongside his fellow Defenders, Rand has his own business to take care of – quite literally. Presumed dead for 15 years after a plane crash that killed his parents, orphan-turned-trained-ninja Danny Rand returns to New York to reclaim his father’s multimillion-dollar company, but meets resistance from incumbent CEO Harold Meachum (David Wenham). Further complicating matters is a shadowy new threat that forces Rand to choose between his family’s legacy and his duties as the legendary Iron Fist. So far, so Batman Begins. But instead of raiding his R&D department for gadgets, Rand has the ability to channel his chi into an unbreakable ‘iron fist’, or use this same energy to heal himself and others.

Seeing the light

While the Netflix-verse has flirted with the fantastic, Iron Fist will fully embrace the mystic side of the MCU. It’s not the only thing that distinguishes Danny Rand from his Marvel stablemates: he’s also something of an optimist. “Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are very dark, haunted characters whose outlook on life is already sort of formed,” says showrunner Scott Buck, who previously oversaw the final seasons of Dexter. “Danny is a young man trying to figure out who he is. And no matter what, he has this optimistic outlook that, somehow, everything is going to turn out OK.”

It’s a lighter show, both tonally and visually, with much of the action taking place in bright, vibrant spaces. But Danny’s past traumas have left scars that run deep. “There are many contradictions and flaws to Danny’s character,” says Jones, a Brit abroad who played Loras Tyrell on Game Of Thrones. “He has this eternal hope and drive that he’s doing the right thing, but at the same time he’s essentially suffering from PTSD. He’s a live wire.”

That live-wire edge comes in handy when fighting an army of highly trained adversaries with Jones teasing “a lot of baddies that Iron Fist comes up against”. Naturally for a character forged in the crucible of the ’70s martial arts craze, meticulously choreographed combat features heavily. In preparation, Jones studied kung fu, wushu and tai chi. As did Jessica Henwick, who plays high-kicking dojo owner and potential love interest Colleen Wing. Henwick is best known as whip-cracking Sand Snake Nymeria in Game Of Thrones, but says Nymeria and Colleen “couldn’t be more different”. For starters, Colleen’s a lone wolf. “Then she comes across Danny, and he changes her life,” Henwick says, days after filming on Thrones’ seventh season. “To be honest, he kind of messes it up. She has all these walls and barriers that she’s put up to keep herself safe, and he methodically tears them down.”

Buck and the entire writing staff immersed themselves in martial-arts movies while breaking the scripts, rewatching old favourites – in particular Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series – in the hope of capturing “a bit of that atmosphere”. The fights, as you’d expect, are gut-bustingly ambitious. “Our stunt coordinator, Brett Chan, is the best in the business,” Buck boasts, before explaining the key difference with Daredevil’s drawn-out beatdowns. “We tried to do something that was a little more balletic, a little smoother and prettier and more choreographed.”

Fancy Dan

New York is an integral character in the Marvel’s Netflix-verse, and Iron Fist will depict a very different side of the city. “Danny Rand inhabits the upper niche of Manhattan wealth, so we see him in a lot of the fanciest, most expensive places in Manhattan,” Buck explains. The one-percenters are also represented by David Wenham’s Harold Meachum, who will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and David Tennant’s Kilgrave in creating a chilling and memorable Marvel villain. “He’s a very complex individual, because we’re wondering, ‘Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? Is he a tortured guy?’” Buck muses. “He’s very conflicted, so it’s not until the final episode that we understand the true nature of Harold.”

Iron Fist will lead directly into The Defenders, which necessitated close cooperation between the two writing rooms “so that everything would dovetail together”. Having clearly made a good impression on Marvel’s bigwigs, Buck also has another major MCU project in the works – The Inhumans – which recently moved from the big screen to TV and will debut its first two episodes in IMAX. Writing and casting is currently underway, but despite the prospect of a (very) big-screen premiere, Buck is keeping the focus squarely on the smallscreen experience. “We’re completely approaching it as a TV series, but because of the scope of the first two [episodes] we’re allowed to think much, much bigger.”

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