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Can The Defenders save Iron Fist?

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New York has been plunged into turmoil. The sinister Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) has nefarious plans afoot, and the safety of the city is dependent on the unity of four disparate heroes. But before these heroes can join forces as The Defenders of the city, they must work out how to solve another conundrum; how can this show redeem the disappointment of Iron Fist?

Iron Fist was dealt an unfortunate hand in that the show’s predecessors were critically praised. The two Daredevil series have been widely commended for their convincing action sequences, scene-stealing villains and the relief of sincere camaraderie. Jessica Jones brought an endearing moodiness to a gritty crime thriller, conceiving anticipation for how the eponymous character will develop. Luke Cage was the most divisive, with some criticising the slower pacing and conclusion of the season. Others found it the most groundbreaking of all of the Netflix shows thus far.

Iron Fist was not so divisive, instead being roundly criticised for its lacklustre characters, tedious plot and insipid villains. Where the other three superheroes had enamoured themselves to audiences through their possible negative qualities (Daredevil’s stubbornness, Jessica Jones’ detachment, Luke Cage’s reserved nature), Danny Rand/Iron Fist’s less pleasant attributes dominated the character. His inability to empathize with others, preferring to become outraged at people’s lack of understanding of his fantastical stories, made him difficult to relate to, whilst his propensity to act petulantly did not make for a good look.

Therefore, Iron Fist enters the series at a disadvantage in terms of popularity, and the writers will have had to find ways to redeem his character. Fortunately, early signs suggest that Iron Fist has integrated well into the group. Now that Rand is established back in New York, he should present a more grounded character. This will enable him to show more humanity when establishing relationships with the other Defenders. Of course, they’ll still be taken aback by his glowing fist and mystical background, but hopefully, Rand should be able to deal with the situation with more levity.

It will be interesting to see which of The Defenders becomes the standout, or breakout, character. Marvel has consistently succeeded in the past at launching previously obscure personas into popular consciousness. Guardians of the Galaxy propelled Groot, essentially a sentient tree, to worldwide fame; the character’s likeness has been widely disseminated, from taking the form of plush toys to adorning some of the top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive cases of weapons at case51.com. In The Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man became global superstars in equal measure, somewhat nicely laying the foundations for Captain America: Civil War to divide a fan base.

Daredevil has the benefit of two seasons behind him, so it may be expected that he assumes the group leader role for The Defenders. Yet events at the end of season 2 of Daredevil are likely to have shattered his confidence, so that could leave room for another of The Defenders to assume the mantle of leader. Jessica Jones seems unlikely to welcome a position of authority, whilst the softly-spoken Luke Cage may lack the ambition to take charge. Could it be that Iron Fist becomes the head of the group and wins fans over? Time will tell, and not much time is left to wait as The Defenders is set to be released on Netflix on August 18.

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