(Some light spoilers for an early episode of “Marvel’s Iron Fist” on Netflix.)
Like all of the superheroes in Netflix’s adaptations of Marvel’s comics, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) of “Iron Fist” isn’t the super-est of supers. Sure, he can punch through walls at times, but he’s no Captain America or Thor — or Luke Cage if we wanna stick to other Marvel Netflix comparisons — in terms of having amazing full-time superpowers.
In fact, it takes a lot of work for Danny to access his super-strong Iron Fist in “Iron Fist.” He needs to channel his “chi,” his spiritual energy, into his fist in order to really get powerful. That’s his primary power: the ability to channel his chi allows Danny to gain super strength in his fist.
Aside from that titular iron fist, Danny also has excellent fighting skills, and the show hints at some other, more mystical stuff he can do. For instance, in an early episode of “Iron Fist,” Danny has a moment where he stares down what could be an angry dog as he breaks into his former apartment. After some protracted eye contact, Danny calms the dog down. Is he just good with animals, or is this part of his complement of superpowers?
The Marvel Comics version of Danny can do quite a bit of other stuff when he is able to focus and command his chi.
In the comics, Danny can use his chi energy to mix his consciousness with that of other people, sharing their experiences and memories. It’s a sort of mystical take on the Vulcan mindmeld. His powers also extend to hypnosis,.
Given that Danny has a moment with dog and a later one with a bird, where it seems like he and the animal share some kind of connection, it seems possible he may be using his chi to connect with the animals’ minds. It might also be his hypnosis-like capabilities that let him convince the dog not to maul him. Then again, he might just have a bit of an innate Disney princess-style way with the wild.
Danny’s ability to focus his chi also gives him incredible control over his own body. In the comics, focusing his chi means Danny can heal himself from injuries and even diseases. In “Iron Fist,” he might not have honed this capability just yet — early in the show, he finds himself drugged and committed to a mental institution.
One would think his control of his nervous system would mean Danny would be able to beat the drugs he’s given there, but they keep him unable to focus. It’s only later, when he’s able to get some clarity, that he’s able to channel his chi enough to use the Iron Fist to break out.
Along with the ability to heal himself, Danny can also heal others by channeling chi into his hands. He has that capability in the comics, and in the show uses it to stop poison from killing Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).
The comics also see Danny using his chi to absorb and channel energy. He’s even able, under the right circumstances, to project energy at his enemies offensively, like a “Street Fighter”-style fireball. Whether those capabilities will factor into the show seems questionable, given that Netflix’s Marvel series tend to stay relatively grounded, as far as superhero stories go.
While Danny is a capable fighter through the series, he’s still coming into his own as a superhero, which means he seems to still be learning the extent of his own abilities. But many of his powers aren’t really “powers” at all, though — they’re the result of years of training.
For instance, Danny is a consummate martial artist, having trained as a warrior in K’un-Lun most of his life. He’s an expert fighter even when he’s not channeling the Iron Fist. The scrapes he gets into for much of the series don’t require more of him than being awesome at fighting. It’s only when things get really bad that he has to call on the Fist. His physical fitness and training also allow him to do cool things like climb buildings, should the need present itself.
The Netflix adaptations of Marvel comics often take some liberties with characters and their abilities, so it remains to be seen how Danny’s powers will evolve through “Iron Fist” and into “The Defenders.” That show, coming to Netflix later this year, unites all four of the Marvel superheroes to appear on the streaming network so far: Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Finn Jones has already said that Danny’s character arc extends through “The Defenders,” so fans can expect him to grow as a person as well as a hero long after they’re done binging “Iron Fist.