Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is besieged by enemies on all sides in Marvel’s Iron Fist, the final piece of The Defenders puzzle, but none are more ferocious than the Hand. In Iron Fist, Danny Rand’s main enemies are the same ninja clan that terrorized Hell’s Kitchen just a year ago in Daredevil. Now, the Hand is back, and while their motives are somewhat unclear in the first six episodes, their methods are not: They want to kill Danny Rand.
Spoilers for Iron Fist follow.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are already well-acquainted with The Hand, a fictional crime syndicate created by Frank Miller in his acclaimed run on Daredevil comics in the ‘80s. They first appeared in the MCU also in Daredevil, who were led by yakuza head Nobu Yoshioka (Peter Shinkoda). The Hand took a backseat to Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) in the first season of Daredevil but became more prominent in Season 2 as they once again sought to transport their mysterious secret weapon, “Black Sky” (which was revealed to be Elektra). But while a clan of ninjas looked new to Daredevil, they’re actually old hat to the Iron Fist.
In Iron Fist, the job of the Iron Fist — those who wield the power of the ancient dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying — is to protect the mystical city K’un-Lun from the Hand, the ninja clan who usurps power through assassination and secret warfare. But Iron Fist also reveals that the Hand is splintered: There are multiple factions of the Hand, each with their own ends.
On one side, there’s Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), who debuted in Daredevil has a figurehead to one of New York’s Chinese Triads with much deeper connections than she let on. She now leads her side of the Hand against her direct enemy: Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez). Bakuto has his own separate faction that recruits orphaned and troubled youths into their organization. Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) was responsible for a lot of Bakuto’s recruits.
This is a new development. In the comics, The Hand are one and was formed by Kagenobu Yoshioka, a master swordsman who trained samurai in taking back Japan from its corrupt government. As he told his students in Elektra: The Hand #3 written by Akira Yoshida, “The Hand” refers to Japanese national pride: “The hand has five fingers, each of which can exist independently of others. Not unlike the five islands that form Japan. However, when the five fingers of the hand come together for a single, unified purpose … the hand becomes an object of unwavering power!”
In becoming formidable enough to stop an entire government, the Hand survived centuries by infiltrating criminal organizations, reaching all the way to 21st century New York. In fact, the Hand was the first to create Hydra, the supernatural cabal of Nazi Germany at the dawn of World War II. The Hand lost control to Baron Strucker, then eventually the Red Skull. Still, this hasn’t stopped the Hand and Hydra from aligning together on more than one occasion.
They’ve been enemies of Daredevil and have called Elektra one of their own. They’ve also fought against Spider-Man, the Avengers, Wolverine — who fought the Hand replacements in 2013’s The Wolverine — and of course, Iron Fist. Now, in the MCU, the Hand are much closer to taking over New York, and the Avengers are too busy chasing Infinity Stones to bother with fighting ninjas in midtown. That’s where the Defenders will come in.
Marvel’s Iron Fist will premiere March 17 on Netflix.