TV Shows
Published September 7, 2018

Breaking Down Over 60 Betrayals and Backstabs in Season 1 of 'Marvel's Iron Fist'

Use a handy infographic to comb through the numbers with Walt Hickey!

The Iron Fist has, for his entire history in Marvel Comics, been beset by one serpent or another. And in season one of “Marvel's Iron Fist”, Danny Rand got a lifetime’s worth of backstabs over the course of about a month. Friends became enemies, enemies became friends, new age self-improvement retreat facilities became recruitment centers for an international kung-fu crime syndicate; it got weird.

Now that the new season of “Marvel’s Iron Fist” has dropped on Netflix, I wanted to look back at what went down in season one to see how clumsily navigating the shifting loyalties around him came to define a young scion with the best fist in the business. So here’s a blow-by-blow recap of all the betrayals, backstabs, loyalty swaps, and marriages-of-convenience we saw when Danny Rand showed his hide in New York.

Over the course of a month, the upper management of Rand Enterprises and their associates participated in approximately 60 unique betrayals, backstabs, and loyalty flips over the course of a mere 13 episodes.

Iron Fist Betrayals Infographic


Look, I’ll admit my shortcomings here: I have never operated a global chemical and pharmaceutical corporation, so I concede that my relative naivete when it comes to the management of a conglomerate might put my read on the situation off. The fact that I am not, and have never been, the heir, controlling shareholder, or executive of a multinational logistical empire may undermine my analysis here, but it must be said: I have literally no idea how Rand Enterprises survived for not one month, not one year, but 16 years under the management of this family of disloyal scorpions.

The Meachum clan starts off their morning with a betrayal, tries to get in a solid backstab over lunch, knocks out some mild treason in the mid-afternoon, and wraps up their evening kicking back with some Netflix and breach of contract. It makes you wonder how doe-eyed Danny Rand survived for ten minutes with these people, and then you remember that he lasted only like nine minutes before getting abandoned in a mental hospital. It is a shame that they were unaware that the Hand was using their company to transport heroin, as their mere involvement in the business would probably result in a sequence of betrayals that straight-up eliminated heroin.

And while it’s so hard to pick out one uniquely untrustworthy member of the Meachum clanit’s tough to top the original sin of Harold Meachum’s attempt at murdering his co-founder’s entire family over a small side hustlethe slimiest of the bunch is mathematically Ward, who was in some way involved in an unheard-of 24 double-crosses. Sure, in about a dozen of those situations, he was the one getting duped, but he’s not exactly putting out a lot of good chi into the universe; at various points in the first season, Ward betrayed the Hand, the Rand Enterprises employee pension fund, Colleen Wing (twice), Danny (at least four times), and even his own family members eight times.

Still, tracking who is on whose team reveals some pretty exciting cameos! Clearly, Jeri Hogarthwho fans may more closely associate with Jessica Jonesswooping in to bail out Danny and Colleen is one cool connection, but there are far more. Darryl, one of Colleen’s students who joined up with the Hand, first appeared in episode 10 of the first season of “Marvel’s Luke Cage”. Metro-General hospital has been a familiar spot for New York heroes to convalesce, showing up or being mentioned in each of the members of the Defenders’ individual showswhile also counting Doctor Stephen Strange among its attendees. Even juicier, it’s heavily implied that all the dirt Joy had collected on Rand’s board came from a somewhat notorious private investigator.

Still, a few betrayals cut deeper than most. Colleen Wing’s challenges were unique; she betrayed her closest friend to the Hand, then she betrayed the Hand to her closest friend. (Heck, nobody is better at turning on the Hand than other factions of the Hand.) Madame Gao and Bukuto’s rivalry festered into all-out war. To advance their faction’s agenda, each took time to collaborate with, of all people, the Iron Fist (you know, the sworn enemy of the Hand). Davos, a close friend of Danny’s from his time in K’un-Lun, sure helped the hero bring down Bakuto. But Davos later soured on Danny’s intention to turn his back on one of the Cities of Heaven in favor of defending one of the Kitchens of Hell, and he too walked away.

Honestly, Claire Temple is the only one of these folks I’d leave a spare set of house keys with.

But the deepest cut of all has to have come from Joy Meachum. Bullied by her brother and manipulated by her father, Joy’s cool head and steady management of the board was essentially the only thing keeping the Meachums on top of Rand while the rest of her family jockeyed for internal position. When Danny came back, Joy had a return to a bright spot in her childhood. But over the course of the series, her family poisoned her on Danny, and by the end of a couple of weeks she was done with her oldest friend for good, and teamed up with the very people who wanted to destroy him.

So...what’s next for Danny? He seems to realize that the chemical business isn’t quite for him, and while the Hand may have been dealt a setback, there are all sorts of former friends who want him dead and, who knows, maybe a few enemies ready to see the light.

"Marvel's Iron Fist" Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix!

Walt Hickey is a data journalist and writes the daily morning newsletter Numlock News. His work has previously appeared on FiveThirtyEight and Business Insider.