Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. Up this week: IronWing. Please note this article contains spoilers for season 2 of Iron Fist!
Who Are IronWing?
IronWing refers to the pairing of Danny Rand and Colleen Wing from the Marvel Netflix shows Iron Fist and The Defenders. The “iron” comes from Danny, who is known as the Immortal Iron Fist. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen IronWing on Tumblr, but if not, I’m coining it now as the ship name!
Danny Rand is the protagonist of Iron Fist. As a child, Danny was on a business trip with his parents when their plane crashed. Danny was the only survivor and ended up in K’un-Lun, a mystical city. Danny was raised as a warrior and became the Immortal Iron Fist after punching a dragon in the heart.
As the Iron Fist, Danny is the protector of K’un-Lun. However, he felt a connection to the city of his childhood, New York, and left K’un-Lun. He returned to New York to try and connect with his past, only to run into new problems. His father was the owner of Rand Enterprises, a massively wealthy company. His return makes him wealthy, but also makes him enemies.
To make matters worse, the sworn enemies of the Iron Fist, the Hand, are rampant in New York. Danny ends up teaming up with Claire Temple and Colleen Wing, a former disciple of the Hand, to stop them. They are successful, but the Hand is not gone for good. Somewhere along the way, K’un-Lun is destroyed.
Danny must team up with the other heroes of New York to eradicate the Hand. He works with Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock, and Luke Cage to stop them, though Matt lost his life in the battle. Danny decided to take on the role of protector of New York in Matt’s place. He even pops up in Luke Cage season 2 to help Luke.
Season 2 of Iron Fist sees Danny crumple under this weight and the weight of his past. He must battle Davos, his foster brother from K’un-Lun, for the right to carry the Iron Fist. He must also stop a Triad war and keep his emotional ground. It’s a tough time for Danny, but he perseveres.
Although it initially seems like Colleen Wing is solely intended as a love interest for hero Danny, she becomes so much more over the course of the shows she appears in, eventually becoming the hero herself. Danny meets Colleen when he comes to New York. She runs a dojo, and he is interested in learning more about her, though she rebuffs him initially.
Colleen was raised by her grandfather, who taught her bushido and instilled a strong sense of honor in her. She was later taken under the tutelage of Bakuto, a high ranking member of the Hand. Bakuto valued Colleen’s skill but didn’t reveal the truth of the Hand to her. She had no idea that the Hand was evil until Danny revealed the truth.
Armed with knowledge and bitter over being taken advantage of, Colleen works with Danny and Claire, who she’d been teaching self-defense, to defeat the Hand. She is forced to fight against Bakuto, a strong figure in her life. Her moral center wins out, though, and in the end, she defeats Bakuto.
Except, the Hand doesn’t really believe in death. So Bakuto comes back and terrorizes Colleen. She runs into him while Danny and the Defenders are fighting against the Hand. Bakuto has a personal vendetta against his former student, almost losing sight of the mission. She is able to kill him for good this time, but it took a toll.
Colleen gave up combat and dedicated herself to improving her community. This ran counter to Danny’s decision to defend New York, but they made it work for a while. When Danny loses the power of the Iron Fist, however, he wants Colleen to take up the mantle. She eventually reluctantly accepts, becoming the new Iron Fist but losing Danny.
Why is IronWing OTP?
I think it’s generally just accepted that the first season of Iron Fist wasn’t very good. There were a lot of problems, but one thing the show did do well was IronWing. The dynamic was good, Jessica Henwick and Finn Jones work really well together, and it was definitely a high point in a so-so season.
Now, with The Defenders and the second season of Iron Fist, IronWing only continues to get better. Season 2 of Iron FIst was much better than the first, but IronWing still stands out as a high note. I’m not sure the show would be anywhere near as successful without these two and their relationship.
Yin and Yang
One thing that has plagued Iron Fist from the start is (rightful) accusations of cultural appropriation. Danny Rand is a white billionaire who uses traditional Chinese cultural concepts and generally feels a little too “white savior” for comfort. The first season really went with this, not seeming to understand that it was, generally, not good.
The second season of Iron Fist leans much less heavily into this narrative. Despite being set in Chinatown, the show seems to have gotten the message that associating Danny with Chinese traditions is not good, and instead focuses on Colleen’s connection to China. One thing they do bring up is when Danny tells Colleen they are like yin and yang.
Yin and yang is a concept from Taoism that represents the balance of nature and humanity. Danny is right to describe his and Colleen’s relationship as yin and yang: they balance each other. On a basic level, Danny was raised by monks in K’un-Lun and became the Iron Fist. Colleen was raised by the Hand, sworn enemies of the Iron Fist. They contrast.
But it’s more than just that basic level. Colleen and Danny balance each other out by bringing their own unique strengths and weaknesses to their relationship. Colleen brings a serenity that Danny lacks. She found a way to ground herself and focus on what’s important. Danny is untethered, with a mysterious past and no family to hold him in place, until Colleen.
Danny brings light to Colleen. He helps her see through the Hand’s lies and free herself from their grasp. He respects her for her skills and appreciates what she is capable of, but also respects her decision to quit fighting. There is a good balance between them that lets them have a functional relationship.
Actually Healthy Relationship
About that functional relationship… Now, I love all the Marvel Netflix shows (full disclosure I haven’t watched Punisher yet), but one thing is clear: these people are bad at relationships. All the Defenders have been very dysfunctional, and no one has managed to maintain a healthy, functional relationship (RIP Luke/Claire).
No one, that is, except for Danny. Danny Rand, the out of touch, billionaire white boy who was raised by monks to eschew affection, is somehow the one who manages to maintain a good relationship. IronWing is one of the healthier relationships in the MCU as a whole. They care for each other and understand each other on a deep level.
Colleen and Danny show so many aspects of a healthy relationship. They generally communicate well. Danny has like, no filter, so it works in his favor. They trust each other and the decisions they make. When Colleen hangs up her katana, Danny doesn’t berate her for letting the city down. He occasionally nudges her but leaves her be when she stands firm.
When Danny needs to train in order to defeat Davos, he knows that Colleen is the best he can get. He respects her innate skill; she was integral to helping him defeat the Hand. Later, when he needs someone to take up the mantle of the Iron Fist, he knows she is the one he trusts to do so. He respects her, trusts her, and believes in her.
Colleen taking on the Iron Fist equalizes IronWing, somewhat. Both now have powers, so there’s no longer an imbalance like the other Marvel Netflix relationships. But even before that point, IronWing was an equal partnership. Danny never hid who he was; Colleen was never made to feel less than. That’s what allows them to thrive.
What’s Next for IronWing?
At the moment, things are up in the air. Season 2 just premiered, and it left off with a massive twist ending. Danny gave up the Iron Fist, leaving Colleen the new protector of New York. He left her to go investigate, and the final moments reveal that he has regained the power of the Iron Fist, but Colleen still maintains it, leaving two Iron Fists (or maybe more…?).
What’s next will depend on if Netflix chooses to make a third season of Iron Fist. If you’d asked me a few days ago if I thought there should be a third season, I’d have laughed. I didn’t think the show deserved a second season. But after the surprisingly great second season, I’m itching for more.
Given that Daredevil is soon to have its third season, and Jessica Jones confirmed for a third season as well, there’s no reason not to make a third season of Iron Fist. The finale certainly seems to be setting up for further adventures, and even another crossover with Luke Cage, given Misty Knight’s parting comments to Colleen.
We may be waiting some time for news about a third season, however. Marvel has yet to confirm if Luke Cage will be returning, so until we have an official announcement, all we can do is speculate. Marvel seems to have ironed (ha) out the wrinkles, so here’s hoping Iron Fist will return to wrap up the loose ends.
We need a third season to get our IronWing fix and see them resolve their relationship. As it stands, things are not great, but not horrible. I want to see the show come back so Danny and Colleen can achieve their well-earned happy ending.
Is IronWing Canon?
IronWing was canon. Danny and Colleen came together in the first season of Iron Fist. It was a pretty smooth transition, and there was minimal drama. Instead, all the drama came from external sources. The Defenders saw them again facing external enemies, with their relationship taking a backseat, but still staying strong.
Season 2 of Iron Fist finally threw a wrench into the works. Although there was much less drama than the other shows (see Matt Murdock and Karen Page in season 2 of Daredevil, or Luke Cage and Claire Temple in season 2 of Luke Cage…), there was still an end to smooth sailing for IronWing.
Their relationship came to a halt when Danny asked Colleen to train him. She imposed an emotional distance, in order to keep her sanity while training Danny and potentially sending him to his death. They still quite clearly love each other but had to be apart for the greater good.
When Danny gave Colleen the Iron Fist, it seemed their separation was fated to last. Neither knows how to handle their new relationship. With Danny leaving New York to investigate the truth behind K’un-Lun and the Iron Fist, they are farther apart than ever.
I have hope, though. IronWing is a good, functional relationship between two people who genuinely love and trust each other. Even apart, they still clearly care. I’m sure they will come back together, and maybe actually have a shot at being happy together, heroes and partners against evil.