Iron Fist was released on Netflix on March 17. There had been some controversy on the casting choices which I will leave to greater minds. Critics also have found fault with the show. Personally, I enjoyed Iron Fist. They took the time to let us know the characters. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot which make it interesting. Are there flaws? Of course there are. Does it cross into new territory? No, it does not. It is a good, solid show that would be a hit on network TV. However, given the high quality of Netflix original programming, a show that would be very good on network TV is only considered decent for Netflix.
The series opens with Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the legendary Iron Fist, returning to New York City many years after everyone assumed he died in a plane crash. Many people have said that New York City is one of the best ‘characters’ in all the previous Netflix Marvel series. I would say the city has less of a role in Iron Fist. Danny’s return ignites a series of events which of course lead to a considerable amount of fighting, intrigue, lies, and redemption. We see some familiar faces from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Honestly, when the characters of Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), and Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) appear, the show kicks into high gear. Iron Fist is a bit slow until episode six.
I believe it is a fair criticism of the series that it starts too slowly. However, unlike Luke Cage, which loses its way after the seventh episode; Iron Fist has a strong finish. The end is somewhat unsatisfying but it is still resolves a lot of issues while setting the series of up a for a sequel.
The story of Danny Rand’s return follows a fairly standard trope. A person lost to the world for years, who is presumed dead, returns. The major complication here is that Danny is heir to a multi-billion dollar fortune. When Danny returns, he contacts his childhood friends, Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphey), with disastrous results. Joy and Ward now run the company founded by Danny’s father. As would be expected, no one believes he is actually Danny Rand. Danny’s journey is to reclaim his heritage and stop The Hand. The Hand is the nefarious organization we first encountered in Daredevil. Danny does not have to fight them alone. As with most heroes, he has companions who help. His primary companion is Colleen Wing (Jessia Henwick).
Jessica Henwick is superb as Colleen Wing, a dojo owner. She is a complicated character with an interesting past. She is a powerful and talented fighter who helps Danny in his quest. She is not the only companion who becomes part of his team. Characters from previous Marvel shows also join in his journey.
Iron Fist brilliantly incorporates characters from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Their appearance is organic and necessary to the story development. In many ways, they make the series more interesting. The problem is that their screen time is limited, which in my mind is a flaw in the writing. While Finn Jones is a competent actor, Danny Rand, as a character, is not too bright.
There was a scene in one of the Harry Potter movies where Hermione told Harry he is always running into trouble without thinking. This is also Danny. One very tired trope in fantasy and superhero literature is the not-too-bright hero. Such heroes are easily baited by the villain into making rash moves. They also tend to get trapped themselves instead of trapping the bad guy. They are always rushing to save someone and creating more problems instead of solving them.
The other tired trope is where the hero surrenders to save a friend. Of course, in the trope, the villain does not honor the deal or the friend is a traitor. Danny falls into this trap at one point. I have only seen one instance recently where the “good” guy does not surrender. It was refreshing. The other tired trope, which was used effectively in the first season of Daredevil, is that every bad thing that happens is the fault of the hero. This wears really thin after the fifth mea culpa. Guilt is good if you deserve it but it is indulgent if you do not.
The production values for the filming in New York are really high. The scenes in different skyscrapers are beautiful and the interior shots are exquisite. However, the K’un-Lun shots, the plane crash site, and the Chinese factory shots are far too basic. One would expect to see those on the old Syfy Channel or network TV. The standard now for location filming is Game of Thrones or Sense 8. For television special effects The Expanse is the standard. Iron Fist did not meet either standard.
The real question everyone wants answered is: how good are the fight scenes? They are quite good. Ever since Bruce Lee appeared as Kato on the Green Hornet, Americans have loved martial arts in film and television shows. All of the actors fight very well, with fluid and powerful movements. The scenes are intricate and well-choreographed. Daredevil set the standard for television fight scenes. Iron Fist lives up to that standard. However, I believe Into the Badlands is setting a new standard to meet for martial arts fight scenes and Iron Fist is not quite there. But, the first use of the Iron Fist is especially awesome.
The villains for the most part are villainous. Seriously, there is no way to go wrong with Madame Gao as an adversary. She is brilliantly Machiavellian in her manipulation of the hero and the other villains. She is also a survivor. I believe that Marvel may have learned their lessons about competent villains. There are several in this series. One villain has some great one liners, although his grasp on reality is at times tenuous.
Iron Fist is a good show which can be improved upon. The actors are capable but the writing needs to get better. I hope there is a second season so they can fix the problems. It has the potential to become a great show. Maybe The Defenders will help Iron Fist.
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