Marvel’s “Iron Fist” is the latest installment of Marvel’s Netflix superhero universe. After the success of the previous three series, Marvel was hoping to continue the magic with its newest superhero program.
Unfortunately for Marvel and Netflix, “Iron Fist” seems destined to live in the shadows of the Marvel Netflix shows that have come before it.
“Iron Fist” is the story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the billionaire heir to the Rand Corporation and fortune. At the age of 10, while travelling to China with his parents, the plane crashed, leaving Danny as the sole survivor. He was taken in by warrior monks from Kun Lun, a Himalayan monastery existing outside of our dimension, and raised to become the Iron Fist, a warrior imbued with magical powers set to defend Kun Lun from its enemies.
Fifteen years later, Rand makes his way back home to New York City in order to show the world he’s alive and take back his company, which has been operated by his childhood friends, Joy and Ward Meachum, while he was away.
During his return, he finds that the evil organization known as The Hand (seen previously in the “Daredevil” series) has infiltrated New York City and as the sworn enemy of The Hand, Rand sets off to bring the criminal organization to its end.
To be honest, this show doesn’t have a lot going for it. Over the course of 13 episodes, I found myself struggling to keep watching. It has many good moments but lacks the truly spectacular moments that the other Marvel Netflix shows have consistently presented.
The story seems to borrow a lot from the other series but doesn’t do anything nearly as well as they did. The fighting isn’t as good as “Daredevil.” The sense of community and the exploration of superpowers lags behind that of “Luke Cage.” Even Danny’s struggles with PTSD resulting from the accident that killed his parents isn’t portrayed as well as PTSD was in “Jessica Jones.”
After 13 episodes, I found myself consistently wondering why they made this show. “Iron Fist” isn’t bad per se, bit it fails to measure up to the standard set forth by its predecessors. The other three shows and their respective development teams seemed to have spent a lot of time exploring the characters and the spaces they occupied in order to present three shows that feel natural within their own narrative.
“Iron Fist,” on the other hand, feels like it was slapped together and expected to ride the coattails of its much superior Marvel TV counterparts.
The story is fairly basic to begin with and doesn’t take a lot of risks, and then at about the halfway point “Iron Fist” starts to slap the audience with twist after twist that doesn’t feel earned. Feeling more like a bad Shyamalan film, the big plot twists are fairly predictable or (even worse) not engaging in the slightest.
Even the big twist at the climax of the series was predictable. I knew it was going to happen within the first four episodes of the series.
The show also suffers from too many villains and antagonists. I use antagonist in this sense because some of Danny Rand’s opposition never treads all the way to straight villainy. That is one of the main issues with the show: it just never dedicates itself to a theme. It spends so much of its time trying to make the viewer guess who may actually be the true opposing force that by the end it’s hard to care about any of them.
Moving on to the resolution of the show, it was pretty uneventful and then became confusing. A conversation between two characters in the last episode has them scheming against Danny, and for both characters (but especially one character) the turn doesn’t make any sense based upon the way the story played out until that moment. It seemed as if this was trying to set up plot points for a second season, but it honestly felt out of place and not true to the characters presented on screen.
If you read the comics, you know that these two characters are actually enemies of Iron Fist, but that wasn’t sufficiently set up in this season. One of the characters was introduced too late for any meaningful character building to accrue, and the other character literally had no motivation to turn against Danny because the events that unfolded to negatively change that characters life would have happened anyway had Danny Rand not come back from Kun Lun.
Nonetheless, there are some positives to the show. The fight choreography was good, even if it never reached the heights of “Daredevil,” and some of the acting was pretty good as well. New characters Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) provide fresh points of view and change. Tom Pelphrey probably gives the best performance of the show, and it almost seems out of place because most of the other characters are just okay.
Rosario Dawson returns as Claire Temple, essentially serving as Marvel TV’s version of Marvel Films’ Nick Fury. She also holds the perspective that many of the viewers have regarding the events of the show. She is unimpressed and unsurprised by people with magical powers and also calls out many of the profoundly stupid plans Danny Rand and his partners come up with.
Also, the writers (for Marvel TV shows) need to stop making their characters surprised when they find out that magic, dragons and super-powered beings exist. These shows take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the events of “The Avengers” have been referenced numerous times in all three shows. At this point, it doesn’t make sense that people are shocked to see someone with a glowing fist that can punch a door open when they’ve literally seen the Hulk, Thor and flying interdimensional space slugs.
In the end, “Iron Fist” serves as a sort of introduction to Marvel’s next Netflix series, “The Defenders,” which will serve as “The Avengers of Netflix,” when all the heroes from Marvel’s Netflix shows band together and form a group of their own. While having an introduction to the character Iron Fist is important, I feel it would have been better if they extended “The Defenders” from eight episodes to 13 and had the first few episodes introduce Danny Rand to the rest of the group.
What we got was 13 episodes of a show that was afraid to go in one direction with confidence. In the end, the show felt unnecessary and mostly resulted in filler. It also doesn’t seem all that important to watch “Iron Fist” going into “The Defenders.” I thought it would lead into the next series more but as with the trend of this show, it was too afraid to dedicate itself to any clear objective.
I give Marvel’s Iron Fist: 6 / 10