Iron Fist SPOILERS: What Worked and What Didn’t.
Iron Fist SPOILERS: What Worked and What Didn’t.
Marvel’s Iron Fist hasn’t been received quite well by both critical and public reception. The reviews have been mixed, to put it lightly and the overall tone of the show is more along the lines of a campy ABC pilot than the grounded Netflix universe we have become accustomed to. I already gave some non-spoiler thoughts regarding the first six episodes, which you can read here. I think this hurt the series as a whole, putting out only six episodes for what ultimately is a lackluster series. However, the series does pick up somewhat after the 5th episode. Having these preconceived notions of negative reviews for half of a series is possibly why the show is failing so much when it comes to reception.
That’s not to say that Iron Fist is a great show, far from it. The series felt like a job to get through, and while this is my profession, I am a fan first when it comes to this genre. Needless to say, the series as a whole let me down, left me cold and if I’m honest, was a bit of a waste of time.
Fortunately, there are some aspects of the series that did work, however minor they are. Since I tend to be an optimist of sorts, I wanted to take a look at Iron Fist from both sides of the coin. Now, I am going about this in an objective matter, as my fandom will not interfere with the quality of the series as a whole.
The Fight Scenes (Sort-of)
The first several episodes of Iron Fist were riddled with awful fight choreography that was terribly filmed and cut too many times to be coherent. Luckily, after episode 5, the fight scenes do get significantly better for the most part. One that comes to mind that was a standout is the “drunken hobo” fight between Danny and, well, a drunken hobo!
The scene plays it well with Danny and this homeless man holding onto a bottle of liquor for the majority of the sequence. Not only is the scene well-filmed and executed, but it’s also actually funny as well. In fact, this was the first scene in the series that was “fun” in general. Before this, we are treated to a bland and cheesy take on a C-list superhero, with barely any screen presence or charisma. Watching this scene take place was exactly what we needed to actually “give a shit” about what’s happening on screen.
Another standout fight sequence is when Danny and his ex-trainings partner, Davos, take on members of Bakuto’s dojo. Not only did this scene have excellent choreography, but there were also actual stakes to it, giving the audience a reason to feel invested. Throughout this sequence, Danny struggles with summoning the Iron Fist, and Finn Jones does some decent work showcasing this through his performance. When he finally does unleash the fury, it’s a delight to see a payoff of sorts after so many extended scenes of Danny “finding his chi.”
Colleen and Claire
If there was one aspect of Iron First that worked through its thirteen episode run, is the characters of Colleen Wigg (Jessica Henwick) and returning cast member, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). Dawson has a lot more to do this season, which is undoubtedly foreshadowing for the upcoming Defenders series. Her relationship with Wigg works such as an old school “Dragon and Apprentice” type of way, which would’ve been way more interesting show in itself. Dawson isn’t just stitching people up this time; she’s in full training mode for her “night nurse” persona.
Henwick has remarkable screen presence, which is both commanding and dominant. It’s a shame that the script barely calls for her to do more than being Danny’s love interest/ quasi-mentor because for what she is given, she’s exceptional in the role.
The chemistry between Claire and Colleen outweigh any other of the relationships in the series. Simple explanation for that, the acting between the two is terrific. Rosario Dawson knows this universe inside and out by this point, and her sarcastically witty approach this time around is a fun progression for her arch between all the series she’s been a part of. Unfortunately, Wigg’s arc ends up much like… the same as Electra did in season 2 of Daredevil.
Yes, Marvel, you have done this gimmick twice now, and at this point, it’s almost offensive.
What Didn’t Work?
The First Five Episodes
Again, I touched on this in detail in my previous review, but boy was it painful. From the shows opening scene where a shaggy, overly optimistic Danny Rand returns to his father’s company. The change in the tone of the show from the previous different series under the same roof is apparent right out of the gate. From there on out, the pacing is mind-numbingly slow, for five whole episodes. I almost couldn’t believe how much of a “network tv” vibe it had, and sadly not in a good way. Shows like This Is Us and previously Lost have incredible performances, engaging characters, and a story you can get behind for more than a few episodes (I know, shocker).
What drives the show down from the get go is the overly convoluted, yet undeniably annoying sub-plot scene featuring business politics, business meetings, and occasionally a hand that lights up like a fluorescent bulb. Seriously, between all of the unlikeable side characters, to the wrongfully casted Finn Jones, I was not engaged in any aspect of the “story.”
When it comes to setting up an interesting backstory for a protagonist, it would appear that Iron Fist had all the right ingredients to make it work. A story that is more that what it seems on the surface, a protagonist who has more secrets than a safe deposit box, and a ninja soldier cult. How could this not freaking work! Even typing this up, I am once again reminded by all of the wasted potentials this series just let on the cutting room floor.
Usually, when it comes to flashbacks, they are used as a crutch to simplify a backstory that would be harder to tell organically. With Iron Fist, I was dying for some decent flashbacks, or anything for that matter to give us a sense of why Danny Rand is the way he is. Nothing is explained, and every answer is either “what I learned in K’un-Lun” or “it was The Hand.” The repetition was becoming severely monotonous, and I only kept finding myself tuning out of the show a handful of times.
This is a story that not only needs a backstory for all of the mythology it throws at you, it practically requires it. Only the “real fans” fans the Iron Fist character will get most of the references, and to be frank, there aren’t many fans of the character out there.
Where do I begin with this one? Let the record show that I hate the fact that I have so many negatives to say about the series. I wanted to love this show, like the ones that came before it. When the performances truly started to register to myself that they weren’t exactly great, I couldn’t believe it.
Finn Jones in particular struggles on how to play Rand. He first comes off as privileged and oblivious, and suddenly he is all powerful and wise within the same episode. What’s unfortunate is that Jones can’t sell the powerful and wise aspect of Danny Rand, as his delivery of individual lines is flat out laughable. When you watch episode 11 and hear him say “We need to cut the head off the snake,” you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) and Harold Meachum (David Wenham) are two of the most uncharismatic father-son duos to hit the big and small screen. Pelphrey tries his hardest as the series goes on, as a drug-addicted businessman who has daddy issues. You can tell he gave it his all, attempting to layer a rather one-note character throughout his downward spiral.
Wenham, on the other hand, is the most boring villain I’ve seen in a comic-book property since Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. After being treated to a bevy of brilliant villains, such as Kingpin and Kilgrave, seeing Harold Meachum come back from the dead (twice) only to give deadpan lines of dialogue and no screen presence is a major letdown.
The major threat this season is yet again, “The Hand” (previously seen in Daredevil Season 2). I don’t get how you can make an underground organization of super ninjas seem dull, but Iron Fist manages to do just that. After two seasons of dealing with “The Hand,” we still don’t know their motivations. Sure, they know how to fight and have this interesting cult-like congregation, but the show never dives deep into the mythology of it.
Essentially, they are glorified versions of the “Putties” from Might Morphin Power Rangers. Completely disposable faceless fighters who are just there to fight and die. This would be perfectly acceptable if ANY of our “heroes” were characters we wanted to see succeed, which sadly isn’t the case.
Speaking of villains, how terrible is Harold Meachum? He starts out the series’s being one of the more complex and mysterious figures on the show. This all goes to waste once he is murdered by his son, Ward and then comes back to life with a stoic, zombie persona that is painful to watch.
Did the writers on this show just say “screw it” so we can get onto the highly anticipated Defenders series later this year? Most likely.
Iron Fist is the definition of “filler” that is thirteen hours long. I liked about four of those thirteen hours, specifically episodes 10-11. Please don’t take this article as someone “bashing” a show, as I am the target audience this series is definitely for. I just can’t help but sum up the entire series into two words. Wasted potential.
Iron Fist season 1 is available to stream now on Netflix.