The latest Marvel Netflix outing, Iron Fist, came out last Friday with some pre-emptive strikes from critics. But keep in mind, critics only saw the first six episodes; I (and many other fans) have now binged the whole thing in less than a week (less than a weekend for some), so I’m here to give my spoiler-free thoughts.
In short, I enjoyed it, and if you were already planning to watch it, or have seen the other shows and are interested in The Defenders, I think you will too. Just keep your expectations on the low side going in, because it is not nearly as good as the three previous series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage), and if you have no interest in superheroes/the MCU/etc. don’t even bother.
I went into Iron Fist hoping for a kung fu show, but what I got was a corporate drama with some occasional ninjas…sorry, not even ninjas, mostly just random thugs. Unlike the three previous shows, this show didn’t really have much to say. Danny Rand’s origin story appears as a watered-down version of Batman or Oliver Queen. His parents are killed in a plane crash in the Himalayas; he’s rescued to the hidden mystical city of K’un Lun where he trains and earns the title of Iron Fist; he returns to reclaim his parents’ company.
It gets off to a very slow start. The first episodes that the critics saw could easily have been condensed into two or three with better pacing. (It even manages to make sex scenes boring. How does that happen?!) But it does pick up quite a bit in the second half as new characters are introduced and twists revealed, and I really enjoyed the ride.
Unfortunately, we hardly get to see anything of K’un Lun or Danny’s time there. There are a few flashbacks, but mostly just the same one of his parents dying over and over. There’s a reason the first season of Arrow worked so well, and I think this show should have taken some notes. We don’t get any sense of where Danny is coming from until really late in the season, which I think hampers our ability to relate to him and understand his mood swings.
The show also suffers from lack of focus on a villain. DD season 1, JJ, and the first half of LC all have one thing in common: a strong, compelling, central villain. There are several antagonists throughout this series, and while some are great (particularly Madame Gao and Harold Meachum), it sometimes felt more like a set-up for the Defenders series than a story for Iron Fist in his own right.
The side characters are the real shining light in the show. Colleen Wing is great overall and has a great character arc. The clip of her cage fight in her classic white tracksuit had already convinced me I would like her. Ward Meachum consistently improves as the series progresses, also getting his own character arc. Danny’s friend Davos is a wonderful foil for Danny, and I hope we will see more of him in the future. And Claire Temple immediately breathes life into the show when she appears in episode five.
My biggest disappointment with the show was probably the martial arts action. Again, it wasn’t bad…it was just kinda there. I was hoping for a real martial arts show, but the choreography was no more impressive than Daredevil, and I really disliked the use of lots of quick cuts during the fights. There is a bit of discussion of different styles of martial arts, but I wish they had shown the differences even more, especially when Colleen with her katana faces off against a Chinese wuxia-style fighter.
The best fight comes in episode eight where Danny faces a Hand guardian who’s using the “drunken master” style. (During that fight, I said to my husband, “Can we keep this guy instead of Danny?” Because he has about 10x the charisma.) But if you really want to see a martial arts show, go check out Into the Badlands instead—the first season is now on Netflix and the second season is currently airing on AMC.
I would put this show at least on par with the DC shows currently airing on the CW (Arrow, Flash, etc.)–least anyone think that is an insult, I’ll reiterate that I enjoyed all of them.
Anyone else have opinions? We can get spoilery down in the comments if you want.