We’ve met the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. We’ve seen the Man with Unbreakable skin. We’ve followed the Greatest Superhero Detective. And now, after months of waiting, we finally got to behold the Living Weapon: Iron Fist! Yes, Iron Fist has finally hit Netflix, and of course I took it upon myself to binge-watch it in one day so as to avoid spoilers down the road. Was it worth the 13+ hours of sitting in front of my laptop monitor while guzzling energy drinks and eating veggie sticks? Well, yeah, I think so. (spoilers ahead!)
Let’s start off with a brief recap of Iron Fist (Note: For the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to summarize the show’s version of the character since it deviates from the comic origin). Teenage Danny Rand was flying to China with his parents when their plane crashed into the Himalayas. Danny’s parents perished, but he was rescued by a group of monks who brought him to the mystical city of K’un-Lun, which only appears in our dimension once every 15 years. While in K’un-Lun, Danny discovered the ability of the Iron Fist, a martial arts discipline that allows him to focus his chi into his fist and, well, make it as hard as iron. Oh, and it gives him super cool martial arts abilities too.
Danny returns to New York City 15 years later and finds that his family’s company has been taken over by some old “friends”. He also discovers a more sinister plot is at work behind the scenes.
Since I love comparisons, I’ll just say that this show is like a mix of Arrow, Batman Begins, and Daredevil. It’s the “rich kid disappears for many years and comes back as a humble bad-ass” trope mixed in with the “quiet, unassuming guy who is secretly an amazing fighter” trope all rolled into one. For people like me, that’s like combining chocolate and peanut butter, which is awesome. For others, it might be the same old cliches that they’ve seen time and time again.
From the get-go, I knew this series would receive a ton of negative reviews when there was a major controversy surrounding the casting of Finn Jones as protagonist Danny Rand. People were upset that an Asian actor wasn’t cast, and that this series was perpetuating the “white savior stereotype”. As I mentioned in a previous article, I think Marvel was screwed either way with the casting. They could’ve cast a white guy and stuck to the canon from the comics while receiving flack about this supposed “white savior” shtick, or they could’ve cast an Asian actor and been slammed for typecasting them as Kung Fu masters. So… which would’ve been less offensive? The only 100% safe option would’ve been to just can the project altogether. My take is: the character is white in the comics, and he was written to be an outsider when he went to K’un-Lun (which, although fictional, is clearly meant to be strongly influenced by Asian culture), so there shouldn’t be a problem with this casting, especially since he wasn’t really a “white savior”. He was a white guy who knew Kung Fu. Is that really a problem?
The first few episodes are part of your typical establishing story. Danny comes back to New York and discovers how much everything has changed – except, the only big change that really affects him is that his old childhood friends have taken over his company. We don’t see Danny react to “the incident” or any other major events that have happened since the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did he have Internet access in K’un-Lun? Did he read the Wikipedia entries about each movie as a refresher? Why does nothing seem to surprise him? Dude, aliens invaded New York. How are you not asking questions? I thought the first half of the series would’ve focused on him coming to terms with everything that has happened so far in the world, especially concerning the events of Doctor Strange. Instead, he doesn’t seem very perturbed by it all. Instead, he’s worrying about getting his old friends to realize that he survived the plane crash and that he deserves to be part of his family’s company once again.
During these first couple of episodes, we also meet Colleen Wing (played by Jessica Henwick), head of a local dojo. Colleen is cautious about Danny at first (can you blame her?), but she soon learns that she can trust him and befriends him.
Don’t worry – Colleen is not a simple love interest there solely for the sake of banging the protagonist. She’s actually as much of a bad-ass as Danny (except without the Iron Fist part). In the first couple episodes, we watch her demonstrate her martial arts abilities several times – in fact, I think we see her fight more than Danny does in the beginning. She proves right away that although she doesn’t have any super powers, she’s still more than capable at holding her own.
It’s very difficult for me to appropriately summarize the entire series plot in this one review. There is just so much going on. We have Danny fighting to restore his place at his family’s company; there’s a heroin smuggling conspiracy being led by an old, familiar villain; the legendary martial arts clan the Hand is back on the scene with their nefarious ways; and Danny’s former companion has come to request his aid in protecting the gateway to K’un-Lun. Yeah, all that takes place in the span of 13 episodes. It seems like a lot, but honestly, I think I enjoyed this series’ plot the most out of all the Netflix shows so far (with the exception of the first half of Daredevil‘s second season). Now, we’ve already seen a lot of these plot elements before in Daredevil, but it just felt more organic and appropriate in the setting for Iron Fist, and I’m honestly not sure why. I guess Daredevil should stick to fighting Kingpin while Iron Fist (or even Elektra if she ever gets a solo series) handles the Hand and similar foes.
I think Jones and Henwick did fantastic in their roles as Danny Rand and Colleen Wing respectively. Their chemistry felt more natural than Matt Murdock and Karen Page, which never really sat right with me. These two work so well on screen together that you could almost consider this series as a co-op between them rather than just an Iron Fist solo. My one regret is that we didn’t see Misty Knight make an appearance in Wing’s dojo, given that the two are partners and friends in the comics. We didn’t even get a cameo from Luke Cage, who becomes Danny’s best friend! How could you have Luke Cage such a prominent role in Jessica Jones, but not even give him three seconds in Iron Fist?
A lot of early reviews of the show criticized the fight scenes. I don’t know what the hell they were talking about. These were some of the best choreographed fight scenes I’ve seen on the Netflix shows. The fights in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage looked so fake; there were moments where someone looked like they didn’t even get hit and they went flying across the room. Daredevil had awesome fight scenes, but the dark atmosphere was a bit too much at times. Iron Fist‘s fights looked so fluid and natural, almost like something you’d see in a big-budget movie. I’d love it if we saw a Daredevil vs. Iron Fist fight scene soon, just so we could watch them come to a stalemate before they decide to come together as allies. Hey, I’m gonna keep on dreaming.
The season has its moments, but it’s far from perfect. There are numerous villains scattered throughout, and yet none of them were that great. I think we’ve been spoiled with the likes of Kingpin and Kilgrave that we just can’t find a villain who will ever match up to those standards. I’m hoping Sigourney Weaver‘s mystery villain in The Defenders is a true force to be reckoned with.
Also, I’m really upset that we never get to see Danny don the actual Iron Fist costume. It was bad enough how we waited the whole first season of Daredevil before we saw his iconic uniform, but how are you going to deprive us of the Iron Fist?! I mean, we even saw the Jewel costume in Jessica Jones! You couldn’t at least show us Danny finding a hidden chest with the costume as an after-credit scene? Come on, now.
If you’ve watched all the Marvel Netflix series so far, you should definitely check out Iron Fist. Personally, I don’t think any of the series have reached Daredevil‘s quality, but they’ve all come close, and Iron Fist might be the closest. Check it out soon so you can be ready for The Defenders, which should be here within the next year.
Final Grade: B +
+ Great performances from Henwick and Jones.
+ Some of the smoothest choreography I’ve seen on the Netflix series.
+ It was neat seeing the Hand make a reappearance; their presence felt much more appropriate here than in Daredevil.
– I wish we saw the Iron Fist costume!
– There were numerous villains, and most of them were fairly disappointing.
– I expected to see more of K’un-Lun.
– I would’ve liked an ending scene to lead into The Defenders. It would’ve been cool to see Luke or Jessica showing up to the dojo and going like “We need your help.”
Did you enjoy Iron Fist? Did Marvel finally hit a snag with their Netflix series, or was this just as good as its predecessors? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!