If you haven’t watched Netflix’s Iron Fist series, you are probably in my same boat. It has been out for a few months now and I feel like I am one of the last reviewers to come to the party. I will be honest: I was not excited to watch this one. I haven’t been this unexcited to watch a Netflix Marvel series since Jessica Jones (which I knew next to nothing about and is arguably the best series so far). The trailers looked strange, to say the least. There was magic and Kung Fu and a rich kid turned vigilante.
This strangeness makes this a hard series to get into because it is every bit as strange as the trailer portrays. Gone is the more accepted Marvel universe of rare freaks who gained their abilities by birth or accident. Danny Rand, the protagonist, is the first to decide to gain his powers, though it’s hard to gather that in the first episodes.
That is the major problem of the series: almost all the interesting aspects of the show come in until later. At the beginning, there is a kid who was supposed to die with his rich parents, but didn’t, and is now back in the world. You honestly don’t even get to find out he is a vigilante hunting the Hand from Daredevil until after the first episode. There doesn’t seem to be a goal to latch on to, let alone a character. And I’m not just talking about Danny, but any of characters. It seems for the first few episodes that everyone is just walking around caring about money.
The greatest parts of the formula for the past series, to me, is that they balanced a goal we wanted achieved as much as the protagonist with the fear of what would happen if the protagonist didn’t stop. Often, there are even reasons we want the antagonist to succeed. Take all the others (spoilers if you haven’t watched the others):
Daredevil: Want Daredevil to fight to save those who cannot save themselves, but we want him to stop being physically damaged by his fight. In the first season, we almost want Fisk to win because he is rebuilding New York City after the events of the first Avengers movie.
Jessica Jones: Want Jessica to stop the “purple man” from using and killing people, but we want her to stop being psychologically damaged by her fight. In the later episodes, we understand more of why Kilgrave is Kilgrave. While we don’t condone what he has done, we understand more of the process that made him; we briefly believe he is going to reform.
Luke Cage: Want Luke to stop the gangs at work in Harlem, but we want him to stop because of all the damage being done to others as backlash to his fight. Again, the bad guys are technically rebuilding the neighborhood.
Iron Fist doesn’t have this same formula, though they try to a degree. This gets much better later in the show. We see the fight, we learn more about the characters, and we want to see the triumph of good over evil.
While I have heard that others had issue with the stylized martial arts fighting, and it does take some getting used to, it feels true to the genre of martial arts movie that is obviously being invoked. The last episode had the only fight that I think does not feel true.
My personal favorite character from the series is Colleen Wing– but I’m a bit of a sucker for regular people fighting next to superheroes and doing just as well.
This is not a bad work from Marvel and Netflix, but it is definitely the least. I’m giving the show a 4/5, though the show started at a 3. You could really take it or leave it in the beginning, but it increasingly gets better. In the last two episodes, it even gets to the point where you have to binge. The acting is as good as it can be, but the writing felt like it held the work back. This is especially true of Ward and Joy Meachum, the childhood friends of Danny. They begin the show feeling two-dimensional and only really fill out in the last three shows. However: this is still completely worth a watch.
I’m personally looking forward to seeing these characters return in the team-up series The Defenders. There is a lot that is left to see and the trailer looks like Danny is going to be considered the kid-brother to the real heroes, which should be hilarious.