Genre: Comic Book/Martial Arts action
Words by: Dan Tull
The final chapter in the buildup to Marvel’s first TV crossover event has landed. Iron Fist is the fourth Netflix series following Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. With this, the stage is set for The Defenders later this year. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s essentially the “Avengers of the streets”. Iron Fist is a martial arts odyssey that sees protagonist Danny Rand (the titular Iron Fist, played by Game Of Thrones alumni Finn Jones) engaging in a one-man-war on the same mysterious organisation we first saw in Daredevil, The Hand. If I were to rate this against the other Marvel shows, I’d say it’s the weakest. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not as tight as the first series of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
Iron Fist has been a show that even before it’s release endured some major controversy. For one, concerns over whitewashing became evident and there were further issues over the general quality of the show. As a result, I feel that much of the press was quite heavily influenced by this early panning and it became immediately trendy to dislike the show. With this in mind, I went into this with a mind as open as possible, which wasn’t overly difficult considering I’m probably one of the few people who actually quite liked the source material.
To begin with, let’s just get the obvious controversy stuff out the way. Yes, more diverse representation in media should absolutely be commonplace, and we’ve seen it handled extremely well in previous Marvel shows such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. That said, I feel as though this is a case of there being very little Marvel could do to get it right and please everyone. If they’d cast an Asian actor to play a historically white character, there would also have been outrage from passionate fans alike. This is an issue that should definitely be included prominently within discourse around the entertainment industry, as representation is still disappointingly low for a lot of groups within film and television. It is just a case of getting the balance right and representing these people well instead of just including a token individual in order to tick a box.
Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand, the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents over the Himalayas. He is quickly taken in by a group of warrior monks and trained in the ways of Martial Arts. Ten years later, he returns to New York City for personal reasons and finds himself caught up in a world of intrigue, deception and shady corporate dealings. It also turns out that whilst away he has become blessed with the eponymous Iron Fist and can summon it by focusing his chi. This manifests as an unbreakable glowing fist that causes varying levels of destruction.
For the first few episodes, the series hums along at a slower pace than the previous Marvel shows. However, this is not really a criticism as I found most of what I was seeing entertaining. I would say that the first third features far less martial arts than one might expect from a show like this. The plot occasionally feels overly contrived, especially when we start to unravel the truth behind series antagonist, Harold Meachum (played by Lord Of The Rings’s David Wenham). If I were to rate this against the other Marvel shows, I’d say it’s the weakest. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not as tight as the first series of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
The show is at its best when focused on the relationship between Danny and Coleen Wing (fellow Game of Thrones star Jessica Henwick). The whole storyline that plays out here is compelling enough to maintain an interest throughout the show, amounting to a decent sub-plot. Unfortunately, the show finds a strange main plot that left me a little confused as to what certain characters were trying to achieve. Harold Meachum seems to be a duplicitous business tycoon for no other reason than it fits a stereotype. By the time we reach the end of the series he betrays Danny for no apparent reason. The same goes for Harold’s estranged daughter, Joy Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup), who spends most of the show supporting Danny only to seemingly be plotting his murder come the finale.
We also get a decent redemption arc for Ward Meachum, the brother of Joy. He starts out the series as a cookie cutter villainous board room douche and develops into a deeply sympathetic character who, moving forward, may prove to be one of Danny’s stronger allies.
As far as ties to the wider MCU go, we get the obligatory references to the Avengers as well as a couple of characters crossing over from previous TV shows. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Ann Moss from The Matrix) returns from Jessica Jones and of course, Rosario Dawson’s long suffering character of Claire Temple returns. Having been promoted to a major role in Luke Cage, she finds a middle ground in Iron Fist. I have to say, she’s the most contrived part of the show. Whilst her appearances in Luke Cage and Jessica Jones felt relatively natural, her appearance here is ridiculous. She just seems to exist and tags along on the missions that Danny Rand and Coleen are on just to provide a link to the other shows. Undoubtably she’ll be the one who unites the Defenders.
In general, I found Iron Fist to be enjoyable. It certainly has many flaws but it’s a good enough addition to the MCU TV series as we move into the Defenders.
Finn Jones as Danny Rand is a great solo performance despite controversies on his casting
Jessica Henwick is a breakout as Coleen Wing
Some pretty amazing fight scenes
A dragon now exists in the MCU which is great
The hints towards mysticism are a welcome addition
The plot sometime meanders to the point of being irrelevant
What even are Harold Meachum’s motivations?
Also, why does Joy Meachum now want to kill Danny?
Claire Temple’s appearance is simply too much, even though she’s the glue that holds these shows together she is utterly superfluous in this