Marvel’s Netflix series have long been the moodier and more stylish cousins in the MCU family, and latest outing Iron Fist is no exception. Blasting Outkast’s ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ and pointedly wearing no shoes, it is clear from the very first scene that newest family addition Iron Fist lives up to Netflix’s slick production standards – even if it could do with a shower.
That said, I had my doubts about this one. Although Jessica Jones was a resounding success, along with Daredevil (well, most of it), Luke Cage – Marvel’s previous Netflix release – had failed to grip me, despite being admittedly well made. It just lacked that certain something, that holding power, and I was not convinced that the story of ‘some white kid who punches things a lot’ was going to be any better. Whether or not you consider the character of Danny Rand as the Iron Fist to be some form of cultural appropriation or not, he certainly ran the risk of reminding me of the stereotypical gap year student. ‘Oh, K’un-Lun? Nah, you probably haven’t heard of it.’
“The viewer is encouraged to take nothing for certain.”
It was with reservation, then, that I approached Iron Fist. Not enough reservation to prevent me from finishing the series in just a few days, though – in fact, you could say I was pleasantly surprised. Iron Fist, although not as strong throughout in plot and character as Jessica Jones, doesn’t suffer so much from Daredevil’s affliction of poor mid-season pacing – and unlike Luke Cage, Danny Rand feels vulnerable. The viewer is encouraged to take nothing for certain. With plot twists and escalating tension throughout, Iron Fist surprised me by being enjoyably watchable.
Danny is a complex character, in portrayal of whom Finn Jones clearly couldn’t quite decide whether to go for the ‘cute and awkward’ or ‘intense and brooding’ look. He’s more than a little messed-up, and much of Iron Fist’s drive comes from Danny seeking to come to terms with his traumatic past. This has mixed results, and Iron Fist’s issue as a show comes from having to balance this actual plot with enough flashy action scenes to keep us idle viewers happily dosed with axe kicks. With regards to this plot arc, it’s clear that Netflix knows just how much staying power Marvel IPs now have; much is unresolved, and a lot is set up for the (as yet unconfirmed) second season, and of course for the upcoming Defenders crossover. This is not to suggest that work on Iron Fist was undertaken lightly, however I would say that, without the MCU’s resounding success as precedent and incentive, the show would not have garnered anywhere near the viewership that it has. Certain elements which actually keep the show interesting – Danny’s character development and realisation of his own naivety, the nefarious involvements of the shadowy Hand organisation, and groundwork for various character motivations – are not introduced until a little later on. Netflix assumes – not incorrectly – that people will give Iron Fist their time on the basis of it being a Marvel series.
“some elements are a surefire hit”
That said, whilst some aspects of the show are a bit of a slow burn, some elements are a surefire hit, and by some elements I mean any scene with Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing in it. Danny and Colleen share (amongst other things) some unresolved anger issues, which are definitely not helped by both characters having to come to terms with whether or not their ideology is as unshakeable as they once thought; the difference is that, whilst Danny spends most of his time looking like a questionably-hairstyled lost puppy, Colleen spends her time being a total fucking badass, and the most compelling character in the entire show. Whilst other characters err towards inconsistency (I’m looking at you, Joy Meachum – you’re either an excellent businesswoman or you’re a postergirl for nepotism and entitlement, pick one, damn it), Colleen is reliably fantastic throughout the entire series. You know what, fuck Marvel’s Iron Fist – I want Marvel’s Colleen Wing. Colleen Wing: The Movie. Get on it, Kevin Feige.
“Iron Fist is an enjoyable outing from Marvel.”
In other news, Claire ‘do you have any plans that don’t involve murder’ Temple returns as possibly the only fully sane person on the entire show, even if she is there mostly to reference the other Netflix shows. Rosario Dawson is a wonder, as always, even though she couldn’t be more obvious if she turned and winked at the camera each time. With The Defenders as the next Marvel show lined up for Netflix release, I actually expected more obvious tie-ins, which we were thankfully spared. That said, Daredevil’s Madame Gao returns, and succeeds in stealing each and every scene she crops up in; the rest of the MCU’s villains ought to take a masterclass from actor Wai Ching Ho. David Wenham’s Harold Meachum is menacing, in a somewhat in-your-face manner; Harold is threatening, but holds no surprises. As for the Meachums in general, it’s safe to say that the boardroom scenes are a bit of a drag, although Tom Pelphrey’s Ward actually turned out to have a decent character arc, despite his dullness in the first few episodes.
“the show has promise”
Overall, Iron Fist is an enjoyable outing from Marvel. While not their best, it has a variety of redeeming features which do not deserve the generally savage reviews it has been accruing thus far. With Finn Jones currently filming for The Defenders, Marvel fans will be seeing more of the Iron Fist very soon. I for one hope that, when Iron Fist is inevitably renewed for a second season, the more interesting depths of the characters are further delved into. Although off to a shaky start, the show has promise – in the meantime, The Defenders is sure to be entertaining, if only because I really can’t see the characters getting on as a team. Jessica’s sarcasm is going to absolutely tear into Danny, and I want to be there to see it.