Review: “Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 1”

Marvel's Iron FistGiven all the controversy and bad reviews that are floating around for this one, I’m just going to come out and say it: Marvel’s Iron Fist does not suck IMO. Dare ye…um…not oppose me! I’m not saying that Marvel’s Iron Fist is the greatest show ever or that it is on par with the other Marvel TV shows that have made it to Netflix. It isn’t. But it’s a decent show, one that gets better as the first season progresses. Some reviews of the Marvel / Netflix series appear to spend a good deal of time on the white washing issue, which seems – to me – to have marred the series in the eyes of many, perhaps generating even harsher reviews than the show deserves. For me, this is a separate issue from whether the show is any good or not.

There are good things and bad things about the show worth talking about. Brace yourself for spoilers, kids.

The Bad

Danny Rand

No Danny! You can’t go to the bathroom there! Bad!

Let’s be real here. Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones) is kind of a dip-shit. That’s not entirely bad! He was just some rich kid who found himself in K’un Lun one day. He also spent fifteen years in a monastery where life was brutal, but simple. Given his backstory, a naive Danny Rand seems pretty believable to me. And I think the idea of a dude who’s supposed to be a super bad ass fighting machine also viewing the world with a childlike simplicity can actually be pretty interesting. It can also be a bit annoying. Not always, but sometimes. Especially during the early episodes where Danny Rand…who keeps assuring us that he is, indeed, the Iron Fist…ends up in a crazy-room where he can’t focus his chi enough to escape or some such thing.1

In addition, his childhood “friends” are pretty uneven throughout the show. Sometimes the sister (Joy) is the good one, supporting Danny one moment while drugging him unconscious the next. Ward, likewise, can’t seem to make up his mind. Is he a psychopath like his father, or just misunderstood? Some of this can be explained by the complex relationships these characters have with each other. Especially Ward, who has secretly been under the abusive grip of his father for many years.

The biggest problem, which everyone will have figured out if they saw the show, is that Danny Rand – The Iron Fucking Fist – should be a bad ass with few serious rivals. There should be scenes where he’s twirling horizontally in midair, kicking ten dudes in the face while snapping someone’s arm off with his left hand and catching a softball with the other because I’m imagining this scene at a baseball game for some reason. He should be catching at least three bullets between his teeth and a katana sword between his ass cheeks too and squeezing it into a half-moon shape. Why? BECAUSE HE’S THE IRON FIST! THAT’S WHY! Feel free to draw this image and send me a copy, BTW. It’ll get posted. Oh yeah.

Danny in a robe

Is Danny really good at martial arts or just a really bad mime?

Instead, he sort of feels like a guy who took Tae Bo classes at the Y for like six months and just up and decided that he’s a bad ass. That ain’t good enough, Marvel! I want to believe that if Daredevil had to fight Rand in the upcoming Defenders series, Daredevil would be in some serious shit. I want to believe that Danny could punch Luke Cage through a concrete wall or knock out Jessica Jones with a single finger to the shoulder. As it is, I’m afraid he’d end up crying about his broken chi or something. Danny, there’s no whining in superheroing! NONE! Well, maybe a little. Did you see the Sam Rami Spiderman movies yet? Get it together, man! Even if you aren’t at 100%, you should be at least as bad ass as Daredevil at the start of this show. And you aren’t. In fact, Danny can only focus the Iron Fist into one hand. You sadden me, Iron Fist.

I’m happy for there to be new places our hero can go in the series, but I don’t want Danny to be a complete novice at the start of the show either.

The Good

Despite some issues with characterization and story, I still felt like I wanted to watch this show to the end. Colleen Wing was great in the show, though she should probably be dating someone cooler. Like me. There were homages peppered through Iron Fist to other (better) martial art battles, which was a nice touch for fans of martial art movies. Rand even had to fight a drunken master at one point. It also seems that the show understands some of the differences between Chinese and Japanese martial arts. In one of Colleen’s fights, she goes up against a woman who is wielding a Chinese sword, while Colleen wields a katana, a Japanese weapon. My knowledge of forms and katas is limited, but the moves we saw during some of their practice exercises seemed (reasonably) accurate to me too.

Sword fightOne thing that few reviewers have mentioned – something ex-cultists like myself should be interested in – is the examination of how people use their positions of authority to manipulate and use others. The show has numerous examples of this, from the Meachams to Kun L’un to the Hand. In many ways, these are examples of how cults operate and how abusive relationships within families work. This is the “deep” part of this story, just as Luke Cage addressed crime in areas overrun with poverty and racism, Jessica Jones tackled gas-lighting, and Daredevil explored the slippery slope of vigilante justice.

Colleen Wing and Danny Rand

I’ve been TASERed for way less. How does he do it???

It’s clear that the father of the Meachams is a sociopath, and later, maybe even a psychopath. His treatment of Ward and the way Ward behaved when he and Danny were growing up tells us a few things about how abusive parents can twist their own children. The idea of such a father who is nearly (big spoiler!) immortal is a pretty awful one to think about. Unfortunately, this gets mishandled as Ward seems to be almost as bad as his father near the start. I think they were going for some sort of character growth for Ward, but instead, it just feels out of character when he suddenly wants to be a nice guy to Danny. There is an arc for Ward, which is good. But for me, the arc stretches the character to the breaking point, which is bad.

I really liked the part when Danny realizes the extent of the Hand’s reach and tells his friends that it all sounds like a cult. He sort of went through the same thing himself at Kun L’un after all. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t really commit to this idea even though what little we are told of his past at Kun L’un seems to support the idea that he may have been brainwashed himself. If they wanted to maintain Danny’s sense of obligation to that city, they should have given us information that showed us how Kun L’un is different from a cult and the Hand. But they failed to do that. It also failed to have Danny recognize that he had been brainwashed, which would have been interesting to see. So this angle just sort of fizzles out when Danny tries to return to the city later. Like so many other aspects of this show, it could have been handled a bit better and smarter. Of course, we still have season 2…

The Verdict

Ultimately, I would rate Iron Fist as being watchable but not very rewatchable. The first three or four episodes are mostly filler, but even those were enough to keep me coming back for more. The show was good enough to carry me to the end of the season, but the team that made this show really needs to learn from its mistakes or move aside for a better team in season 2. If they’re the ones making The Defenders series…I’m afraid The Defenders could be in trouble. That’s supposed to be The Avengers, only for TV.

You better not suck, Defenders! Nerd-lives are at TV-stake here.

Oh, you know I’m going to watch you no matter what Defenders. You ornery dickens. I’m sorry I yelled.

 

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  1. Admittedly, this also served to show us how important fighting is to him later. That’s a decent plot device. It just takes too long to get there.

About The Atheist Geek

The Atheist Geek is a former Jehovah’s Witness turned secular humanist. He’s a lifelong sci-fi geek and a writer wannabe.

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