THE final Defender to join Netflix is Danny Rand, The Iron Fist.
Finn Jones stars as the show’s namesake, AKA Danny Rand, a man with as stereotypical a superhero backstory as you could wish for. He’s orphaned and the heir to his parents’ billion dollar company. In search of purpose after his parent’s deaths in a plane crash, he trains to become a warrior monk in K’un-Lun and in doing so he becomes the Iron Fist (I’m still not really sure what that means in the context of this show). Danny returns to New York fifteen years after he supposedly died in the same plane crash that killed his parents and tries to reclaim his father’s business, Rand Enterprises.
And herein, is my first issue with this show. We’re not really sure why Danny has returned and the first four episodes are almost entirely focused on Danny’s reintegration into society and his relationship with his old family friends, the Meachums. The early stages feel totally directionless and the first four episodes could have really been condensed into one, at most. Once Danny learns of The Hand’s involvement in New York (see Daredevil Season 2) things start to pick up a little. But the whole plot feels a bit wishy-washy. We’re not ever sure why Danny has returned to New York or why he’s suddenly so desperate to reclaim his billion dollar business. Maybe that’s fairly obvious, in retrospect. His battle with the Hand almost feels like a secondary sub-plot which seems like an odd decision when your protagonist is a man who, by literally plunging his hands into the heart of an undying dragon, gained superhuman powers specifically to fight the aforementioned Hand.
The show doesn’t embrace Danny’s supernatural powers in the way it should. That’s the element that could and should have been the defining feature of this series and instead the supernatural aspects are given little screen time in throwaway moments with poorly written lines of dialogue.
The Iron Fist’s purpose is to defend K’un-Lun from The Hand but other than that, we’re not really sure why Danny is fighting. Who is he fighting for? What is his goal? With Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones the fight is personal and the villains are given as much character work as the hero. This is sadly lacking in Iron Fist. As is any real threat. Daredevil comes close to death a number of times, Luke Cage too. Jessica Jones is subjected to psychological torture. The stakes are so high in the other Marvel/ Netflix shows but Danny is never really tested as much as his colleagues. Too much of the series is focused on the Meachum’s and their family soap opera. This should have been a subplot at most but at times it overshadows Danny and his quest to destroy the hand.
Another issue with this series is the characterisation of Danny Rand. I’m not sure whether it’s bad writing or a miss-casting but he doesn’t feel right in the role. Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter all carry their respective shows with a certain gravitas and charisma. They’re forces to be reckoned with. You don’t get this with Danny and by the end of the season, I’m not sure who Danny Rand is. Whether that’s intentional or not is irrelevant, it just doesn’t really work. Initially, Danny appears naive, almost child-like which I thought was a fun dynamic to begin with. This guy after all, has never been an adult in modern society. Early on, you feel like he has a dormant power he’s hiding from the world, behind the mask of a child, but this never really develops. He actually feels rather incompetent in comparison to his fellow Defenders. Considering he’s trained with warrior-monks for fifteen years and was chosen to be the Iron Fist (which involved him besting Shou-Lao the Undying, a dragon) specifically to destroy the hand, it’s a bit weird that Daredevil, a blind man, seems to have a better go at it.
There is some good in this show. Although Jones might not be perfect for the role I enjoyed a lot of his more light hearted moments and he plays the naivety of the character well. His sidekick, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) is probably the stand out of the series and she probably has the best storyline which is a problem because surely that should belong to the title character? Ward Meacham too, has a much bigger story arc than Danny, with much more character development, and this is played really well by Tom Pelphrey. Rosario Dawson returns to play Claire Temple and she’s just as good as she’s always been.
The show is perfectly enjoyable without being anything special. It’s no Daredevil or Jessica Jones and it probably ranks below Luke Cage for me too. There’s some decent action sequences (and some not so decent ones) and there’s some nice character moments for Danny, Colleen and Claire. We also get a bit of backstory on The Hand and Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) which is there to lead us in the Defenders coming later this year.
AVERAGE. Iron Fist is, unfortunately, the weakest Marvel/ Netflix show to date.
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Episode #29 Iron Fist review and Justice League trailer