(This review will contain light plot spoilers but nothing that isn’t already known.)
Netflix’s latest addition to their Marvel universe leading to this summers ‘The Defenders” team-up series was always going to be fighting an uphill battle. From the moment Finn Jones was cast as the titular hero, Danny Rand, this show was already had some bruising before it’s debut. Then the first few reviews started to come out and the show was being bashed and called the worst thing Netflix has put out and all that jazz. Now I’m not gonna sit here and talk about the casting controversy because there’s nothing for me to say. I’m here to judge the show based on it’s quality. So with that said, is Iron Fist another home-run for Netflix or are the critics justified in their bashing? Well, no and no. I’m sad to say that while Iron Fist is not atrocious, it is the worst Marvel Netflix series and immensely disappointing.
Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), a billionaire who after thought to have died 15 years prior in a plane crash alongside his parents, returns home to New York City. After his plane crashed, he was taken in by monks and trained by them, ultimately given the power of the Iron Fist, an ancient force that allows it’s user to harness it and in obvious terms, have an Iron Fist. When he returns, he is first called crazy as everyone believes he is dead. He eventually “welcomed” back into his father’s company, Rand Industries alongside his childhood friends, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup) Meechum. He also comes into contact with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), the owner of a Dojo. As all of this transpires, he eventually learns that the ancient threat, The Hand, is in New York. He must battle them with the help if Colleen and a few other new and familiar allies from those who are well versed in the Netflix universe.
Okay first things first, let me say there are definitely positives to this series. The low scores are absurd. First, my favorite thing about the show is Colleen Wing. She is so cool and badass and instead of coming off like a cliche love interest, she feels like an equal to Danny and Danny treats her as such. Jessica Henwick plays this character amazingly and I can’t wait to see more of her in the Defenders. Also, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is back as she’s become the Nick Fury of the Netflix Universe and she is so snarky and strong that I love when she appears on screen. Something the series does really well is tackle the themes of drug addiction, PTSD and emotional and physical abuse. Danny Rand went through a very traumatic experience and this is handled really well and that was when I really felt for him as a character and connected to him. When the show tackles these themes it’s at it’s best. As for the action, its a really mixed bag. I’ll talk about the negative side later on but when the action is good, it’s exciting but it never hits the level of Daredevil and that is a shame. Also, I really like The Hand as an enemy and like where they’re going with them as the big bad of The Defenders.
I think the most disappointing thing about Iron Fist is there’s a better show looking to burst through. The show’s first 7 episodes honestly are entertaining and I found myself really wanting to jump back into this world especially once episode 6 and 7 rolled around. These two episodes are honestly really good and the definite high points of the series. Episode 8 is really well done also but after is when I feel the show really begins to fall apart. If episode 9 is good then episode 9 is absolutely awful. I found myself laughing at some of the dialogue as it was extremely cheesy. Now I like cheesy dialogue but this took it to like that form of cheese you don’t want in a series or movie. Even worse what they do with a certain character. I repeatedly said to myself, “wow” and “I can’t believe they’re doing this”. It was actually enough to almost turn me off of the series. If it was say, episode 4 or 5, I probably would of quit. But, episode 10 at least picked itself back up.
This is where my major criticism lies. The show is so off and on, especially in the last 4-5 episodes that I never knew if I was gonna get adrenaline or yawning. The show never felt like it really found it’s footing. Now Danny Rand was a very mixed bag also. One moment I was rooting for him, another moment I was just questioning how stupid he could be. I don’t think that Finn Jones did a bad job, even though a lot of his performance felt like really long monologues in a growly voice. I never felt that connection to him that I did with Luke Cage, Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones. He’s by no means a bad character but he just doesn’t feel up to snuff with the other 3 Defenders. The issue with him and most of the other characters is the writing. None of the characters feel particularly well written and I think some of the performances suffer because of this. The shoddy writing shows in a terrible season finale that never feels like the stakes are on display. Each storyline feels rather rushed and ends without a real impact. Even the final battle, if thats what I wanna call it, ends and then abruptly cuts away. The Villain never feels like a real threat either because it has about 4 of them. While The Hand feel like a real threat, the actual villain never feels threatening because it’s always jumping back and forth between villains and I eventually just didn’t feel anything.
Going back to what I was saying with the action, even though some aspects are good, when it’s bad , it’s really bad. There’s an infamous scene that has been referenced where Danny is fighting a baddie and it lasts 30 seconds. In that 30 seconds, there are 56 cuts. If you’ve ever seen the scene from Taken 3 where Liam Neeson is hopping the fence and there are like 40 cuts, it’s pretty much that level of choppy. It’s a shame because as this show focuses on Kung Fu and should of been really well done and cool, it just feels so bleh, which it really shouldn’t. If they can pull off a single take fight scene with Daredevil, they should of been able to pull off at least one really awesome fight scene which I’m afraid just never happens.
Iron Fist isn’t a terrible show by any means but it isn’t a good show either. It is a really disappointing series that pales greatly to the other 3 that have come before it. The thing that hurts this show is it relies too much on the other 3 series and doesn’t stand on it’s own. It feels too much like it just wants to get it over with so it can set up The Defenders. While this show doesn’t hurt my anticipation for the eventual team-up this summer, It didn’t make me any more excited because I didn’t connect to Danny 100% like I did the other 3 protagonists. That being said, Danny is definitely salvageable and I wasn’t into the show enough to make me wanna see him work with the other Defenders and fight the hand. With the right writers, Danny can be a really cool character and I think he eventually will be. As for now however, I can’t really recommend this show to anyone who isn’t already invested in the Netflix Marvel universe like I am. As a fan, there’s enough here to warrant a watch. As a casual TV watcher, it’s a real trudge to get through.