Marvel’s final Defender, the immortal weapon known as “Iron Fist” arrived on Netflix to a cautious audience. Unsure what to expect given the show’s largely unfavourable reviews, most fans were pleasantly surprised by the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s street-level entries. Like the show’s star, Finn Jones, had predicted, it seemed “Iron Fist” was for the fans.
“Iron Fist” was certainly not the flop critics had painted it to be, but as even the most die-hard “Iron Fist” fan will attest, the show was not without its problems. Among the impressive roster of other Marvel Netflix shows like “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil,” “Iron Fist” can’t help but pale in comparison. Join us as we examine why “Iron Fist” is the weakest of the Marvel Netflix shows.
SPOILER WARNING: The following list contains spoilers for Netflix’s “Iron Fist” season one.
15. NO SENSE OF PLACE
In many ways Marvel is New York. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man all call the city home and in the real world so do the offices of Marvel Comics. The scale, spirit and people of New York all act as a colourful backdrop for the numerous Marvel heroes that call the Big Apple home. Marvel and Netflix’s “Luke Cage” in particular, did a great job of capturing New York’s Harlem. Unfortunately, this strong sense of place was almost completely absent in “Iron Fist.” Instead, we were treated to bland fight scenes that felt like they could have been taking place in any modern city.
We aren’t asking for a fight scene in Times Square, or dramatic tension underneath the Statue of Liberty; we just want the spirit of New York to rub off on the show a little bit more. Apart from an obligatory scene featuring pizza, New York’s personality felt completely absent from “Iron Fist.”
14. NO PERSONALITY
Although the comic book source material was gleaming with potential, “Iron Fist” lacked its own voice and point of view. This is particularly apparent when the show is viewed in the context of Marvel’s other Netflix offerings; all of which had their own unique identity. “Daredevil” was dark and brooding, “Luke Cage” explored issues of race with a surprising optimism and “Jessica Jones” had an infectious sarcasm to it. Unfortunately, “Iron Fist” lacked this boldness of tone present in its predecessors.
Instead, the show managed to straddle the tone of all three of these aforementioned shows without actually establishing its own. At times, it was overly dark and morose, at other times it tried to be sarcastic and funny, and in its weaker moments, it dabbled with issues of race and racial identity without saying anything of note. “Iron Fist’s” tone was more than just inconsistent, it was almost bland.
13. IT LACKED DIRECTION
Like its protagonist Danny Rand, “Iron Fist” seemed to meander its way through the streets of New York without any obvious sense of direction or purpose. Even after watching all 13 episodes, it is still unclear why Danny came to New York and what he hoped to achieve there. Rather than simply telling us what brought Danny to New York, the show bombarded us with shady business dealings, family drama and ninja fights that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
The brief glimpses of Danny’s time in K’un-Lun did little to tell us anything about his motivations or what made him leave his mystical mountain home. The show’s repeated inability to answer these simple — and arguably essential narrative questions — made “Iron Fist” feel like a shallow and hollow affair. Even when Danny had personal moments of direction this fleeting clarity wasn’t enough to save “Iron Fist” from its inherent sense of directionless.
12. TOO MUCH REPETITION
Although many fans were hoping that “Iron Fist” would be a refreshing addition to Marvel’s Netflix offerings, the show ultimately felt like more of the same. Not only did the show lean heavily on Claire Temple and Jeri Hogarth — characters we had seen plenty of in “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil” — it also repeated ideas from 2008s “Iron Man” as well as Batman’s origin story. The return of the prodigal son and the vigilante millionaire were both things superhero fans have seen countless times on screen and “Iron Fist” did nothing to freshen these ideas up. When “Iron Fist” wasn’t re-hashing familiar superhero territory, it was repeating itself.
It felt like a significant portion of “Iron Fist” was spent having the same conversations in Harold Meachum’s apartment. Circular conversations about the Hand, K’un-Lun and Rand Enterprises bogged the show down and made it difficult to tell one episode from another.
11. TOO MUCH GORE
“Iron Fist’s” oppressively dark tone didn’t really pair well with the character of Danny Rand. We are, after all, taking about a character who punches thugs with a glowing, magical fist. The Iron Fist aside, Danny’s positive outlook and naivety felt out of place in the cutthroat world of Rand Enterprises. It felt downright wrong to see him ally himself with murderers and morally questionable business people, particularly his misplaced affection for Harold Meachum.
Seeing Harold spattered with blood as he desecrated corpses with a hammer wasn’t just shocking, it felt completely out of place. The murder, blood and gore that appeared in “Iron Fist” clashed all too strongly with Danny and made for a show that felt like it was chasing shock value. It all felt like an attempt to emulate “Daredevil’s” successful use of bloody violence, rather than give “Iron Fist” its own distinct feel. We’ve had plenty of dark in the Marvel Netflix roster, isn’t it time we were treated to some light?
10. NOT ENOUGH K’UN-LUN
Plenty of characters have had their origin story done to death. Batman, Superman and your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man have all had the stories behind their fights for justice portrayed on screen ample times. Danny Rand, however, has not. Although we didn’t need a blow-by-blow of his time in K’un-Lun it would have been nice to actually see some of the mystical city. The bursts of K’un-lun we do get to see are all short and deliberately ambiguous, telling us very little about the city or Danny’s time growing up there.
Although Danny’s training is repeatedly hinted at, and we hear about his ascension through the ranks in “Iron Fist’s” 13 episodes, we never actually get to see any of it for ourselves. Although seeing the dragon Shou-Lao would probably be a bit much, we don’t think it’s asking too much to want to see a few scenes of Danny fighting the other warrior Monks or a kung-fu training montage.
9. INCONSISTENCY IN DANNY’S POWERS
One of the key parts of any good superhero show is the ability to keep its hero’s powers consistent. Unfortunately, “Iron Fist” does this fairly poorly. Apart from possessing the gift of the Iron Fist, Danny Rand is a master of kung-fu, a benefit of having spent his childhood training in K’un-Lun. Time and time again we are reminded of Danny’s fighting prowess — whether it be from Danny’s allies or Danny himself — and how he is a living weapon. Time and time again we see him get hit by all manner of low level henchmen and martial artists. For a while there, it seems like every man and his dog who has visited a dojo is able to get a hit in on Danny Rand.
Danny’s secret weapon — his ability to centre his chi and summon the legendary Iron Fist — is also painfully inconsistent. Although Danny is meant to be a mentally disciplined warrior, just about any minor mental or chemical disturbance prevents him from summoning the fist.
8. WEAK SUPPORTING CAST
Obviously there are a few glaring exceptions to this point — namely the wonderfully bad-ass Coleen Wing and Claire Temple — but even they weren’t enough to make up for the bland and irritating antics of the Meachum’s and Davos. Joy and Ward Meachum — Danny’s childhood friends, who grew up to become the controlling board members of Rand Enterprises — took on many roles during “Iron Fist’s” 13 episodes. They started off as Danny’s enemies, became his allies and then transitioned between those two roles as the series progressed.
Regardless of whether they were aiding Danny or opposing him, Ward and Joy largely felt flat. Too caught up in the insular world of big business, the Meachum siblings felt painfully disconnected from Danny’s world. Like the Meachum’s, Danny’s best friend from K’un-Lun — Davos — also seemed to transition between being Danny’s ally and then enemy. This fickleness that plagued “Iron Fist’s” supporting cast only added to the shows inconsistent tone and pacing.
7. NOT ENOUGH VARIETY IN ENEMIES
“Iron Fist’s” first season saw Danny Rand go up against a lot of goons. Whether they were loyal to the hand or employed by Rand, the endless tide of goons Danny found himself fighting all kind of felt the same. Waves upon waves of thugs dressed in black would come up against the “Iron Fist” and would inevitably find them selves punched and kicked into submission. After a while, it all started to feel a bit the same.
Although there was some very welcome variation in some of the more advanced Hand goons — such as the Hand’s drunken kung-fu master — these more colourful enemies weren’t enough, and felt like a mere drop in a bland ocean of mediocre goons. What’s the point of having kick-ass kung-fu powers if there is not a varied range of goons to unleash them on? We have to face facts: when it came to go-to guys to beat up, Danny deserved better.
6. DANNY’S POWERS FELT BLAND
One of the biggest missed opportunities in “Iron Fist” was the way the show utilised Danny’s powers. Gifted with a magical unbreakable fist, the potential for interesting uses of Danny’s power and innovative fight scenes was limitless. Unfortunately, the show mainly had the living weapon punching through walls, doors and the occasional thug.
For a large portion of “Iron Fist” Danny feels like just a normal fighter, simply using the fist to augment his normal punches and strikes. Then, before Danny could get too much mileage out of his mystical powers, they were taken away from him thanks to a fateful stab from Bakuto. Although “Iron Fist” does get noticeably more creative with Danny’s powers in the last couple of episodes — such as when Danny causes a shockwave in the office or bursts through the windows of a sky-scraper — it would have been great to see this innovative use of the Iron Fist from episode one.
5. CLAIRE TEMPLE’S INVOLVEMENT
Although the character of Claire Temple was certainly a welcome sight in “Iron Fist,” her involvement in Danny’s life didn’t feel like an organic part of the story so much as it was a narrative necessity. At this point, it is fairly obvious that Claire — who is all too skilled at stitching-up superheroes — is one of the through-lines that connects the “Defenders.” First appearing in “Daredevil” season one, Claire soon become a staple of the Marvel Netflix Universe, making an appearance in all four of Marvel’s Netflix shows.
Out of all the countless dojos and places to train in New York, Claire just happened to pick Coleen Wing’s. Luckier still, she was around when Danny Rand walked in and managed to forcefully insert herself into his life. It was undeniably great to have Claire back, but her reasons for being in Danny Rand’s life all felt a tad heavy-handed. For lack of a better word, it was all a bit forced.
4. TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL
It’s a question almost as old as comics: should a costumed vigilante kill? Although they both came to very different conclusions, “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” both explored this pertinent question — particularly through Daredevil’s run-ins with the Punisher. Regardless of whether you liked their answers or not, it is fair to say these Marvel Netflix shows did the question justice.
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop “Iron Fist” from asking this same question again; only without an interesting angle or a satisfying answer. Trained to kill the Hand by the warrior monks of K’un-Lun, Danny spent a good deal of the show’s first season struggling with whether he should actually kill his fallen enemies or not. This largely fell flat, with Danny’s failure to kill the Hand’s foot soldiers feeling more like a product of his lack of discipline rather than an actual moral conviction. This is confirmed when Danny is almost willing to risk corrupting his chi in order to take the life of his parent’s killer, Harold Meachum.
3. THE FINAL BOSS FIGHT
Although it could be argued that the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has a villain problem, a problem with lacklustre villains is particularly evident in “Iron Fist.” As the series drew nearer to its end, it became clear that the Hand’s involvement — although important — was a misdirect and the whole time, Danny’s real enemy was the man he saw as a father figure; Harold Meachum. This reveal of Harold Meachum as “Iron Fist’s” big bad led to an ultimately disappointing final fight. Although it started promisingly — with Danny using the “Iron Fist” to smash through Harold’s office window — the scene soon declined into cliche action movie territory.
For a show about martial arts and mystical powers, it seems odd that “Iron Fist’s” final challenge for Danny was a normal man with a gun. Sure, Harold can throw a punch — as demonstrated by the not-so subtle shots of him going to town on a punching bag in his apartment — but the businessman is no kung-fu Master. Although it was meant to be dramatic and bring the series to one final climax, the roof-top showdown between Harold and Danny felt drawn out and predictable.
2. IT FELT LIKE FILLER
One of “Iron Fist’s” biggest disappointments was the fact — that apart from introducing Danny Rand — the show didn’t really do anything. There we no implications for the Marvel Netflix universe and no big changes that could affect the other Defenders; just a whole lot of Danny Rand punching goons with a glowing fist. Put bluntly, there was nothing in the series’ 13 episodes that couldn’t have been introduced and explained in some brief dialogue in an episode of the “Defenders.”
Even Danny’s story arc felt fairly inconsequential. A few episodes into “Iron Fist” and Danny had regained his position at Rand Enterprises, only to loose it as the show went on, before — you guessed it– regaining the position just before the season’s close. Similarly, the people in Danny’s life also seemed to erratically change as the show went on. Ward, Joy and Davos all fluctuated between either being crucial allies for Danny or his bitter enemies.
1. DANNY NEVER FELT LIKE A HERO
“Iron Fist’s” Danny Rand was not an easy character to love. Straddling the brooding darkness of Bruce Wayne and the arrogance of Tony Stark, Danny somehow managed to have zero of the charm of either of these characters. Instead, he came across as fickle. Unsure of who he was, who his friends were or what is purpose was, Danny didn’t have the certainty or strength of character we associate with a hero.
Even Danny’s kinder actions — like wanting to use his newly claimed position at Rand Enterprises for good — came across as naivety, rather than a display of moral fibre. This naivety also meant that Danny spent a good deal of “Iron Fist” as Harold Meachum’s puppet — easily being manipulated to do the bidding of the man that ordered the murder of his parents. Danny’s uncertainty managed to tarnish most of his attempts at heroism. Although the show’s supporting cast was continually reminding us what a good person Danny is, he never really felt like much more than an entitled rich kid.
Agree or disagree? Tell us how you feel about “Iron Fist” in the comments!