There’s no denying the fact that “Arrow” and “Iron Fist” share more than a few similarities. Both series feature a rich American billionaire who is stranded in a mysterious remote location for several years only to return to civilization with incredible fighting abilities and an urge to save their city from corruption and crime. Both main characters also struggle to regain control of their respective companies and often find themselves fighting ninja assassins who have greater plans for conquest.
With basic concepts such as these that are so similar, comparisons are going to be inevitable and viewers are bound to end up preferring one show over the other. Which show is the overall better superhero TV viewing experience? “Iron Fist” of course. Here are 15 reasons why.
SPOILER WARNING for the “Iron Fist” and “Arrow” TV series.
15. FLASHBACKS AREN’T FORCED
Something that sets “Arrow” apart from the other DC Comics shows on the CW such as “The Flash” and “Supergirl” is its consistent use of flashbacks. This storytelling technique was used to good effect in the show’s first season where it showed viewers a glimpse of how Oliver Queen began his transition from irresponsible rich boy to crime fighting vigilante, but by the end of the second season, the flashbacks began to feel more like a distraction from the more important present-day action and, when they returned again in the third (and fourth and fifth) seasons, they began to feel more like something that was being used out of habit rather than any sort of creative necessity.
“Iron Fist” does flashbacks better. In “Iron Fist,” the flashbacks are never long enough to distract viewers from the action happening in the present and are instead shown in short bursts that efficiently convey the needed slice of background information or emotional context. The flashbacks in “Iron Fist” are used to complement its series’ main storyline rather than compete with it for screen time like what happens on “Arrow” and the result is flashbacks that the viewer wants more of and doesn’t dread.
14. FEMALE CHARACTERS AS EQUALS
From Thea and Felicity to Laurel and Moira, “Arrow” has always surrounded Oliver with strong female supporting characters but unlike “Iron Fist,” these supporting female characters have remained, well, restricted to supporting roles. As great as some of these individuals are, none of them have really ever risen to the same level as Oliver Queen and wouldn’t be considered a series co-lead. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a supporting character, but if the show ever shifted its focus away from Oliver, it’s hard to think of another character who could carry “Arrow” as well as he did. “Iron Fist” is the complete opposite.
While “Iron Fist” also has strong female supporting characters like Joy, Jeri, Madam Gao and Megan, the series is also blessed with the character of Colleen Wing, who could not only be considered a series lead on equal standing as Danny Rand, but could also carry the show on her own if needed to due to having her own fascinating backstory and motivations. “Iron Fist” also features Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple who is a strong presence in “Iron Fist” as well as all of Marvel’s other Netflix series. Who can say the same about “Arrow’s” supporting characters?
13. BETTER BUSINESS
Over the first five seasons of “Arrow,” Oliver Queen has gone from a billionaire in charge of major corporations to the mayor of Star City, yet the show has never effectively shown the realities of either position and often relegates the business and political aspects to the background, choosing instead to focus on his Green Arrow persona. Even a recent Season Five episode which tried to explore the gun control debate brushed over the politics with infuriatingly vague discussions between Oliver and the other politicians, and never really felt like a logical, relatable situation.
“Iron Fist” is the complete opposite and treats Danny’s business as an integral part of the character that’s just as important as his martial arts training and superpowers. “Iron Fist” isn’t a show about a superhero who happens to be a billionaire, it’s about a man who is both a rich businessman and a superhero. All of the scenes with his business associates feel realistic and grounded while anytime Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth appears, the show shifts into a style that would feel right at home to fans of law shows such as Suits. This is a series that does grounded and the fantastic extremely well.
12. MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
“Arrow” follows the story of Oliver Queen as her learns different martial arts skills in numerous flashbacks and uses them to be a superhero in the present. Beyond that basic premise though, “Arrow” isn’t really about that much else no matter how enjoyable fans may find the show to be. “Iron Fist” on the other hand, tells a similar story about an American man who returns to his city with special skills he learnt while away but does so much more with this concept.
Oliver Queen may have issues with violence but Danny Rand suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.) brought on by a combination of intense childhood bullying and seeing his parents killed in a plane crash. Because of this, “Iron Fist” is more than a basic superhero show. It’s a series which explores the long-term effects of mental illness and never pretends that it’s something that can be dealt with quickly and within one episode, let alone a single season. “Iron Fist” also explores issues such as homelessness, emotional abuse and control, and as a result, has a lot more to say beyond its main storyline, unlike “Arrow.”
11. MEMORABLE MUSIC
The music composed for “Arrow” by Blake Neely does its job and is in no way bad. The problem is, though, that besides the short main title theme, it’s hard to recall any of the show’s music after an episode has ended. (The same can’t be said for his work on “The Flash” and “Supergirl,” which is brilliant.)
“Iron Fist” goes the extra mile with its music which not only supports the visuals on screen, but also is as much a part of the show as the actors and the script. The music in “Iron Fist,” composed by Trevor Morris, is a brilliant homage to Kung-Fu movies of old and also (seemingly) draws inspiration from Daft Punk’s “Tron Legacy” soundtrack to create a sound that’s fresh and exhilarating. The show also relies heavily on a curated selection of Hip-Hop songs from artists such as Outkast, Camp Lo, The Cool Kids, Anderson Paak and more, which add an entirely new dimension to the “Iron Fist” viewing experience that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
10. MARTIAL ARTS VARIETY
Fans of “Arrow” will know that Oliver Queen has been trained in archery (obviously), other weaponry, as well as a combination of martial arts from the League of Assassins. What’s disappointing though is that all of his martial arts training is rather ambiguous and there’s very little that sets his fighting style apart from any of the other heroes, villains, or even the fight scene extras. All of the characters in “Arrow” fight the exact same way and, as good as the fight choreography is in the show, it just doesn’t feel authentic.
“Iron Fist,” on the other hand, is a celebration of different, real-world fighting styles with many different types of martial arts represented. Danny Rand and Davos are both trained in kung-fu while Colleen Wing is proficient in Japanese fighting styles such as karate, jujitsu, kempo and kenjutsu, and all of the characters frequently share their techniques with others or try to incorporate new styles into their own. This variety also makes the fights more interesting, such as the sword fight in the series’ eighth episode which used both Chinese and Japanese styles. On “Arrow,” everyone just fights.
9. SENSE OF DIRECTION
“Iron Fist” has a lot going on. In the present, there’s the fight against The Hand, the mystery of K’un-Lun’s disappearance, Danny’s complex relationships with the Meachums and Colleen Wing, his battle with P.T.S.D., not to mention his journey to becoming a true Iron Fist. The past timeline also features a lot of unresolved mysteries that need to be explored such as the true nature of the dragon, the fate of the previous Iron Fist, Madam Gao’s origins and more. There are a lot of storylines that have been setup to continue in later seasons of “Iron Fist” with an end goal likely being Danny gaining true emotional health and mastery of the Iron Fist power. “Arrow” is kind of playing things by ear.
With the exception of Oliver choosing to become the Green Arrow (instead of just The Arrow) and Starling City’s evolution into Star City (which was a bit of a non-event), “Arrow” isn’t really building towards anything. All of the characters simply react to the villain of the season and have no long-term goals of their own. Is there an end game for “Arrow?” It’s hard to tell.
8. IRON FIST DOESN’T STEAL FROM BATMAN
As popular as “Arrow” is, there’s no denying that the character has a lot of problems in the villain department with almost all of show’s main baddies in its first few seasons being borrowed from the more popular “Batman” franchise instead of its own. On one hand, this gives the show a much broader appeal, especially with the League of Assassins having played such a major role in Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, but unfortunately this also reflects badly on the “Arrow” characters. “Supergirl” and “The Flash” are both full of unique characters from their own respective comic books, so why can’t “Arrow” do similarly?
“Iron Fist” doesn’t have this problem. Even though the series is set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and could pull from a plethora of “Avengers” or “Spider-man” villains, the majority of the bad guys in “Iron Fist”have so far been pulled directly from its own source material. This not only shows that the creators have faith in the character and his supporting cast, but this also gives viewers unique creations that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Much more rewarding than recycled “Batman” villains.
7. NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Like many of the other DC Comics TV series and movies, “Arrow” is set in a fictitious city that was created in the original comic book source material. While this does allow for more creative freedom in regards to what can be done in the city (blowing up Metropolis wouldn’t be as controversial as destroying Los Angeles for example) setting the series in Star City does make “Arrow” less relatable than it could be had it been set in a real-world location.
“Iron Fist,” on the other hand, is set within the very real New York City which not only allows the viewer to connect more with the events unfolding on screen but also makes them feel more real. It’s hard to relate to a fight scene on a random wharf in a fictitious city, but a chase sequence through New York City’s Chinatown? The real location makes an otherwise crazy situation much more authentic.
6. MORE DIVERSITY
The “Arrow” TV series has a little bit of ethnic diversity with John Diggle, Amanda Waller (may she rest in peace), Mister Terrific and Wild Dog, but overall it hasn’t been pushing boundaries as much as other series on the air right now. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the lack of diversity does prevent it from appealing to a broader audience and also restricts the storytelling a bit as well.
“Iron Fist” is one of Marvel’s most diverse series to date, with almost every character besides Danny and the Meachums being played an actor or actress of color. Davos’ actor is of Indian descent, Bakuto’s is Puerto Rican, Claire’s is a fascinating mix of Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican, Irish and Native American, while Colleen Wing’s actress, Jessica Henwick, is half-white and half-Chinese with her character being hinted as having some Japanese ancestry as well. The show also deals greatly with cultural diversity as shown by Danny having grown up in a Mandarin Chinese-speaking environment and Colleen Wing having lived in China, Japan and now the United States. “Iron Fist” is much more interesting because of its characters’ diversity. “Arrow” can’t say the same.
5. STRONGER SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
Speaking of the characters in “Arrow” and “Iron Fist,” the latter also benefits from having a variety of supporting characters who are much stronger than those in “Arrow.” “Iron Fist” is very much an ensemble show with the supporting characters like Joy, Ward and Harold Meachum, Colleen Wing and Claire Temple all being given equal screen time to Danny Rand and, more importantly, as much to do as the series’ star superhero. Each of these characters are provided with their own chances to evolve and change over the course of the series and if Danny was ever removed from the picture, each individual could easily continue their own arcs with him gone.
“Arrow’s” supporting characters can’t say the same as most of the individuals Oliver surrounds himself with have very little going on in their own lives besides fighting alongside the Green Arrow and giving their friend emotional support. In “Arrow,” character growth appears to be limited to getting a character in a costume or behind a mask and not giving each person their own motivations, with Thea, Laurel, Curtis and Roy being perfect examples of this.
4. TIGHTER PACE
With over 20 episodes per season, the pacing on “Arrow” can often feel slow as storylines and character arcs are drawn out over more episodes than they need to be. This can cause viewers to forget important details from earlier in the season, or worse, lose interest entirely. A slower pace can also damage a show’s realism when the heroes are simply reacting to the actions of a villain for over half a season and the final confrontation is delayed due to manufactured problems that are created simply to fill in the episode count.
“Iron Fist” only has 13 episodes in its first season and manages to tell as much story as a full season of “Arrow” in almost half the amount of time. In the first season alone, viewers were treated to Joy and Davos’ evolution into villains, a brilliant family drama with the Meachums, Danny’s reclaiming of his family’s company, Colleen Wing’s separation from The Hand, and a realistic romance between Danny and Colleen. Within 13 episodes, “Iron Fist” changed dramatically from its premiere episode. It’s the complete opposite of “Arrow.”
3. BETTER ROMANCE
Something that “Arrow” has struggled with over its several seasons has been the inability to portray a romance that’s both realistic and exciting for the audience to watch. Sure, Oliver Queen has dated a variety of female characters over the years, but the only one of significance, his relationship with Felicity, felt more like fan service than something that was earned, and now after it predictably ended, it’s disappointing to see that it made no lasting impact on either character or the series at all.
“Iron Fist” handled romance a lot better than “Arrow” by pairing Danny up with Colleen, someone who is his near-equal in martial arts but is also equally as damaged as him due to her experience growing up in a cult-like environment. Danny and Colleen’s evolution from crime fighting allies to romantic partners has been completely natural and is something that “Arrow” was never able to tell convincingly, especially in regards to Oliver and his destined romance with Laurel who they decided to kill off and replace because they had written the character into a corner that they couldn’t get her out of.
2. DANNY RAND IS MORE LIKEABLE
As cool as Oliver Queen is in “Arrow,” the guy isn’t exactly likeable. He’s shown to care for his family and friends a lot, but ultimately always chooses to push them away and hurts them more often than not. Oliver isn’t a character that viewers could imagine meeting and hitting it off with. Barry Allen and Kara Danvers (i.e. The Flash and Supergirl)? Absolutely. Oliver? Not so much. His brash personality makes him difficult to connect with and even makes him hard to root for at times when watching the show.
Danny Rand is another story entirely. His extremely positive outlook on life is charming and a breath of fresh air in the gritty Marvel Netflix corner of the MCU, while his mental problems and past drama actually make him more relatable due to his struggle to move beyond them and not let them define him. Unlike Oliver, Danny also goes out of his way to help other characters and welcomes them into his life. When watching “Iron Fist,” it’s hard not to root for Danny.
1. NO SECRET IDENTITY
One of the biggest things that’s outgrown its welcome over the years on “Arrow” has been Oliver Queen’s secret identity. The Arrow superhero identity kind of made sense in the first season after Oliver returned to Starling City, but the show has created so many convoluted reasons for him not to simply out himself that the whole thing has just become frustrating especially when there are several characters who talk to the Arrow and Oliver in person but never put two and two together. At this point, it feels like the only reason the writers are forcing the secret identity is because that’s the way it’s always been done in the comics.
“Iron Fist” avoids the secret identity cliché entirely and straight out of the gate doesn’t even attempt to make Danny Rand hide his abilities or intentions to fight crime and save New York City. This works in the show’s favor as it doesn’t have to waste time with annoying subplots about characters trying to work out who the Iron Fist is and could also lead to some really interesting storylines down the road as his company’s shareholders find out he’s a Defender.
What do you think? Is “Iron Fist” a better show than “Arrow” or do you disagree? Maybe you like both equally? Let us know in the comments.
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