IRON FIST Review: Part 3

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I finished in about the same state of confusion I started. No plot ever appeared. Every twist was like the most basic, default, predictable choice possible. A few characters with decent development saved the whole thing from being a pointless waste of time. This series needed a focus and more importantly it needed a narrative that it could never find. My ratings chart took a slight downturn for the final bit:

Ep # Title Science Meta Plot Action Aesthetics Total
1×09 The Mistress of All Agonies 1 7 8 6 5 27
1×10 Black Tiger Steals Heart 2 2 5 10 6 25
1×11 Lead Horse Back to Stable 6 8 5 8 2 29
1×12 Bar the Big Boss 0 2 5 10 6 23
1×13 Dragon Plays with Fire 0 6 3 10 6 25
Average 2 5 5 9 5 26

What exactly was the plot of this show? Why did Danny leave K’un-Lun? What was he even doing in ? What was the point of all of this? Danny’s complete lack of motivation or internality was a huge flaw for this story as a whole. If the object was for him to discover who killed his parents this was sloppy at best. There was no urgency to discovering the information and the ultimate answer was obvious from the first episode. Even with being so obvious, they didn’t set it up enough for the conclusion to be even remotely satisfying. Hell, not even Ward getting to kill his dad a second time felt that satisfying in the end.

Pouting like a toddler and whining about sworn duties

Pouting like a toddler and whining about sworn duties

Danny’s only stated purpose is to be the Iron Fist and destroy the Hand, but even in giving us more information about the Hand this show was lackluster. The second season of Daredevil has more urgency in two or three Hand-related episodes than all thirteen episodes of Iron Fist—a story directly related to the Hand. Where MCU Netflix shows usually allow the audience to get intimately acquainted with street-level characters in the universe, I barely feel like this exists in the MCU. It makes a few references but is generally sloppy. Not much happens, and what little does happen seems to have no effect on Danny or any of the other characters. He processes nothing, does nothing, and yet lords about spouting off platitudes so that he can feel morally superior to all the other characters who he seems to view as compromised in some way.

The thing that saves this entire series from disaster is that, when it flags, it can clutch at the other Netflix series to prop it up. Claire is literally the only thing that holds the story together. Rather than have character development, Claire is constantly called upon to explain everyone’s feelings. She tells us how innocent and pure Danny is. She tells us that he was traumatized as a child. She tells us that he’s out of control and that he has a crush on Colleen. Most importantly, and the only reason it’s worth it to have her in the show, she tells everyone else when they’re being stupid. I feel like she needs to start a superhero psychiatry practice and start charging. Claire keeps everyone in these shows (but primarily the men) from devolving into self-pitying, self-destructive stupidity. Claire is the main reason why this show is watchable at all.

This is the show I want. Not the thing they gave me.

This is the show I want. Not the thing they gave me.

Danny’s childhood friend Davos was more interesting in his first thirty seconds than Danny was in the whole show. He had purpose. He had motivation. He had a code of ethics and more integrity than Danny showed in all of his screentime combined. I very quickly wanted Davos to be the main character rather than Danny. Like, make it a show one-degree removed from the Iron Fist about this guy having to figure out how to deal with his life when the mystical force chose a petulant asshole to be the eternal warrior over him. I get so annoyed when characters refuse to kill people for no reason except “it’s wrong!” It makes a little more sense with Matt Murdock who they emphasize is deeply Catholic. With Danny it’s just a lazy shorthand for moral conflict. For Chrissake, even Leopold Fitz willingly kills people at this point and you won’t find a fluffier creature in all the MCU. Davos knifing Bakudo in the chest had me cheering. That’s his (and Danny’s!) sworn duty. Put up or shut up!

Save us, Ward. Save us all

Save us, Ward. Save us all

Ward is still the best part of this. Ward’s plans and schemes all fall apart. He’s not the greatest person but that makes him incredibly interesting. His love for his sister always shines through, and so does his hatred of his father. I like how he allies with anyone to try to take down his dad and even when people betray him he keeps trying. If not for Ward I’d happily pretend this entire show never existed. Absolutely nothing related to Danny was even 1/8th as interesting as Ward Meachum, and Ward didn’t even do anything except try to free himself and his loved ones from a tyrant.

I feel really bad about Colleen. The first few episodes she was great. Then she wilted into the role of love interest in the middle, and in these last few episode she was predictably playing the betrayer. For a minute when they were wooing each other with martial arts I was cool with Colleen and Danny being together. Very quickly, however, the situation devolved to the point that a creeping chill ran up my spine every time he touched her. I was considering earlier how often language and intention can make the same sentiments seem either precious are completely controlling and gross. Danny is in the latter category. There’s also a thin line between being protective and being possessive. Danny doesn’t come out on the good side of that line either. I wish Colleen being in the Hand was even an interesting turn, but there was no lead-in, no build-up, and basically no consequences because of it. Poor, poor Colleen. She could have been so much.

Because what we really need in the world is more progressives portrayed as the leaders of evil conspiracies, amiright?

Because what we really need in the world is more progressives portrayed as the leaders of evil conspiracies, amiright?

Another thing I’m extremely uncomfortable with is the half-hearted swatting at some kind of progressive idealism by Bakudo. He is the leader of a supposedly altruistic faction of the Hand that takes in troubled people and gives them purpose. He constantly is spouting off about how corporations run the world rather than governments but I don’t understand why that even matters to him. He has no plan either to use corporate power or to bring corporations down. He just says this progressive line almost as if to underscore his evil. Seriously? On the heels of Black-Lives-Matter Luke Cage, we’re going to make the only thing approaching an activist into some kind of villainous cult-leader mastermind?? Okay, Iron Fist. No.

The series overall exhibits a confusion about its own genre and aesthetics. One or two times they do a split-screen ’70s kung-fu kind of style, but it only appears enough that it feels like they’re trying to hide something behind the gimmick. If they’d committed to that martial arts film feel more fully it could have made up for some of the weaker . The sad thing is there are plenty of places where you can see the glimmer of something great peeking through the edges, but Iron Fist never goes there. Because none of the characters had any goals or motivations, they all stumble through their scripts like puppets. You can’t tell an effective story at all if nobody has a goal. The biggest extratextual kerfuffle about this show is that they cast Finn Jones as Danny Rand, leaving the character as a bland, mid-century-style white savior. Now that I’ve seen the show, in some ways I’m honestly glad that they left Danny so white bread. If they’d cast an Asian in the lead and then delivered such a lackluster story, it would be far too easy to use the series’ perceived failure as an excuse to not cast people of color in leading roles. It would be a stupid excuse, but I feel like it would happen nonetheless. As it is, I’ve seen several people associated with this show lashing out by claiming people aren’t giving it a chance because of the whitewashed casting. Friends, it is not the whiteness of Finn Jones that makes this show bomb. It’s the lack of anything interesting to say.

This dum-dum abandoned his post as the sworn protector of the place he grew up and he's seriously gonna think his man-pain means anything to me??

This dum-dum abandoned his post as the sworn protector of the place he grew up and he’s seriously gonna think his man-pain means anything to me??

Ultimately, Iron Fist isn’t terrible but it’s far from great. I personally just found it rather boring. If nothing else, it was a distraction while we wait ever so patiently for Agents of SHIELD to return. The final average for the whole season on my rating system: 26. One point above “passable” and .1 points below the first season of Daredevil. Subjectively, I feel like that’s where it belongs, so if nothing else this was a great test of my rating system. How whiny, spoiled Danny Rand will fit in with the likes of Jones, Murdoch, and Cage I can’t even fathom. I honestly hope all three of them sock him in the jaw at least once before they get down to saving the world.

TB-TV-Grade-CSeason 1, Episodes 9-13 (S01E09-13)
Iron Fist is available to stream on Netflix

Read all of our reviews of Iron Fist here.
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.


Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaLeighBrand
Keep up with all of Dana’s reviews here.

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