Marvel’s latest Netflix series introduces the final Defender – the immortal Iron Fist. But does it measure up to the high bar of previous shows?
You will no doubt have heard of the generally scathing reviews that Iron Fist has received. Far from the acclaim bestowed upon Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, it has been labelled as bland and uninspired. But is this just the critics being too harsh? Many of them, for instance, still seem hung up on the issue of Iron Fist not being Asian (even though that’s the whole point of the character!).
Well, yes and no. Sadly, Iron Fist is certainly the weakest Marvel-Netflix show. While Luke Cage dropped the ball in its second half, at least it had some great characters and intelligent social commentary to lift it. Mostly, Iron Fist simply reheats plot points and themes from the likes of Batman Begins, Arrow and Daredevil. The narrative grows a little stale over the 13 episodes, the dialogue can be clunky and on-the-nose and there isn’t a really compelling villain.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the series is its main character – Danny Rand just doesn’t have the oomph of his fellow Defenders. Others have lambasted Finn Jones’ acting abilities which I would say is unfair as he is a perfectly solid, if unremarkable, lead. The real problem is the material he is given. At least partly the answer is that the rest of the Netflix shows give power to people in society who don’t usually have it – a blind man, a PTSD sufferer and a persecuted black man. Danny, on the other hand, is a rich kid. Obviously, billionaires can make great superheroes but for whatever reason Danny’s character doesn’t quite land in this context.
And, yet, on the other hand, there is much to like about the show. There are several awesome action sequences, a fascinating mythology that you will hopefully want to see more of and it continues the impressive interconnectivity of this corner of the MCU. Perhaps the biggest highlight was Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing. The martial artist master is another in the great tradition of kickass women in the Marvel-Netflix shows and the character had a real agency and likeability that was missing from other members of the show’s cast. There are also some nice roles for several characters crossing over from previous shows. In particular, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple is always welcome, seeing as she is the honorary Nick Fury of the Marvel-Netflix shows.
Despite my criticisms, Iron Fist is a very enjoyable show that makes for a very entertaining binge watch. There are certainly many worse superhero shows out there. However, there is the distinct feeling that a much better show is fighting to get out underneath the surface. Where previous Netflix shows have nailed it, Iron Fist is simply decent. In the end, unlike the hand of its central character, the show fails to truly light up.