This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show won't be released on Netflix until the day after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Does Iron Fist Pack A Punch?
Or is it rusty enough for the scrap heap?
What Is This Thing?
Danny Rand, scion of mega-corporation Rand Enterprises, returns to New York City fifteen years after surviving a plane crash in the Himalayas that killed both of his parents. The good news is that he's acquired some insane martial arts skills; the bad news is that nobody believes he is who he says he is.
When Is It On?
The entire first season drops on Netflix on Friday, March 17.
Why Was It Made Now?
Because the Marvel/Netflix train can't be stopped! Besides, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage still need a fourth member for their upcoming Defenders series. (Think The Avengers, but without those pesky star salaries.)
What's Its Pedigree?
Finn Jones (the late Loras Tyrell on Game Of Thrones) plays Danny, with fellow GOT alum Jessica Henwick joining him as Colleen Wing, a dojo owner who's pretty handy with fisticuffs herself. Not content with making two British actors pretend to be American, the producers have also cast the Australian David Wenham (Lord Of The Rings, Top Of The Lake) as someone whose identity probably counts as a spoiler. Iron Fist's creator and showrunner is Scott Buck (Dexter, Six Feet Under), and the show's first two episodes were directed by Buck's frequent Dexter collaborator John Dahl. (Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created the Marvel Comics character.)
Look, nobody was more excited to dive into this show than I was. I've enjoyed all three extant Marvel/Netflix series (albeit to varying degrees; they can't all be Jessica Jones), and even though Danny Rand/Iron Fist seemed like a weird choice for the fourth Defender, I was willing to believe that the producers had a plan for making the character more nuanced (and less problematic) than he apparently was in the comics. I mean, there are literally hundreds of B-list Marvel heroes they could have gone with, so why select a character with so much guaranteed baggage unless you have some pretty great ideas about how to deploy him?
After watching it, my answer is this: I don't fucking know, and I'm not sure anyone on the creative team does, either. Iron Fist is just a lifeless, perfunctory chore of a TV series. Do you remember the This American Life episode about the Korean filmmaker and actress who were kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il and forced to make movies for his pleasure? This show feels like it was produced under similar circumstances. There's no perceptible visual style, no sense of fun, no indication that anyone behind the camera has any affection for any of the characters. I feel entirely confident in saying that I enjoyed watching the show just as much as they enjoyed making it.
Let's start from the beginning, though. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all excelled at setting up their respective worlds and season-long plots within the first hour. In other words, the logline of the pilot serves as a pretty fair logline for the show. Whereas if you tried to logline the pilot of Iron Fist, it would be something like "A man with no shoes tries to get into an office building." I had to watch another three episodes to have the slightest idea of what the basic thrust of the show was going to be, and honestly, I'm still at a loss. The other Marvel shows have all been guilty of some water-treading in their later episodes, but Iron Fist spins its wheels from the very beginning, making us wait more than three hours for the other characters on the show to finally, finally believe that Danny is really the person he claims to be -- a topic on which, I should point out, there is absolutely zero mystery from the audience's POV because it says right there on IMDb that Finn Jones is playing Danny Rand.
Meanwhile, if you've been reading all the advance hot takes about the problematic aspects of having a super-rich, lily-white martial arts guru as the protagonist of a 2017 TV show, and you were curious about how the producers would address this issue, I can answer that for you right now: they don't. Danny just runs around beating the crap out of bad guys who are mostly non-white. (He also knocks around some white guys at one point, but they're violently ill mental patients.) In between the beatings, he white-mansplains the tenets of kung fu to Colleen Wing, and oh, is that scene a doozy. You keep expecting the writers to turn the tables, and end it with Colleen pinning his smarmy ass to the floor, but no. That does not happen. Danny is victorious, and what's more, Colleen finds his pedantic bullshit super-sexy.
Have I completely sold you on Iron Fist's virtues yet? No? What if I told you that a good chunk of screen time is taken up by storylines about commercial real estate and international pharmaceutical sales? In general, the number of scenes involving rich white people talking sternly to each other in skyscrapers makes this show feel less like a Marvel joint and more like one of those lesser Aaron Spelling dramas that got cancelled after five episodes.
If you manage to make it past the second episode -- and I really don't blame you if you don't -- you'll get to see a couple of characters cross over from other Marvel/Netflix series, at least one of whom will probably be a welcome sight. (Neither of them is Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple; she doesn't typically show up until the latter half.) You'll also get to see Jessica Henwick kick some serious ass by herself, in a storyline that thankfully has nothing to do with Danny. "Let's all take a break from watching that douchebag," the show seems to be saying, although it doesn't say this nearly often enough. Speaking of Colleen Wing, Wikipedia tells me that in the comics, she teams up with Misty Knight (Simone Missick on Luke Cage) to start a crime-fighting detective agency and WHY THE HELL DIDN'T THEY MAKE THAT SHOW INSTEAD?
I don't know a lot of other ways to say it: This is not a good show, by the standards of either Marvel/Netflix or TV in general. "But Nick," you ask, "don't I pretty much have to watch it if I want to be fully prepped for The Defenders?" Believe me, I'm grappling with that question myself. And frankly, my excitement level for that show has dropped a few points now that I've met the character who's going to occupy 25% of its superhero real estate.