The first season of Iron Fist drained us of all our chi.
Thirteen episodes is too long for the story that Iron Fist tries to tell. This was true of Luke Cage as well, but now drawn out even longer. Both of these last two Marvel series had a natural ending point around Episode 8, but both continued for five more episodes with new(er) side plots that acted as main plots. They’re like extended epilogues where you keep asking if this is the end. It’s such an odd approach to storytelling that halts any momentum that’s been gained. I’m not sure how two series in a row suffer from the same problem. Marvel is usually good at course correcting, but not here. I wish that was the only problem that plagued Iron Fist, but sadly it’s the first of many.
In the first two episodes alone you will see Danny Rand’s parents die more than Bruce Wayne’s parents in the last two decades of any medium. They show it repeatedly. You will also see Danny Rand (Finn Jones) proclaim that he is Danny Rand maybe a hundred times. This is all while he’s dressed like a bum having returned from the secret monk monastery of K’un-Lun in the Himalayas, presumed dead for the last fifteen years. No worries, because later he gets access to his fortune (he’s Danny Rand!) and still manages to dress like a bum for the remainder of the show.
He’s now the living weapon known as the Iron Fist after being chosen to take on the name as protector of K’un-Lun. Here’s what the Iron Fist is capable of:
Through concentration, Iron Fist can harness his spiritual energy, or chi, to augment his physical and mental capabilities to peak human levels. By focusing his chi into his hand, he can tap the superhuman energy of Shou-Lao and temporarily render his fist superhumanly powerful, immune to pain and injury; however, this process is mentally draining, and he usually needs recovery time before he can repeat it. Iron Fist can heal himself of any injury or illness and project this power to heal others.
He can sense mystic energy, particularly that which is related to K’un-Lun. Capable of fusing his consciousness with that of another person, enabling each to perceive the other’s emotions and memories. He has unusually keen eyesight, but it is unclear if it extends to superhuman level. His entire body is oriented to combat, enabling him to adapt to any environment with minimal exposure. At times, he has absorbed energy directed at himself and channeled it to augment his own power. Under certain circumstances, he can even focus his chi to create nexus points between dimensions.
That sounds awesome, right? Don’t get your hopes up…
Danny Rand is an awful fighter. There’s not one fight where I thought he was impressive and could win. He is constantly running away and takes forever to dismantle lower tiered thugs. There’s a moment in the finale where his attacker has a gun as they play a game of cat and mouse. Danny leaps out of nowhere and kicks the person down and knocks the gun out of their hand! AND THEN HE RUNS AWAY. Whenever Colleen or anyone else is fighting it is slightly more exciting, but not by much. The fight choreography is so slow and boring that it is a genuine struggle to get through. Iron Fist is supposed to be a living weapon and in this series he’s portrayed as a childish, sappy, angry, confused, and immature person who repeats over and over that his purpose is to defeat The Hand. Thing is, everyone seems more capable of it than he is. Watch either season of Daredevil and tell me who you think would win in a fight? You could take away Daredevil’s heightened senses and I’d still put money on the Devil from Hell’s Kitchen.
Over the course of 13 grueling hours we see the Iron Fist use his Iron Fist for all of 2 minutes total. I’m not exaggerating here. And a big chunk of that time is old footage from 1948 showing a former Iron Fist wrecking shop with his fists both glowing with energy as soldiers try to enter K’un-Lun. Besides that fleeting moment we have Danny impotently trying to, well, get hard. He struggles to find his chi and center himself. He’s confused with the emotions of a young teenager. In every fight he meanders through, his Iron Fist power lucky to manifest itself as anything more powerful than a nightlight. There is only one moment that his powers are used other than to punch a wall or someone one time. That moment is about 12 hours and 40 minutes into the 13 hours. It’s far too late.
Remember when we complained about Daredevil only wearing his black ninja costume for most of the first season? Man, you’re going to look back on that fondly after Iron Fist.
The show makes absolutely no attempt to have Danny in any type of outfit other than dirty sweats and t-shirts. If I were to millennial about it I would say something like “I can’t even…” and leave it at that. But I’m totes not a millennial so I’ll just say that Danny Rand is the most infuriating superhero we’ve had so far in the Marvel universe. And he shouldn’t be. That’s not Danny. His best friend in the comics is none other than Luke Cage, but for the life of me I can’t imagine how this Danny Rand will be buddies with Luke.
Iron Fist is also surprisingly the most violent of the Netflix Marvel series and that’s saying a lot. Daredevil’s second season may be more violent in terms of the quantity, but Iron Fist is the type of overly gory imagery that we’ve witnessed from things like Rob Zombie’s Halloween. That’s fine for some things, but not from our Marvel superhero shows. Not even the dark and gritty ones. When peoples faces are repeatedly beaten in with hammers in an attempt to collect their teeth so their bodies can’t be identified we are in some fucked up territory. Do not let your kids watch this… however they will be asleep before anything remotely graphic or interesting happens so there’s that.
There’s some mention of other Marvel characters, but besides Daredevil none are mentioned by name. The larger universe as a whole where the Avengers exist couldn’t feel farther away. There’s a fun moment where Claire gives Danny a shirt to wear that has a bullet hole in it having belonged to Luke Cage. My favorite was Joy Meachum hiring a private detective to find out dirt on the board members of Rand. When asked by her brother Ward how she got the dirt, Joy says, “I hired a private investigator a while ago to start digging. She was worth every penny… when she was sober.” That private eye is none other than Jessica Jones of course.
And as always we have Rosario Dawnson’s Claire Temple as our through-line for all of these series. This time she is given little to do and even characters in the show start commenting on how all she does is just fix up all of these powered people. It was a hard fit for her this time.
However, the season highlight is anything involving Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss). Moss is able to somehow elevate the material that she was given and every one of her few appearances are the best that Iron Fist has to offer. Danny calls her J-Money, but we can just try to forget that and move on. Stan Lee also appears on a poster in the background as a police officer with the words “Be Proud” along the side. It looks to be a recruiting poster for the NYPD. Lee appearing on these NYPD posters is a continuing easter egg for the Netflix Marvel shows.
Getting through Iron Fist was a struggle. My girlfriend even screamed during one of the fights, “USE YOUR IRON FIST!” and that moment spoke to me as I thought of the series overall. At this point in the state of the Marvel landscape, and superheroes in general, the mistakes that were made in Iron Fist can’t be ignored. This being the lead-in to The Defenders doesn’t do much to excite for a show that we should be amped up for. Iron Fist stumbled in the same way as Luke Cage, but it stumbles a lot harder. Luke Cage also got a lot of mileage out of Mike Coulter and his presence. Finn Jones as Danny Rand either lacks that presence or wasn’t given the material to make it felt.
What did you think of Iron Fist? Did you make it all the way through? If so, did you like it? And if you did – what did you like? I genuinely want to know.
All of Iron Fist is streaming on Netflix now and The Defenders will premiere later this year featuring Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and more.