Better late then never?
At one point in the later part of its 13-episode run, Davos, fellow K’un-Lun citizen and longtime friend of Danny Rand drops a line that is so on the nose, I’m surprise that it made the final cut.
“You’re the worst Iron Fist ever!”
Damn, dude. Words hurt! But sadly, so does the truth, because depending on what you read/who you listen too, Iron Fist is not as good as it was hoped to be – for a wide range of reasons.
I say depending, because although the series dropped to some critical and fan lashing, highlighted by rotten tomatoes scores of 17 and 79% respectively, it actually fared very well when compared against other Netflix series when analyzed with the network’s own metrics.
I’m going to ignore all the Who-Struck-John that dusted up when Loras Tyrell (aka Finn Jones) was cast to play Danny Rand – mostly by those who wanted an Asian in the role, even though Jones in the comics is Caucasian – because I think the series would have caught grief from people regardless of which way they went with their casting choice.
All of which would have gone away if it ended up that the casting decision was a good one. Unfortunately, although Jones seems to be a fine actor, he was woefully behind the curve on this fight choreography skills when Iron Fist started filming – a fact that is sadly very apparent in the final production – apparently because he had little time to train before filming began.
With dazzling martial arts scenes popping up regularly on Into The Badlands, some flashy action sequences in shows like Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, and hard hitting, gritty fight scenes from Iron Fist’s sister show Daredevil, not having top notch fight scenes from your star in a series based on the “Living Weapon” is borderline criminal. Especially when you factor in that co-stars like Colleen Wing and Lewis Tan are more than bringing it.
But let me push all that to the side and list three areas where I thought Iron Fist really missed the boat.
THE BIG BAD
I’m going to say it now, I’ve never been a fan of The Hand, which is TOTALLY hypocritical of me, because I’m usually all for anything that fills my TV or movie screen with katana wielding ninjas.
But to be honest, I just haven’t warmed up to them, sorry. I know, long time readers of the comics will point out that the Hand are pretty big players in the Marvel world and longtime adversaries of Daredevil. Given.
But to me, the Hand have always been the under card with other villains and anti-heroes carrying the more interesting parts of the story forward. In the first season of Daredevil they had the unenviable task of trying to out shine Edgar the Bug’s (AKA Vincent D’Onofrio) King Pin and for that show’s second season, the plot line of the Hand I felt weighed down the second half of the series mostly because it diverted focus away from Shane Walsh’s (AKA Jon Bernthal) Punisher.
The would be main bad guy for Iron Fist I guess would be the whole Meachum family, siblings Joy and Ward, and their father Harold who is dead, except that he’s not. Together Joy and Ward spend a lot of time not believing that the returning Danny Rand is indeed Danny Rand because they believe he’s dead, except that he’s not.
Problem – there isn’t a shred of menace in these three together. Not one iota of the quiet rage, or singular focused aggression that made The King Pin or The Punisher so compelling, respectively.
Harold meanwhile spends a lot of time hiding in his penthouse because people believe he’s dead, except he’s not, abusing is assistant and hoping the Hand doesn’t drop by for a visit. In the real world, only his assistant and Ward know that he’s not dead (except that he is, but he’s not) which assists Harold as he attempts to figure out if Danny Rand is dead or not. Got it? Groovy.
Problem – there isn’t a shred of menace in these three together. Not one iota of the quiet rage, or singular focused aggression that made The King Pin or The Punisher so compelling, respectively. Nope, they just kind of wade through the plot, adding obstacles when Danny needs them, and opening doors for the same reasons. But as far as lifting the show up to another level as other villains have in the past? Never happens.
Now, I’ll balance that with this – the inclusion of the Hand has brought some cool boss level fighters for our heroes to overcome. There was Nobu Yoshioka in both seasons of Daredevil, and Iron Fist gave us the very interesting (and sadly underutilized) Zhou Cheng (The Drunken Master) and the Bride of Nine Spiders.
And who doesn’t love Madame Gao? I want her on my fireplace mantle to act as my own personal version of Google Home. “Gao, What’s the weather going to be today?”
“Ok, so…partly cloudy, then?”
If Iron Fist showed me anything, it’s that if there isn’t a very complete and interesting big bad to help carry the story, then for me the story doesn’t work, and the Hand are unable to do it by themselves, and sadly, Iron Fist is woefully lacking in complete and interesting big bads.
NOT ENOUGH K’UN-LUN.
One of the glaring omissions in my mind is the almost painful lack of back story into what makes Danny Rand tick. He just fancy walks into the building that bares his family name after a 15 year absence and starts to bring confusion to everyone who now works there.
But why? Why did he train all his life to face and defeat the dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying, securing his role as the immortal Iron Fist, only to skip out and go walk about the first chance he got?
The show doesn’t investigate this part of Danny’s life very deeply, only showing an occasional glimpse of K’un-Lun, (where he apparently spent much of his time being whipped with a cane, because, plot!) and none of his show down with Shou-Lao.
Having that back story could have greatly fleshed out Danny’s motives, and maybe even have been used to explain why he doesn’t yet have the fighting skill level, or indeed the basic knowledge of other powers, one would associate with the Immortal Iron Fist.
Did Danny decide to face Shou-Lao even though his masters thought he wasn’t worthy or indeed, ready too? Did he beat the dragon using some Kobayashi Maru type cheat? Was his goal simply to be come the Iron Fist because he knew that would be the only way he could leave K’un-Lun, which was a long time plan of his?
So much backstory and motivations for Danny could have been filled in by focusing on this part of his story, and since it didn’t we don’t have it, and Danny just seems to do things because he does.
No, I’m not talking about Danny’s alienation when he returns to New York or his love life (I’ll never feel sorry for a guy who winds up at the end of the day with Colleen Wing), I’m talking about the fact that Danny Rand is the only Defender to show up in Iron Fist.
From a production point, it takes some of the “he met, she met” that needs to happen out of The Defenders
I can understand why, the producers probably wanted the show to fully explore and flesh out the Danny Rand character, and probably felt that the inclusion of another Defender would somehow take away from that goal. My question back – did including Luke Cage diminish Jessica Jones in any way? No.It.Did.Not.
Adding another Defender would have helped jump start the formation of the titular group as well as allowed the show to have a path with which to move into The Defenders. From a production point, it takes some of the “he met, she met” that needs to happen out of The Defenders thus allowing that show to have more time to devote to story (consider The Defenders appears to only be 8 episodes), plus puts a very interesting aspect into Iron Fist allowing them to remove some of the slower moments of that show.
Who would not have wanted to see Madam Gao once again irritated by the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, or even a nick-in-time save by Jessica Jones. And don’t tell me fans wouldn’t have fist pumped or left their seats the first time they saw Luke and Danny, the team that in the comics becomes known as “Heroes for Hire”, standing next to each other ready to demolish a Handful (get it) of ninjas in a classic battle.
No…whoever made the choice to make Iron Fist only about Danny Rand…I feel they made the wrong one.
And that’s it. That’s the three bullet points I took away after watching Iron Fist. The show is OK at best, but sadly flawed, and really hurts when compared against the shows that have come before it.
Bring on The Defenders.
The Defenders drops on Netflix on August 18th, 2017.