It’s no secret that Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix hasn’t exactly lived up to Daredevil or Jessica Jones standard. A friend of mine called it, “White Privilege the Show,” which isn’t entirely inaccurate. The first episode isn’t the greatest in the series, but it does the best job of showing what’s wrong with this new franchise.
Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand, played by Finn Jones, the long-lost son of billionaire Wendell Rand. His parents die in a plane crash in the Himalayas, but luckily Danny is rescued by inter-dimensional monks who take him to the mystical city of K’un-Lun to train as a warrior.
Danny returns to New York to reclaim his fortune (we are not privy to why in the first episode) and doesn’t seem to understand why no one believes he isn’t, in fact, Danny Rand, the billionaire’s long lost son, even after he dresses in dirty pajama pants and a Rasta sweater.
Of course for every superhero show, there needs to be some level of suspended belief. In Iron Fist, the writers take this and abuse the viewer with it. Problems are solved in counter-intuitive ways. The viewer can’t help but say, “Well, I wouldn’t have done it like that …” At one point Rand depends on a fellow homeless person to use their iPhone and search the internet for news about himself. Doesn’t New York have public libraries with computers? The iPhone debacle might be plausible if Danny does not in fact know about libraries. This is unlikely however, as in a later episode Danny seems to know the latest in forensic science while arguing with another character. He’ll be super knowledgeable about things you wouldn’t expect someone who just spent fifteen years with monks to be knowledgeable about, and completely ignorant about what seems relatively intuitive.
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The immediate conflict, that no one believes Danny is who he says he is, falls flat. There is no particular reason we should hope people believe Danny, unless of course we just want him to get along with his estranged childhood friends he tries to return to. There is nothing at stake. The first episode feels lackluster because there is no cost for Danny not being recognized and absorbed by the rich white friends he left behind 15 years ago.
A far more intriguing character, and shining hope for this show’s redemption, is Colleen Wing played by Jessica Henwick. She actually does have something at stake. She runs a dojo, and plays the, “I Have My Own Problems To Deal With” trope convincingly enough that we actually want to know what those problems are. She doesn’t want to help Danny reintegrate back into society because- what’s in it for her? Someone is always interested in helping people out of the good of their hearts in superhero shows. It’s refreshing to see someone with goals for this show where so few people seem to have them.
The show itself is not crippled. There are moments that are genuinely surprising and enjoyable, though those moments are rare in the first episode. It is by no means the worst superhero TV show out there… If Arrow can still find fans, so too can Iron Fist. If it’s Saturday night and there needs to be something on TV, it would be an a-okay choice.
For as much as I ragged on it, this is not the most awful thing ever. Like Vinnie Mancuso said on Rotten Tomatoes, “It’s the textbook definition of just fine.” The special effects are okay. The fight scenes are okay. Even the actors, with what little they were given, do a very decent job. However, compared to shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage, it feels like a sour note in Marvel’s Netflix Originals.