The Biggest Problem with Netflix’s Iron Fist

Iron Fist Season 1 Review (Minor Spoilers)
Starring: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Jessica Stroup, Tom Pelphrey, David Wenham, Rosario Dawson

Iron Fist is loaded with possibilities. Marvel’s latest Defender has a built-in Netflix audience and the advantage of seeing how to construct a superhero TV show off the momentum of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Looking back at Season 1, it’s evident that Iron Fist is inconsistent, uninspired and deeply flawed.

When it comes to superheroes, director Christopher Nolan understood the importance of recontextualizing the Dark Knight for a modern audience and era.  Iron Fist struggles to make itself relevant in terms of what he represents and why he should matter in today’s world. Whereas Luke Cage, a show which has its own problems, pays homage to its Blaxploitation roots and is timely in light of current socio-political concerns.

A lot of memorable TV protagonist nowadays are morally flexible, take for example Jimmy Goodman in Better Call Saul. These types of compelling main characters push the ethical grey line while remaining likeable at their core.

To go against that grain, Danny Rand aka Iron Fist had the potential to be a refreshing return to a classic 60’s hero who takes the moral high ground within a greedy, corrupt corporate world.  The problem is in the execution which lacks any nuance in creating adversity for Danny Rand to struggle through in a meaningful way and have lasting consequences to his decisions.

Adding to this deficiency is that Joy and Ward Meachum aren’t well-developed and engaging enough for Danny Rand to play off of. All of this contributes to why the Rand Enterprises story line is a painful weak point.

Danny Rand is a naive outsider returning to a very different place and time from when he grew up. He constantly puts unearned or misguided trust in people only to be betrayed time and again. In a way, Rand jumps to the virtuous decision because he cannot fully process the complexity of the situation.

The above could be a decent starting point. To drive those ideas further, the show could have emphasized a clearer arc for Danny Rand that the viewer can go on a journey with; from an innocent outsider who’s fresh perspective can pinpoint shortcomings in our current culture and society to someone whose a little bit more worldly wise, yet still retains his integrity in that process.

With a meaningful and definable character arc, the Rand Enterprise and the Hand story line can be built towards achieving that vision. The Hand works best as a shadowy, mysterious organization. Once the veil is pulled off The Hand, the air fizzles out of that story line.

The biggest problem with Iron Fist is Iron Fist. It’s not a good sign when as a viewer, one is trying to fix the show in our head instead of anticipating what awesome things might happen next. When seeing the brief footage of the previous Iron Fist in full costume fighting it’s like “why can’t we get that Iron Fist?”

Before the inevitable season 2, the producers need to rethink Iron Fist. If the show can get a better handle on the central character, the show can restructure around those improvements. In the meanwhile, for a tighter choreographed Kung Fu fighting series, stronger world building and characters that aren’t as frustrating, check out AMC’s Into The Badlands.

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