Iron Fist

After an impressive introduction to Marvel’s Netflix Universe with 2 seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage, we anxiously awaited the final introductory season to complete the Defenders series in Iron Fist. Unfortunately, Iron Fist did not live up to the other seasons and left me confused and disappointed. Iron Fist failed from the start and never really recovered. Rather than go through the entire series from start to finish, this review will highlight a few areas that didn’t quite meet up to similar areas in the previous shows.

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Iron Fist Who?

With the other shows on Netflix, Marvel explained how each of the characters became who they were and why they were doing what they were doing. After each season, you knew why Daredevil ran around Hell’s Kitchen, you understood what drove Jessica Jones, and you learned why Luke Cage was reluctant to become who he ultimately became. However, with Iron Fist, an explanation is never given. Sure, you are told that the “Iron Fist is an immortal weapon sworn to destroy the Hand”, but who or what exactly IS the Iron Fist? Why is he the sworn enemy of the Hand? If this is a mantel passed down for generations, how or why did this conflict with the Hand begin? The series gives small insights to these questions, but does not provide an accurate explanation. Additionally, Danny has spent fifteen years in a mythical place called K’un-Lun. Who are the monks from the Order of the Crane Mother? What is their purpose? While we are at it, why did they choose to save Danny when his plane crashed?

Character Struggle

Though each character in Marvel’s Netflix Universe struggles to define who they are, by the end of their respective series, they do. The only exception is Danny.  Danny Rand doesn’t seem to know who he wants to be or who or what he is fighting for. Danny is in constant struggle between who his past self was and who his current self is supposed to be. By the end of the series, he is just as conflicted. Danny started life as the heir apparent to the Rand Corporation, a highly successful cutting edge company with offices around the world; and Danny enjoyed all the comforts that came with that life. After his plane crashed, he was taken to K’un-Lun, where he was raised in the ways of a warrior monk: to work hard, to fight and overcome others through combat, and to suppress all feelings through meditation to center one’s chi. He is also indoctrinated to hate the Hand and all it stands for.  While in K’un-Lun, Danny is chosen to become the Iron Fist, the defender of the gates of K’un-Lun, and he accepts and completes the challenge. His enemy and struggle are defined for him: destroy the Hand and protect the gates of K’un-Lun.  Although, when the path back to his old life suddenly reopens, Danny returns to it with fervor.

Danny returns to New York City, and seeks to regain what his father always wanted for him, all the while, forgoing his sworn duties as the Iron Fist. This is one area that is left unexplained. What caused Danny to leave a position he fought so hard to obtain so easily? He left without notifying anyone, to include his best friend at the monastery.  So, has Danny decided then to become a corporate executive and better Rand as a whole? Well, not exactly. When he finally convinces Joy and Ward Meacham, the current leaders of the board of Rand and childhood friends, of who he is and to reinstate him and his fifty-one percent majority shares, Danny uses his shares to bully votes his way, he misses important board meetings, and does not seek advice to help correct his mistakes. As it turns out, Danny’s two worlds collide when he discovers the Hand is using Rand to distribute drugs throughout the world.

It is at this point that Danny is at his most focused: destroy the Hand before they destroy Rand. That’s a winning combination for Danny. Unfortunately, this clarity doesn’t last long. During his investigation, Danny learns the extent of the Hand’s reach and how long they have influenced his life. When Danny first returned to New York, he meets a young female dojo sensei named Colleen. Colleen helps at risk youth reach their potential through Bushido. She sends these kids to a larger compound where they are accepted and trained. Danny becomes romantically involved with Colleen and while visiting this compound, he discovers she is a part of the Hand. She tries to explain that his bias view is unfounded but he fights against it. Eventually Colleen is shown the true nature of the Hand and joins Danny in his quest to destroy it. Danny also discovers the Hand secretly kept Harold Meacham, his father’s best friend and Rand co-founder, alive and has been using him to advise Ward since Harold’s alleged death.  Harold eventually betrays Danny to the Hand and then to the authorities and then tries to kill him himself. Throughout this, Danny fights against Ward, who doesn’t want Danny in the company. Ward tries to have him killed. He also betrays him to the Hand. At this point, Danny feels isolated, betrayed, and is unable to trust anyone. After escaping the compound and forgiving Colleen, Danny fights and beats Bakuto, a Hand leader and Colleen’s sensei and compound leader. After questioning Gao, another Hand Leader, Danny discovers that Harold used the Hand to kill his parents because Danny’s father uncovered the deal that Harold and the Hand made. Danny, Colleen and Ward worked together to take Harold out once and for all.  Here Danny’s focused switched away from the Hand to saving his father’s company from Harold.

When Harold is defeated and is cremated to ensure he doesn’t return back from the dead again, Danny is left with another crossroads. Does he continue with Ward as leader of Rand or does he seek Gao to finish the Hand or does he return to K’un-Lun to finish his training as the Iron Fist? Danny chooses to return to K’un-Lun to continue his training as the Iron Fist and to explain to the monks why he left. He never gets that opportunity as K’un-Lun is gone and at it’s gates are a handful of Hand soldiers. This is where we are left. Danny is now guilty for leaving his post and now struggles with that decision. So is Danny the Iron Fist – destroyer of the Hand? Is he Danny the Iron Fist – defender of the gates of K’un-Lun? Is he Danny the Iron Fist – Co-leader of Rand?

Villain who?

Lastly, each series had a clearly defined villain: Daredevil – King Pin; Jessica Jones – Kilgrave; Luke Cage – Cottonmouth/Diamondback.  The Iron Fist does not have one clearly defined villain. Rather, it relies on few different villains: Lady Gao, Bakuto, Harold Meacham, and the Hand. Though Lady Gao and Bakuto belong to the Hand, Danny treats these villains very different. Though Danny defeats Bakuto, imprisons Lady Gao, and kills Harold Meacham. The series leaves open all but one of the villains stories: Bakuto is stabbed by Colleen but his body is missing; Lady Gao is seen at the end of the show eaves dropping on Joy Meacham, and the Hand is still very prevalent as seen at the gates of K’un-Lun. Only Harold is truly taken care of as his body is burned. And while we are discussing it, who exactly is the Hand? What are they? Why did they exist? Why are they the sworn enemies of the Iron Fist? The organization has been around a long time, as Lady Gao stated this is not the first Iron Fist she has met. A clearly defined leader of the Hand would be a great addition.

–Roy

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Now I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the Immortal Iron Fist. I’ve read a comic here or there during the Luke Cage team up “Heroes for Hire” and I have seen him portrayed on the Spider-Man cartoon series. I also knew the idea behind his powers coming from focusing his chi, but that was about it. So I was excited to see the final character in the Defenders series come to life in Netflix’s “Iron Fist.”
First, I’ll start with the positives. I liked the way the series started out. Good music and a nice intro to our main character Danny Rand start off the first episode. Tom Pelphrey shows up early as Ward Meachum, the current head of Rand Corporation, and I think he is one of the best characters on the entire series. Ward’s story arc throughout the series ebbs and flows, and actually makes you care about where his character is going. Many of the side characters are the stand outs of the show. Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing starts off the series very strong too. Especially around episode 4 where she really starts to kick some ass, on everyone. Fight scenes involving Wing are some of the best throughout the whole series. I also loved how “Iron Fist” brought in characters from some of the other series. Jeri Hogarth showing up from “Jessica Jones” as Danny’s lawyer was a nice touch. No Marvel Netflix series is complete without their version of Nick Fury, Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple showing up for a handful of episodes. Both actresses did a good job coming for their few episode run and making the series better for it.
Then there are the parts of the series that needed some drastic improvement. My main gripe with the entire origin story of the Iron Fist is how little of an origin story we actually got. Danny Rand trained to be this amazing, top-notch fighter in the mystical world of K’un Lun but you see this only through very quick flashbacks that are literally only flashes. This is a wasted opportunity and while the whole series need not be about this, at least an episode or two focusing on Rand’s actual training would have been nice. My second issue was with how the Colleen Wing character changed throughout the series. She started out as a badass, beating guys to a pulp in an underground fighting ring. We come to episode five and Wing has become a love sick puppy to Danny Rand. It makes no sense and doesn’t at all seem to fit the character they had been building for the previous 4 episodes. She’s a strong female character and should have stayed that way. The final issue that brought the entire series down was the lack of lead in to the “Defenders.” Being the last series before this monumental undertaking by Netflix, it really should have smoothly led in to it. Iron Fist did the exact opposite and I have no idea how Danny Rand will even lead to being part of Defenders.
I think “Iron Fist” biggest enemy is unfortunately Marvel itself. All the previous Netflix series have been so good that when Iron Fist is compared to them, it falls short. You stack Iron Fist against most other shows on television and it’s a winner. But compared to Daredevil or especially Luke Cage (my personal favorite), Iron Fist just isn’t as well written or acted. Enjoyable yes, and I would still recommend a watch before “Defenders” comes out but there is no rush to binge it.
5.5 awkward dragon chest tattoos out of 10
-Craig

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