Warning: spoilers for season one of “Iron Fist” follow.
Ever since “Iron Fist” premiered on Netflix back in March, it’s been panned by many critics. It’s easily considered the worst of the Marvel Netflix shows and possibly even one of the worst shows on Netflix period. The reception to it was so bad that Finn Jones, the actor who plays the main character in the show, blamed Donald Trump for the negative perception of the show. According to him, because of the wide distrust of the president people can’t root for Danny Rand because he’s a white billionaire superhero.
But I digress. “Iron Fist” is currently sitting at a 37 on Metacritic and a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. Why? Were critics just being unfair? Was the show really made more for the fans like Finn Jones also suggested? Or was there something else, a reason that the show was so negatively received?
Well, as it turns out, there was a reason. You see, “Iron Fist” season one is boring. Like, really boring. I have to admit that I struggled watching through the entire thing. That’s not to say that there aren’t good points to the show, but they’re faint pinpricks of light in an otherwise gloomy sea of tedium.
And the problem starts with Danny Rand himself.
Now, to be fair to Finn Jones, I don’t think he’s a bad actor. He does a serviceable job here. The main problem is the character. But before we get into that, we have to give some backstory. As a kid, Danny Rand was in a plane crash with his parents in the Himalayan mountains and was the only survivor. After being rescued by a pair of mysterious monks, Danny spends his formative years in a place called K’un-Lun, a mystical monastery that is only accessible every fifteen years. There he learns martial arts and gains the power of the Iron Fist, turning him into a mystical living weapon. He returns to New York fifteen years after his supposed death and tries to reclaim the life he once had.
The thing is, Danny Rand is perfect…too perfect. In fact, he’s so perfect he’s boring. He spouts off Zen sayings left and right. He’s in total control of his emotions (at least in the beginning). And he’s practically unbeatable in a fight. I mean he walks into the dojo of Colleen Wing (one of the side characters) and almost immediately schools her in martial arts. It’s ridiculous. And then later on, any time his company runs into a scandal, he always does the morally righteous thing. And I mean always. There’s nothing interesting about his character because there’s no flaws to his character. At least, not until like three-quarters through the season when the writers suddenly decide that his guilt over the death of his parents clouds his judgement and renders him unable to summon the Iron Fist most of the time. If this was implemented from the beginning of the season, that would be one thing. But the way it just shows up later is jarring.
Danny Rand reminds me of that stereotypical rich guy who constantly shares pictures of his vacations on Facebook or Instagram. You know the type: you constantly see them posing in sun-bathed tropical locales or other exotic locations. And they’re always spouting off life wisdom like they know that’s best for everyone else.
But enough about Danny. What about all the side charac-
They’re boring. Just…boring. Aside from Colleen, the dojo teacher that becomes his love interest, none of the characters really have anything important or interesting going on (except for maybe Joy…I found some of her scenes to be kind of interesting). I don’t care about the day-to-day business of the Rand corporation. I don’t care about corporate backstabbing. And I certainly don’t care about a boring subplot dealing with painkiller addiction. Seriously, screw that noise. It’s like the show is caught between being a bad superhero show and a bad soap opera.
And the pacing…oh god the pacing. It’s so off. Like I said before, the main problem with “Iron Fist” is that it’s just boring. I hope you like martial arts poses because I swear that at least sixty percent of this show is people striking martial arts poses and talking about what they’re going to do next instead of, you know, actually doing it.
Even the title sequence is boring. “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, and “Luke Cage” all had nuance in their title sequences that hinted at certain aspects of their characters or overall themes for the show. What does “Iron Fist” have? A silhouette of a man leaving inky trails all over the place as he strikes a bunch of poses.
And speaking of pacing, my god the show has no idea how to build or sustain momentum. When the show isn’t being dull and full of people talking or striking poses, things seem to happen way too quickly. For example, the end of the first episode has Danny being drugged by his former friends Joy and Ward Meachum, then being placed in a mental hospital. And then he breaks out of the mental hospital at the end of the second episode. Like…what? This is the kind of stuff you do in the middle of the season, not at the beginning. Not only that, but the show spends the first four episodes or so dealing with Danny trying to prove his identity. And there isn’t even a real payoff to it. The conflict is abruptly resolved and the people trying to keep Danny from getting back into the company are suddenly like “hey Danny we’re your friends again…we can just forget about that whole mental hospital thing right?”
There are so many little things with this show that I could complain about. A villain becomes a not-villain only to suddenly become a villain again later on in the season. The characters spend way too much time talking about duty and honor. The last episode feels like it belongs in an entirely different season. Certain things just happen without any real explanation (I still don’t understand how Danny suddenly winds up in a freaking penthouse after being kicked out of Colleen’s dojo). Characters make decisions that don’t make any sense.
It’s a mess. But if I keep going, this review will go on forever.
In the end, I feel like if the show had been done with a lighthearted tone, things probably would have worked out better. The silly nature of Danny’s character and all the overemphasized martial arts combat doesn’t really blend well with the show’s dead serious tone. But even if they did go for a lighter tone, then it just wouldn’t fit with the other shows. Any way you slice it, “Iron Fist” just fails to deliver.
And yet, it was still Netflix’s most binge-watched drama. Kinda sad when you think about it, but that’s the power of Marvel. People will watch it regardless, especially because of how the stories are interconnected.
All I can say is that I hope “The Defenders” was worth it. Because Marvel has seemed to be in a hurry to get that out the door for the past couple of years, and that has led to a decrease in quality for the Netflix shows. The second season of “Daredevil” felt disjointed at times, with two major arcing plots that didn’t seem to mesh together well. The second half of “Luke Cage” season one saw a complicated villain being swapped out for one that had very little depth and whose only motivation is revenge against Cage. But clearly, “Iron Fist” was hit the worst. There’s so much unnecessary subplot that could have been left out in favor of focusing on making Danny not suck as a character and giving him an origin story that’s actually enjoyable to watch. But as it stands, “Iron Fist” season one is only worth watching for the connection to “The Defenders”.
If you watch it on its own hoping for a good standalone story, you’ll most likely end up disappointed.
Thanks for reading. Check back next Wednesday for a new post, and as always, have a wonderful week.