by T. Mack
Netflix has become a force to be reckoned with in the TV wars. The service–which isn’t technically a network but has earned the right to be treated as one–has set a standard for television programming that the regular alphabet networks often find it tough to compete with. Then Netflix upped the ante even more with their Marvel team-up. Daredevil was a hit with it’s dark feel and gritty action sequences. Jessica Jones took things to a totally new level with an anti-heroine and the creepiest villain we’ve seen in quite some time. Then Luke Cage turned social commentary into one of the most compelling series of the year. Now there’s Iron Fist… and it’s okay. I guess.
Don’t get me wrong. Iron Fist is a good show. The problem is that its older siblings are great shows. And Iron Fist, while a decent time, doesn’t manage to keep up with the big kids.
Danny Rand is presumed dead after he and his parents are involved in a plane crash when he’s 10 years old. Fifteen years later, Danny shows up to claim his life and his rightful place as heir to his father’s company. Where has he been? Oh, just a monastery hidden in a separate dimension. Why did he stay away so long? Because the passage between that dimension and ours only opens every 15 years. And what is Danny expecting to happen upon his return? That everyone will cater to him and jump to kiss his bare feet. It’s a little amazing, actually, how someone can spend a decade and a half being beaten by monks and trained to be the most badass living weapon on Earth and still manage to be a spoiled, whiny, and entitled little brat. Somehow, Danny Rand pulls it off. And it ain’t pretty.
*Sigh* This review is not going the way I wanted. I seem to be beating up on this series a lot right from the jump. That wasn’t my intention. But if you know anything about me, boys and girls, you know I gotta keep it real. However, that’s not to say there aren’t things to like about this show.
As with all Netflix programs, the show is well-cast. The acting all around is on point. But while the performances are good, the characters are not quite as engaging as some of the ones on the previous shows. I am happy, though, that one of my favorite girl-crushes is back as Claire Temple. She’s the ever-constant voice of reason and the string that’s currently holding all these shows together.
The villains in this show change around and it’s not always easy to determine who’s the real bad guy. Often, it’s easy enough to know that almost everyone is bad, but it’s difficult to decide who’s worst. Obviously, this makes for great complexity, intriguing conflict, and a great time… during certain moments. But those moments are not as frequent as one would hope. The story told during the 13-episode season makes sense and manages to include several teases for Danny’s upcoming team-up with Daredevil, Jessica, and Luke in The Defenders (coming later this year). While that’s a plus, it also has the undesired effect of making this series feel almost like that those Pt. 1 movies that have become so popular. It can feel like little more than a bridge to get to the good stuff we’ve really been waiting for; in this case, The Defenders.
The action is, perhaps, the one area where Iron Fist manages to match the standard set by its predecessors. Danny Rand is a master of Kung Fu. So are many of the people he fights. As a result, the fighting features beautiful and impressive movement, improbable attacks, and a lot of arm-waving flourish. Colleen Wing even fights with a katana, which is obviously awesome.
Unfortunately, all the good is tainted by the whiny, bitch-baby behavior of the show’s main character. Now, I’ve not made myself very familiar with this character in his comic book iteration, but I do recall watching him in more than one animated series. He was never this whiny, self-involved, and intolerable. I get it. He went through some serious trauma at a very young age. And the warrior monks who raised him didn’t believe in psychotherapy to work through the resulting issues. PTSD is a very serious condition and Danny Rand clearly has it. Plus the people he thought of as family treat him as an enemy. I sympathize. Really I do. But at a certain point, I need him to man up and own his shortcomings and weaknesses and try to get the real help he needs. Instead of doing any of that, Danny spends much of every episode throwing tantrums. And it’s exhausting! If I want to watch someone throw a tantrum, I’ll play Candy Land with my five-year-old. I watch Netflix to see adults. Danny is like a small child who throws himself upon the floor every time someone tells him no. His little hands and feet beat the hard wood and he screams, “But I’m the Iron Fist! But I’m the Iron Fist!” over and over.
It gets… Real. Old.
Other than that, the show is good. It’s not as good as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage. But it is a good show. The main character is simply an intolerable, spoiled brat with entitlement issues, a superiority complex, and an incomplete understanding of the concept of responsibility. As long as you can get past his tantrums, you can enjoy the series. Just not as much as the others in the Netflix-Marvel universe.
Rating: 3.5 SHIELDS
Have you watched Iron Fist yet? How do you think it stands up to the others in the universe? Which Defender is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.