The Buzz: Iron Fist packs a weak punch

Iron Fist season one review: All of Netflix’s Marvel shows have their weak points and episodes. Season one of Daredevil starts off exciting and fresh, before screeching to an anticlimactic halt (the latter half of the season was so dull I opted out of watching its second season as well as the following Jessica Jones). Luke Cage finishes strong, but requires a hefty six-hour investment before you get to the juicier stuff – the opposite problem Daredevil had. Iron Fist was the last standalone hero and season to air before The Defenders comes later this year (basically a smaller screen, smaller budget Avengers). If the slow pacing of Daredevil and Luke Cage weren’t enough to shake people off the hype train, Netflix sends a clear message with Iron Fist: don’t watch The Defenders, it will somehow be the first superhero team up to be absolutely boring.

Perhaps not entirely deserving of the unrelenting hate it’s receiving, the flaws in the show’s writing are so obvious, one has to wonder if something with the production timeline went wrong. Maybe they had to rush this show to get Defenders promo rolling. Either way, the show, which starts off decently and only gets less interesting as it goes on, suffers from a lack of standard storytelling structure. Finn Jones inexplicably plays Danny Rand/Iron Fist, which is like casting Michael Cera to play Luke Cage. Jones is never able to convey internal emotion, displaying a disconnect between him and the material.

Not that the writing gives him much to work with. Barefoot with a curly mop of hair, Rand shows back up in New York City to reclaim Rand, his father’s multi-billion dollar technology company. (For those keeping track, this has to be the fourth or fifth multi-billion dollar technology company in the Marvel Universe). He was presumed dead – thought to have died with his parents in a plane crash ten years ago, giving control of the company to the Meachums, his father’s business partner. As he’ll tell anyone who walks past, he spent the last few years in K’un-Lun, a vaguely developed alternate universe(?). There, he somehow inherited the powers of the Iron Fist, which makes his fist glow bright and be indestructible with an intense amount of concentration (honestly seems like a nerfed version of Luke Cage in what little we saw of it). And now he’s here to fight bad guys.

Though the story meanders (it seems like the main plot changes every two or three episodes), the writers never develop Rand as a character. In one episode he’s an abysmal company leader who literally loses his company millions of dollars in a matter of seconds. In another, he’s neglecting his responsibilities as the Iron Fist for one arbitrary reason or another. His decisions throughout the show are weak attempts to make his character relatable, but at times the attempts (and Jones’ execution) are so weak they should have called the show Ham Fisted.

Ward and Joy Meachum (played by Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stoup) are both interesting characters confined to lazy, at times dreary boardroom subplots for much of the show. Their father, Howard (played to cringe worthy results by David Wenham) faked his death to the public and is in hiding (for no clear reason), and scenes with him feel more like punishments than plot advancements.

The show’s best character comes in the form of Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing, who the writers gave everything they tried to give Danny. Henwick exudes charisma from the moment she walks on the screen – she plays the sensei of a struggling dojo skilled with the katana. She gets roped into Danny’s life through some eye-rolling circumstances, but it’s all for the better that she did. Later on in the season, Sacha Dhawan and Ramon Rodriguez make effective recurring appearances (it’s hard not to notice how much more charisma Dhawan has than Jones, and wonder what might have been if the roles were reversed).

The fight scenes are also consistently entertaining, and if Jones is good for anything in the role, it’s martial arts. Fights are often exciting and packed with creative choreography, even if they’re light on Danny’s iron fist super power (the show barely feels like a superhero entity and more like a boring drama for episode-long stretches). The show’s refusal to give the audience what the want is sometimes alarming – after teasing so much in the episodes leading up to the finale, the final installment focuses solely on the most boring subplot of the show. It’s unclear whether the good stuff is being saved for season two, or if the writers genuinely didn’t see the interesting writing opportunities they were setting up for themselves.

Ultimately, the show is let down by Jones and a mostly bad stack of scripts (a few episodes, like the penultimate ‘Bar the Big Boss,’ are unexpected highlights). If I needed any more convincing to not watch Less Interesting Avengers, this was it. Two glowing thumbs down.