IRON FIST [Season 1 Face-Off Review]: Iron Fist, or How I Learned to Strongly Dislike Protagonists.
Kevin “Pastor” Palma: Dojo history lesson time: I first started reading comics week-to-week in late 2007, and one of the very first series I got into was Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja‘s Immortal Iron Fist. I jumped in with the story arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” and was off to the races from there. I went back and read the first arc of that run, then later bought the Essentials of both Iron Fist and Power Man & Iron Fist. So, when they announced that Iron Fist was getting his own Netflix adaptation, I can’t tell you how unbelievably excited I was for it. After I saw how good the first season of Daredevil was, my excitement only increased.
That all said, IF was–by far–the worst of the Marvel Netflix shows. There are enough bright spots throughout the season that I wouldn’t say it was bad on the whole; but, it was as uninteresting an Iron Fist story as you’ll see…
“Reverend” Lauro Rojas: Unlike our “Pastor”, I had not delved into the Iron Fist mythos, besides, of course, hearing how great the Bru and Frac run was. I wanted to go in with absolutely no expectations. That being said, of the four Netflix shows I’d say this is the lowest on the nerd’em pole. It didn’t have Daredevil‘s grit, Luke Cage‘s bumping soundtrack or Jessica Jones‘ likable character. But let’s dive right into it.
Kevin: Awesome. Iron Fist may not have been great, but it certainly had plenty of great scenes and moments. Honorable mentions go to virtually every interaction between Ward and Joy Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup, respectively), the Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) cage fights, Danny Rand’s fight with the drunken weapon of the Hand and escape from the Hand complex. The Meachum siblings, in particular, have some great on-screen chemistry. Above all, the best scene was the fight tournament in Episode 6, especially the scrap with The Bride of Nine Spiders. Iron Fist squaring up with some off-beat martial artists is exactly what I wanted from this show and–for this brief moment–I got it.
Lauro: I agree. When you have a show based on a kung-fu master and you spend the first four episodes with boardroom dramatics, it tends to get old. Real quick. I had a headache after binging the first four episodes for God sakes! So you better believe that when invitations were being sent for a mini tourney in Ep. 6, shit got real. We’re introduced to the Veznikovs, Bride of Nine Spiders and Scythe. Something about Scythe merrily doing karaoke to Aha’s “Take on Me” to a bunch of dead gangsters stuck with me, and is the most Marvel thing up until then in the series.
Kevin: Oh man, don’t get me started on Scythe yet. He’s coming up for sure! Best Character, however, is a tough one because there are a few to choose from. Ward, Colleen and Joy were all great characters for the most part and Davos was also great for the little bit of screen time that he had. Ultimately, the choice comes down to the Meachum siblings and Joy comes slightly ahead for me. I love that she starts in a grey area, not quite as evil as the Meachum men and not quite as good-natured as Danny, walking that tightrope well for much of the show. As the show progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that she won’t be able to maintain this for long; thus the question becomes: Will she be driven to the side of good by the evil nature of her father and insanity of her brother? Or, will she be driven to the side of evil by the stupidity of Danny Rand? The fact that the answer to that question still lands somewhere in between is pretty awesome.
(As much as I liked her character, however, I do think it says a lot that characters with a lot of family drama were the ones that captivated me the most in a show that’s supposed to be about a guy that grew up in an alternate dimension and fought a dragon in order to become an immortal weapon with a flaming fist as hard as iron.)
Lauro: The Meachum siblings are quite a pair indeed. But this is where we deviate: I found Ward the most compelling of the lot. His character goes from sniveling corporate stooge to someone you found yourself endeared with. You took his plight to heart and even though the name of the show is Iron Fist, you’d find a more profound character arc within Ward rather than Danny.
Kevin: Honestly, I wish I could just lump all of the first four episodes into this category, but I don’t think they qualify as one continuous scene (also, Danny’s escape from the psych ward would be included in that, but that scene’s actually pretty good). Since I have to choose just one scene, I’ll go with the hallway fight with the Triad aka the hatchet men. Pound for pound, it may not be the worst scene in the series, but it’s a bad scene that only serves to remind you of some of the best scenes Marvel’s ever put out.
Lauro: Been waiting on this one: anything Harold Meachum is in. Hamming it up as the big bad of the series was a down right disservice to David Wenham‘s casting. He did what he could but short of twirling a mustache and yelling out, “NEXT TIME IRON FIST! NEXT TIME!!” I kept yelling at my television, “Faramir what are you doing!?” Thank god for The Hand’s inclusion in this.
Kevin: LMAO. Literally. Had to laugh my ass off at that Faramir line. It’s funny that you were waiting for the previous one, because the worst character is easily Danny Fucking Rand. I think Finn Jones does a fairly decent job, but this version of Danny comes off as an incredibly obnoxious character. He’s impulsive, inconsiderate, arrogant, and ignorant. What makes it even more frustrating for me is that–of the four Defenders to get their own show–Danny Rand is my second favorite, only behind Matt Murdock. That only serves to make this portrayal all the more disappointing.
Lauro: Too true sir! It’s a toss-up between Danny Rand and Joy Meachum. Of course pros and cons, Joy was the headstrong woman that was still mourning the “loss” of her father, unbeknownst to her how alive/dead he really was. There was a scene where Danny sends Joy a bag of M&M’s without any brown ones in it (racist much?) and she breaks down crying. Minutes later Danny confronts Ward and Joy gets in the middle of it and tells him, “we’re not your family”, lulwut!? Weren’t you just crying? On the other hand Danny is a childish, obnoxious character and his “I am Danny Rand, not Iron Fist” shtick gets old by episode 6.
You know what? Screw it! Danny Rand is the worst character. He’s his own worst enemy in the fact that he doesn’t unleash the Iron Fist because…he doesn’t believe in himself? On top of that he wants to wrest control of his company away from the Meachums because its his birthright. When Ward tells Danny to attend the meetings for his company, he just blows him off with “I got more things to worry about, dude”.
Kevin: Yeah, since we have this obnoxious brat as the sympathetic hero that has to overcome hardships, every character suffers when they interact with him; whereas Colleen Wing is the only one that’s able to elevate his character any amount. Ok. I have to stop. Getting angry about this dude all over again! That fighting tournament in Episode 6 is one giant Easter Egg composed of much smaller Easter eggs. The tournament itself seems inspired by that of the one from the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven:
His first opponents, the Veznikovz brothers, aren’t based on any characters that Iknow of; but they are strangely reminiscent of all the knife-wielding muggers and chumps Iron Fist fought in alleys, both in his early solo adventures and alongside Power Man later on. The second is an awesome nod to Bride of Nine Spiders. They save the best for last, though. Scythe appears in two scenes in one episode and still manages to be the most memorable character. I’m honestly happy that the only thing the two versions share in common is the way their respective fights with Iron Fist end: with Danny breaking the scythe by punching it with his iron fist. If it wasn’t for the fact that this character only showed up in two scenes in one episode, he probably would’ve been the best character in the show, too.
Lauro: Absolutely. My fiancee even noted my shit-eating grin as I told her that we might witness a tournament of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. Wasn’t so, but it was awesome nonetheless. Although there was nary a sight of the old faithful Iron Fist duds, in Rand’s flashbacks we see him sporting a robe in the familiar yellow and green. There’s mentions of “the incredible green guy”–the incident that happened in the Avengers. Jeri Hogarth–or J-Money as Danny calls Carrie-Anne Moss‘s native legalese–and a Night Nurse pops in here and there. Now there’s no such thing as too much Rosario Dawson; if someone tells you otherwise they are goddamn liars! Another big one, would have to be the Steel Serpent logo on one of the drug packets that Danny receives.
FINAL THOUGHTS/BIBLES SCORES
Kevin: Davos and Danny back-to-back against The Hand complex did get me psyched, especially knowing what the future has in store at the end of the series. I also got so caught up with Scythe I forgot about the fact that Danny keeps referring to the monks that saved him as being of the Order of the Crane Mother and — this is total speculation — Madame Gao will be revealed as the Crane Mother. OK. Bible Score. I keep fluctuating between 2.5/5 and 3/5, so I feel like it’s only right to give it a 2.75/5. Everything I’ve said so far should show that, as much as I disliked the titular character, there was a lot a found in this series to enjoy. That said, the fact that the hero of the story was the character I disliked the most means I can’t justify a 3/5 score to myself. 2.75/5 Bibles.
Lauro: With a show with such high expectations set before it, there were glimmers of hope but not enough to edge out the dullness that was the entirety of Iron Fist. It seemed like they were going with Arrow-type vibes, what with being stranded in the Himalayas, and wanted to tell “a fish out of water” story, when, in actuality, what the fans were pining for was something different and zany. More K’un-Lun, more martial arts tournaments and definitely more kung-fu fighting (those cats were fast as lighting!), less boardroom dramatics sprinkled in with Hand mischievousness, and trying so hard to be the overarching narrative that will undoubtedly lead to the Defenders series, which we are all looking for given this asterisk. 2.5/5 Bibles.