As a big fan of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and what Marvel have and are trying to build, the Netflix series have been pretty hit or miss.
The two series of Daredevil are thoroughly entertaining, with great action set-pieces and really brought a new grit to the MCU, as well as having one of the most interesting characters in Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal). Jessica Jones too is a great watch, more of a narrative driven series which unfolds nicely and is engaging and intriguing throughout. However, Luke Cage fell rather flat for me and certainly didn’t need the thirteen one hour episodes to tell it’s story.
This I feel is an inherent problem with all of these series, they don’t truly require the thirteen hours of television to tell their story and build their characters, which is something that rings true in Iron Fist as well.
Danny Rand (Finn Jones) returns to his company Rand Enterprises after being long presumed dead many years earlier when he and his parents were in a plane crash. He has been raised in a mystical region of Asia in a place called K’un-Lun where he has become a master of Kung fu and been bestowed with the ancient power of the Iron Fist (this allows him to “focus his Chi” into his fist essentially giving him super strength and the ability to heal – so far). However, when he discovers that the order “The Hand” have infested his company, Danny must try to defeat them and fulfil his destiny as the Iron Fist.
The series covers a lot of key, relevant and interesting themes including identity, loss, PTSD, family, love and betrayal which all surround and damage the protagonist throughout the series. He struggles with his identities of Danny Rand and the Iron Fist, caught in a limbo between them, still haunted by the loss of his family and visions/dreams that echo a PTSD like state.
All in all, it’s not a bad series and there are some strong points. Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) returns (as she appears in Daredevil) and continues to be an intriguing and intimidating presence in this universe, no doubt she will play a role in the Defenders series (where Daredevil, Jessica, Luke and Iron Fist will team up).
Another returning character is Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) who has become a key side character in linking this universe together and it’s good to see some further development to her character, becoming more involved in the action.
As well as this, some of the new villains and characters are very strong. Harold and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and David Wenham) are both excellent in portraying somewhat psychotic, manipulating behaviour over the other characters, mainly Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) who is solid enough as the consolable and understanding figure toward Danny.
Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) provides the role of Danny’s sidekick and love interest which allows for the more fragile side of the character to be explored. She’s a strong character in her own right as well, becoming a key aspect of the action and narrative.
Finn Jones himself gives an interesting performance as Danny. He nails the mystic nature of the character, and although likeable in the fact that he’s selfless, driven, compassionate and a morally strong willed character, he can be quite frustrating.
He’s used, back-stabbed and double crossed so many times it becomes boring and he just comes across as naive. Which, I suppose, after growing up in a totally different world to a city/Western world lifestyle it would take time to adjust and someone would be more susceptible to such betrayals. However this doesn’t prevent the big problem that the protagonist can be hard to connect with because of this, a big fault in the writing of this series.
Furthermore, just like the series prior to it, Iron Fist’s narrative is stretched over the thirteen episodes and doesn’t fit this format. There’s quite a lot of the series which feels like filler and other aspects which I feel could have been expanded upon more, or were resolved too quickly. On top of this there were a few moments where I found myself thinking, why are we here? What’s the point in this bit? Which shows obvious room for cuts and improvements to the pace of the series narrative.
This is not aided by some clunky (and straight up bad) dialogue which feels out of place in the type of universe the Netflix series have built. They’re more gritty, violent and adult than the films are, but this series at times fails to fit into the tone set out by Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
The combat scenes too are fairly hit and miss. There’s some great hand to hand combat and fight scenes, which is certainly a strength of the Marvel Netflix universe, but then there’s also some poor moments and obvious wire trickery. The more mystical martial arts in use provide a different style of combat and fighting to the other series which is certainly refreshing although at times a little over used.
In conclusion, the series is entertaining and introduces the character of Danny Rand aka the Iron Fist fairly well, albeit he’s hard to connect with and enjoy. However, it can’t be ignored that this series isn’t as strong as those prior, and the thirteen episode format is the biggest problem. Luckily, the Defenders series is working with an eight episode format, with hopefully a more concise and engaging plot with less filler.