Review: What You Should Know Before Watching Iron Fist

This week’s Year of Living Authorly Post is up at my blog so I can talk here about Netflix’s new Marvel offering Iron Fist. Yes, okay, I am not the first person this weekend talking about Iron Fist, but I have seen all thirteen episodes due to a spring break marathon with my husband, an Unreliable Spouse. We are mostly in agreement about the show.

Yes, it is in fact the weakest of the Marvel Netflix offerings thus far. I believe the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of bad writing. The dialogue is stilted. We keep flashing back to the same flashbacks. Characters actions and thoughts contradict themselves. It’s a hot, hot mess of a story, with one of the most disappointing endings that I’ve seen in a long time.

Should you even watch Iron Fist? Sure you should, but you want to go in with your eyes open. Know what you’re going to get and what you’re not going to get, and you might have a better experience. Here are some things to know.

Will I see kick ass martial arts? Nope, sorry. You would think you might, as the show features two of Marvel’s most kung fu-iest characters, a Kun Lun monk, and several members of the Hand. However, you will see some mediocre martial arts fights backed up by a weird 80s-style Tron soundtrack. I think you’re looking at 70’s action hero fare, if even that. I know, you expected martial arts. Do yourself a favor and go back and watch Season 1 and 2 of Daredevil and imagine that it’s part of Iron Fist. That’s what you’re going to have to do.

Will the show rivet me in action sequences from the get go? Nope, sorry again. Like every other Marvel offering, save the Daredevil offerings, the show is slow in the beginning and the middle. Unlike Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, however, there is no sharp pull-in, no call to action. Danny shows up and gets to be homeless while people discuss whether it’s him or not. Not exactly a blistering start. And then we spend episode two in a mental ward. We don’t even hear about Kun Lun until episode 4. It’s a slow coal train running through a small midwestern town, this show.

Will Danny Rand be an interesting hero? If you guessed no, you are right. Emotionally, he’s a 10-year-old looking for family because his own died, and looking in all the wrong places. He has no sense of adulting. This in and of itself could be interesting if played right, but it’s kind of boring, because it hits all the cliches you could imagine.

Will there be at least an interesting support cast to help me get through this show? Well, yes and no. Colleen Wing should be an amazing martial artist, but Danny is a hipster tool and Colleen is also a tool. If you watch the whole show, you’ll see what I mean. Colleen is also hampered by cliche conflict and contradictory characterization. Joy Meachum is a schizophrenic childhood friend who can’t decide what she wants. These two aren’t going to help you much.

Luckily for us, there is another plot line that involves the Meachums. If you remember Nobu from the Hand in the Daredevil series, you know the Hand can resurrect people. Harold Meachum, Danny’s dad’s business partner, received this gift from the Hand, and the plot line dealing with him may be melodramatic, but it’s also creepy and horrifying. Look, if you can watch for this plotline, watch for Harold’s crazy and his son Ward’s acting journey, you might like the show. Tom Pelphry, the actor playing Ward, really gets put through his paces. He’s worth the cost of admission.

Rosario Dawson reprises her role as Claire Temple and classes up the joint. Her parting shot of telling Danny and Colleen that they need therapy pretty much sums up the show. And Madame Gao is back, back in a big mysterious way. When I grow up, I want to be Madame Gao. Raise my hand and mystically throw people into walls. Damn straight. Except for the heroine production stuff.

So. Some good performances in a very poorly put together script. Some bright spots from actors who get a little better writing and plot line in the scheme of things. If you don’t watch the whole thing, you’ll miss the awesome appearance of Danny’s friend Davos from Kun Lun who says what many of us are thinking by that point, “You’re the worst Iron Fist ever.” It’s also probably your only chance to see an intern beat to death with an ice cream scoop this year.

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