Iron Fist is everything I feared Luke Cage would be. Luke Cage took a challenging side character and deepened him in every way. The story grew beyond the title character, encompassing rich supporting characters. It dug into the cultural and economic of Harlem. It also featured great villains in Mahershala Ali and Alfre Woodard. Given that, Iron Fist needed to not only continue that near-greatness, but it also needed to in some ways expand upon it. Unfortunately, it does neither.
For the uninitiated, Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand (Game of Thrones‘s Finn Jones), the orphaned son of a billionaire family thought dead in a plane crash. I suppose it’s a small spoiler that Danny Rand is actually who he claims to be. Still, it’s a Marvel property. Of course this is really Danny Rand. He returns to New York possessing extraordinary martial arts skills and a magic Kung Fu grip. The first few episodes deal with his re-entry into society. Former friends Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward Meachum (Tom Perlphrey) now control the Rand family corporation. Naturally, they’re threatened by the implications of Danny’s return from death. Their father, Harold (David Wenham) apparently faked his death and lives in a secluded underground where he works out all the time. Danny also meets Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a martial arts dojo owner intrigued by Danny’s abilities.
There, you’re all caught up on the first three episodes.
Seriously. Many complain that Netflix’s Marvel properties take too long to get going. Those persons need not watch Iron Fist. Episodes proceed with little-to-no dramatic tension. Characters interact without consequence or really anything at stake. Finn Jones gives a gee-whiz, Little Ninja Annie performance that needs the shading of a good villain, but from the episodes I’ve seen, there’s a complete lack of a compelling villain. Luke Cage had a lot going for it, but Mahershala Ali’s fantastic performance made you beg for more episode to episode. Plus, for a property about a martial arts expert, you’d anticipate great fights, but the fight scenes here pale in comparison to Daredevil. There’s literally nothing that even comes close to touching the great hallway and stairwell sequences in both Daredevil seasons.
Iron Fist is a plodding mess, which is unfortunate given its import to the overall Defenders storyline. It kind of fails on every front, shockingly. Story. Acting. Characters. Theming. Everything just feels so phoned-in and flat. You watch this craving the lush color scheme of Luke Cage, the compelling story behind Daredevil, or the wildfire sarcasm behind Jessica Jones. Iron Fist offers none of that. I haven’t seen a series bomb this badly since last year’s Vinyl. Most frustratingly, I’ll have to watch the entire series to prepare for The Defenders. Maybe it gets better. Unfortunately, all signs point to “No.”