Iron Fist is not as bad as you might have heard. It isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s a runaway success either. The latest addition to the Defenders roster is a serviceable set up and introduction for the character of Danny Rand but suffers from being well… more than a little dull.
Many have compared Iron Fist to DC’s Arrow, in that the penniless heir to a huge corporation returns having been absent and presumed dead for several years. Thus ensues all the issues that coming back from the dead causes, but that’s where the similarities more or less end. Thankfully Iron Fist has a more grounded tone with far better acting than the repetitive soap opera shenanigans that blight Arrow.
That being said, Iron Fist doesn’t exactly capitalise on its opportunity to break the mould either. The trouble is everything in Iron Fist just feels terribly OK. Right from its opening titles (also just OK) through to the final credits I never felt blown away by anything I saw. Characters say their lines and the plot progresses, but never did I think ‘Wow’ or ‘That was a definite standout episode/moment’.
The show just lacks a unique selling point, Daredevil is now known for it’s gritty and brutal fight sequences, Jessica Jones had a private eye noir/psychological tint as well as a brilliant David Tennant, and Luke Cage bled cool with its musically charged, living, breathing gangland Harlem. Iron Fist has nothing to make it stand out, even its martial arts, which really should be its USP given the character’s powers and origins, lacks erm… punch.
It also comes across as less dangerous than its predecessors, largely due to the lack of a proper villain. Several characters swap in and out of the role of antagonist, and thanks to the events in Daredevil‘s second season we know that shady ninja warriors ‘The Hand’ are being saved as the big bad for the Defenders to go up against, so the villains in Iron Fist feel like placeholders just to get through the season. When we come to the last episode of the season the show hurriedly moves one of said placeholder villains to the fore for a final confrontation which is sadly incredibly underwhelming.
Performances are generally good and there’s a welcome return by Madame Gao (as well as an unwelcome and rather forced appearance from Claire Temple), but to be honest I think the actors are just doing their best with a fairly poor script. There are frustrating moments of inconsistency and erratic character development throughout, particularly with Danny as he veers between all knowing zen warrior and angry teenager as well as bouts of being beyond stupid at times.
All that said, I didn’t hate watching Iron Fist and I think it has been unfairly trashed by critics as being awful because it isn’t, it’s just a bit ‘meh’. It sits on just the right side of entertaining but whilst quite watchable it’s also undoubtedly the weakest of the four Marvel/Netflix collaborations so far.