Warning: The following contains spoilers for Marvel’s Iron Fist…
If you’ve not started, or finished, Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix, then you may want to shy away from this piece – though if you’re looking for our episode-to-episode Iron Fist review breakdown, you can see it here.
Iron Fist, critically, stands as Marvel’s first notable misfire on Netflix, which feels all the more unfortunate since it serves as the gateway series to this summer’s Defenders team-up. Perhaps the production was rushed, perhaps the budget just wasn’t there to give many of us the series we were looking for – there are many “perhaps”s here, though the sad reality is that one of the worst elements of Iron Fist is the protagonist, Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones), himself.
This is an arguable point, of course, as there are more than a few things that stand out in Iron Fist as being, putting it politely, less than ideal. The dialogue, the action, the fact that Meachum family drama takes up at least half of the show’s real estate – there are several contenders for “worst in show.” But the fact that the series, truly, never figured out who Danny was as a character, and seemingly tried to figure it out as the show went along instead of ahead of time, was the most problematic overall.
When Danny first arrives on the scene, it felt like he could be his own show’s comic relief. Which isn’t a bad thing. Barefoot (in NYC, ugh) and slightly Bohemian in nature, Danny was just fine living in the park and being groovy while waiting for Joy and Ward Meachum to, assumedly, come to their senses. He was nice, but also somewhat arrogant, totally unaware of the true impact his resurrection would cause. Okay, that’s something we can work with. He’s learned how to calm his s*** overseas. He’s all zen and can align his “chi” (say “chi” one more time, mothereffer!) and doesn’t get overloaded with negative emotions. That’s Danny #1.
Oh, wait. As it turns out, Danny is ALL emotion. So much emotion in fact that it breaks his brain when he thinks about any old memory. He literally holds his head and winces when experiencing bad memories like he’s the malfunctioning fat lady robot disguise in Total Recall. One would think he had a tumor or an implanted microchip the way he spasms and flails. He’s a time bomb, despite the fifteen years of training to be a calm, stoic warrior. Danny #2.
Danny is also oblivious to how he’s received. Not unlike Thor’s first visit to Earth, Danny has no problem going public, making a spectacle of himself, and telling pretty much anyone who will listen that he is the sacred Iron Fisted guardian of a (sssh) super secret heavenly monastery called K’un-Lun – an inter-dimensional monk paradise where he apparently spent the last fifteen years learning how to have no chill whatsoever. Yes, sometimes he wasn’t obtuse and easy-going at all. Sometimes he’d pull a 180 and become a dense warrior with random tunnel vision. Danny #3.
A series element that could have been turned into something interesting, or even funny here and there, is the fact that Danny is also 10-years-old. Or thereabouts. He has the mind of young boy and the body of an adult. He’s Tom Hanks’ Josh Baskin if Josh could occasionally make his hand glow. His time away in the Himalayas (and beyond) more or less stunted his emotional growth. It makes sense and that certainly might have made for a different spin on a superhero and given him something different to contribute to the Defenders.
But instead of this trait being fully explored, or called out, Danny is just petulant and tantrum-y, with no self-awareness or charm. He believes everything everyone tells him – until someone tells him something different. He stubbornly demands things and then wonders why people are put off by him. It’s not long before you feel bad for Joy and Ward, wondering what they did to deserve this puppy pissing all over their Persian rug. Danny #4.
Gao, Davos, and a few others characters make an actual point, throughout the season, to tell Danny what a terrible Iron Fist he is. Now, within that, there’s a story, right? An arc. This is an origin tale, of sorts, so one would hope that by the end Danny maybe learns…to not be a terrible Iron Fist? But that moment never comes. He becomes so focused on avenging his parents’ deaths (a quest you might grow to resent, not root for) that the final scene of the show isn’t his redemption, it’s abject proof of his failings.
Danny ends the show realizing, even though he’d already been told it many times, that he’s been – ta da! – a terrible Iron Fist. Oh, well. I guess he’ll have to wait a bit longer to “make it just in time for afternoon Kung-Fu practice” seeing as how the Hand stormed Windshear Crag and assaulted K’un-Lun.
Oh, and not one fight sequence in that mountain pass “hallway?” Be better, show!