After being presumed dead in a plane crash along with his parents, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) returns to New York City after being missing for fifteen years: an effort to try to build bridges with his old friends (the Meachums), reconnect with his past and come to terms with his family legacy. Much akin to the Devil in Hell’s Kitchen, He fights against the criminal underworld that corrupts his city around him. Though, while Matt Murdock may have badass martial arts skills, he does not have the ability to connect with his chi and subsequently become the Iron Fist.
Before I get started, I want to state a fact. Last time I checked, the character Danny Rand was white. In the source material, he is white. So why is everyone making a fuss about whitewashing? Characters who do martial arts is not exclusive to Asians? In essence, the whole brouhaha about whitewashing is because Netflix-Marvel did not cast a stereotype. And now let’s get serious, we’re in the 21st Century: this is a time where race, gender and culture are at its most free in most places in the world, where people should be accepted regardless of colour, cast or creed. Seriously people, get a grip!
Much akin to Jessica Jones, Iron Fist is about abuse and trauma. It’s a story that talks about anger turning into rage but it’s also how we deal with our emotions. We pretend they don’t exist and it builds to a point that cannot be contained anymore. This is specifically true of childhood trauma. Where Jessica Jones talked about trauma from one person inflicting onto another, Iron Fist talks about how one childhood event can have the ability to define a person for life. We follow this theme, just from a different angle. I like what Netflix is doing with these dark yet relevant themes and I implore them to keep it up. It’s no secret that viewers will see many of these characters in themselves, I sure did.
Each of the shows in the Netflixverse have discussed multiple themes that are important to the 21st Century. Luke Cage discussed life on the streets for the black male and racial politics. Daredevil looks at political corruption and how the power of the media. Jessica Jones is about trauma, mental abuse and self-abuse. “Would you put day drinking under experience or special abilities?” says Jessica. She makes a joke but it’s a serious matter. Iron Fist discusses corporate accountability and business immorality in profiting off the suffering of third world countries. The world is run by international corporations, not governments. Iron Fist criticises that and it really makes audiences think, well it should. I’m not really sure people like thinking anymore, as they’d rather be spoon-fed storylines.
Deep down, I think people wanted this show to fail from the beginning. Since 2010, we have become observers of hate-baiting communities. People will hate on something for the sake of it, making a hyperbole. They either see it as a masterpiece or something not worth the time of day and thus the constant comparison between the “masterpiece” Daredevil: Season One (loved it) and the “not worth the time of day” show Iron Fist. There’s no middle ground or human discussion. I mean it’s got to a point now that you can’t say you like something without being chastised for it on social media. There’s no fun left in fandom. It’s time we had that back. Cash-grabs are a different thing but when honest work is insulted for no reason, then we have a problem.
Iron Fist is not perfect by any means but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I don’t think there’s a series out there that one could call the “perfect show.” There’s going to be flaws in every film, play, television or even work of literature. But there are also things we do like about it. Critics said Iron Fist had pacing issues, but I’d call it a slow-burn, alike to Jessica Jones and especially Harlem’s hero Luke Cage. Other criticisms were that the show had boring characters, including its lead. I find Danny Rand a very amiable character: softly spoken, kind of shy and mild-mannered. That’s his character. He’s not as brawny as Power Man or as grizzly as Daredevil, nor is he perpetually drunk, yet functional like Jessica. Danny Rand is a mild-mannered Buddhist monk with a gift for Kung Fu.
Iron Fist’s supporting characters are also interesting. The half-Chinese, half-Japanese Colleen Wing (Game Of Thrones) is Danny’s help against the Hand. She’s tough and smart, and Henwick gives a great performance. And then there’s Claire. Witty, seductive and as comical as always. She’s the living embodiment of #itsallconnected. She the Netflixverse’s binding agent and I can guess she’ll be the one to bring the Defenders together in September. Rosario Dawson is a great talent and I’d watch her in anything.
Iron Fist’s depiction of The Hand is truly something. I cared more about the villain this time around, especially with the added presence of Daredevil’s Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) and the wolves in sheep’s clothing, Bakuto (Ramon Rodriquez) and Harold Meachum (David Wenham). Regardless of her murderous exploits, it’s impossible not to like Gao. Her witty one-liners are comedy gold and she truly is an asset to the show. Even when her life’s in jeopardy, she has a knack for the comic, often referring to Danny as a boy because, well… he still acts like one.
With each episode the Meachums grew on me. Predominantly, they’re all assholes and they belong on the set of Showtime’s Billions. David Wenham (Top Of The Lake) as Harold is truly haunting. He really does not care. He has no limits and he will do whatever it takes to win, killing anyone who gets in his way. His son Ward (Tom Pelphrey) would rather hire someone to kill than do it himself but with each episode he becomes more unhinged. Joy may look pretty but that does not make her any less shady. By the end of the series, I felt bad for them all. I won’t spoil it but I will say, karma’s a bitch.
I love Iron Fist but that’s just my opinion and that’s why I like film and television. We can all watch the same show and have different opinions about it, and subsequently have an informed discussion. Well, a man can wish. This thirteen-episode show has the musical quality of Luke Cage with the excellent fight sequences of Marco Polo. Of course you will find things you don’t like, but this is not the trainwreck that critics are making it out to be. Watch it and decide for yourself, before you take the view of someone who is paid to write what they’re told.
With our second viewing of the Hand and the debut of New York’s second martial arts buff, this show really sets us up for The Defenders. It’s not the best of the four, but it’s still good, if you have the metal to see it through. With some great performances, many martial arts motifs (including the Drunken Master) and many themes important in a post-Snowden world, Iron Fist is now streaming on Netflix.