Netflixing: Iron Fist

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It’s the show everyone’s talking about, for better or worse.

Honestly, I’d kind of like to wash my hands of the whole affair, since the topic has devolved into a lot of childish name calling. But I didn’t prepare a backup show this week (as if I could find the time), so we’re going into this anyway, because this is one blogger who is not afraid of idiots.

Today’s topic is Marvel’s Iron Fist.

Let’s Start by Wading into the Mess

Because supposed “adults” cannot receive a gift horse without looking it in the mouth, and cannot look at an orange without thinking that if fails as an apple, and can only judge an idea through the lens of the latest trends, rather than the original conditions under which the idea was spawned, there is a lot of histrionic excrement we have to address before we can build an objective review of this series.

Let the record show that professional critics, for the most part, hated Iron Fist. Let the record also show that the antagonism toward the show was not confined to an examination of its content, nor to the body of the reviews themselves. The people who hated Iron Fist took extra effort to broadcast its supposed inadequacies. They flocked to social media to put it down publicly and to get a narrative going. Most importantly, it appears that these critics felt a need to be seen in the act of panning the show. Merely having an opinion was not good enough for them. They insisted on evangelizing their position.

“You shall be avenged…or, at least, defended.”

There is nothing wrong with this, of course. Opinions, like music, may be played loud or quiet, and neither approach is better than the other.

I would be lying, however, if I said that there is no deeper pattern here. Loudness is often an attempt to cover up the weakness of one’s own argument, particularly when it requires validation from other loudness. And such is the state of society today that such tactics are now considered entirely legitimate.

Intellectual and emotional honesty are dead. *Shrug* And yet, only those who ground themselves in these dead virtues will survive the tempest and frenzy of a dishonest world.

So let’s get one thing straight…

The Critics are Wrong

Iron Fist is a fun show that has many advantages over the other Marvel Netflix shows. It has elements of mystery and intrigue, a dark hero guided by good angels, and, like some of the other Marvel Netflix offerings, compelling villains.

But in the interest of quelling the outrage of any sticklers out there, let us examine the criticisms that have been lobbed against this series, and knock them down, one by one.

Gripe #1: The Fight Choreography is Terrible

Yes, the fight choreography of all Marvel Netflix shows has gone downhill since the first season of Daredevil ended. Yet we were still able to stomach Daredevil’s second season, as well as Luke Cage. That Iron Fist does not restore the fight choreography to pre-Elektra standards is lamentable, but it is obvious that this problem extends far beyond this one show.

Ah, but you wish to hold Iron Fist to a higher standard, because it is, in many ways, a story about martial arts, and all martial arts stories need to have top-shelf fight choreography. In this, I think we are spoiled. We as audiences have really only been exposed to fantasy martial arts, like those seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And it has been this way for so long that we feel that highly stylized, impossible movements are what real martial arts look like.

Go watch a real martial arts tournament, and then tell me if Iron Fist’s choreography is really so bland.

Gripe #2: The Main Character is the Worst Part of the Show

Yes, Matt Murdock really is the worst part of Daredevil, isn’t he? He’s just so unconvincing. And not nearly as good an actor as everyone else in the series.

What’s that? You were actually referring to Iron Fist? Oh, you could have fooled me.

However, if you remember the reviews that critics gave to season 1 of Daredevil, then you will also remember that the biggest complaint people had was that Matt Murdock, the Daredevil himself, was the worst part of the show.

And Luke Cage didn’t entirely escape this criticism as well. For while Luke himself was an enjoyable character, he was easily outshined by the show’s villains. A phenomenon that seems to permeate all of the Marvel Netflix offerings.

Gripe #3: The Show is Poorly Paced. It Spends WAY Too Much Time with the Supporting Characters

It’s as if we have already forgotten Foggy and Karen, and the hours we spent hanging out with them while more interesting things were supposedly happening elsewhere.

The other gripes may have some justification, but this one is simply laughable. Every Marvel show on Netflix has been a slow burn. And no one from the supporting cast of Iron Fist is anywhere near as bad as Elektra.

If this is your beef against Iron Fist, then you are intellectually dishonest.

Gripe #4: Danny Rand Should have been Asian


Danny Rand has always been white, in comics and other adaptations. The whole point of his character is that he is dropped into a culture that is not his own, and learns that it is, in many ways, superior than the culture he was born into.

So much has been said about cultural appropriation, but let me tell you this: it is a humbling experience to be immersed in another culture. When we are given examples, in fiction or in real life, of people having their eyes opened to the larger world, it helps so many of us, who have lived such insulated lives, to understand that the culture we know best is not necessarily the only one that is worth loving.

Shouting “CULTURAL APPROPRIATION” is an attempt to keep us all in our little boxes, unable to empathize with each other, unable to see ourselves in one another’s shoes. It fosters racism and bigotry. The most enduring form of tolerance comes from letting yourself believe, if only for a moment, that you belong on the other side of the fence.

Some critics try to paint Danny Rand as a “White Savior” trope. Obviously, these critics didn’t actually watch the Netflix series, since Danny doesn’t end up saving anyone. In fact, he ends up harming his adopted culture, due to his own inadequacies. This show is about a broken man who needs the kindness and understanding of others to become complete. He is nobody’s White Knight.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s actually talk about what Iron Fist is.

The Great Things about this Show

There is a lot to celebrate about Iron Fist, and I was delighted by the series overall. It is now my second favorite Marvel/Netflix collaboration, after Daredevil and slightly before Luke Cage. I think many viewers will agree, but it is still helpful to go over the best points, line by line.

A New Brand of Villain: Daredevil had intimidating yet sympathetic villains. Luke Cage had deliciously slimy and yet cunning villains.

Iron Fist has redeemable villains. These are people we feel bad for, even as they are doing terrible things. You want to break their noses and give them a big hug all at the same time.

Where Marvel could have easily recycled their villain motivations from series to series, they have instead presented us with a bouquet of complex evildoers.

Well done, Marvel.

Colleen Wing: Danny Rand’s love interest is the best thing to happen to the Netflix shows since Rosario Dawson was cast as Claire “Maybe Night Nurse” Temple.

Danny, as has been noted, is an unlikeable character. And that was intentional. He’s not prepared to be a hero because he never really had the chance to grow up. But Colleen sees the good in him, and while she doesn’t have powers, or know the same secret martial arts Danny does, she still manages to outpace him due to her real-world experience, which Danny lacks.

She’s an educator, a friend, and can hold her own against the strongest of enemies. She’s the perfect foil for Danny.

Abandoning the Shock Value Aspect: Jessica Jones, and, to a lesser extent, Luke Cage, made a grab for the lowest common denominator by trying to jolt their audience with shock and sex. It was by far the biggest weakness of each of these series.

Iron Fist rejects such cheap tricks, choosing instead to be judged on its own merits (or lack thereof). Even if you don’t like the show, you have to admit: it was not trying to cover its sins by scoring points with randy schoolboys.

Those Oh-so Hated Office Scenes: Superheroes are never more boring than when they punch people. As such there needs to be more going on in the background.

Daredevil accomplished this by having the characters work in a law firm. Served next to all the action was a healthy dose of courtroom drama.

Iron Fist pairs its action with corporate drama, and it is some of the best, with the various parties making power plays in underhanded ways from beginning to finish. The critics complained that these scenes existed. Apparently, they only tuned in hoping to see nonstop fist flying.

Madam Gao Returns: Oh yes. This alone was worth the price of admission.

Luke Cage was great, but there’s no denying that it was telling a smaller, more personal story, with less connection to the greater Marvel universe.

Iron Fist is much more relevant to The Defenders‘ forthcoming storyline. And it all centers on our favorite sweet old Chinese lady, Madam Gao.

Daredevil kept dropping hints that she was more than what she seemed, letting us see a sinister side of her. But Iron Fist dials her up to 11.

Gao may be the best MCU villain of them all—even surpassing Loki. She’s automatically the smartest person in the room, and she does not have the world’s best interests in mind.

Yet she never stops being a kindly old lady type, even while she slits your throat. She is poisonously charming, and I can’t get enough of it.

My Judgment

Iron Fist is probably going to be the best new original content on Netflix until The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and A Series of Unfortunate Events release their next seasons. It is the final buildup chapter before The Defenders, and you know you want to be caught up before that one drops.

Watch it and love it. Appreciate the flaws that it does have, but also enjoy how fun it is. I ultimately don’t know why the paid critics didn’t like it. I want to believe that they simply all had severe aneurysms at the same time.

It must also be noted that audiences, on the other hand, have received the series very well. Analytics show that Iron Fist is one of the most streamed shows in Netflix’s history, and the second most viewed of the Marvel shows, after Luke Cage.

[UPDATE: Since this article was first posted, new analytics have come rolling in, and now Iron Fist is the number 1 most viewed of all the Marvel-Netflix collaborations. Rumor has it that the second season has already been greenlit. Given this new data, it is safe to say that this series is smash success.]

It is highly bingeable and hard to stop watching once it is started. And it is a Netflix exclusive. Take advantage of this chance and give it a watch.