The new netflix series, Marvel’s Iron Fist, has been out for a few days, and as a diehard fan of the previous three heroes set up to become The Defenders, I spent the last weekend bingewatching the new episodes. There was no choice.
First, Iron Fist coming out last Friday went past me completely. Only the day after, by seeing a post on Tumblr, did I realize I had forgotten about it. Surprisingly or not, my dashboard wasn’t filled with posts of the new series. I remember when Daredevil, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage had come out; I had to make sure those tags were blocked, otherwise spoilers would come through left and right. This wasn’t the case with Iron Fist, there were maybe one or two people in my feed talking about the new show, but it’s safe to say that Iron Fist didn’t blow up like the other three did.
Part of the reason that it didn’t catch on (as fast? — maybe it’s taking slower) was because of the criticism it received beforehand, something I will address later on. The other part? It’s just not as good as the previous ones. The narrative is interesting, but not compelling. It felt second rate, which is not something I’m used to from netflix original series. They’re usually so on point about every single detail, but it wasn’t the case here. I went through the series fast, but without emotion, I didn’t feel close to any of the characters and it lacked depth. As you know, Matt is a blind lawyer, Jessica is a female P.I., Luke is a Black escaped convict. Danny Rand? He’s a rich white boy, who was missing, then came back with magical powers, and is now on the path to avenge the death of his parents. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Where Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are gritty, thought-provoking, and challenging society. Iron Fist is bland. It addresses corporate fraud, embezzlement, and how little multinationals care about the little guy, but these social issues don’t carry as big a punch as, for example, sexual assault, racism, or ableism do. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same emotional impact. This was a mistake made by the people behind the scenes. Did they overlook this fact, or did they ignore it? Did a glowing fist sound that cool, that they just had to tell this story? They could have easily fixed this by writing Danny Rand as a minority, or by adding something that gave him more depth.
Which brings me to the widespread criticism Iron Fist has received for its blatant racism. I don’t think it would have been that hard to portray Danny as biracial with a Chinese heritage. And it would have made the story that more captivating. Imagine his dad, a (biracial) Chinese American man trying to make it in a white business world, and succeeding! Also, him refusing to work with the Hand, while his greedy white partner does, behind his back? I just wrote this idea up in less than a minute, it’s not hard??!! I can hear you saying, but the original story? Yeah, yeah, the original story was written decades ago with no respect for immigrant culture, aimed at white America. This series was written for a global audience, in a multicultural society, and frankly, the writers and producers should have known better. Perpetuating racism, and hiding behind the primary source material, does not make you less complicit in that same racism and cultural appropriation. It makes you ignorant and uncaring about racial issues, especially when you’re making money off them.
Finally, I would like to mention the parts of the series that I did like. If you’re able to overlook the racism and keep watching, it does get better by the 8th or 9th episode. There are a couple of twists in the end that surprised me. Moreover, the brightest light in this series (and all the other series to be honest) is Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple. You can decide to only watch it for her, she has some pretty amazing scenes. Furthermore, the relationship between brother and sister, Ward and Joy Meachum, caught me by surprise. I wasn’t aware that episode by episode these two characters had snuck into my heart and broke it by the final scene. The last character I fell for was Colleen Wing, she’s a badass with a lot of depth, and a very good arc; but they did her so wrong pairing her with Danny, especially how their relationship started and progressed.
We’ve reached the end of my review, that turned out longer than I had planned for. Oh well. I would recommend watching it critically, especially if you’re planning on watching the Defenders that is scheduled to release mid-2017. Because I’m sure that if you don’t, you won’t have key information needed for the next instalment. Especially, since they don’t have much time for exposition and character background with only 8 episodes. All in all, Iron Fist is a good series, but when you’re coming down from Luke Cage, this one just doesn’t hit the same sweet spot.