I watched all of Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist, and it wasn’t a great experience. The reason I watched it was so I can be prepared for The Defenders series coming later this year that features Iron Fist as a character. There is no way that it was worth it. However, being in the position I am—being one of maybe three people to watch the whole show—I can illuminate some things about the show that aren’t good, besides the fact that the main character is white.
And in case you had more important things to do than get waist-deep in Twitter race controversy, the big to-do about the casting of this show was that they cast a white actor to play a character who is an expert in kung-fu. In their defense, the character was written as white, but it’s not like Iron Fist is a sacred character whose adoring fans would have killed themselves if they updated the character to make it more race-appropriate. Anyway, onto the things that suck about the show that have nothing to do with that.
1. The lead actor is not very good at kung-fu
Okay, this kind of has something to do with the fact that they didn’t cast an Asian in the lead, as they could have found an Asian actor with actual martial arts experience. The guy they did cast as Danny Rand, A.K.A. The Iron Fist, is Game of Thrones regular Finn Jones. Jones, as you can see from the picture to the right, looks like the snooty British guy that the main character of a rom-com brings back to her hometown then ditches for the down-to-earth guy she knew back in the day, however, the character Jones plays in this hypothetical movie is so snooty and rude, not only do you not feel bad for him when he gets ditched, you’re left wondering why the film’s lead—who we are expected to root for and identify with—was with him in the first place.
An article went somewhat viral showcasing that there is a 35-second fight scene in one of the episodes (I forget which one) that contains 56 cuts. I don’t want to put all of the blame on our British ex-boyfriend, but that type of editing is what you do when you want to make it look like someone who can’t fight actually can fight. Just look at the pose he is doing in the picture below.
In Finn Jones’s defense, it might not have been all his fault. In an interview with Telegraph, Jones said, “I was learning those fight scenes just 15 minutes before we shot them,” which is either a great lie to cover his ass, or a demonstration of just how much this series is the forgotten step-child of the Netflix-Marvel universe.
2. There’s a character named Ward
Yeah, yeah. I shouldn’t make fun of a person’s name. Calm down.
The guy in that gif’s name is Ward. He is an important character for reasons that aren’t relevant unless you, for some reason, want to understand what is going on in Iron Fist. At first, I was very confused about where “Ward” comes from. I naturally assumed it came from “Wardell,” although the most famous person with the first name Wardell doesn’t go Ward (Stephen Curry’s first name is Wardell but he goes by his middle name).
Then, it occurred to me in the penultimate episode of the season (and let’s hope series, if we’re being honest), that it probably comes from Howard. And that just makes it worse. Who the hell takes “Howard,” which I’ll admit is not a great name, and decides to make it Ward? Not to mention the fact that at one point, he gets taken in for psychiatric evaluation, and not once do they make a “Psych Ward” joke. Some serious bullshit.
3. Two main characters were thought to be dead but weren’t
There are only five main characters in Iron Fist (if you don’t count Rosario Dawson’s character who is in all of the Netflix series and serves as a link). Two of them begin the series with the world thinking they are dead but they actually aren’t. One is, of course, the protagonist, Danny Rand, who the world thought died with his parents in a plane crash in the Himalayas. He, however, survived and was taken in by monks to a dojo on a different ethereal plane (the shit is stupid).
The other is Danny’s father’s former business partner (and Ward and another main character, Joy’s father) Harold Meachum. He supposedly died of pancreatic or prostate cancer like twelve years prior (it was definitely a ‘P’ cancer). He also survived, by striking a deal with a mystical organization called “The Hand,” which is ironic, because if you can fit your Hand over your face, it means you have cancer.
This is just too much faked-or-suspected death for one series. Seriously. It’s like how death is cheapened in soap operas because you know that at any time the character could come back (with a completely different face, provided the actor left the show). Obviously Danny’s return from death is relevant to his character, but just because it sort of works for him doesn’t mean it needs to apply to another character.
4. The main character is incredibly lame
Rather than just restate what I’ve tweeted on this matter, I’ll embed the tweets.
The thing that makes superheroes fun as opposed to tedious is that they have some level of self-awareness. Even in serious superhero movies like The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is aware that it is absurd that he, a billionaire playboy, uses gadgets to fight crime. Not only does Danny Rand not have this self-awareness, he is incredibly self-serious at all times. And back on the topic of self-awareness, I was honestly shocked that there was not one joke made about he, a white dude, being really good at kung-fu. It’s like they were so scared of the consequences of their Olympic level headassery, that they decided to make their show live in a world where every curly-haired hipster has a black belt.
5. The word “dojo” is said too much
As stated in one of the embedded tweets, there is too much dojo talk. Not only do many scenes take place in a dojo (the dojo in the picture to the right, to be specific), there is talk about dojos, even when they’re not in a dojo! The scene depicted on the right involves Danny teaching Colleen’s (the small Asian woman in the back) kung-fu students. In another scene where there are less advanced students, Danny actually scolds Colleen for not teaching her students to “respect the dojo.”
“Respect the dojo” sounds like the tagline of a late 1990’s kung-fu parody movie. Like, give me a break. For all intents and purposes, it’s just a spacious room in lower Manhattan. It should be respected for its resale value, not because an impractical fighting style is taught there. And do people actually say “dojo” in real life? Because I don’t think I have ever used the term, beyond describing that secret place you could get to on Club Penguin if you clicked the right spot in the mountains.
6. He barely uses the Iron Fist
The Iron Fist’s main power, as you might surmise, is the Iron Fist, a thing that turns his hand yellow and gives his fist super strength. Also, it’s impervious to any and all blows, including bullets. You might be thinking, “that’s not that bad of a power.” And I’d agree with you. Look at the gif below where he uses it to punch his way through a metal door. Okay, you don’t actually see the door open, but you get the point.What if I told you, however, that there are entire episodes in which he doesn’t use this power? Like three or four of them. And that he uses it in AT MOST 1/4th of the fight scenes in the show? It is absolutely ridiculous. Imagine if most of a Spider-Man movie was about him getting in regular fist fights. I get it, Danny is good at kung-fu, independent of the Iron Fist, but I’m not watching the show to watch a dude be pretty good at kung-fu. I want to see him literally punch the balls off of people, and let me give you a little spoiler alert: he never does this.
7. Way too much is left unexplained for too long
This is actually a serious critique and there’s lots of levels to it, so I’ll keep it brief. Basically, you enter the show, like any show, with a million unanswered questions that you expect to be answered. However, in most shows, you get some pieces of information to latch onto, and are told what the specific things you’re supposed to be wondering about are. Let’s use another Marvel series, Luke Cage, as an example. After the first episode or two, you still have plenty of unanswered questions, like how Luke got his superpowers, what Misty Knight is investigating about Cottonmouth, etc. But you know at least some things. You know why Luke is in New York (he’s running from authorities), you know that he had a wife who died, you know that Cottonmouth is in cahoots with his cousin’s political career, etc.
At the beginning of Iron Fist, everything is a mystery, and not only the stuff that is interesting to solve. It’s fair to say that Danny’s basic motivations aren’t clear at all until episode eight or nine at the earliest. When too many things are a mystery, the show feels purposeless. We can’t track a plot if we have no clue where it is going to land. Because ultimately, the part in Luke Cage where we see him get his powers in prison is engaging and interesting because we were primed to be asking that question throughout the series. I have no fucking clue what I was supposed to be primed to see in Iron Fist.
8. Jessica Henwick probably won’t date me
9. The main character is effectively a child
I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier (thanks for getting this far, by the way), but the main character, Danny Rand, is the heir to the massive and successful Rand Corporation. So yeah, in case I wasn’t presenting an unlikable enough character, he’s also a trust-fund kid.
After some legal finagling in the first few episodes, Danny gets to be the majority owner of the company as was stated in his father’s will. When this happened, I instantly got worried. Up to that point, Danny, who had spent ages ten through twenty-five in an otherworldly monastery where people take dojos seriously, had literally no understanding of the real world (or The Real World, for that matter). I feared that there were gonna do that really stupid plot conceit where, with his newfound power, he shakes things up by insisting they give up profits in order to do good.
And wouldn’t you know it, I was right. I don’t have a problem with the storylines where he gets them to sell a new drug at cost and apologizes for possibly polluting Staten Island (although it can be argued all of Staten Island is pollution) because I have a problem with a corporation doing those things, I have a problem with them because Danny seems to have literally no understanding of why people don’t want him to do those things. There is a version of this story where he takes serious steps to inject more philanthropy and altruism in to the company, but the one they went with couldn’t be further from it. It carries the same narrative weight of a child insisting on having ice cream for dinner.
There are definitely more things that suck about Iron Fist, but those were just the ones I needed to get off of my chest. I am deeply sorry if you, too, watched the show in its entirety, but if you did, please let me know some other things that are bad about it that aren’t the fact that they cast a white guy.
Also, check out the other articles here on popculturedeepdive.com, and if you want to write something, let me know. And please do. I don’t write enough on here myself to justify the money I spent to buy the domain name.