Iron Fist Roundtable: I Mean, How Bad Are We Talkin?

There was so much chatter about Netflix’s Marvel Iron Fist, the BNP crew discussed the criticism versus the reality of how the show went down. All the spoilers ahead.

Omar: I don’t think there’s any point in trying to sugarcoat it. You know why we’re here. Iron Fist dropped on Netflix and this was not the easiest of the Marvel hero franchises to get through. We heard it was going to be bad, was that an understatement tho?

Monica: I felt like I needed to hike over to Queens to pray at the nearest mandir to cleanse my fucking soul because this shit was Ben Affleck-Gigli level bad. I would feel sorry for Finn-money but the minute I saw Danny strolling in NYC, with no shoes on, listening to ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ by Outkast, grinning like a Greenpoint, wanderlust asshole, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand him. AND I WAS RIGHT.

Oz: After the first few episodes, I was ready to say that it was, in fact, bad but not the irredeemable dumpster fire that critics said it was early on. I mean, I’d heard one episode would be directed by the Rza so I knew THAT would be a dumpster fire on top of a trash barge of dirty diapers sailing to Mordor. But I just expected the series to be the lesser of the Marvel Netflix universe. Eight or nine hours later, I realized that this show was a like a seashell except instead of hearing the ocean when you put it to your ear, you just heard the showrunners saying, “Oh, fuck it.” So, yeah…not exactly award winning stuff afoot here.

Monica: I agree that it may not be the worst thing in the world, but it’s still like stepping in dog shit on your way to work: Frustrating and disgusting. It’s disappointing that we’ve had pretty solid Netflix superhero shows, especially with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage consistently giving us gold (DD S2 was a B- yes, but The Punisher made it worth the watch). It burns a bit that all the work and buildup to the giant showdown that is The Defenders kind of falls flat for me, since this last hero introduction fell so far from expectation. It does not help that the cultural erasure and the introduction of yet another white savior, Tom Cruise/The Last Samurai kind of shit keeps happening, and that the creators and actors of the show clearly don’t give a shit on why representation, especially in today’s political climate, is so significant.

Keith: I agree with everything said above, but I’ll go ahead and take the uncoveted position of the 10th man by pointing out the handful of non-terrible things in this show for as long as I can.

Lewis Tan stole the entire show and damn near made it his. I was actually rooting against Danny during that entire fight until he became a lazy anime protagonist and turned the entire tide with one lucky punch. Secondly, I’m not sure what Finn Jones did differently for those last two episodes, but there was a considerable difference in his fighting skills there compared to the first 11.

Lastly, when Colleen was standing on her own, she was the best character on the show. Unfortunately, Marvel ruined that by making her the fragile, confused damsel in distress as soon as possible. Ugh…

I guess I failed at naming the good without the bad. But can you blame me?

Omar: Well you did segue us into what I wanted to talk about next, the fighting. In Marvel Universe Iron Fist is supposed to be the A1 Martial Artist, right? Watching this series, you wouldn’t know that. Now Finn Jones talked about how his training was cut short due to scheduling and learning fight choreography 15 minutes to filming it. What did yall take away from these fight scenes of season one?

Monica: For being a supposed combat master, people seem to be able to get the jump on him pretty easily.

Keith: The elevator scene and the fight he shared with Davos in the hallway against the Hand were clearly supposed to be the toughest shit Marvel’s put on screen to date. You could just tell. Yet, we get a bunch of cutscenes and a barely lit hallway where you can’t even tell who’s hitting who. I’ve never watched a show where I rooted for the protagonist to lose so many of his fights.

Also, how the hell is the big boss he fights at the end not one of the hundreds of ninjas he could’ve easily gone up against? Instead of a kung-fu battle for the ages the show ends with him being stalked by a guy who’s got the fighting skills of a weekend regular at a kickboxing class. Sure, he’s immortal but he dies SO. DAMN. MUCH.

Oz: Every single person on the show went harder than Danny. Everyone. Colleen, Bakudo, Davos….CLAIRE TEMPLE looked better in a fight than Kung Fu Jesus. How does that even work? Colleen ended up with the hardest final boss battle and Davos had to finish him off. Finn Jones doesn’t look like he’s won a round of Wii Boxing, let alone had martial arts training. A show about a superhero from Kung Fu Heaven somehow didn’t have the hardest fighting imaginable. That’s dropping the ball in extravagant fashion.

Omar: I definitely gave Jessica Jones and Luke Cage more leeway on fight scenes as their near invulnerable but you can’t be claiming the Iron Fist title and meanwhile Daredevil is crossing your ass over on fight choreography and action. That shit ain’t no excuse.

Now what about Danny as a character? His relationship with Joy and Ward Meachum, him reflecting on the plane crash (akin to Ollie on Arrow with the Island) and qualities he displayed throughout the series. We got any stand out moments here ooooooooor…?

Monica: The characterization of Danny Rand/Iron Fist/ Fuck Boy Supreme is severely lacking. His naivete is not endearing, it’s annoying and impractical. His constant dependence and need for the people in his life, most noticeably ALL OF THE WOMEN, to take care of him, one way or another is cringey to watch. He is inconsiderate and entitled, damn near DEMANDING that people listen to him, even as he comes off aggressive and borderline delusional (at the beginning of the season). Carrie-Anne Moss, who does not deserve to be reduced to a babysitter, pretty much has to install child locks in any apartment Danny stays in because he seems incapable of understanding how the world works. It’s also gross to watch Jessica Henwick try and inspire some kind of chemistry between her and Finn Jones, but it just doesn’t mesh. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the writers or the actor or some combination of both, but Finn Jones just does not sell this character on any level.

One scene that particularly pissed me off was when Claire Temple was introduced and Danny basically waltzes in on her PAID-FOR class, and doesn’t even have the common decency to invite her to the awkward, impromptu date he has with Colleen. Granted, Colleen I felt could have shooed him away or told him to wait, but still.
That was a prime example on how insensitive and privileged Danny Rand is.

I don’t have a problem with unlikable characters. You can have depth, good characterization, and enticing dialogue with an asshole protagonist. To repeat, the issue here is that I feel the audience can’t connect with Danny Rand on any of his multi-faceted layers of being. The fighting aspect of his character is bland, unconvincing, and off-putting and the more ‘human’ side of him is shallow and intolerable. The creation, direction, and execution of this hero was done horribly, and I can only hope Marvel will do something ASAP to rectify this.

Oz: I didn’t particularly mind Danny’s character considering they approached it from the perspective of a kid who hasn’t been around worldly folk since he was 10 so it seemed to make sense to me that he wouldn’t have much of an understanding about the grown up world. After all, it’s not like they have elocution classes in Kung Fu Heaven. Also, just about every person in his life outside of K’un L’un was basically a terrible person except for Claire. The kids he grew up with have grown up selfish and entitled. His father’s friend is an immortal sociopath who uses people. Even his girlfriend was a Hand agent (speaking of… Bakudo’s version of the Hand is basically the plot to the 1990 Ninja Turtles movie).

Having said all that, I do greatly enjoy the fact that Iron Fist’s meditation/training playlist goes so hard. No matter how much of a lightweight Finn Jones comes across as, realigning your chi to Killa Priest and Camp Lo is awesome. I loved the fact that he was up at the crack of dawn working out to Anderson Paak even if it would have been truly LIT if Lewis Tan had been Iron Fist like we all know he should have been.

Monica: Overall, this was hands-down the worst entry in the MCU. Poor direction, terrible casting, and above-all, a BORING narrative and lead protagonist has dampened my hopes slightly for future Marvel pieces.

Oz: At the end of the day, they can’t all be winners. If the movies can have Thor 2 and the broadcast shows had Agents of SMASH….Netflix was bound to give us something crazy like this. It’s bad. It’s frighteningly bad. But I also don’t think it’s taken the wind out of Marvel’s sails. When Spider Man: Homecoming drops, nobody will remember that Marvel’s Answer to Arrow even happened….we can only hope.

Keith: Look, fans are willing to let almost anything slide if there’s enough charm and mysticism to let them gloss over any glaring flaws. Iron Fist doesn’t have either. Danny Rand almost loses every fight he’s in. And should’ve lost at least half of them. He didn’t have a single endearing moment in 13 episodes. His parents dying should’ve started him off with automatic sympathy points and even that was somehow fumbled at the snap. Which is appropriate because this show is essentially the MCU’s biggest misstep to date. I wouldn’t call the show a failure as much as I’d call it a conglomeration of missed opportunities.

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