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TV Review: Iron Fist (Season 1, Episodes 1-6)

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Netflix’s Iron Fist is by no means a terrible show, but it pales in comparison to previous Netflix instalments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on many points.

The series, which is the last in the run-up to The Defenders, follows billionaire buddhist Danny Rand as he comes to wield the power of the Iron Fist. 

The first few episodes start excruciatingly slowly, and are packed with way too much drama and backstory and not enough fighting (a staple of Iron Fist). It’s only after the first few episodes that the action picks up, and the story starts flowing more naturally.

The first episode also lacks the punch (no pun intended) that previous opening episodes have. If this was a show with weekly releases, its ratings would start off incredibly poorly.

Daredevil’s first episode had him saving Karen Page. Jessica Jones opened her series doing highly questionable things, until right at the end, her case brought her own trauma forward. And while Luke Cage had the same issue with its first episode, it at least had brilliantly complex characters and gorgeous cinematography to fall back on.

Speaking of cinematography, Iron Fist continues the weird trend from Luke Cage in breaking the 180 degree rule. In addition, the way certain shots are made, especially during Rand’s fight scenes, actually takes away from the scenes, instead of enhancing them.  

As for the eponymous character himself, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) feels like a patchwork of overdone superhero tropes rather than his own character. Childhood tragedy? Check. Super-rich? Check. Learnt the ancient art of “insert-ambiguously-east-Asian-culture”? Check. And while these tropes aren’t necessarily bad, the execution in Iron Fist is one we have seen one too many times before.

The only thing that feels truly unique to him is his naivety. Surprising though it might be, living in a monastery for quite a few years doesn’t teach you a lot about how the corporate world works.

The character, however, is no white saviour as many people were scared of him being after Jones' casting choice was originally made. In more ways than one, Danny does more harm than good, mostly due to his own inexperience of the real world.

Sadly, Finn Jones lacks the screen presence that other Defenders have in their own shows. His fight scenes are mediocre at best, which is especially worrying considering how essential martial arts are to Rand’s character.

Jessica Henwick does a wonderful rendition of Colleen Wing’s character, often stealing the spotlight in several episodes. Colleen is a complex and dynamic character, whose interactions with Danny Rand and others are delightful to watch.

Recurring Nurse/Saviour, Claire (Rosario Dawson) is also back again and can’t understand how she always manages to find herself tangled with powerful individuals. As evidenced in previous shows, she slowly becomes more and more done with everyone’s tendency to run off with one eighth of a plan against their respective villains.

Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) continues to walk in the morally grey areas of life, making audiences wonder if she’s good, bad, or simply too badass for basic labels like that. 

On this topic, although most of the first six episodes fail the Bechdel test, the female characters are still strong, in control of their own narratives, and of varying moral standing. It only remains for the action to bring them together to see how they react to that, and each other.

All in all, Iron Fist is an enjoyable watch, but doesn’t pass the bar set by previous Netflix shows. While it develops previous storylines, which have previously left us hanging, it doesn’t shine with anything in particular, the way Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and to an extent Daredevil have.

However, for Marvel fans, it is still an essential, if slightly tawdry, watch, as it is the final piece in the puzzle of The Defenders, which will hit the streaming service later on this year.

Netflix’s Iron Fist launches on Netflix on Friday 17th March. 

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