Review - Iron Fist (Netflix), Season 1

Iron Fist (2017), TV-MA, 13 Episodes - Iron Fist is the fourth and final solo series from Marvel/Netflix before this fall's team up series The Defenders (following Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage).  The series got off to a bit of a rocky start in the press over the past week, receiving many poor advance reviews, a foreign experience for a Marvel Studios or TV project (although it should be noted that only the first six episodes had been released to early reviewers).  After blowing through all thirteen episodes myself last weekend, I'm happy to report that those negative reviews were overly harsh, but that's not to say that it doesn't have its shortcomings.

Iron Fist is the story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), and his return to New York city and the company that bears his name - Rand Enterprises - after a fifteen year absence.  He and his parents were believed to be dead after their plane crashed in the Himalayas
en route to China for one of his father Wendell's (David Furr) business trips.  In their stead, Wendell's business partner Harold Meachum (David Wenham) had taken the reigns of Rand Enterprises and in turn passed them on to his children Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup) shortly thereafter when he passed away due to cancer.  Of course, when Danny the long-thought-dead rightful heir and majority shareholder shows up on their door step in the present, the Meachum's assume some sort of corporate espionage is afoot as it coincides with the company's soon to be announced expansion into China.  Danny doesn't do himself any favors in setting the Meachum's at ease constantly referring to being raised by warrior monks in a mystical city known as K'un Lun.  And oh by the way, a mystical city that exists in another dimension and which only connects with Earth every fifteen years or so.  Danny's return proves to be a constant uphill battle, first in proving that he is who he says he is, and then attempting to fit back into the day to day operations of Rand Enterprises while trying to combat a rampant heroin trafficking ring that seems to have connections to Rand's business dealings.

At its core, Iron Fist is successful in introducing a number of classic comic book characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Danny Rand, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and Davos (Sacha Dhawan) are all characters that have long-standing histories within the Marvel Universe and will likely carry over to future series within the Netflix corner of the MCU.  Iron Fist is a very enjoyable series (a week later and I have yet to talk to anyone that I know that hasn't liked what they have seen), but is admittedly not as strong as the previous Marvel/Netflix collaborations.  Comparing it to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, or even Luke Cage is when its shortcomings really stand out.  That may be a little unfair, but with all of these series tying together leading into the team-up series The Defenders later this year, it is inevitable.  The pacing on Iron Fist is erratic.  It starts off very slowly, but does finds its legs mid-way through the series (this likely contributed significantly to the poor advance reviews as only the first six episodes were released for previewing).  After a week of reflection, and considering the very far-fetched origin that was being adapted, I'm not sure that it could have been done believe-ably much differently.  The fight choreography also isn't nearly as impressive as Daredevil, which is a bit of a let down considering that Iron Fist is such a martial arts heavy character.

I have always enjoyed the Danny Rand character in the comics and am really excited to see where they go with him in future series.  His background in the mystical city of K'un Lun is mentioned a number of times throughout this series, but we really don't see the city at all.  It is such a major part of the character, I really hope that it is explored further (which the end of this series definitely teases).  I loved the numerous ties and references to the other Marvel/Netflix series, some blatant - the inclusion of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) - and some vague.

My final verdict?  Once it gets the dominoes of the various plot points set up, Iron Fist is enjoyable kung-fu action series that, while referencing mystical, more far-reaching elements of the character's history, doesn't rely too heavily on them while introducing the character and adding pieces to the puzzle for things to come in The Defenders and beyond.  It may not be as strong from beginning to end as its predecessors, but that is less of a knock on Iron Fist than it is reinforcement as to just how good those series are.


- In the comics, Danny Rand/Iron Fist first appeared in Marvel Premiere #15 in May of 1974, created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

- In the comics, Colleen Wing first appeared in Marvel Premiere #19 in November of 1974, created by Doug Moench and Larry Hama.

- Colleen's cage fighting name 'Daughter of the Dragon' is a reference to her team-up with Misty Knight in the comics where they were known as the Daughters of the Dragon. Misty Knight appeared in the Luke Cage series last fall.  There has not yet been a connection between the two in the MCU.

- Davos first appeared in the comics in Iron Fist #1 in November of 1975, and is generally referred to as the Steel Serpent.  The logo of the Steel Serpent (the wingless dragon, very similar to the Iron Fist logo) is seen on Madame Gao's heroin.  Will we see Davos and Madame Gao join forces/collaborate in the future?

- We first meet Claire Temple in this series when she is taking one of Colleen's martial arts classes.  Towards the end of the Luke Cage series, we see Claire take a number from one of Colleen's flyers (that we see her posting around the city when she first meets Danny).

- Claire continues to be the connective tissue between the four Marvel/Netflix series.  It has worked out very well, and plays out organically each time.  It doesn't feel forced at all.

- While we don't see much of anything resembling Danny's comics book look, we do see Colleen in a white training/sweatsuit which she has worn in more modern appearances in the comics.

- This series made a number of references to my favorite Iron Fist run ever: The Immortal Iron Fist (2007) by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja:
  • Iron Fist being referred to as a 'living weapon'.
  • The tournament challenge from The Hand that Danny accepts is loosely based on the Tournament of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven from this run.
  • The Bride of Nine Spiders - the female that Danny fights during the tournament in episode 6.
  • Orson Randall - the Iron Fist shown in the film footage from 1948.
  • The concept of Rand Enterprises being infiltrated and manipulated by an outside foe.

- The crisis intervention consultant says that the video of Danny apologizing to the woman had 'almost as many views as the giant green guy', a vague reference to The Hulk.

- The customary MCU Stan Lee cameo occurs in the final episode.  His picture appears on a NYPD recruitment poster in the background when Claire chases down Jeri Hogarth on the street.

- Danny calls Jeri 'J-Money', apparently a nickname of hers from her younger days interning for Danny's father at Rand Enterprises.  It really is hilarious considering how straight laced and professional she always is.

- In the comics, Ward Meachum was Harold's brother and Joy's uncle as opposed to being Harold's son/Joy's brother as he is in this series.


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