I’m sorry but if you haven’t seen the show at all or are just starting, there are some things revealed below – I watched the first 4 episodes on Netflix last night and this is my review/reaction to the show so far.
WARNING! POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!
I felt compelled to write this review (I don’t review TV shows very often), mostly in light of all the drama online in places about it and the pre-show word of mouth that was doing the rounds that it was in fact a badly scripted show that was a bit of a let down.
This was something that had me worried and cautious – mainly because I’m a big fan of the Iron Fist comics, I’ve loved the team-up of Power Man & Iron Fist from way back when I stumbled across their comics as a wee kiddo and after the success of the very entertaining, slick and badass Luke Cage I really wanted this show to be at least decent so I could look forward to the live-action team-up happening in the seasons of Marvel Netflix shows down the road.
Four episodes in, I have to say, it wasn’t the greatest show ever but I didn’t get all the hatred for the scripts/storyline. I’ll grant that it was a wee bit slow at points especially in the first two episodes because I felt some scenes like Danny’s time in the mental hospital was a little dry and not terribly engaging – but overall none of it gave me a negative feeling while watching, I wanted it to be a little faster maybe, but it neither bored me nor annoyed me in any way.
This, unlike the almost-universally-critically-raved-about Jessica Jones which I had to literally slog through the first half of (about 3 friends I know dropped it within 4 eps and have refused to watch it even though I told them it gets MUCH better in the 2nd half), this one was a little extra cautious and slow off the starting line but picked up in pretty quick order.
By Ep. 3 everything was in full swing, the story between Danny and the other characters was moving at a much more brisk pace and the character themselves were starting to develop nicely.
The fight scenes and in particular pretty much all the ones involving Colleen (who is very badass and very cool the way she’s played here, I liked her more than Ive ever cared for her in the comics!) have been very nicely done and very entertaining – special nod to Jessica Henwick for her portrayal even so far. I like that it’s grounded for the most part like the action on Daredevil, yet the flow and style is so much more like the martial arts cinema that I’ve watched in the past and was well choreographed. The fight at the elevator was possibly Danny’s best so far in the show and made me very positive to see more such as the show progresses and he has to deal with some real heavy hitters.
The sub-story with The Hand, making Iron Fist their sworn enemy and setting up for confrontation already moves things along very nicely – the way The Hand has been presented here after seeing them in DD and being familiar with the live-action version makes it work really nicely in this shared univese, as does their reviving-from-the-dead schtick which I was happy to see used to actually nicely surprising effect here and it was nice to see The Hand having some nefarious plan in the works and having infiltrated places of power like Rand in a fashion. They are after all extremely deadly but a powerful and shadowy influence first and foremost, operating by intimidation and terror – something shown very nicely here with the Triads.
Which brings me to a very important point that I noted about this show that in fact sets it a little apart from even some of the other Marvel-Netflix Originals: This series so far is pretty reasonably tight in the story and goes out of its way to do something that I find horribly lacking in a lot of drama-shows pretty much since the Abrams-LOST mystery box phenomenon has infected script-writing everywhere – show, don’t tell.
As an aspiring writer myself who has spent time reading a tonne of books and memoirs and advice from any number of brilliant writers, this concept of show, don’t tell is something that keeps coming up again and again and I really have enjoyed seeing it here so far. It adds to my positivity about this series because the only thing that’s not “shown” outright is the agenda of The Hand with the pier, but everything else is largely shown to the viewer in a good way integrated into the central narrative.
The special effects so far are not overblown and restrained, used sparingly but to good effect and the glowing Iron Fist when used has consistently looked damned good, even in tiny moments like the elevator fight when the guy swings down the axe on it. That moment when he regains some semblance of control and blows open the door after his fight in the hospital was very enjoyable – again a good scene which connects to his statement before that he never felt as centred as when he was in a fight and taking hits and then having him being attacked and in that fight to defend himself even the drugs aren’t able to fully keep him down as his mind/body/chi/spirit assert themselves.
The only situation that I felt a little odd was the fight in the file-room, after all we’d seen till then and would see after, it was odd how well that one random guy was able to hold up all by his lonesome against Danny and that he at moments seemed to almost be getting an upper hand. Not the greatest planning for a scene, with a little more thought I’m pretty sure they could have found a way to maybe not have him be quite so effective in a fight and yet be a smart guy show managed to set shit on fire mid-fight leaving Danny little choice but to save the woman or the files.
As far as the acting in general goes, I have no complaints. All were more or less decent to good – Wade in particular was a standout for his utterly douche-bag persona right from the first moments when we meet him and his complicated dynamic thanks to his relationship with his father who I also enjoyed seeing on screen was one of the better things on the show and like Cottonmouth on Luke Cage, this was good villaining! In addition, the dynamic that Danny has with both Harold and Wade Meachum (David Wenham and Tom Pelphrey) is interesting and you can see the weird triangle they have going and Joy (Jessica Stroup), ever-present and connected strongly to all three, yet somehow outside… kind of like they’re the triangular base of a pyramid and she’s that point where lines from them meet at the peak if I had to make a visual representation of their relationships. They all care for her, she is outside of their darker/weirder life aspects and by not being involved/a part of that, they each seem to see her as I suppose in a way better than they are, a decent normal. Sort of the white-sheep of this dysfunctional family I suppose.
And in a special mention, like so many little things that they’ve done to connect their shows with supporting characters, thus giving them more chance to be fleshed out as well, it was actually really great to see Carrie Ann-Moss reprise her role as Jerry Hogarth from Jessica Jones. She was an interesting character there and it was good to see her get to come back and do something a little different yet be the shark-lawyer that she is at her most basic.
Now to Finn, a dude who I think got a lot of needless flack for simply taking an acting job that there was no reason to get crap for – I think he did a pretty decent job as Danny. He wasn’t quite as awesome as his peers (so far this season!),i.e., Luke Cage and DareDevil, but I’ve got the rest of the season to judge how he fares against them. I have reason to think he’ll be fine based on what I’ve got so far, but let’s see how it goes.
I’m happy and very much looking forward to watching the rest of this series over the next couple of days. Unless the show takes a dramatic dip in story-telling quality I expect to enjoy it quite a bit.
NOTE: I heard a rumour that the martial-arts hero Shang-Chi could be a main character in a 2nd season of Iron Fist and I have to admit, if that were to come to pass, it would be beyond awesome – I utterly love the Bruce Lee homage that Shang clearly was started as and then the dark and twisted backstory he has all make for such fantastic martial arts mayhem. Besides him being an utterly certifiable badass in his own right, especially since he has no super-powers and is still a deadly force. I would LOVE to see a show starring him, Iron Fist and Colleen Wing in a Kung-Fu battle of wills and might against a shadowy group like The Hand or Shang’s evil father, crime-lord Zheng Zu (a.k.a Fu-Manchu) – and yes, you read that right, the characters villain name a homage to the pulp-character he was based on back in the day.