Posted on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 by Karen Han
(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Marvel’s new Netflix series, Iron Fist.)
For the most part, Marvel’s latest Netflix foray, Iron Fist, has been critically panned. The issues are plenty, and the resulting conversation has only served to underline exactly how the series falls short. There’s the story, the characterizations, the casting, the editing, and – this is a criticism that’s been leveled against all of Marvel’s Netflix series — it’s just too long. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage could all have done with a little trimming.
In the case of Iron Fist, an altered cut could result in a drastically different and better show. It just requires a little bit of Garfield Minus Garfield. There’s an interesting show lurking somewhere within Iron Fist…as long as you remove Iron Fist himself.
Spoilers lie ahead, of course.
Daughters of the Dragon
The women in Iron Fist (Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, Jeri Hogarth, Joy Meachum, not to mention a blink-and-you-miss-it Jessica Jones reference) have consistently been singled out as one of the best — if not the best — thing about Iron Fist, and for good reason. The reveal that Colleen (Jessica Henwick) was part of the Hand and the resulting fallout was one of the most compelling twists of the season, aided by the fact that she has the best action sequences of any of the main characters. Each shows off Henwick’s training (any doubters should take a look at the videos she’s posted to Twitter) through editing that lets the fighting breathe a little, which unfortunately isn’t a given for most of the fight scenes in Iron Fist. As such, her dynamism makes the possibility of her teaming up with Misty Knight (Simone Missick) as the comic book duo known as Daughters of the Dragon — alluded to (albeit in a solo context) in one of Colleen’s cage fights — all the more tantalizing.
As for Claire, Rosario Dawson has consistently proven to be the strongest part of each Netflix series she’s shown up in, largely because Claire Temple is a recognizably grounded character. Even as she starts to give off major Night Nurse vibes, she doesn’t have any tolerance for nonsense, and is the only one who regularly seems to understand how crazy the business of being a superhero can be. Speaking of which…
The Prodigal Son
Of everyone dealing with the reappearance of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), only Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) reacts in a way that seems even remotely realistic. He’s understandably suspicious of this sudden interloper and his frankly destructive methods of trying to reintegrate (threatening to drive off of a roof, breaking and entering, attacking security guards), and remains that way through almost the entire series. He’s also the only character who never seems entirely comfortable with the fact that his father, Harold (David Wenham), is an undead monster, even before Harold starts behaving too strangely. Danny and Joy (Jessica Stroup) are both surprised when they discover Harold is alive, naturally, but their shock fades within minutes.
It could probably be argued that Ward is cut from a similar cloth as Danny — they’re both rich, white men with a certain sense of entitlement, and both even go through similar disillusionments with regards to their respective father figures — but the more insular nature of Ward’s storyline (it doesn’t have to lend itself to a sequel in the same way that the rest of Iron Fist has to tie into The Defenders) allows for more polished and more focused work. Ironically, he also has a truckload more baggage to unpack, not to mention the fact that his habit is for prescription painkillers rather than mansplaining.
Positing a different character as the primary protagonist in any show is a fun exercise, and if you choose to back Ward, Iron Fist becomes a completely different show. The boardroom and family drama is the most diametrically opposed to the show as it is, which, all things considered, isn’t a bad thing, especially when Pelphrey has the best acting chops of the Iron Fist crop.