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If Iron Fist Stinks Can I Just Skip It? Or Will I Miss Out on Vital Set-Up For The Defenders?

According to the early reviews, Iron Fist, which premieres on Netflix a week from tomorrow, is not so much terrible as it is the blandest comic book show from blandonia. Almost none of the characters are interesting. There’s no forward momentum, no sense that the first 6 episodes (which is how many were made available to critics) are building to anything. The fight scenes are astonishingly boring, and Finn Jones’ entitled version of Danny Rand can take his rich, white boy problems and warmed over Batman Begins/Arrow season 1 origin story and shove it, especially since the show (as io9 argued)  goes out of its way to continually reminds us that he’s the “Very Special White Male Protagonist” who can man/whitesplain everything to those around him.

The only real reasons to watch are: 1) Jessica Henwick’s kickass version of Danny’s quasi-sidekick Colleen Wing; 2) The fear that if you don’t watch you’ll miss out on crucial set-up for The Defenders, the mini-Avengers team-up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist that will drop on Netflix sometime this summer.

But is that last part actually true? If Iron Fist truly is as big of a misstep as they say it is [here’s a link to a review round-up] can we get away with simply not watching it? To be clear, I haven’t actually seen it yet. I’ve simply read the reviews, which I attempted to summarize above. This was already a show for which I was struggling to muster much enthusiasm, although the first trailer at least swayed me to thinking Iron Fist might at least be watchable.

Now I hear that it’s not only white bread bland (insert reference to whitewashing) but also just poorly written and lacking in any real understanding of how to construct a season of TV, committing the cardinal sin of jumping straight to the gaslight “what if the protagonist is crazy?” trope in its second episode before its characters and universe have been properly established, failing to give the hero a villain and committing far too many episodes to Danny debating whether to take a big money buyout on his parents’ company.

So, can we just skip it? If I’m someone who loves the Marvel universe on Netflix and can’t wait for The Defenders is Iron Fist mandatory or voluntary viewing?

Eh, we’re kind of getting mixed signals on that.

In Entertainment Weekly’s Defenders cover story from January, the argument was made that Danny will be crucial to the formation of the team. According to Jones, “Danny has drive. He drives all of the Defenders to get behind him to solve the…issues,” with him trailing off at the end and settling on “issues” because at that exact moment a Marvel publicist gave him the evil “no spoilers!” eye. Jones did add, “[Danny]’s craving desperately for family, for help, for guidance, for people to learn from, and for a team. But because of what happens in Iron Fist he’s very untrusting.”

Huh. Maybe simply reading that quote is all we need to actually know where Danny will be coming from on The Defenders. Wants to be a part of a team, but he’s a tad gun shy after some bad shit went down in his life. Cool. Got it. Now I can skip Iron Fist next weekend and finally get around to watching The Americans.

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - September 15, 2016

Yeah, but Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing is also going to be in The Defenders. Might need to watch Iron Fist to better understand her. Plus, if you’re still looking for some closure or further explanation about The Hand, the too-many-ninjas big bad of Daredevil’s second season, well, they’re a big part of Iron Fist.

Uh-huh. So, we have to watch?

The Defenders’ showrunner Marco Ramirez doesn’t want you to feel that way. In that same EW cover story, he made a point of explaining that “viewers don’t need to see the stand-alone series to understand The Defenders.” His logic: “We’re taking our cues from shows like The Wire and The Shield” Pause: Take a shot now if you were playing the ‘when does someone working in TV reference The Wire as inspiration’ drinking game. Back to the quote: “This is about what happens in the back alleys of New York City, and how people have to rise to the occasion. It’s for a fan of good crime TV as much as it for a fan of superhero TV shows.”

Of course, there’s always a chance that the reviewers are wrong about Iron Fist. Maybe it’s not nearly as bad as they say. We’ll just have to watch for ourselves to find out. However, if you want to tap out after the pilot or first couple of episodes you might be okay. In fact, you might be able to watch The Defenders this summer without having seen any of Iron Fist the same way watching and enjoying The Avengers wasn’t entirely dependent on you having seen every Marvel Studios movie prior to that (although it obviously helped if you had). Heck, some people still haven’t watched Luke Cage yet. Maybe just watch that instead of Iron Fist.

UPDATE: Yeah, I’ve seen Iron Fist now. It’s not great. You can absolutely skip it. Here’s a link to an article I wrote summarizing everything you need to know about Iron Fist prior to watching The Defenders.

What about you? What are your plans with Iron Fist? To this point, I have live-blogged my binges of Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage, and had planned on doing the same with Iron Fist. Now I’m not so sure. I’ll definitely still watch. Give it a chance. Will you be watching too?

Source: Entertainment Weekly’s , io9


  1. Dang, I’m disappointed. I was quite looking forward to Iron Fist, as I love the comics. They’re 70’s kung fu exploitation nonsense, but they’re pretty fun.
    Then again, I found a lot of the problems described (no forward momentum, boring fight scenes) to be in Luke Cage, so maybe Iron Fist’ll be tolerable. Still disappointing.

    1. If anything, this early negative word-of-mouth might be setting us up for a “hey, it’s not really that bad”pushback response once we get to see it. If not, the critics only saw the first 6 episodes. Iron Fist could be the one Marvel Netflix show to actually make a drastic turn for the better in its second half. Others either continue being just as good as they were, most hit a wall where you can really feel the padding. Maybe Iron First will be more like, “And then it got really, really good.”

  2. Well it is just the first six episodes. I was struggling to build up some enthusiasm for this show but despite the bad reviews I’m still going to watch it. I need to know for myself.

    There have been more than a couple of times that critics hated something I actually found enjoyable, like the new Ghostbusters, and Suicide Squad. i was dubious about those movies too but they turned out to be entertaining for me. I hope that’s the case with Iron Fist, even though I’m still not good with Finn Jones as Rand. I still prefer Lewis Tan who lobbied so hard for the role.

    1. Same here on still planning to watch because “I need to know for myself.” My expectations were already fairly low. Now they’re even lower, which hopefully means this would have to be seriously terrible to not at least be “better than I expected.” Bar lowered. I suspect the show will have learned nothing from its own whitewashing controversy, though, and the presence of Jones as a White Male Savior who knows kung fu will continue to annoy.

  3. Nope not gonna watch it. Got this one wrong including the race. Loved Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Not that keen on Luke Cage and think IF is the clear pin to pop the comic book bubble at least on TV.

  4. Here is the thing: Most of what the reviews mention as negatives are actually things I wanted from the show. They complain about Danny Rand’s naiveté, but I wanted him to be naïve. They complain about the setting not being as gritty due to a lot of scenes being set in board rooms, but I actually wanted the show to explore that aspect of New York. They complain about a focus on the corporate aspect and not enough fight scenes, but I want those fight scenes to be spread out and had hoped that the show would address the whole legal aspect of a long lost heir suddenly turning up again. They complain about the first episodes being slow, but I actually had hoped that the show would be better paced this time around and allowing some time to built up to the climax in a steady escalation instead of starting strong only to go into a slump and then having to built up tension for the finale again.

    Granted, there is no telling if there actually will be a pay-off after all the built-up in the first six episodes and some criticism is worrisome, like it being exposition-heavy, mediocre dialogue and not-convincing action scenes (though I am not sure if the desire to see an actor with martial arts background might be colouring the opinion there). But all in all I am still looking forward to the show. After all, AoS started slow, too, and it became one of my favourite shows I EVER watched.

    And it certainly helps that I have a soft spot for American Ninja style movies….my guilty pleasure, so to speak.

    If this were a movie I might wait until the fans have spoken. But since this is a Netflix show which will only cost me my time, I am already planning to ensure that I can watch the whole thing as soon as it drops.

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