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.
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?