To put it mildly, Marvel and Netflix’s latest foray into the world of superhero TV shows has been less than appreciated. The backlash has been so strong, Finn Jones, who plays the titular character, has been forced to go on the defensive even before the show’s come out (on March 17 on Netflix).
However, as a fangirl and a critic of all things superheroes, I’m here to unapologetically say that I dig this show. Having watched the first six episodes as part of Netflix’s media roll-out before its actual release, it looks like there’s plenty of things to cheer about.
Granted, there are problems. While a multitude of fans have begged for a faithful adaptation of the comic book series, an even larger group of people have asked Marvel/Netflix to correct the series’ problematic racial equations and hire an Asian actor to play the role, saving Iron Fist from its white saviour complex trope.
And while we’re yet again stuck with a billionaire, white dude who likes to kick butt and wants to save the world from itself, Jones’ Danny Rand/Iron Fist feels like a breath of fresh air in a line of tedious and angsty superheroes we’ve been gifted over the last couple of years.
Where most people see bland and boring, I see not-cranky, vulnerable and earnest. Unlike Luke Cage or Daredevil, whom we love to bits (of course), Danny is not morally confused about his one true purpose in life: Like he repeatedly reminds us on the show, he’s a “living weapon” and he can’t wait to be of use. Here’s a ready-made superhero who’s not going to spend an entire season debating if he’d like to be a superhero or not. I don’t know about you but I’m throwing all my money at the screen right now.
The show begins when Danny Rand (Jones), who has been presumed dead for 15 years after a plane carrying him and his parents crashed in the Himalayas, suddenly returns to New York City. He heads straight to Rand Enterprises, the company he would have inherited had he been around, and finds his childhood friends Joy, and Ward Meachum (Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey), whose father was Rand Sr’s business partner, now running the show.
Where has he been the last 15 years? Studying kung-fu from the monks who saved his life in a town that can’t be found on the map of the world. Much of the first six episodes wastes time in grounding Rand into the real world and helping him settle into his new role as board member at Rand Enterprises, which is probably where he ends up losing most fans.
But keeping the interest going is also Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing, Rand’s no-nonsense dojo-owning sidekick/possible love interest. She’s the perfect foil to Rand’s wide-eyed, New York newbie vibe. We are also reunited with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, our street superheroes’ go-to medical aide, whom we’ve met in both Daredevil and Luke Cage.
What the show really needs, and I hope the rest of the seven episodes will deliver, is a healthy dose of some of the kung-fu and mystical awesomeness that we’ve so loved the character and the show’s comic book source for, and tone down on some of the boring, real world details. Maybe channel some of the magic from Doctor Strange’s trippy journey into the multiverse? I mean, here’s a guy who bear-hugged a dragon to death to earn his superpowers, surely we can do with less boardroom scenes and more dragons and magic and real hair-raising action?
Script pacing issues and teething troubles notwithstanding, we’re excited to see how the rest of the season pans out and how young Rand will fit into the mould of the Defenders clan (where he’ll team up with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil), coming later this year.