Five Not-Terrible Things
1) Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing — It’s a rough start for Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing. Her acting is terribly uneven in the front end of Iron Fist, but she starts to settle into a rhythm and become more comfortable as the show goes on. She is easily more comfortable with the action and fight choreography than Finn Jones is, and as a result she becomes the best part of any scene they share.
2) Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple — It’s Rosario Dawson. She continues to kick ass all over the Netflix Marvel universe, with her own special brand of exhausted, annoyed, ain’t-got-time-for-your-shit attitude. She’s a kind, generous soul with no patience for bullshit.
3) David Wenham as Harold Meachum — He’s enjoying the hell out of his role as the ambiguous, maybe-villain of the show’s first half. He’s charming and venomous and cruel and hilarious. I want him in more things.
4) Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey as Joy and Ward Meachum — The Meachum children are fun, if imperfect characters. Pelphrey clearly gets to do the lion’s share of the work, swapping between tightly-wound control and veritably unhinged, and he’s having fun. Stroup has to shoulder the burden of the serious, humorless sister who is exasperated by things she doesn’t understand, but she’s doing it pretty well.
5) Wai Ching Ho as Madam Gao — A recurring villain in this universe, Wai Ching Ho continues to kill it as the stoic, mysterious, and completely fucking badass senior citizen with whom you should definitely not fuck. I love her.
Five Things I Fucking Hate
1) Finn Jones as Danny Rand - There is no way to understate just how terrible Finn Jones is in this role. It’s not entirely his fault - the writing is horrific. But his performance is miserable. He’s unconvincing as anything other than a dimwitted man-child. His fight scenes are atrocious, his martial arts slow and laborious, and since he’s clearly fighting more skilled performers, it just makes it stand out that much more. His wide-eyed, innocent Professional Good White Guy shtick makes me want to throw him out a window. Just so we’re clear, Netflix leads in order of charisma: Krysten Ritter > Mike Colter > Charlie Cox > House plants > Door mats > The bottle of bourbon I drank while watching Iron Fist > Finn Jones
2) The Fight Choreography — It’s easily the weakest out of all of the Netflix shows, which is a shame. That they picked someone as physically unassuming as Jones is bad enough, but apparently he was given little to no training, with choreographers giving him instruction literally 15 minutes before shooting. It never sells well. Henwick’s scenes are better, though not great. The Marvel shows have done great work with limited resources when it comes to fighting — the infamous Daredevil hallway fight, Luke Cage using a car door and storming into a building, Jessica Jones casually throwing people around, using sheer strength to make up for a lack of training — they’ve found clever ways to play to the characters’ strengths. None of that works in Iron Fist.
3) The Writing - Oh, god, the writing. Basically, the first three episodes go like this:
Rand: I’m Danny Rand.
Person: No, you’re not.
Rand: Yes, I am. Let me break into your house/office/personal space to prove it without bothering to try to give you any kind of proof based on our past shared experiences and instead I’ll just keep being earnest.
Person: No, you’re not.
For three fucking episodes. The dialogue is rote, trite nonsense. The actors portraying the Meachum family do their best with it, and Henwick tries gamely, though often stumbles. Dawson is Dawson. She should be running this shit. But instead she’ll continue to be the best part of the background.
4) The Pacing - There was something wonderful about the slow, deliberate, moody pacing of Luke Cage, in no small part because things were actually happening. There was a tense buildup, the sense that things were about to get calamitous, and when it did, it paid off. Sure, the back half of the show — after Mahershala Ali left — was far weaker, but the overall pacing worked. Iron Fist is the opposite. It just recycles the same dialogue for the first half of its episodes, and then when we get to the meat of it, there are no surprises. It’s just sort of “Oh. So I guess this is happening now.” It’s criminally dull.
5) The Music — This seems petty, but it’s not, particularly in the wake of the outstanding soundtrack to Luke Cage, and the excellent scores for Daredevil and Jessica Jones. In Iron Fist, you can choose between boring and bombastic, no middle ground.
6) The Racial Appropriation — No way around this one, folks. Yes, I know that he’s a rich white guy in the books. And perhaps, after Iron Man, Batman, and Green Arrow, we’re just all done with rich white guy superheroes (we should be. Note to comic writers — get better). But what we have here is not just a rich white guy — it’s a rich white guy who can do Asian martial arts better than every single Asian person. And almost every single Asian person not named Jessica Henwick is a villain. This is, as we say in our Minority Meetings, A Fucking Problem. This could have worked with a white actor if they’d bothered to actually use their Asian actors as more than Triad gangsters, ninjas, wise men, and waiters. But they fell victim to literally every single Asian stereotype out there. It’s painful.
Now. Some of you probably enjoyed this hot mess of a show, so for your benefit, I’m going to give you a counterpoint in the form of a message exchange between me and my good friend Phill:
PHILL: Iron Fist? I’m digging it, but I’m a big nerd for the comics.
TK: Honestly? I’m seven eps in and it feels like a slog. The fight choreography is awful. And he’s like an idiot child. I like Coleen Wing though. And Faramir.
PHILL: Yeah - I totally agree with all that. But that’s how I’ve always read him in the comics — as a kind of awkward doof whose bad looking kung fu is somehow unstoppable. I can’t tell if Ser Loras GETS that or if he just isn’t that deep, but it’s working for me.
TK: I like the brother and sister. And Wing started out terrible but got better. Honestly, my biggest problem with Iron Fist is Iron Fist. That and the weird decision to make a martial arts show with really shitty martial arts where the only Asians are all bad guys. Literally all of them except for Wing. That’s just weird.
PHILL: It is weird as hell. I may also be slightly into Ser Loras. He wears a suit with TENNIS SHOES to the office! Also the brother is the love child of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon.
TK: I mean, I get it. He’s been in a monastery in the phantom zone for 15 years. BUT MAYBE STOP TELLING EVERYONE THAT YOU’VE BEEN IN A MONASTERY IN THE PHANTOM ZONE SINCE IT SOUNDS LIKE CRAZY PERSON NONSENSE. He just. Doesn’t. Learn. He’s the dumbest superhero ever.
PHILL: I mean, he was a super rich kid who spent 18 years at phantom zone monastery starting at age 10. That’s gonna make a weird-ass man child. Again, I’m not at all sure that the show runners GET it, or if the show is just crazy shallow and stupid.
TK: Yeah but he was also raised to be a super badass warrior ninja fighter. Didn’t that training maybe come with Common Fucking Sense 101?
PHILL: Probably the second option - but my imagination is being very generous with this show. The best Iron Fist run (Fraction/Aja) portrays K’un Lun as a really weird, dysfunctional place that doesn’t operate like an earthly society. So I’m bringing a ton of comic book lore to the show that forgives/explains a lot of the nonsense. But I totally agree with hating it. It’s my current “it’s bad but I love it” show.
TK: That’s how I feel about the D.C. shows. Arrow, Flash, etc.
PHILL: Heh - I suspect that I’m speaking for a minority on this one. I was going to say that this is my Arrow. Also, Faramir is doing the greatest stealth Trump impression. The hair, the weird accent, crazy alpha manipulator. It’s pretty brilliant. Or it’s another hacky accident that I’m reading into waayyyyy too much. This show gets me.
This show sucks. Phill is wrong. Do something better with your lives.