The essential goal of Feng Shui is to harness the good chi and be rid of the negative chi. Often times things will have to be reassessed or balanced out. The goal I purpose here is to address some of the negative “chi” that I thought plagued the Iron Fist series in hopes that more positive chi will restore the series if the character is given a second season.
Let me start off by saying that I’m not an over zealous Marvel fan. I do not subscribe to the controversial racial argument about Finn Jones being cast instead of an Asian actor. Also, I do not believe that one can judge an entire show on just six episodes. Instead, I actually took the time to watch the entire season with an open mind and a positive outlook. I wanted to be fair to the show, and to Marvel Studios who have produced some great content in the past.
Sadly, after completing the show, I came to the conclusion that Iron Fist is a disappointment for Marvel in comparison to their other shows. Rather than just bashing them, I thought I’d give some constructive criticism to help them realign their chi in a sense. So let’s get started.
(Be Advised MILD Spoilers ahead)
Under Developed Lead Character
Danny Rand is probably one of Marvel’s most under developed lead characters in a Marvel series. Iron Fist continuously teases his background and the struggles he faced to become who is today, but we have yet to see the depths of his character. All we see are the surface level struggles, but we don’t get the deeper context. We know that he’s struggling with the loss of his parents, and the desire to fit in with his pseudo family.
The entire Iron Fist series tried to tap into his past, but didn’t do enough to help us connect with Danny’s character. This is probably why more of an origin story should be shown in the next season. We don’t get to see how he had to deal with trying to fit in as an “outsider” and adapt while in K’un Lun. We don’t see enough of the challenges he overcame that are rooted in his emotional distress displayed throughout the series. We don’t know enough about the social pressures and conflict he was faced with that caused him to leave. We don’t know who Danny is, which makes it incredibly difficult to connect with him. If we can see more of his origin and trials, it would help us understand his mindset and his difficulty with assimilating into the Western culture.
While it may be a potential setup for the season 2, it was a risk that didn’t pay off by leaving audiences on the hook this long and with no answers. Audiences can usually resonate with a character when they have the inside look at what trials and tribulations they’ve had to overcome. We only get tidbits of that with Danny Rand, and that probably could’ve been solved with greater insight into his origin story.
Since we lack a foundational origin story, it’s difficult to understand Danny’s fluctuations between wisdom and lack of common sense. There are simply too many instances where Danny would be ever so trusting of people, whereas it would seem as though his training would imply that wisdom was part of the lesson plan. With more insight into his training, we could be more forgiving. However, Danny’s naïveté is inexplicable. At times he acts like a child, then as a warrior, then as a “hippie”, then as a wise sage. The main conflicts Danny should be experiencing would be the cultural ones and his emotional struggles after his traumatic childhood experience.
Poor Fighting Choreography
I don’t want to throw Brett Chan (Iron Fist’s Fight/Stunt Choreographer) under the bus, but something simply was not working. I can’t tell if it was necessarily the fighting choreography itself, or if the main actors simply didn’t execute them as intended. A lot of time, the fighting felt more staged than in previous Marvel shows.
If it were at all possible, I’d suggest getting a different team for future seasons. Some may suggest to get the same stunt crew from Daredevil, but I get the impression that Marvel wanted Iron Fist to embrace the Kung Fu atmosphere. My top three recommendations would be the following:
Leo Au-Yeung/Sammo Kam-Bo Hung/Chun Ip from the IP Man movies.
Stephen Fung from Into the Badlands
In a dream scenario, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian from The Raid films. (And even have them guest star as some villains for Iron Fist too.)
It’s Time For A Costume
Unfortunately, Finn Jones simply doesn’t look like he could fight the average person. I’m sure Jones practiced a ton, but Iron Fist simply didn’t come off as believable during his fight scenes. I don’t believe that he to have the rippling muscles of Henry Cavill or Arnold Schwarzenegger, but comic characters tend to look a step above the average person. Now before my point gets lost by those claiming I’m body shaming, that’s not the point at all. Instead, Finn Jones needs a costume.
In a recent interview with TV Guide, Finn Jones had this to say about a potential costume inclusion.
“The first couple of episodes you see Danny kind of awkwardly fitting into suits. He’s not used to this. He’s in a suit and it doesn’t feel right. Then he’s in regular clothes and it still doesn’t feel right. He’s trying to find his identity,” explained Jones, who plays the titular character in Iron Fist. “Eventually throughout the series he kind of claims some kind of identity through his clothes — but we’ve got a couple more seasons to go before we get to that point.” - Finn Jones
I think that a costume is needed sooner rather than later. The purpose of the costume is not just for fan appeasement, but for creating a better visual overall. Finn Jones’ stunt double (David Armstrong) was AMAZING. If Armstrong was able to perform more often thanks to a mask or costume, it would help audiences believe that Iron Fist is the true butt-kicker that he is in the comics. It worked for Charlie Cox in the majority of his Daredevil scenes, so it would likely work for Iron Fist too.
Too much Claire
Can I start off by saying that I LOVE Rosario Dawson? Thanks. I just wanted to put that out there in the universe. She’s always been the glue that would connect the various superheroes. However, this time Claire’s impact is not only wearing thin, but she’s becoming an unrealistic character as well. Her connections and relationships are starting to feel less organic. It reminds me of a piece of tape that gets peeled, then placed back, and then peeled and stuck back again. After so many peels, it begins to lose its adhesiveness.
Claire’s role as a nurse and moral compass for these troubled heroes was perfect. She essentially was the voice of reason from an average person. However, especially given Madam Gao’s insight of Claire wanting to be special too, Claire’s character is getting ridiculous. I love the fact that she wanted to take up self-defense classes, and how that would connect her to Colleen and Danny.
What I thought was too far was her actually fighting people. I don’t care how quick of a learner she may be, it’s just too much of a stretch to see a former nurse with a small amount of training now able to fight trained ninjas and military guards. There are other ways to make her character grounded, rather than forcing her into impractical situations with improbable motivations. For future seasons, I think it would be best if Claire went back to owning the role of being grounded, real, honest, and helpful to all of super heroes. We often times praise the notion that real heroes don’t always have to have super powers or wear capes. (Especially after the tragic events of 9/11) Claire should be the embodiment of that heroic ideal.
Supporting Cast Out Shines
While I don’t have any official screen times to verify, it felt like Iron Fist was a show more about the Meachums than Danny Rand. One would think that the show was really called “The Meachums” with special guest Danny Rand. In a strange way, Ward’s character was probably the most developed character in the series. We get to see some of Ward’s childhood, his abusive struggles with his father, his addiction issues, his moral development, and his overall growth towards the end of the show. Ward was more of a lead character than Danny Rand was for the entire series. If the show gives Danny’s character the same level of attention, then we’d have a much more compelling character arc for Danny and everyone else as a result.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jessica Henwick was a joy to watch on screen. Her character had depth from beginning to end. If the intent was to bolster her up for a possible spin-off show, then it succeeded. Hopefully in the coming seasons we get more of her character’s growth.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say that Iron Fist was the worst show on television. I will say that it was not Marvel’s best work for the reasons listed above. I think we all want these shows to succeed, so I will remain optimistic that maybe the next time we see Iron Fist in a solo series things will be better. I think that if some of these earlier points are addressed, season 2 will come in with even more positive chi than ever before!