Netflix debuted their much anticipated fourth Marvel series last Friday, which saw Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones take on the role of comic book hero, Iron Fist. Previous Marvel shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have proved extremely popular on the streaming service with all four superheroes set to go on to make a Defenders series together later in the year.
As the last of the four to get their own show, excitement levels were high to see what way they'd go with it, would it have the slick action scenes of Daredevil? A chilling yet intensely watchable villain like David Tennant's Kilgrave in Jessica Jones? The cool, Wire-esque feel of Luke Cage?
The answer is no, a HARD NO. Iron Fist is like a poor distant relative to those shows. It tries, God bless it, it tries. It's almost like they're begging for approval with their overly choreographed and unconvincing computer-game-like fight scenes and attempts at showing tortured characters that just come across as irritating.
It's hard to know who's to blame more, the script or the acting, or perhaps that Iron Fist wasn't that great a character to begin with. There's also the fact that, Finn Jones, as many have said, was probably miscast here. As much as we loved him as Loras Tyrell, it was just difficult to buy him as a Kung Fu warrior with his head of Justin Timberlake circa N'Sync bleached curls.
The story begins with Danny Rand rocking back up to New York after being presumed dead alongside his parents in a plane crash fifteen years before. He's spent his time since training in martial arts with a load of monks in K'un-Lun, one of the cities of heaven (go with it) but don't worry, he's still somehow managed to maintain his spoiled rich kid ways. Danny, as it turns out, is a billionaire and a superhero, we've been down this road before folks.
The initial episodes then move from some barefoot rambling around New York with the broken record of "I'm Danny Rand" to a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest mental hospital episode into what had all the makings of a courtroom drama as Marvel Netflix regular Carrie Anne Moss reprised her role as Jerry Hogarth to help Danny prove he was who he said he was.
These episodes, as all over the place as they were, had their moments, but it really took until episode six until we got to see anything that resembled impressive, as the Iron Fist took on three sets of duels made by Madame Gao. Here we got to the bones of the matter, The Hand were involved in Danny's parents' death. However we also knew that they were involved in an elaborate drug operation between China and New York, oh and they're also the ones keeping Harold Meechum (David Wenham) alive - Danny's evil faux father figure - think Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin just nowhere near as cool.
Herein lies another problem with Iron Fist, there's too much going on. It's like the writers couldn't decide what the character's main struggle would be so they threw everything into the mix. One minute he needs to prove his identity and get back the life he once had, the next he has no interest in that and is the Iron Fist "enemy of The Hand", the next he's got rage issues stemming from his anger over his parent's death and of course finally they throw his abandonment of K'un-Lun in as yet another guilty cross he has to bear. The series could really have done with being pared back and condensed into ten episodes, which in fairness could be said for all the Marvel shows on Netflix so far. It can feel dragged out by the time you make it to the final, with so much thrown in as padding along the way.
Okay, okay, we'll lay off it a bit now, because saying all of this, it's not that bad, sure, it's not as great as the other shows, but Iron Fist had big shoes to fill and a much greater weight of expectation on it than the likes of Daredevil did when it came out. The female characters were brilliantly cast with Rosario Dawson back as Claire Temple and about the only one who brought a bit of well-needed reality to proceedings at times, and Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing? Netflix please tell us you have a spin-off series planned for her.
We were also impressed though that somewhere in the midst of fighting to prove his identity and avenge his parents death and whatnot, Danny Rand managed to somehow have time for a photo shoot with Forbes. Where DOES he find the time??
Nice little liner about Stark Industries at the top though, 'ey?
We did enjoy the subtle and not-so-subtle references to the other Marvel characters - that private detective Joy hired who was 'worth every penny when she was sober' to Clare's bullet holed shirt of Luke Cage's.
Once Iron Fist had moved midway into the series, we will admit, we wanted to see it through. The episode 10 twist came at just the right time to keep you in until the end and although the final episode didn't give us the showdown with The Hand that we wanted, we can assume Netflix are saving that fight for the Defenders series.
We also liked the opening sequence. Clutching at straws much? Probably.