And so Season 1 of Iron Fist comes to an end. The final show leading up to the Defenders was a mixed bag of opportunities lost and potential that was never fully exploited. The show has been mired in controversy pretty much since the beginning. The casting of the titular character, Iron Fist a.k.a. Danny Rand by Finn Jones was met with backlash for not casting an Asian actor, but more on that later. Add to that, the early reviews for the shows were far from positive and put a huge dampener on the excitement for the show.
I read a lot of the reviews and still decided to watch the entire season and it was apparent from the beginning that the reviewers had not been exaggerating. The entire initial arc of the show was a mess. Everything from the pacing to the character motivations and development from one episode to the next was chaotic and made no sense. There were times when it felt like the writers of the show had been working in isolation without reading what had been written for the previous episodes. It was almost as if the characters were suffering from multiple personalities disorder.
I am not going to get into a synopsis for the show save for the gist; Danny Rand, one of the heirs to a huge corporate empire, presumed dead for 15 years comes back to reclaim his place. The first few episodes were painful to watch because of the sheer stupidity of the character. He was honestly surprised when people a)didn’t believe that he was indeed Danny Rand and b) thought he was insane when he started talking about the more unconventional aspects of the monastery. The show also couldn’t quite decide on the route it wanted to take. Did it want to focus on the corporate end of things or on the Hand and set them as the primary antagonists. Sadly, they never figured it out which is why the entire season was a hotchpotch of everything they could think of.
One of the early criticisms of the show was that there were too few fight sequences and we instead spent more time in the boardrooms and corporate offices. I’m going to disagree with that particular criticism because the corporate end of the show was the more interesting part. The fight sequences, and I’m talking about the ones that featured Danny, were excruciatingly bad. Another mistake on their part was the Harold Meachum reveal. They did that in the very first episode. They should have kept the audience in the dark about him for a little longer, or at the very least, not spelled everything out from the beginning. The audience knew from the get-go that he was bad news and therefore could not be trusted, where’s the suspense in that? Though as a character, he was decent. Sadly, he too turned into a stereotype at the end.
To be fair, the show did improve in leaps and bounds by episode 9 and episodes 11, 12 and 13 were actually pretty good but it was too little too late. Also, Danny Rand remained a problem and a major weakness.
The real strength of the previous Marvel/Netflix shows had been the complexity of the antagonists like Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave and Cottonmouth. They were all complicated, layered characters which was what made them so fascinating. There was no such complexity to be found here. Also, when did Madam Gao join the Hand, didn’t she help Daredevil fight against them? When did she have this change of heart? The Hand was nothing more than a faceless organisation and a dull and predictable one at that.
The tone and theme of the show were chaotic and inconsistent as well. I believe this particular problem stemmed from the fact that the writers simply did not know who and what they wanted Danny Rand to be. Was he going to join the corporate world or fulfill his destiny and destroy The Hand? These questions remain unanswered till the end of the show. If you don’t know the chief motivator of your primary character, it is impossible to craft a narrative arc around him that makes sense and is coherent. All of the protagonists in the previous Netlfix/Marvel shows had a personal journey that made sense, their motivations were sound. Once you know what motivates your character, you can craft obstacles that they must overcome and watching them overcome said obstacles and be better for it is its own reward. That was missing in Iron Fist. The audience doesn’t know what motivates him because he himself doesn’t know. The previous Netflix/Marvel shows had a coherent vision that was missing here and the show was much worse for it.
As far as renewal is concerned, it could honestly go either way. While the critics as well as a large number of viewers hated the show, it has done well financially. Another season could give the writers the opportunity to fix some of the problematic elements that plagued this season. But if they learn nothing, then it’s just going to be more of the same, which would be a shame.