Iron Fist is the final Defender to have their own series premiere on Netflix. With a lot of backstory and lore surrounding Danny Rand, Netflix had a lot on their plate to cover in a short amount of time. Not only did they need to cover his origin and growth upon returning to New York CIty, but also tie it into the Defenders while making sure not to make it seem rushed. It would be difficult, in fact damn near impossible, to tell all of Danny's origins in K'un-Lun, his "fight" against Shao-Lou while also seeing him return to NYC to fight the hand without it being rushed.
As a result, Netflix definitely took it slow and journeyed along the lines of Jessica Jones and Daredevil S1. The reason is both of these were origin stories, but were primarily set in the current day. Just as we saw flashbacks to how Matt Murdock went blind as a child and some brief memory scenes in Daredevil, we get the same in Iron Fist. It is a show that knows what it is supposed to be, and remains focused on the task at hand while making it clear just how they got to that point. By all means, Iron Fist could have been more "BANG, POW!", but that's not what Iron Fist is. While fights in Daredevil see Matt react based more on pure instinct, Danny Rand has always been methodical in his approaches, and Netflix portrays this through how they convey his story.
In contrast, Netflix's other two shows in Daredevil S2 and Luke Cage were very rushed. While I enjoyed both of them a lot due to the action, its main characters saw their stories rushed through. The Punisher wrapped up about halfway through in order to make room for The Hand in Daredevil. Luke Cage saw Cottonmouth swapped out for Diamondback. Both rushed through their main story when they did not have to as neither of the shows' second halves play into The Defenders. Iron Fist took its time playing through its story arc and it was much better off in doing so, even if it doesn't satisfy one's unquenchable lack of patience.
Action and fighting scenes in the series are well organized. I really enjoyed how they were patient with Danny, as in the comics he is so advanced in his prowess and dispatches enemies with such ease that he sometimes appears to not even be trying. The uninformed could think that this equates to bad production, but in reality Netflix is staying true to the character's story just as the previous three Defenders. At no point did the fights feel forced and, while combat is a focus in Iron Fist, don't come into it expecting 55 minutes of every 60 minute episode seeing Danny throw down. Danny's entire premise is rooted in self control at the hands of the monks in K'un-Lun. It's the old cliche that the test of a true martial artist is knowing when not to fight. This showed a sense of vulnerability and naivety that was humorously portrayed. Not only did he try to avoid fighting if possible, but at some points it seemed as if he was thinking "I'm just trying to be your friend why are you trying to hurt me?" while doing so. This occurred early on with security guards at Rand Industries and other minor characters, but evolved as the series went on. We saw Danny mature throughout the series and address his vulnerability while not being rushed. In fact, you don't really see Danny understand the true nature of his power until the final battle.
Going into the show I fully expected to be, when it was over, trying to decide which one of Danny's fights was the best one in the series. Luckily enough, I don't have to as the best scene doesn't even involve Danny at all. Colleen Wing acts as Danny's partner in helping him figure out who he is while trying to take down the Hand. There is one fight scene where she is in a cage fight against two men that each look like they could pick her up with one hand and fling her across the cage. What ensued was one of the best individual fight scene I've ever seen in a TV or movie series, including Bruce Lee movies where he just decimates everyone. The reason is they don't Hollywood it up and make her roll through the guys like butter. They also aren't afraid to show her get hit. Colleen takes some hits that make you think "Wow, they're really doing this, huh?", but she bounces back and ends up destroying these two in the end. It's the only female vs male fight I've seen that seemed real. Even with the physical differences between them, after watching it you'll have that "Ok, Colleen could definitely do this" feeling without it seeming like your normal, cliche girl vs. guy fight with the guys just phoning it in.
Now, I need to stop here for good reason. White washing, it's not a thing. Iron Fist has always been white and Colleen Wing asian as are the other characters their respective races in the comics as they are in the show. Prior to release, Iron Fist was improperly scrutinized for missing the mark by keeping a white character white. That's called accuracy, not white washing despite what some ill informed may want you to believe. Switching a character's race or sex for no reason other than "just because" not only doesn't make sense but it damages the integrity of the product at hand. Not only does Iron Fist tell a story of extreme maturity, but by the way it has a bad-ass Asian female that can quite easily kick guys' asses. That's a trifecta for you right there. It makes me wonder if the same advocating for Danny to be asian "just because" would have been happy with Luke Cage being a non-black character "just because". Carry on.
The first half of the series leads very well into the second half. Ward and Joy Meachum (Danny's child hood friends) are of course apprehensive at first upon his return. In typical New York City fashion, Ward and Joy's innocence turned business cynicism prevent them from seeing the truth and has Danny thrown into a psych ward. This, let's be honest, would be the first thing to happen in real life if some guy showed up saying he was someone who'd been dead for 15 years. Once everyone's culture shock wears off and reality sets in, we begin too see their true intentions. One character remains true to the end, others pull complete 180's and reverse course, others are pure evil. Other than Danny himself, not one other character in the show has their intentions clearly depicted until the final epsiode. It leads up to a pretty decent ending battle accompanied with a brand new twist in both of its final scenes.
If the other three Netflix Marvel shows taught us anything, it's that character intentions are key. Questions from Daredevil are answered, things we thought we knew for certain are no longer true and new questions arise. Since Daredevil S1, Netflix has always maintained the core story of each character's comic counterpart while taking some poetic license with various, smaller aspects and supporting characters. This slight variation carries over to Iron Fist as several characters see their lore and interactions with Danny altered slightly. What is Ward going to do? What's Joy up to? Madame Gao said she is how old? These were good twists that not only changed up Iron Fist pretty well, but set up the combined stories of the four in the Defenders coming this Summer.
Some things were a bit off as well. In the first episode, Danny flips over an oncoming taxi cab in a way that looked full on green screen CGI. The main villain (nameless for spoilers) portrays a bland sense of sarcasm throughout that just makes their delivery feel flat and sometimes forced. This made it a bit difficult to see their transition to full blown evil as believable as it should have been. Fortunately, Danny's personal struggles and eventual acceptance of the Iron Fist balanced it out for the better.
Not only is Iron Fist an origin story, but it serves as a prequel to The Defenders and as a Daredevil season 2.5. Many of the questions left in Daredevil season 2 are answered, but are done so in a way that opens up other questions. Luke Cage has his tie-ins shown as does Claire Temple. The season also shows how Iron Fist will in fact be the leader in The Defenders, and is really the only one with true knowledge of what's going on with The Hand.
This is important because The Defenders' villain Sigourney Weaver is a new character not present in the comics, and neither Daredevil, Luke Cage, Danny Rand nor Jessica Jones were ever a Defender. We also don't know how Weaver's character is involved with The Hand either, which is what made Iron Fist so exciting. Being the final Defender to have their origin story told, it did well in being able to portray his own story while tying the previous three into The Defenders.
Iron Fist didn't have as much action as Daredevil season 2, nor was it as slow as Jessica Jones. What it did do, however, was present its own character while tying in the other shows to The Defenders without rushing its own story. There were a few things I'd change, a lot of things I loved and am definitely ready for The Defenders this Summer. I've seen every episode of Marvel's Netflix shows, and as of now I'd list Iron Fist tied at the top of my favorites in this order: Daredevil S1 / Iron Fist, Daredevil S2, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones. Iron Fist is streaming now on Netflix and consists of one season, 13 episodes.
This review also appears on Gamezone