TV Review: 'Marvel's Iron Fist' an appetizer for the feast to come

By Terry Terrones Updated: March 13, 2017 at 7:51 pm • Published: March 13, 2017 0
photo - Marvel's Iron Fist
Marvel's Iron Fist

Cast: Finn Jones ("Game of Thrones," "Sleeping Beauty"), Jessica Henwick ("Game of Thrones"), David Wenham ("300," "The Lord of the Rings"), Jessica Stroup ("90210," "Ted"), Tom Pelphry ("Banshee," "Law & Order: SVU"), Carrie-Ann Moss ("The Matrix," "Memento"), Rosario Dawson ("Sin City," "Grindhouse")

Airs: The 13 episode first season premieres Friday on Netflix

The premise: Danny Rand (Finn Jones) returns to New York City after being presumed dead for 15 years. Looking to reconnect with his past, Rand quickly ends up taking on the criminals of New York City with his mastery of kung fu and the power of his mystical iron fist. With the introduction of Danny Rand, the final member of the Marvel superhero team The Defenders, which includes Luke Cage, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, has been revealed.

Highs: The Netflix stable of Marvel shows are all interconnected but each solo series has its own voice. That trend continues with "Marvel's Iron Fist." Danny isn't jaded like Jessica Jones, laser focused like Matt Murdock or cool like Luke Cage. Rand is a buddhist so he's zen about everything. Being calm, thoughtful and kind is just in his DNA. Living amongst monks and training for 15 years has created a man who is honorable and honest to a fault. In some ways Iron Fist is even naive. Rand has been living a life of chastity and poverty, so despite his harsh up bringing there's a sweetness to him. It makes for a different kind of character and leads to a series with a lighter tone.

Rand's backstory has a familiar, yet original, feel to it. Told through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Danny was in a plane with his billionaire parents when it crashed in the Himalayas. The lone survivor, Danny was saved by a group of warrior monks who trained him to fight. After he became an adult, he returned to reclaim his family name. "Marvel's Iron Fist" has all sorts of "Batman Begins" overtones to it.

Danny may be a straightforward character but he's surrounded by complex and interesting players. Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Wade Meachum (Tom Pelphry), now run the billion-dollar Rand Corp. Even though Danny, Joy and Wade grew up together and were like siblings, they aren't sure what to make of the return of their childhood friend. But the series most interesting character is Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick). Colleen runs her own dojo and is someone Danny can trust. A skilled fighter, she has her own excellent side story.

Lows: "Marvel's Iron Fist" gets off to a slow start. While I understand the need to explain backstory and the relationships between Danny and Colleen, Wade and Joy require a foundation, we don't really get into the meat and potatoes of the series until episode four and any meaningful action doesn't happen until episode five. Family dynamics are great, but where's Danny's superhero purpose?

More concerning, however, is the lack of Iron Fist's signature moment. To be sure, there's a lot of enjoyable combat in this series but after six episodes I didn't see anything water-cooler worthy. Nothing like Daredevil taking on bad guys in the hallway in his first season, Luke Cage destroying a gang hideout with the help of a car door, or the brutal fight Jessica Jones had in her apartment. Maybe that moment for Iron Fist has yet to reveal itself. At least that's what I'm hoping.

Grade: (C+): As I was watching the six episodes of "Marvel's Iron Fist" I had access to, I could see it slowly weaving a connection to the other Defenders. While it's a fun romp and stands on its own well enough, this new series is even more impressive when thought of as a bridge to a bigger world yet to come.

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Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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