Name: Danny Rand (Iron Fist)
Powers: Chi Manipulation, Master Martial Artist
Type: Peak Mediocre White Male
Excels at: Getting Captured by The Hand
Fails at: Nearly Everything Else
I’m a Power Man and Iron Fist fanboy. Even though the original series started before I was born and concluded when I was just starting to read, it was the first book I was able to follow consistently. My mom was a voracious reader. So about once a month, she would go to the used bookstore to sell the dozen or so novels she read that month. It was located next door to the local comic book store. The used bookstore allowed me to load up on old titles like Power Man/Iron Fist, The Invaders and the Legion of Superheros. When I heard about an Iron Fist TV series, I was legitimately excited to see how his story would be adapted to the small screen. I thought they missed a huge opportunity by not going for an Asian American Iron Fist but my fandom overrode my misgivings in this case. I was looking forward to seeing Netflix work their magic on the White Saviorness of the Iron Fist narrative to update it for a modern audience. I was pleased with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage and I preemptively prepared myself to be enamored with the series. I was wrong AF…
I’ve run the gauntlet of words to describe the negative emotions inspired by watching this character meander through this series and The Defenders…the one I landed on was trash. Danny is trash. He’s a trash fighter. He’s a trash strategist. He’s a trash teammate. He’s a trash protagonist. He is the Immortal Trash Fist, Garbage Collector of K’un Lun. Danny the worst kind of privilege embodied. He is a billionaire but he doesn’t use his resources for anything. In fact, his very presence is destructive to everybody he comes in contact with. He has no utility. He is weaponized ineffectuality. Danny just stumbles from one shitshow to another without any plan or objective. His enemies can see him coming a mile away. All his opponents need to do is set the trap and wait for him to charge into it. Danny is a mansel in distress. He is perpetually either in a state of being captured or requiring assistance. Every villainous character jokes about how they’ve killed an Iron Fist before, so it might be time for K’un-Lun to review either their selection or training process because neither is clearly working for them.
Iron Fist has a unique way of punishing viewers. He is the main POV character, but his presence doesn’t even advance the plot. As viewers, we are trapped with him as he spins his wheels. We are forced to linger with Danny through every negative outcome and are the prisoner of his insecurities. We are subjected to his flashbacks and witness to his inability to learn from his past failures. His whiny voice is the one that narrates his journey and his immaturity acts as the lens we have to view his world with. Every moment we are captive of this superpowered man-child, it becomes clear that the writers are operating under the delusion that the Iron Fist presented in the show was a likable person.
He is not. He is uniquely awful.
Establishing a consistent theme for this show would go a long way towards helping this character. Every other Marvel Netflix show fits into a genre or two. Daredevil is a Crime/Legal Drama with Ninjas, Jessica Jones is a Detective Show and Psychological Thriller, Luke Cage is Blaxploitation and Science Fiction, The Punisher is Espionage and a War Movie, Iron Fist is Danny wandering from one trap to another. Finding a space for this show fixes part of the inconsistency we experience through Danny’s character.
I would suggest that the powers that be spend more time working on making Danny a more convincing fighter. In a show that is driven by physical combat, Finn Jones looks to be the least competent looking fighter on the screen at any given time. It destroys the suspension of disbelief when I see him acting out fighting scenes with legitimate martial artists. Watching Danny fight is like a watching an angry chimp trying to swat a mosquito…it’s some sorrowful shit and I’m embarrassed for him. The main issue with Iron Fist being such an unremarkable fighter is that the narrative demands that he wins most of his fights against fighters who are obviously much better trained than he is. As a viewer, it shatters the entire illusion. Even on The Defenders (filmed concurrently with Iron Fist Season 1), Danny’s character looks woefully out of place fighting alongside Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Colleen Wing. Even Sigourney Weaver’s character looks more comfortable in her limited combat scenes. It’s impossible to overemphasize how much the ineptitude of Danny’s character as a hero is further undermined by his incompetence as a combatant.
Dig. I want Iron Fist to work. I want to see him partner with Luke Cage and create a Heroes For Hire mini-universe that acts as a launch-pad for a Daughters of the Dragon spin-off. But this show needs to do a better job with the Iron Fist character. He is the absolute least in every regard when compared to other characters with their own series on Netflix. Fixing him addresses a lot of issues with regards to the Netflix Marvel Universe especially if we are expecting to see him in other shows on Netflix.