With Luke Cage Season 2, Marvel has finally succeeded in achieving something viewers once thought impossible: they’ve fixed Iron Fist. Finn Jones’ version of the Immortal Iron Fist was always going to be controversial. For years, a vocal minority of fans had pushed for Marvel Television to race-swap the character, going for an Asian version of Iron Fist. They argued that the comic book version exemplified the “White Savior” trope, an overused and outdated idea that should really be consigned to the trash can. But Marvel chose to go with a comic book accurate Iron Fist instead, casting Jones in the role.
There’s a reason Iron Fist Season 1 was the last Marvel Netflix show to launch before The Defenders. In July 2015, Birth.Movies.Death reported that Marvel was struggling to work out a solid pitch. “One of the big hold-ups is the mystical element,” BMD reported, “with lots of different opinions on just how much weird wuxia to bring in to the show.” The popular and critical reaction to Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, who premiered in Jessica Jones Season 1, gave Marvel a breathing-space. According to Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Coker, Marvel had originally planned his show to be the last one developed, but they decided to fast-track Luke Cage and move Iron Fist to the back of the queue.
Even with the benefit of this extra time, though, the first season of Iron Fist was something of a car-crash. Scott Buck’s series was heavily criticized, and not just for the standard Marvel Netflix pacing problems; the story, the character-work, and even the fight choreography was generally viewed as disappointing. Critics were savage, and the show’s critic score on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes sits at a shocking 17 percent. Iron Fist was still a hit according to Netflix, but the series most definitely created a negative buzz for Marvel. Given the viewing figures, it didn’t take long for Marvel and Netflix to renew Iron Fist for a second season – but it was obvious Marvel would need to work hard to fix the hero’s obvious flaws. With Luke Cage Season 2, that process is already complete.
- This Page: Marvel’s Iron Fist Problems
- Next Page: How Marvel Has Fixed Iron Fist
Marvel’s Iron Fist Problems
The Danny Rand of Iron Fist Season 1 is a strange, flawed and conflicted man. He’s wrestling with questions of his identity, struggling to cope with the demons of his past. Tellingly, that internal conflict actually means he’s unable to access his greatest power, the “Iron Fist.” Incredibly, over the course of 13 episodes, Danny Rand only summoned the power of the Iron Fist for just three minutes.
But here’s the problem; in order to become the Iron Fist, Danny Rand has trained for years under a mystical quasi-Buddhist philosophy. And there’s simply no way any variation of Buddhism would leave those deep-rooted psychological issues alone during his training. In order to become the Iron Fist, Danny Rand would have needed to face every one of his inner demons, and to reconcile himself to the losses he’d suffered in his past. He wouldn’t even have been allowed to go face Shou Lao until he’d achieved a place of inner harmony. It’s true that the return to New York could have unsettled that delicate balance, but not to the extent we saw in Iron Fist Season 1. It’s hard not to conclude that showrunner Scott Buck simply didn’t understand Buddhist philosophy, and as a result the hero’s entire character arc fell flat.
Season 1’s portrayal of Danny Rand was also, frankly, seriously annoying. Viewers mocked the show for Danny’s habitual introduction of himself. “I am the Immortal Iron Fist,” the hero told anyone who’d listen, “protector of K’un Lun, sworn enemy of the Hand.” He also had the absurd habit of repeating his origin story to the most random members of the secondary cast. The show’s pacing was already problematic, but this interrupted countless scenes, causing the narrative to stumble even more.
And then there was the fight choreography. Iron Fist is supposed to be one of the greatest martial artists in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, Iron Fist Season 1 had the worst fight scenes in the entire Marvel Netflix range. The core problem was that Jones doesn’t come from a martial arts background and wasn’t given time to train. Incredibly, Jones claimed that the tight production schedule meant he was “learning the fight scenes 15 minutes before we actually shot them.” Jones’s lack of practice and skill combined with choppy editing to give the sense that Danny Rand was something of an amateur when it came to hand-to-hand combat. The script didn’t help, for that matter, calling upon Danny to demonstrate different levels of martial arts ability at different times, purely to service the plot.