I have said this before, both on this blog and elsewhere: if you are ever compelled, as a writer in any medium, to create a scenario where your characters are complaining about how dumb your plot is, it is probably time to stop and think very carefully about what you are doing. If you are writing a show called Iron Fist, about a man whose job it is to be the Iron Fist, and the very first line a character says upon meeting him is “You are the worst Iron Fist ever,” you may be doing something wrong. It is possible to write a good story about a hero who is terrible at being a hero. But if you do that, then that’s what your story needs to be about. You can’t have a hero who is terrible at being a hero and have your story be about something else. The fact that he or she is terrible is going to take center stage and ruin everything else.
Enter Iron Fist, whose writers clearly do not read my blog. This post is unnecessary in a whole lot of ways; it took me a while to get through all thirteen episodes– mostly because, again, the show’s awful– and everyone who binged it right away has already weighed in on how bad it is. They’re all right. But maybe there’s someone out there who isn’t attuned to the geek press all that much, but reads me for some reason. Someone who might be saved.
Please don’t watch this show.
And this doofy shit is the main reason why. Now, let’s be clear about a few things: there was a lot of fooferal when the show hadn’t quite come out yet about the fact that Marvel cast a white guy as Iron Fist instead of racebending the character and casting an Asian person instead. I am sympathetic to those concerns, to say the least. But even if you’re going to cast a white guy as Iron Fist, because the comic book character is white, Finn Jones is just about the worst possible choice to play the role. He is awful; awful in every way, he is written to be awful, and the man himself does nothing to corral or channel(*) his character’s intrinsic awfulness. There is nothing Finn Jones does in this show at any point that is convincing. He cannot do kung fu, he cannot emote beyond an infantile shaking rage, he absolutely cannot spout anything even vaguely resembling Buddhist philosophy (and I choose the word “resembling” quite deliberately) without sounding like a hipster doofus, and he never once comes off as heroic. Iron Fist is a sulky hipster doofus with PTSD and all the emotional stability of a ten-year-old. He is awful.
So is every other white man on the show, by the way. The show can’t have anyone keep a personality or a set of motivations straight for more than an episode at a time, and there are never ever ever any consequences for anyone’s actions, to the point where there are giant holes blown in one character’s dojo’s ceiling at one point so that machine-gun ninjas can drop through (don’t ask) and those giant holes and broken windows and such are never mentioned again. Characters display magical powers in one episode and then forget they have them. Characters are killed, thrown into fish tanks in someone’s home, then never mentioned again.
You could cut every white male character completely out of the show and nothing of any significance would change, at all. They are, all of them, awful.
Let’s talk about these three:
I’m having a hell of a time getting the HTML to cooperate, so forgive me, but these three are the only thing that makes the show even vaguely watchable. Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, should have been playing Dani Rand. Or, alternatively, you could grab this drunken-master badass here– his name is Lewis Tan and he actually auditioned for the park– and have him play Danny Rand. Between the two of them they are responsible for 100% of the interesting fight scenes in the show. Every single one. They are also both better actors than Finn Jones. Wai Ching Ho also returns as Madame Gao, and she’s amazing for every second she’s on screen even if her character’s motivations (and abilities) are more than a little bit of a mess. The fact that the show had these three people in it and more or less ignored them so that Jones could whine about how tough it is to be white and immensely wealthy and oh also one of the best martial artists in the world but MY PARENTS ARE DEAAADD!!!!
It’s terrible. But I think I said that. I think the only thing that could redeem it is if I watched it again, liveblogged every episode, and then turned it into a chapbook to sell on Amazon and made a million dollars.
(*) So, Iron Fist’s powers come from channeling the power of his “chi” into his fist, making it Like Unto a Thing of Iron, as the comic books used to say all the time and the TV show never does. TV Danny can’t do that. I have quite a few Iron Fist comic books, and even more where Iron Fist isn’t the main character but shows up, and I swear to you that Finn Jones does more wanking about his chi in this thirteen hours of show than Iron Fist has done in his entire forty-year history as a comic book character previous to the show coming up. Comic book Danny Rand’s powers just work, basically whenever he wants them to. TV Danny Rand’s chi must be balanced, charged, recharged, harnessed, centered, purified, unblocked, hell, every verb in the English language gets applied to Danny’s chi at some point or another; I’m surprised he never has to Smurf the fucking thing. And hearing him talk about it never stops being ridiculous. Mostly his powers just don’t work, and mostly his powers don’t work because, in one way or another, he’s an embarrassment to his order and to his job. He’s the worst Iron Fist ever. Really.
I hated this damn show.