So far, the Marvel/Netflix partnership seems to be a proverbial match made in heaven. The Netflix shows serve as a darker, grittier companion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and offer up consistently binge-worthy action and drama.
We’ve met the blind lawyer-by-day and conflicted-vigilante-by-night Daredevil; the tough detective Jessica Jones; and the champion of justice with bullet-proof skin Luke Cage. Now, Marvel and Netflix are introducing us to mystical martial arts master Iron First.
“Iron First” generated a lot of buzz before it was released, but unfortunately, a lot of that buzz wasn’t good. It hasn’t received the same praise as the previous Netflix/Marvel offerings and became part of a larger Hollywood discussion on whitewashing. As we gear up for the Defenders team-up later this year, is “Iron First” still worth binge-watching?
While some of Netflix’s previous Marvel shows had their weaknesses — the first season of “Daredevil” was stronger than the second (I loved the Punisher; Elektra, not as much) and the best villain in “Luke Cage” leaves the show too soon — I loved all these shows and generally couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. “Iron Fist” is the first show from this series where I debated whether or not I wanted to keep watching.
Sadly, the first episode of “Iron Fist” is one of the weakest first episodes I’ve seen from a TV series in a long time. The narrative drags, the dialogue falls flat, and the characters don’t click the way they do in the other Marvel/Netflix series. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s tough to watch “Iron Fist” without thinking of the CW’s currently running (and currently better) “Arrow.” Like Oliver Queen, Danny Rand (a.k.a. Iron Fist) was presumed dead by the world, only to return home years later with an unusual set of skills. Unlike Oliver, however, Danny can harness a touch of the supernatural.
The first two episodes didn’t hook me in the way other superhero shows have, and “Iron Fist” takes too long to find its footing. Too much of the early narrative is caught up with Danny just trying to prove his identity. We don’t see enough flashbacks to get the proper context for his character and how he got his powers. I think they also wait a little too long to reveal the full extent of Danny’s magical abilities. It almost feels like the script was rushed and we’re seeing an early draft of something that could have packed a greater punch if it had been more polished.
Even though I kind of wanted to quit watching after the second episode, I’d already decided to watch at least three for my review. While the third episode was an improvement (and I went ahead and watched the fourth), I’d still list “Iron Fist” as the weakest of the Defenders tie-ins.
By now I’m starting to warm up to Finn Jones as Iron Fist. The character is innocent, optimistic, and almost childlike, which I think makes sense considering his background; he had a traumatic event in his childhood and grew up off the grid. He’s struggling to fit back into his old life. I think it will be interesting to see him in a line-up with the other Defenders. Right now, Jessica Henwick as fellow martial arts expert Colleen Wing is the only other stand-out character for me. While there’s a lot of potential for development with some of the other side characters, the series hasn’t given us a truly compelling villain yet who’s on par with the fantastic villains from the other Marvel/Netflix shows: Kingpin, Kilgrave, and Cottonmouth.
Overall, I feel the showrunners missed an opportunity to make “Iron Fist” the “Doctor Strange” of the Netflix Defenders series. So far, “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Luke Cage” have been pretty grounded; “Iron Fist” was a chance to start working more mystical elements into the franchise. It’s possible those elements are more prominently featured in the later episodes; however, I think seeing them sooner would have upped the stakes in the first couple episodes, which are rather languidly paced.
Final verdict? I’m planning to keep watching beyond episode four, not only because I don’t want to miss out on any details that will be featured in the Defenders team-up show, but also because I did see promise in the two most recent episodes I watched. However, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed that the show doesn’t take full advantage of its potential.
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In this episode Ryan and Eric sit down with me to talk about the first half of the fourth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We also talk about Marvel’s The Inhumans as well as how what’s going on with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may impact the Netflix series and the rest of the MCU. It’s all that plus another Five Questions.
Stay tuned in a few days as we’ll post a one-on-one interview with Jennifer Hartshorn of Earth Station MCU that we couldn’t fit into this episode without making it far too long.
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String up the Christmas lights, L’eggo my Eggos, and get ready for some coffee and contemplation. Mike, Mike, Dr. Scott Viguie, Kevin Eldridge, and Felicity Kusinitz travel to the Upside Down and turn the conversation up to Eleven. Plus, Michelle Bourg joins us to Rant and Rave about this year’s nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. All this, along with the usual Geek Girl’s Take, Khan Report and Shout Outs!
Table of Contents
0:00:00 Show Open / 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees
0:31:16 Stranger Things
1:25:00 A Geek Girl’s Take
1:26:30 The Khan Report
1:44:22 Show Close
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The first few minutes of the pilot episode of a new TV series are always critical. In a short amount of time, you have to successfully introduce the main character, set the tone for the series, provide background information so the audience knows what is going on but also leave enough mystery so they’re intrigued enough to keep tuning in.
The new Marvel series on Netflix, “Daredevil,” starts off the first few minutes of its first episode with two key scenes: showing how future crime fighter Matt Murdock is blinded as a child due to a toxic spill, and then fast-forwarding to an adult Murdock asking forgiveness from a priest for his vigilante actions. It establishes that this show will be gritty, tightly-written, thought-provoking — and thoroughly engrossing. By the time they started playing the opening credits, I was already hooked.
First off, I think Marvel made a good choice to tell the story of Daredevil — a blind defense lawyer who moonlights as a crime-fighting vigilante — in a TV format. I didn’t see the original Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck but know that it is not exactly beloved by fans. Netflix has produced a show with cinema-like quality but is able to tell the story in a more episodic format.
Daredevil is an intriguing hero. Unlike some of the other heroes, his defining accident doesn’t give him superpowers (like Spider-Man and his spider bite). He doesn’t have fancy gadgets or unlimited resources like Iron Man or Batman. Instead, even though he can’t see, he uses his other senses to fight crime. Hearing becomes vitally important, as Murdock must listen carefully to tell when an assailiant is running towards him or preparing to fire a gun.
The show is a little grittier than we’re used to seeing from Marvel; to me, it feels like a cross between the CW’s gritty DC Comics show “Arrow” and a classic crime drama. Interestingly, the show also doesn’t seem to use a lot of CGI special effects — a fact I didn’t actually notice until later, when I was thinking back over the episode. Instead, the show relies on well-coreographed fight scenes.
I was impressed with the first episode and am looking forward to watching more. Even though the show is more serious in tone, I like that they still include a few moments of humor, something I hope they keep up throughout the series. After this promising start, I’m also looking forward to some of Netflix’s other planned projects with Marvel.