TV Series Review
It ain't easy to be the heir of a massive multicontinental corporation and a super-secret martial arts discipline. Just ask Danny Rand.
See, the thing about inheriting the family business is that, well, the rest of the family has to die first. That's exactly what happened when Danny was just 10: While he, his mom and dad were jet-setting over the Himalayas, something mysteriously went wrong with the family plane and it crashed, presumably killing all aboard.
Only Danny didn't die, but was taken in by ridiculously reclusive group of martial arts masters who taught him all they know—including how to call upon the power of the Iron Fist. Super-nifty, that.
But alas, when he returns to New York City, Danny discovers that the family business is under the control of the Meacham family these days, and everyone still believes that he's dead. And even when Danny starts convincing folks that he's very much alive, it's soon quite clear that some people wish he wasn't.
One Sensei Short of a Dojo …
According to critics, it doesn't look like Netflix saved the best for last.
For more than two years, as Marvel's various Avengers have been making money hand-over-hammer in theaters, the streaming service has been building its own team of comic book crime fighters known as the Defenders.
First came Daredevil, a dark, brooding and often bloody show featuring a blind lawyer turned vigilante. Jessica Jones, a noirish, salacious thriller featuring a cynical, super-strong private eye, came next. Then Luke Cage, whose title character's skin is literally as tough as nails (and whose antagonist, "Cottonmouth" Stokes, was also newly minted Oscar winner Mahershala Ali). All three shows were rife with content problems, but all three also experienced varying levels of critical approval.
But with Iron Fist, the last member of Netflix's Defenders squad, most critics feel the franchise has taken a step or two back. Slow and unconvincing, they've said.
Obviously, a show's aesthetic merits aren't our main concern here at Plugged In. But Iron Fist still falls short for us content-wise, too. And even if its problems aren't significantly worse than the Netflix series that preceded it, neither are they much better, as we'll see.
A Flying Kick to the Face
It's not that Iron Fist is all bad, of course. Danny is naturally a heroic sort, willing to put his life on the line to protect those close to him and to defend all that is pure and true (in his estimation). The villains lined up to defeat him are, indeed, often quite villainous. Harold Meacham, Danny's dad's former business partner, is quite the piece of duplicitous work. An old ex-pal from the mystical city of K'un L'un, where Danny learned all his special kung fu tricks, proves nettlesome as well.
Unlike Netflix's other superhero series, Iron Fist is relatively restrained thus far when it comes to sexual content. We're not exposed to noisy bedroom scenes like we see in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Nor are there the lingering, sultry love triangles that Daredevil sometimes dabbles in.
But if Iron Fist minds its manners (relatively speaking) in the bedroom, the hero's opponents certainly don't mind theirs in the streets. Or in dank apartment buildings. Or, well, anywhere. People die, sometimes in grotesque, splatter-filled ways. Bad language—a perennial problem in these Netflix superhero stories—is still frequently present. It doesn't take long for us to see (and hear) one of the main reasons Iron Fist received its "mature audiences" rating from Netflix.
On top of those concerns, we have to lather on one more. While Daredevil's Matt Murdock is a sincere (if troubled) Catholic, Danny Rand is a devout Buddhist monk. He meditates. He offers nods toward religious concepts such as reincarnation. And while the show doesn't delve too deeply into Buddhism's actual tenets, there's little question that his powers take on a quasi-spiritual, seriously supernatural bent.
Obviously, Netflix's superheroes are a known quantity now. Fans of them won't find much unexpected here. But for those looking for a nice introduction to The Defenders through Iron Fist, beware: You, like Danny Rand, just might suffer a serious blow or two.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Finn Jones as Danny Rand; Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing; Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum; Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum; David Wenham as Harold Meachum; Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao; Barrett Doss as Megan; Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple