Few comic book shows of late have had as poor a reception as Iron Fist. Among the quartet of Defenders-verse shows (which also includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage) there's little doubt it's the least-liked of lot. And while there's scarcely been a failure or a misstep in Marvel Cinematic Universe, many would likely argue that Iron Fist has become the first.
Criticism for the series was wide–ranging from sub-par execution of action sequences, a confusing and unlikable lead, storylines that seemingly went nowhere, and the lack of well-defined villains. All of which made the show look unfavorable when stacked against its Defenders-verse cohorts, who excelled on pretty much all those specific fronts.
And yet, the Iron Fist is not entirely deserving of the reputation that it's earned. While not a perfect series by any means, it still has its own value that makes it worth watching. And while there's plenty of room for improvement in Season 2 — especially now that The Defenders has come and gone — that doesn't mean that there wasn't still some good to it. In fact it was greater than what reviews and naysayers would suggest.
It Has Some Genuinely Great Characters
For one thing, the quality of the cast alone merits discussion. Finn Jones as the titular hero isn't bad, and his uncertainty with Danny Rand's character is a result of the writing as much as anything else. But more than that, the show surrounded him with some excellent characters.
Colleen Wing is so great she could easily carry a series of her own, and her journey alone makes watching Season 1 worth the cause. She's a dojo master, a warrior, and a woman whose emotional turmoil and inner conflict only becomes all the more compelling as the season spins out. While Danny's emotional arc is next-to-non-existent, Colleen's comes to an immensely satisfying resolution.
What’s more, Ward Meachum deserves notice as a character possibly on par with some of the true greats in the MCU. As a childhood companion (and sometimes bully) of Danny, over the course of the show he unravels into something far more compelling and surprising from where he starts out. What easily could’ve been played as a one-note antagonist to Danny's goals results in one of the most complex and emotionally rich arcs the Defenders-verse has seen.
It Has Compelling Villains
Like the series that preceded it, Iron Fist excels — in its own way — in the arena of villains, it just takes a bit longer to get there. Villains from the previous three shows were obvious from early on, but by comparison Iron Fist takes a while to tease things out. However the character who takes center stage at the climax against Danny and his friends proves every bit as chilling and fascinating as any other villain in the Defenders-verse.
Beyond that, we see the return of Madame Gao — a supporting villain in Season 1 of Daredevil who slowly positions herself as one of the more important figures in the seedy underworld of this micro-universe. Played with sublime control and subtlety by actor Wai Ching Ho, she's consistently been one of the greatest recurring figures in Hell’s Kitchen.
It's The Perfect Time To Give It Another Chance
Now that The Defenders has been released, it's the perfect time to catch up on Iron Fist as the two shows tie in together quite well. Colleen and Claire (picking up from the end of Iron Fist's first season) both play a prominent role in the show, and there's plenty of set up for more story material down the road. Danny's character has also been better realized by The Defenders — a naïve, but good-hearted, gung-ho and impetuous boy who still struggles with whether or not he's a man. Adding in the potential for specific storylines (like taking over as Daredevil, or teaming up with Luke Cage) makes that this a great opportunity to watch his origin show.
Iron Fist has room to grow in its second year and potential still to fulfill, but it still has a solid foundation. The series is better than its reviews and reputation suggest, and anyone who is invested in the Defenders-verse should take the time to check it out.
Did you enjoy Iron Fist? Shout out in the comments below!