Iron Fist: Mystical Kung Fu Technique
March 21, 2017 12:14 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Danny Rand returns to New York City, after being presumed dead for 15 years, to reclaim his family company. When a threat emerges, Rand must choose between his family's legacy and his duties as the Iron Fist.

Feel free to have a full and spoilerific discussion including critiques, opinions and summations of the show here!
posted by P.o.B. (60 comments total)
This was the worst Marvel series on Netflix. I can't really fault the actors, they had to work with some shitty writing. And the fight scenes... A show about Kung Fu shouldn't have such dreadful fight scenes.

As I said in one of the episode posts, I realized that the showrunner of Iron Fist is the same one who ran Dexter into the ground, which explains much of this mess.

I hope the Defenders is better than this.

Here is my ranking of the current Marvel Netflix shows:

1 Jessica Jones ( season 1 )
2 Daredevil ( season 1 )
3 Daredevil ( first half of season 2 )
3 Luke Cage ( first half of season 1 )
4 Daredevil ( second half of season 2 )
5 Luke Cage ( second half of season 1 )
6 Iron Fist ( season 1 )
posted by Pendragon at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

High point: Drunken master fight
Low point: spider woman fight (what the hell was that shit?)
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yes, was that supposed to be the Bride of Nine Spiders from the comics ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I laughed out loud at the sudden fog machine in the Bride of Nine Spiders fight, like some goddamn Whitesnake video.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Here is my ranking of the current Marvel Netflix shows:

Your ranking and my ranking are the same.

In an earlier thread, I said that while the series picks up after the pilot - one of the worst openers I've ever seen to a show like this - it does improve, but that the high points on Iron Fist are only as good as the low points on the other shows. I stand by that - the best this had to offer was up there with all that Diamondback bullshit, or where Elektra's story goes off the rails.

High point: Drunken master fight
Low point: spider woman fight (what the hell was that shit?)

The Drunken Master fight is the only part of the series I'm going to tell people most to watch, I think. I'm going to find it on Youtube, pass it around, and tell people they're good on Iron Fist. That guy was fun, the fight didn't have any dumb screwball camera work, it was cool.

So, lessee... other thoughts:
* This show never establishes the normal.

A key trick in genre fiction, one that I learned from a guy who taught me *piles* about storytelling, is that before shit can get weird, you have to understand the setting. The rules for Iron Fist - when he can fist, what his fist does, who he is without the fist - are doled out in a piecemeal fashion over the course of the show, and they're wildly incomplete. We don't even understand why he *left* until near the finale.

By the end of the series, I still don't have any sense of how often he can use it, or what all it can do. I have no feeling that he's the deadliest kung fu master on Earth - though skilled, he's clearly a lightweight compared to Daredevil, Stick or Elektra, and I have no idea why Luke Cage would ever put up with his nonsense.

* I am not a ninjalogist...

... in no small part because that's not a real thing, but it seems to me that 'magic ninjas need shady real estate deals' is a dumb and implausible plot. I want to be interested. I do. I was a kid in the 80s. I'm a Gen-Xer. I'm pro-ninja. This stuff about real estate deals and the drug trade is still dull bullshit. Bakuto and his cult was a more interesting subplot. (And would've been even *more* interesting if he'd been sincere, the way Fisk is in early Daredevil.)

Worse, the whole thing makes Madame Gao's stuff look convoluted and ridiculous. In Daredevil, she's a mysterious presence whom Wilson Fisk respects, notably *not* directly tied to Nobu, who *is* Hand. Her servants blind themselves in her name. Here, she's just a little old lady who somehow thought it was a good idea to turn Harold Meachum into an immortal shut-in, who lets herself be taken by clear inferiors, and just generally loses her mystique, while raising questions about why she and Nobu weren't working more closely together in an earlier show, or what Fisk knew about her if he didn't know the truth. (I can think of answers, but it's not my job to imagine, it's their job to establish it.)

I'm a completionist with this stuff. I consume a lot of media I don't like just to sort of pick apart *why* I don't like it so that I don't make the same mistakes in my own work. As a result, I didn't waste my time here - this was a fascinating trainwreck, but it was definitely a trainwreck.

Anyway, I'm sure more will occur to me later. I've been mulling this over since Saturday, but I s'pose someone else should have the floor until I can coherently express additional dissatisfaction.
posted by mordax at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

The scenes where Harold is recovering from his unexpected second resurrection, stumbling around the city confused and hacking up pond detritus, stick out to me because they were almost, almost able to make something about The Hand interesting - the human experience of an inhuman process, what you lose and what you become - aaaand they totally whiffed it by making everything seem cheap and generic and amateurish. There were a lot of moments like that, where even with the same material it would go a lot further if it were handled in a better way.

This series bummed me out, there was a lot of potential to do better. Step one would have been giving it to people from the cultures the original character appropriates and giving them free reign to do what they will with it. It could have said something meaningful about that kind of appropriation and also felt like the kind of labor of love that comes from creatives feeling ownership of the work, and instead it just felt like the people in charge were totally disinterested in making this into anything.

Side note: Netflix needs to drop this whole "realistic and grounded" thing for these shows because they're not going to get a Vincent D'Onofrio to come along and make that interesting every time, and without something that interesting in the mix it's soooo boooring. They're taking their cue from the street-level Marvel Knights imprint for the tone of these and running into the same problems that line did - some of it was dreadfully dull.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:44 PM on March 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Let us say, for example, you are being evaluated to determine your relative level of sanity. The person who is evaluating you knows only what the average Marvel citizen knows about metahumans (not much) and the supernatural (nothing). Is it a good idea to rave about either the time you spent in a mystical dimension you cannot prove exists? How about your interactions with your father who everyone but you "knows" has been dead for more than a decade?
posted by Karmakaze at 1:48 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Claire is one of the best things in even the worst of these shows but every time she's like "why do I keep running into you superpowered hero types" I'm like "Ok now here's where Danny needs to press her on that random comment (NOBODY EVER ASKS AND THAT'S CRAZY) and get Daredevil or Jessica Jones or Luke Cage to come help because that sounds a million times more fun than this" and it's like, damnit show, why are you hinting at things that are way better than what we're watching, the last thing this show needs is to actively disappoint you with thoughts of what could have been.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:55 PM on March 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh crap, I didn't see this before doing a post for episode 6. Sorry about that. Is it worth continuing with the episode-specific posts?
posted by Jugwine at 2:18 PM on March 21, 2017

It's kind of neat that Claire could be basically the Netflixverse's Nick Fury, though. I mean, if the writers on The Defenders actually realise that that's who she is.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:21 PM on March 21, 2017

You can, but I don't think a lot of discussion will take place. This show is DOA. I'm not even sure it will get a second season.
posted by Pendragon at 2:21 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not worth my sanity to hate-watch the final 6 episodes just so I can vent about them here. I'm tapping out.
posted by Jugwine at 2:25 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not watching so I'm very appreciative of the hatewatching details shared here!
posted by TwoStride at 2:28 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's not worth my sanity to hate-watch the final 6 episodes just so I can vent about them here. I'm tapping out.

Just watch the Drunken Master fight on Youtube if you missed it. Heck if I remember exactly where that was. And thank you for posting about the earlier episodes, that was some thoughtful discussion. :)
posted by mordax at 2:29 PM on March 21, 2017

The Drunken Master fight is in episode 8 at 43:30.
posted by Pendragon at 2:36 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh damnit the guy who plays Zhou Cheng (the drunken master guy) was almost Iron Fist, that would have been great!

Although, if the show still sucked in all the other aspects maybe it's good he wasn't tied to it as the lead.

What if we just scrap Iron Fist and go with Luke Cage and Zhou Cheng as the Heroes for Hire after this...
posted by jason_steakums at 2:58 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, the traditional Heroes for Hire are Luke, Misty, and Colleen. I guess if they could justify Zhou Cheng switching sides, he could take up the fourth spot on the team.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:51 PM on March 21, 2017

I don't even know why Luke would hang out with this Danny, he doesn't seem especially fun. Though I bet Finn Jones would be quite a different Danny Rand in a Cheo Hodari Coker show if he were to show up in Luke Cage.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am loving that the AV Club is still posting full recaps (though they aren't having a second reviewer do a binge--I don't know if it's because this sucks or budget cuts or both) so I don't actually have to watch this, or if I want to see any of it, I can see what the good parts are and go there first.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:14 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

What if we just scrap Iron Fist and go with Luke Cage and Zhou Cheng as the Heroes for Hire after this...

I'd be down with that. I mean, what're the odds a random mook with brass knuckles could get the drop on Zhou Cheng in a hospital records room?

(Another baffling choice the show made: making Danny 'the worst Iron Fist.' I mean, that's not just talk - everybody agrees with Davos, even Danny in the end. Why should we in the audience want to learn about the Immortal Weapon via its least competent wielder?)
posted by mordax at 6:26 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

OK, just watched the drunken master fight & it's good but it's immediately undercut by Danny's sobbing whiny face at the end of it.

I mean, Daredevil's reluctance to kill is due to his Catholic guilt. Yours is because Claire told you not to fifteen minutes ago.
posted by Jugwine at 7:42 PM on March 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

I know a thing or two about fight choreography and the drunken master fight was... kinda meh?
posted by some loser at 9:32 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

It was kinda meh! Too flashy for the sake of flash and kind of stilted. I think it's just that in the context of the show, it was a bright spot. And Lewis Tan had like the only fun character work in the show.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:38 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's a bit weird to watch a show and root against the protagonist. I expected martial arts mastery and superheroic gambits, not a board room soap opera about a petulant billionaire who interrupts his temper tantrums only to mansplain chi. I think there needed to be a mid-season interlude where he went back to K'un-Lun to complete his training/get some character development. The writers redeemed Ward, but they couldn't orchestrate a single moment in which Danny is remotely likable? Team Davos FTW.
posted by crone islander at 11:20 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The scene where Danny strikes a Black student down with a kendo stick for laughing at his overtly serious attitude towards kung fu after Danny came barging in and interrupted the class is a constant reminder of the position we’ve been forced into: us on the ground, looking up at you, wondering what did we ever do to you and what gave you the right to infringe on us.
I actually took something different from Danny Rand's annoying cultural appropriation, but Joel Philip receives my seal of approval anyway. That whole review was great.

My perspective on the matter is: I actually sort of liked how this was handled, in that Danny Rand is depicted as wholly incompetent. Dumb white guy comes barging in like he owns the place, is awarded a title he does not deserve, and... for once, they show that the logical endpoint of this behavior is total failure. He's a bad fighter. His dereliction of duty even results in the suffering and possible destruction of the entire city that took him in.

I also cracked up when Bakuto showed us the footage of an earlier Iron Fist, one who was good at the job, just to drive home how useless Danny was.

As a PoC, I found that sort of refreshing. Danny's not the great white savior: he's a terrible mistake. The lesson here is that the power and role of Iron Fist clearly should've gone to someone like Davos, someone who understood what it meant, respected the role, and could land a punch.

The review here is right though: while I laughed at that, I don't get the impression that this was done on purpose. I think we're supposed to sympathize with Rand, and that's... well, everything this review makes it out to be.
posted by mordax at 10:57 AM on March 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

Oh, and the billionaire stuff came across that way too: even when Rand is trying to do 'good,' he's doing it without bothering to understand why events are happening around him. He just clumsily *interferes* in everything, acting like he has moral superiority whether it's warranted or not.

For instance, the medication thing? Dumb. We're supposed to side against the weasely board guy because he jacks the price up 10x, but there was middle ground there - without any profit, there really is a problem for their R&D department. There was room for compromise in that deal, but Danny doesn't consider it or talk it out, he just bludgeons them.

When Joy is settling about the cancer case, it looked like she was completely aboveboard: they followed EPA guidelines, they were willing to cooperate with further investigation, etc. Danny didn't even bother to check the records himself, or go to Hogarth for advice or anything, he just stumbled around assuming he knew what was what.

Oh, and trying to help Colleen by buying her building? So creepy/stalkery I cringed, but it totally tracked with his obliviousness to anything outside his own skin.

I... again, I found that sort of refreshing, seeing him depicted as such a failure. I would've enjoyed it more if the show also gave us a hero to root *for*, but it was funny. But again, I don't think we're supposed to feel that way about it, which is pretty unfortunate.
posted by mordax at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

seeing him depicted as such a failure

As Iron Fist, he literally had one job.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

It would be nice if at some point someone could put a supercut together of the actual watchable moments of this show.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:57 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depends a bit on your threshold for watchable, is all. Like, the one thing that was so bad I could hardly sit through it was the Bride of Nine Spiders fight - I can't imagine how that made it into the final cut. That comes with a grain of salt though - I used to blog bad movies for kicks, and have sat through the likes of Santa Baby 2 and Icetrastrophe on purpose. I'm sure most people had a line closer to sanity.

It'd be possible to put together something like 'every time Claire was badass' or 'every acceptable but not spectacular kung fu battle' out of it. Dunno that anyone will care enough to, but the Internet often surprises me on that score.
posted by mordax at 12:20 PM on March 23, 2017

I'm just hoping for "just let me know enough of the plot that I need to know to watch The Defenders, and the Claire bits." I hear the fights suck and I don't even care.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:57 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's fair. A Claire supercut would be nice - I would never miss 'Nurse Claire is tired of superhero bullshit' scenes.

About The Defenders: probably just reading the AV Club reviews should be enough, IMO.

This fiasco also has me pretty concerned about whether The Defenders is going to work at all. I can see the Netflix versions of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock all coming together to fight crime. We already know JJ and Luke are a good team, and Matt should fit right in with them. They're cynical, realistic, all courting or succumbing to alcoholism, (okay, not Luke)... I could see them hanging out in a non-crime context.

I don't see how Danny Rand fits into that dynamic. Jokes aside, he's not really their kind of guy. He's not good at what he does. He's redundant from the perspective of 'hand to hand expert' or even 'Hand expert.' With the exception of 'serve as a sporadic nightlight,' Matt covers his role better than he does.

I also feel like Daredevil S2 and Iron Fist have run The Hand into the ground as enemies - they're not really mysterious and terrifying here, they're more nonsensical and irritating. Like, I'm reminded of nothing so much as The Tick, and Night of a Million Zillion Ninja now.
posted by mordax at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Did anyone catch the code Harold used to get into Rand tower in episode 9 (time 17:48). Right before he enters it he says "Ward's birthday." 091 is the closeup then they go wide for the rest. It looks to me like 972, but 09/19/72 can't be right.
posted by zinon at 3:26 PM on March 23, 2017

I don't see how Danny Rand fits into that dynamic. Jokes aside, he's not really their kind of guy. He's not good at what he does. He's redundant from the perspective of 'hand to hand expert' or even 'Hand expert.' With the exception of 'serve as a sporadic nightlight,' Matt covers his role better than he does.

I bet it's going to be kind of a boring escort mission where Luke and Jessica and Matt have to get Danny to Mystical Hand MacGuffin so he can punch it with his glowy fist, and that will be the only reason for him to be there. They kept setting up the whole "I can destroy The Hand" thing.

Ooh maybe he'll sacrifice himself for it. Then Colleen can go punch Shou-Lao the Undying in the heart and we get a better Iron Fist (now with 10x more Sulking Davos after losing his chance again). Colleen being besties with Luke is something I can totally see. All in some rad streetwear version of the Iron Fist green and gold and carrying the broken sword... omg I want that show.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:05 PM on March 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Colleen Wing becoming the new Iron Fist is something I can get 10,000% behind.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:54 PM on March 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

By about episode 7 I was far more interested in the neo-Gothic story of the Meachum family (Lies! Secrets! Betrayal! Power struggles with each other and against outsiders! Daddy issues! Patricide! Undead Daddy issues!) than any incoherent angsty white-boy Kung Fu nonsense.

And it's nice to see my suspicion that Joy would turn out to be the coldest and cruelest of them all confirmed in the last shot. So there's that, I guess.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:31 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Here are some links that may help those that don't want to slog through the rest of the series:
* Everything You Need to Know About Iron Fist Without Actually Watching Iron Fist
* Here's the Important Stuff That Happens in Iron Fist So You Don't Have to Watch It
* If You’re Skipping All Of ‘Iron Fist,’ Here’s What You Should Know Before ‘The Defenders’ Comes Out

I lied and ended up hate-watching a couple more episodes. There's so much about this show that makes me irrationally angry. A show about magical kung fu heros & villains should either have really well done martial arts action or at least have fun with its fight scenes. Preferably both, but I'm more likely to forgive a weird cringey miss like the Bride of Nine Spiders if most of the rest of the time Iron Fist was fighting magical ninjas with mystical powers and not just random mooks with guns & swords. I would rather watch a show that owned the ninja ridiculousness and winked at us than a show that seemed embarrassed by the ninja stuff most of the time.

There were a lot of ways they could have gone with this show, and it seemed like they picked the blandest, most vanilla origin they could get away with. No one wanted vanilla except for Kyle, and look where that got him.
posted by Jugwine at 6:56 AM on March 24, 2017 [7 favorites]

From the Vanity Fair link: "This assumption of a legacy character means that Danny can be compared to the Iron Fists who have come before him—and, according to assessment of characters within the show (not just from TV critics), he’s been found wanting. In other words, Danny Rand is a weak Fist. But that just means he has room to grow. (Finn Jones has said that won’t happen until several seasons in.)"

posted by jenfullmoon at 11:46 AM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, it'll take him that long to actually learn kung fu. Finn, not Danny.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:52 AM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

In the season 5 opener of Iron Fist: can Danny Rand save the day when the security guard standing in his way watched some Krav Maga videos on YouTube? Stay tuned to find out!
posted by jason_steakums at 12:00 PM on March 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

If the show as exactly the same, but had an Asian or Asian-American actor as Danny, it would still be just ok.

At first, I like the portrayal of Danny as an earnest do gooder, trying to explain what the magic stuff like everyone would understand. It made sense if he was taken as a kid and trained to be a weapon. So he never quite got to grow up and that would be an interesting dynamic, to see him grow.

But then it was revealed that he was abused and has issues. That was interesting too! But it seems to have been left by the wayside.

I've stopped at episode five because the pacing and direction is poor and the soundtrack is fucking horrible, especially after the awesomeness that was Luke Cage's sound.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:36 PM on March 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I get that part of the fighting problem is that, except for Daredevil, they're shying away from costumes. This means they can't do the stunt double cheat. I suspect that they thought the yellow cowl/mask was too goofy looking. The sad thing is that they didn't find a director (if not star) who'd worked the thriving martial arts film industry in Asia. Many of the actors there speak English fluently. In fact, some of them are Americans who went there to find work. (That's where Chuck Norris got his start, after all, playing the villain in Bruce Lee films.)

The other advantage to finding an Asian American actor, is that it would have given them a chance to make the series about something. Jessica Jones was as much about surviving and processing abuse as it was about superheroics. Luke Cage was as much about blackness in America as it was about being an origin story. Iron Fist could have incorporated the immigrant experience as a theme. It would work well with Danny's place as belonging to both Kun-Lun and New York and also to neither, and allowed them to use the Chinatown setting in a deeper way. Part of what made Iron Fist feel so flimsy next to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage is because they had those deeper themes.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:30 AM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Iron Fist could have incorporated the immigrant experience as a theme.

Or, like, any other Asian-American experience. The showrunners mentioned that they felt like it was important that Danny Rand seemed like an outsider in Mystic Asian Place as a reason for him to not be any flavor of Asian, but that's ignoring the sheer number of Asian-Americans who are definitely outsiders when they visit the area their great-grandparents immigrated from. There's an entire genre of Irish-Americans going back to Ireland and bumbling around to learn something about their roots, but somehow the Asian-American experience of doing the same wouldn't work?

The Vulture article about Lewis Tan nearly being Iron Fist is filling me with so many what-could-have-beens, not only with Asian-American Iron Fist, but biracial Iron Fist. I mean, 'biracial people not being able to fit in anywhere' is definitely not my favorite story, or even a new one, but in this context, it could be interesting. Have Danny's father be white, and have that tension with Danny showing up and having all of these white people running his father's company and being seen as more like his father than Danny is - have people really wondering if this Asian guy is really Wendell's kid. But in K'un Lun he read as American, as not really Asian.

I don't know - I agree that they went with the blandest of all options, and for very little reason. I do like the idea of Colleen Wing becoming the next Iron Fist, though.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:12 AM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Admittedly, I am a consumer of Marvel and DC purely through large and small screens except for one brief foray into some misogyny-Batman from Frank Miller. So I come to Iron Fist knowing absolutely nothing about the character. I mean, maybe he is a white, whiny, pseudomonk in the comics and this show is entirely faithful to shitty source material. But great writers and show runners have mined gold from garbage source before (see: Buffy), so the badness of this show is inexcusable.

I mean, I'm all for watching a character fail or not be the best at his craft, Danny is just irredeemably selfish, wrongheaded, and essentially the antithesis of the Eastern philosophies his character is supposedly trained in. It's fine that he has anger issues and can't focus his Chi, but a dude who wanders into NYC with bare feet and has no issues bunking in a dojo runs right out and buys an Aston Martin and brags about how rich he is? No.
posted by xyzzy at 11:49 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

My knowledge of Iron Fist is mainly confined to the Matt Fraction run. Fraction's run didn't directly do anything to subvert the racial problems presented by a white Danny Rand becoming heir to the powers of Kun L'un.

However, it did two things very well: It told an effective story of somebody who wanted very much to focus on using his powers to create a better place on Earth but kept finding himself drawn into this drama of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. And it also focussed deeply on the idea of Iron Fist as a legacy character, by showing multiple previous Iron Fists -- only one of whom was a white guy, and he had the excuse of a direct family connection to Danny Rand -- and the various ways in which they, like Danny, sought to use the power of the Iron Fist to make a better place on Earth and not just in Kun L'un.

Also, the Matt Fraction run had a guy who shot chi bullets from a pair of 1911 pistols and Wu Ao-Shi, the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay.

Skip the show and check out the trade paperback collections of Immortal Iron Fist from the library, is what I'm saying.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:25 PM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Early on, I remember joking to myself that just as the other Marvel Netflix shows played with genre (Daredevil: legal thriller and neo-noir; Jessica Jones: detective story and psychological horror; Luke Cage: gangster and western -- let's say) Iron Fist continues this tradition by combining Kung Fu with whatever the genre is that contains Elf as its sole member.

But no.

This Danny Rand is not just bad at being the Iron Fist. He is bad at being a character. He is just stupidly oppositional and tantrummy in a way that doesn't fit with the world and the story that is being told. It's not fun. Basically I am in constant tension about whether it is Danny or the writers who are being dumb, and the writers aren't giving me much to go on.

As a lot of people have said, it's hard to see this connecting to the existing universe, either. I don't buy that Danny is a better fighter than Daredevil. I don't buy that he gets the drop on Madam Gao. I don't buy Luke Cage putting up with this guy for a second. I'm ten episodes in and will probably finish (it's passable doing-the-dishes watching) but this has really blunted my anticipation for what now feels like the obligatory, rather than exciting, Defenders series.
posted by gauche at 1:09 PM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

This show was a mess. Childhood trauma and PTSD are complex issues to present in storytelling, but is already the basis for one of the most popular superheroes and secondly they were presented as the main character having a flashback then doing something stupid. The entirety of what we know about K'un-Lun was reduced down to a stand-in for childhood trauma. Besides that the people there are Asiatic and speak perfect English with a British accent. Also, from the example of Davos, they think looking for a friend means beating and torturing a street vendor for no reason other than to have a good spot to sit. Idk, there are so many things that are wrong besides the main premise being problematically flawed that it's almost unwatchable.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:12 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I might be giving the writers too much credit, but I think they really are pointing toward the idea that K'un-Lun was in fact abusive, was in fact at least a bit messed up (this is stated by Joy, I think, "sounds like abuse", at some point, it's shown a few times, Davos messing with a street vendor for absolutely no good reason whatsoever pretty much seals it). That they're intentionally presenting Danny as someone who is still more or less psychologically a young teenage boy, arrested in his development rather than disciplined into a heroic weapon. Madame Gao is right: Danny is, essentially, a child. Maybe he's a living weapon, but he's adolescent at best. He doesn't know how to direct or wield himself, so he is directed and wielded by others. Which is mirrored in the Meechams, and maybe even in Colleen.

I don't think it's well-executed, but it's kindof interesting. In a way, it's treading the same territory that Lego Batman does, but it asks us to consider not just the hero's inner wounds (for laughs or for serious examination) but whether someone with the mix of a similar hero origin story and massive privilege would actually be a particularly effective at all.

The answer is apparently no, or at least not yet.

The problem is that you're really asking a lot of the audience when you make your protagonist difficult. It can be done -- adolescent and flawed is territory very well-covered in Friday Night Lights. Or maybe as a closer mark for the combination of mystic powers and privilege, The Magicians (it takes Quentin Coldwater 1 1/2 to 2 books to become much, though I think the journey is interesting). But you need a fuller picture of his humanity, a better executed set of reasons to care about him, some sign that he's self-conscious. This isn't done very well, and at least at 10 episodes in, everybody else in the show is more interesting than Danny.
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:00 AM on March 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I made it through the whole thing, and wouldn't recommend it. I don't think I ever got to hate-watching it, but it was far from the worst show I've ever seen. I think what was most annoying about it was that while watching it, you constantly have ideas of how they could have done things just a bit better.

It seems like Marvel's Netflix series are meant to be more "realistic" than, say, the X-Men franchise, and things are meant to be mostly plausible in our universe with one twist or so for each character. Daredevil is a ninja lawyer, but doesn't really have any super special abilities, beyond maybe a heightened perception that's partially attributable to training. Jessica Jones is an alcoholic PI who just happens to be really strong. Luke Cage has actual super powers as a result of a science experiment, but generally works normal jobs and just does his thing. Then you get Iron Fist, which I don't think can really fit into that universe the same way, and I think it would have been better if they just totally ran with it instead of trying to make it realistic. The guy is a billionaire who disappeared to another dimension and got his power by defeating an immortal dragon. Come on!

I don't quite buy the "acting like a ten-year old because he hasn't really grown up". He wasn't in hibernation for 15 years, he was living a life, just a very different one from a normal American, and one where he was trained to be incredibly emotionally disciplined, although from the show's depiction he seems to have abandoned that training before the opening credits roll. Also, the immaturity level displayed in the show looks to me way too much like bad acting and bad writing for me to attribute it to something intentional, and almost every character displays that immaturity level. The show even goes to the length of having a visual effect for "now Iron Fist has uncontrollable emotions!", after which he doesn't really act any differently than before, so I can't chalk up his douchiness to being much more than lack of skill at the production level.

A number of plot points were super cliche - the two that stick out are the end with Bakuto and "if you kill him you'll be just like him oh noes!" along with the whole killing Harold drama, and the drug pricing thing. They came really close to making Danny look dumb by at least mentioning that selling the drug for more than cost would fund further R&D for maybe more lifesaving drugs, but they didn't take it very far, and they surely could have come to a compromise somewhere between selling it for cost and Shkreli-esque pricing.
posted by LionIndex at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just finished it last night, by the end I was only interested in Ward Meachum and Clare.

There were a few enjoyable bits, but god the writing was awful. In particular, any oh so sincere conversations between Danny and Colleen.
posted by knapah at 12:01 AM on April 12, 2017

I don't quite buy the "acting like a ten-year old because he hasn't really grown up". He wasn't in hibernation for 15 years, he was living a life, just a very different one from a normal American, and one where he was trained to be incredibly emotionally disciplined, although from the show's depiction he seems to have abandoned that training before the opening credits roll. Also, the immaturity level displayed in the show looks to me way too much like bad acting and bad writing for me to attribute it to something intentional, and almost every character displays that immaturity level.

Amen amen amen.
posted by gauche at 1:00 PM on April 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I started the show just to be caught for defenders, and I'm up to episode 12. You're all right, what started as just mildly entertaining has become hate-watching.

This show is basically white men losing their shot and throwing tantrums.
posted by numaner at 12:13 AM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

that's what I get for posting from my phone. Losing their shit.
posted by numaner at 1:58 PM on August 1, 2017

I'm rewatching Daredevil season 1, the fights are so much better. I mean the whole damn show is.

Also, Madam Gao had that crazy powerful hand move against Daredevil here first, and it's implied she left for what we now know is Kun-Lun. And then she pulled the same move against Danny Rand in the tournament at the end, but it was just a wave this time, and then they never brought it up again, even while she's kidnapped and then imprisoned! Like WTF. She's crazy powerful and they don't do anything with that?? At least in Daredevil it made sense for her to leave when get operation gets destroyed, no martial arts power is going to rebuild that anytime soon; but they can surely get her to freedom of she's kidnapped. At least offer some kind of rational as to why she's not busting out! And Rand didn't even acknowledge that move address that screen at all!
posted by numaner at 10:49 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I actually really enjoyed the Iron Fist, but I think you really have to have grown up in the 80s to do so, because boy howdy has the flavor of it not been updated at /all/. So like, I love seeing Gordon Gekko-types be awful, but I'm viewing it from within that 1990s context that was my own adolescence. It doesn't feel modern - even the old-school hip-hop centers it decades behind everyone else.
posted by corb at 10:31 AM on August 22, 2017

Gao strikes me as an incredibly canny never-let-the-enemy-see-your-shape manipulator who only pulls out the power moves herself when she can't see another choice or when a short path to victory is near. Personally, I think she's the most terrifying (and delightful) antagonist in all of the series precisely (excepting Killgrave) because there is always the hint of more power, there is the sense that she sees straight through people, and at the same time she's essentially opaque and the grandmotherly veneer is near convincing.

That impression could also be a cover for writers being lazy about uneven power levels, or that laziness might have happened despite this being the clear conception of Gao, but it seems pretty strong.
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Iron Fist Season Two should begin with Madame Gao releasing Zhou Cheng from his vow for reasons, but she tells him that if he still wants to be useful he can strike back at the OOFCM by killing the dragon which grants the Iron Fists their power. So he travels to K'un-Lun, and outside of Shou-Lao's cave he finds Colleen lying on the ground unconscious. She wakes up and he asks where Danny is, and she points to a boulder just inside the entrance to the cave, which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a large dragon turd. He starts to laugh and she powers up her iron fist and smacks him, and then stuff happens and they end up becoming a team, and they go have adventures which inevitably include Zhou challenging Jessica to a drinking contest.
posted by homunculus at 9:49 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The season two trailer is out and while I'm still skeptical after the first season, it does look like it's bringing in some fun elements and Finn Jones seems to be doing better at it.

But oh man Davos' red fist makes me think he's Sho'nuff in a Last Dragon remake and I actually wish this season was exactly that.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:03 PM on August 18, 2018

Well, I watched the second season. It was a better than the first, but not a lot and it really dragged at times. BUT, I did find the ending, well at least part of the ending, very satisfying, which was a pleasant surprise. That about all I can say without spoilers.
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on September 9, 2018

Ah, what the hell.
posted by homunculus at 4:59 PM on September 9, 2018

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