Netflix IRON FIST review

OK, let's do this. There's been a lot said about this series even before it came out. The character was created in 1972. He's a kid who got stranded in the montains after a plane crash left him the sole survivor and was taken in by monks who taught him Kung-fu.

There's a ton of people upset that the ethnicity of the character was not changed from white to asian for the show. These people are at best in need of a real problem to be concerned about and at worst racist. There are plenty of people who have gone to Asia, learned martial arts, and become quite good at them. I'm living proof. To insist that a character be asian because they become a kung-fu champion pushes a nasty stereotype. Quite often those are making these complaints rave of the virtues of multiculturalism; but upon seeing someone they don't approve of based solely on their skin color benefitting from being immersed in and benefitting from a foreign culture, scream 'cultural appropriation'. 

 Now that the stupid part is pushed aside, let's look at the show. Yes, there will be SPOILERS. You've been warned. Also, this is going to be more of a book report in that if you want full explanations of who all these characters all WATCH THE SERES! 

 Its a thirteen episode slow burn. It doesn't rush, because with this story, you can't. Our hero, Danny, has returned to New York all grown up trying to figure out what it is to be Danny Rand again. Everyone believes he's dead and it takes quite a bit of effort to convince people he is who he says he is. His childhood friends run the corporation that their fathers started. They, Ward and Joy, are understandibly sceptical because Danny is worth a ridiculous amount of money. Danny, to his credit, is more concerned with helping people and getting his life back than he is about the money. 

 What follows is an incredible web which is just a beauty to watch play out. This brings us the theme of the entire show: manipulation. 

 From Merriam-Webster: manipulate: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner 

 Quite appropriate that the foes Danny faces throughout the series is The Hand. The Hand first popped up in Netflix's Daredevil series and was featured prominently in season two. In Iron Fist we see a lot of their inner workings, especially as Danny tries to fulfill the mission he was given: to destroy the Hand. That's only part of his problems in that everyone he encounters, with the exception of Claire, is either a manipulator or a pawn. 

 The bottom keeps dropping out from under Danny and the viewer during the series. Every time you think you have a good handle on how this is going to play out and where everyone stands you get a new bit of information that changes everything. 

 Hands are a powerful motif that repeats over and over throughout the series. The hand being the name of the organiztion Danny is facing. You see a hand print on Harold's window when he leaves his confinement and they let him know they are watching. Harold later slices off a finger showing subservience and his lack of influence within the hand. His finger returns showing that he still has quite a bit of power and influence upon his return. At his lowest when Ward is in need of drugs he injures his own hand thus showing his lack of ability to control himself and others. That lack of control is quickly evident when he fails to get the drugs he wants. A handprint is necessary to enter Harold's penthouse. Danny's hand getting shot in the final battle as he's desparate to clear his name stop Harold, only to be fully healed once he comes to terms with himself and the path he's on. Showing of handprints let's you know you're being watched. An injured hand shows a character losing their power. Healing of a hand shows a return of their power and their control (either over themselves or others). 

 There's all these little pieces that make this so delicious. The sale's women manipulating people into buying their drugs. All the insults Danny is subjected to in hopes of making him angry and controlable. The entire challenge match Gao sets up is completely about control. She even manipulates the outcome. Gao is fascinating here in that she's just as manipulative as eveyone else but she's honest about it. Truth can manipulate as much as any lie when truth is controled. And the name of Colleen's dojo, "Chikara". Translated from Japanese it mean "power", "capability" or (pay attention) "influence".  Also, for a nice subtle one, the kata that is being practiced by the group inside the compound when Danny is being shown around is named Seienchin which means "to push or pull in battle" or "control".

 The show is worth the ride for the brilliantly executed themes and motifs alone. Add in really great performances from the entire cast and so excellent fight sequences and its a definite winner. Its not a front to back kung-fu action piece. The action is earned and not gratuitious. The fight scene themselves get more and more interesting and intense as the series progresses. 

 And I'm going to make a quick note here about the "hallway fight". The original hallway fight was in season one, episode two of Daredevil. Its an amazing piece in that it firmly tells a story and is down without cuts, meaning you maintain one camera shot and its done in one continuous take. Its insanely difficult. They did it again in season two. Since then, people were trying to see "hallway fights" in later series Luke Cage and Iron Fist. They aren't there. Just because a fight scene takes place in a hallway does not mean the writers and directors were going for something as grand as they did in Daredevil. 

 Bottom line: while I hold Daredevil as the high water mark of Marvel's Netflix shows, Iron Fist is right behind it. Its smart television with great performances. Definitely worth your time to watch.