After attending the Iron Fist panel at SDCC 2018, I’m willing to give the Netflix/Marvel series a shot at redemption. But they’ve got a lot to make up for.
It’s no secret that Iron Fist is not well-loved here at Hypable. My colleague Michal wrote a scathing review of the first season, and I was quick to offer some alternative Asian-led television series I thought you should check out (Into the Badlands!).
And when it came time to rank all of the Defenders’ shows, Iron Fist came in last.
At SDCC, I decided to take one for the team and cover the Iron Fist panel. As much as I didn’t like the show, Marvel always does its best to make its time at Comic-Con memorable, and I was hoping they’d give us a nugget about something else in the works (like The Punisher season 2, at the very least).
By the end of the hour, and to my complete and total surprise, I was willing to give Iron Fist another chance.
But it didn’t start out that way. When Jeph Loeb came on stage wearing a gi and a Karate Kid inspired bandanna, I had the strongest urge to get up and walk right out of that room. (If you’re at all familiar with SDCC, you’ll know how big of a deal that is. We didn’t have a panel pass, so I had been waiting in that room for eight hours just to make sure I had a seat. And I was willing to throw it all away.)
Jeph Loeb did his Jeph Loeb thing, which was trying to get us excited about a show that we were never really going to be super excited about, though I’m certain there were some genuine fans in the room that loved season 1. I was still put off by his get-up, and he wasn’t doing himself any favors when he held up a tiny yellow flashlight and bellowed, “I’m the Iron Fist now!”
But just as we hit rock bottom, Jessica Henwick (Colleen) saved the day, much as she often did in season 1. She stomped out on stage and yelled at Jeph to take off his ridiculous costume. He obliged, thank goodness, and they rolled a clip while the pair went backstage to get ready before the panel truly kicked off.
Everything went up from here, though it wasn’t hard after a bit like that. I understand what Jeph and the others were trying to do. They were, believe it or not, being self-deprecating.
When Danny was first introduced, he seemed a little like Jeph, claiming a history and an honor that he had no right to claim. Iron Fist’s unfortunate white savior complex has been talked about significantly, though there does not seem to be a way to correct that short of recasting an Asian actor in the role.
This is the story Marvel and Netflix have chosen to tell. They may not be able to redeem Danny completely, but after attending the panel at SDCC, I have hope that they are a bit more aware of their previous mistakes and have pledged to correct what they can.
And in all honesty, Jeph Loeb was fairly upfront about the changes they’re making in season 2. One of the biggest complaints about the first season was the martial arts. It doesn’t take an aficionado to realize the fight choreography was sub-par. The stunt coordinator, Clayton Barber, was on the panel, surprisingly, since most lineups typically include the cast and the EP, and maybe sometimes a writer or two.
Barber’s presence was a concentrated effort to prove to the fans that season 2 will up the ante in terms of the stunts and sequences. Jeph Loeb also confirmed that most of the stunts in season 2 are being performed by the actors. Many devout fans would cringe at this, since there has been a lot of criticism of Finn Jones’ (Danny) skill (or lack thereof), but it’s been confirmed that last year he only spent three weeks in fight camp and only had 15 minutes before a scene to learn his choreography.
By comparison, Into the Badlands had a six week fight camp, helmed by the incredible Master DeeDee. Though all of the actors didn’t have a background in fight choreography to begin with, the series’ star, Daniel Wu, had made a name for himself doing martial arts movies.
So you can see how both Jones and Iron Fist were already falling behind before the show even started.
Season 2 seems like it is trying to rectify that mistake. After watching several clips from the second season, I have to say the stunts and fight choreography already look 10 times better than they did in season 1. We’ll have to wait until the whole thing drops on Netflix to see if the bar has been raised throughout all 10 episodes, but suffice it to say I’m cautiously optimistic.
Additionally, Colleen was the strongest part of Iron Fist season 1, and it looks like she’ll feature pretty heavily in season 2. In fact, the most exciting fight sequence from the clips we saw didn’t even feature Danny, but rather focused on Colleen. Even better, she’ll be joined by Luke Cage actress Simone Missick (Misty), who’s bound to add a lot of power and personality to the show.
And not only are we getting these two female powerhouses, but Alice Eve has joined the cast as Typhoid Mary, and it looks like her character is going to be a spitfire. Not only does she suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder, but she’s an incredibly violent character, which we don’t get to see a lot of women portray.
I’m definitely ready for Danny to take a step back and let some of these female characters shine in Iron Fist season 2.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, there is something inherently wrong with Iron Fist. Having a white character appropriate an Asian lifestyle is hugely problematic. To quote Keith Chow from The Nerds of Color, “Do you really want yet another white-guy-is-better-at-being-Asian-than-the-Asians story?”
No, we don’t. And there are going to be plenty of people who choose not to support Iron Fist season 2. Good. I don’t blame them. This isn’t the kind of story we need right now, and though I’m glad Marvel is trying to correct their mistake, I’m disappointed they made this one in the first place.
Maybe I’m naive, but I do have hope for Iron Fist season 2, and I’ve decided that I will be tuning in. I have zero investment in Danny Rand, but I do care deeply about Colleen and her story. Misty’s, too. If this show can do right by them, and try to make Danny less problematic and annoying, I’ll give it a try.
But Marvel, just know that you have a lot of ground to cover before that can happen.