Iron Fist released on Netflix on March 17, and like many fans, we started watching the show over the weekend and then slowly finished up the 13 episodes over the course of the week. In our review based on the preview episodes where we saw roughly half the season, we termed it a confused mess of appropriation and bad storytelling.
We're not alone. On review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, Iron Fist has an approval rating of 18 percent among critics - of the 50 who reviewed the season, 41 did not like it, and the average rating is 4.2 out of 10.
'Regular' viewers paint a different picture though. Over 80 percent have liked the show with an average rating of 4.1 out 5, with nearly 7,000 votes in. And for what it's worth, on Netflix, the show presently has a 3-star rating, though that can change as more people vote, and the rating system itself won't last for long.
We've heard critics dismiss viewers who liked the show as 'fanboys', while Iron Fist star Finn Jones said that the critics didn't get the show. Now that's hardly new - incredibly boring movies such as Batman v Superman (Yawn of Justice) and the dumpster-fire that was Suicide Squad have trotted out this defence.
The difference is that Batman v Superman did a little better than Iron Fist among critics, with 27 percent of critics liking it, though only 63 percent of the fans liked it. With 25 percent positive reviews, more critics also liked Suicide Squad as compared to, though once again, only 63 percent of the viewers liked it. In other words, critics liked those movies more, while fans seem to like Iron Fist more.
Iron Fist is not a great show - but it's certainly not worse than Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. In fact, it's fairly comparable to the other Marvel-Netflix shows, though it isn't perhaps as good as any of the ones that came before. This is accurately reflected in its audience review scores - Daredevil season 1 has the best rating at 4.6 on 5, with 96 percent liking it; followed by Jessica Jones at 4.3 on 5, and 90 percent linking it; Luke Cage is at 4.2 on 5 and 85 percent. The lower rating for Luke Cage - despite the stellar 93 percent and 8.2 on 10 from critics - is because Luke Cage's narrative made some really bad choices at the halfway mark, which the critics didn't see in the preview episodes.
If the critics are to be believed, those shows were all amazing, while Iron Fist is terrible. The truth, as the audience scores show, is that all four shows are pretty good, but not perfect. Iron Fist's failures as a show (compared to its siblings) are small, and we'd argue that its bad critics ratings are more a case of failing to manage expectations rather than failing to make an enjoyable show.
The fact is that with Jessica Jones and then Luke Cage, the Marvel-Netflix combine had, at least on the surface, managed to make shows that were progressive and addressed issues that were socially relevant. In that context, Mighty Whitey hero Iron Fist didn't stand a chance.
Even before the show aired, its creators were having to state in no uncertain terms that the protagonist Danny Rand is no white saviour. Having watched the entire season of Iron Fist, we've got to take some issue with that statement from the showrunners. But how about the statements from critics that the pacing of the show is uneven, or that the fight scenes lack impact?
Let's talk about what we felt after watching all 13 episodes.
To a degree, those complaints also hold true, but they don't bring down the season nearly as much as some people claim. The show is filled with interesting characters - Danny Rand is fairly boring, but doesn't hog screen time, thankfully - and we enjoyed pretty much all the other performances. The character of Ward Meachum in particular starts as a smug snake who stands in Rand's path, and over the course of the show slowly starts to lose everything he has including his mind, an arc that comes to a satisfying conclusion by the end of the season. That whole storyline is great to watch, as is just about everything to do with his father Harold - particularly the ice cream scene with his assistant Kyle.
At the same time, we get more insights into the larger world that the Marvel-Netflix shows as a whole are occupying, as the Hand gets fleshed out compared to what we've seen in Daredevil.
As to the fight scenes themselves - with the exception of Daredevil, which actually does a great job on that front, which of the Marvel-Netflix shows has actually done a good job with action? Jessica Jones super-punches her way out of any trouble, while Luke Cage wades through gunfire like he was walking across a kiddie pool.
Keeping these facts in mind, it's pretty clear that Iron Fist didn't deserve to be panned by critics, and someone who enjoyed the other Marvel-Netflix shows will likely also have fun with this. So in this case, forget the critics, and listen to what other viewers are saying instead.