Marvel's Iron Fist is due to debut at the end of this week, and like most of their original series, Netflix sent out about half the season for critics to watch.
To say they've been reacting negatively is an understatement -- the show currently has a 12% on industry review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, making it the first "Rotten" item in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first of the Marvel-Netflix team-ups to score below a certified fresh 87% (most are in the mid-90th percentile).
With all of that said, if you have been anxiously awaiting the series, you should still give it a chance ... and maybe even more of a chance than you first expected.
As an entertainment journalist and critic of more than a decade -- and a Marvel Comics fan for three times that long -- I take a different look than many straight-up TV critics do at this sort of thing. Even so, there are undeniable issues with the storytelling in Iron Fist, and even some of the initial cast chemistry. The pacing of the first two episodes is off and the cast doesn't seem to click.
My worry, though, is that people will give up on the show after two episodes, and that would be a shame. Episode 3 is where things really start to pick up, and that's thanks largely to the much bigger role for Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing.
When Wing first steps into an illegal cage-fighting ring (as seen in her featurette released by Netflix), she makes an instant argument that maybe this series should've been "Daughters of the Dragon featuring Iron Fist" and not "Iron Fist featuring Colleen Wing." Henwick has real skill in her martial arts, and her fighting is imbued with an emotion and sense of storytelling that simply isn't present with Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones) up to this point in the series. This brutality, this release and this beauty really demonstrate what the show's core of big, bad martial arts fighting could and should be. If by the end of Episode 3 you're not hooked on Colleen Wing, well, there might not be hope for you.
Even Rand's disinterest in fighting in the first couple of episodes is part of the story, something some critics may be overlooking. He actively doesn't want to just come out and start punching faces in. He has a mission, and that's not part of it -- yet. The dichotomy between Wing, who has literally and figuratively fought for all she has, and Rand, who, yes, went through something catastrophically terrible, but also has had a lot of his life handed to him, is fascinating, but it's something you have to look deeper into the series (and the fighting) to see.
Once you begin watching the series as truly having dual leads, even if Colleen Wing doesn't get quite enough screen time for that to be the literal truth, the storytelling choices should start to make more sense. When things explode into high gear in the final three episodes sent out for review, especially in the last two that start to really explore mythology, well, your countdown between spectacular fights gets shorter and shorter.
Honestly, comic book fans shouldn't have as much trouble with the askew pacing as more casual TV watchers; much like a six-issue arc, the first two are mostly set-up, the third makes a couple of major revelations, and the back half goes for broke. And that's all before considering the last seven episodes of the season, not yet screened, which hold nothing but potential.
Those comic book fans that enjoy Iron Fist in particular will have a blast spotting the Easter eggs as well -- there are a ton of them, referring to other Immortal Weapons, Rand's teachers and events at K'un L'un that should make fans excited.
All that aside, there's one more major reason to give Iron Fist a chance: because you want to. Critics aren't always right -- and their reviews, while able to look at individual elements with a trained eye, are ultimately colored by their own opinion. If you were excited to check out this show, you still should be, and will come away from it however you like in the end.
Likewise, if you simply aren't a fan of the problematic history of the character, the show, which remains pretty faithful to the comics, probably won't do anything to change that opinion. However, without spoiling too much, the involvement of Colleen Wing and the eventual involvement of the Hand that is likely setting up the big team-up series The Defenders may sway you a bit.
So when Iron Fist hits Netflix this Friday, sure, listen to your favorite critics and compare it to your favorite comics ... but go into it with an open mind and it just might surprise you, warts and all.