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Iron Fist: Season 1 - Advance Preview

Nothing good lasts forever, and after producing a string of critically acclaimed superhero tales for Netflix - including Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and two seasons of Daredevil - the television leg of Marvel Studios was bound to stumble at some point. Iron Fist was always the biggest question mark hanging over the studio's multi-tiered arrangement with the streaming network - how would they possibly be able to translate the story of Danny Rand to the screen in a way that would satisfy fans?

Apparently, not even Marvel had the answer to this question, because Iron Fist is every bit as disappointing as the early reviews would have you believe. Game of Thrones alum Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand, returning to New York City after a 15-year absence during which he was believed to have died in a plane crash, but instead was rescued by monks from another dimension and trained in the mystic arts, leaving him with supernatural powers and a dragon-shaped tattoo on his torso. It makes for an interesting backstory, but don't expect to actually see much of it for yourself - save for a couple of very brief flashbacks, we only know these things because Danny tells us.

Danny's back in the Big Apple to take his place at the head of the company his parents created, but he's dismayed to learn that his father's best friend, Harold Meachum (David Wenham) has passed away and left control of the business to his children, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup), neither of whom are convinced that the bearded, shoeless stranger standing in their office could possibly be their former childhood friend (or in Ward's case, childhood bullying target). Before long, Danny finds himself committed to a psychiatric facility, while the Meachum children formulate strategies to insulate themselves from the blowback in case Danny's story turns out to be true.

Danny recruits Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss, reprising her Jessica Jones role) to help him sue the Meachum family for control of the company, while Ward and Joy also contend with the attempted acquisition of a new waterfront property for reasons that are ambiguous, at best. Audiences looking forward to the same blend of action and attitude that has defined previous Marvel/Netflix offerings are apt to be sorely disappointed here, as Iron Fist spends more time mired in corporate litigation than it does exchanging kicks and punches. In fact, most of the action in the first six episodes belongs to Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), a martial arts instructor who earns money on the side by competing in underground street fights.

The controversy around the casting of Finn Jones in the leading role has reached a feverish pitch over the past week - thanks in no small part to comments made by Jones himself. But to the actor's credit, he does a fine job with the material, at times displaying an almost childlike innocence and ignorance about the world due to his isolated upbringing. He's charismatic enough to carry the show, if not for the complete lack of momentum in the storytelling - another casualty of Marvel's insistence that each of its standalone superhero shows run for 13 episodes. This finds conflicts stretched to multiple episodes when they could easily have been resolved in one, and neither the characters or the writing are interesting enough to sustain our interest.

With only six episodes made available to journalists, it's still possible that the second half of Iron Fist could serve to right the ship. But the flip side of the coin is that Marvel has given very little incentive to revisit this world, except for the necessary bridge it creates to the eventual team-up series The Defenders. With its focus on exploring the machinations of business moguls instead of establishing characters that we can invest in and care about, Iron Fist is the weakest Marvel television offering yet - and yes, that includes the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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