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Underrated: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Yes, The Netflix One)

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Marvel’s Iron Fist

Alright so I know this is going to be a tough sell for many of you so before we get into the meat of the column, I want to clarify my stance on this show because I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t as good as any of the other entries in Netflix’s live action series on the whole, but it was enjoyable none the less. Taken out of context from the other Netflix offerings, this isn’t as bad as you may have heard. Now for additional context, I’m relatively ignorant as to Iron Fist’s comic history, and so I entered this show not really knowing much about him. But then the same can equally be said about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Punisher.

colleen wing posterIron Fist debuted in March of 2017 to less than positive reviews, with one critic stating that the series “failed to grasp what makes Iron Fist interesting.” Others claimed the show missed an opportunity for diversification by casting Finn Jones as the titular character instead of an Asian actor, whereas Jones’ innocent and naive take on the skilled martial artist didn’t exactly resonate with everybody, either. Despite the criticisms of his portrayal Jones, much like the show itself, isn’t as bad as you would expect. He gives the audience a naive and overly innocent Danny Rand which is a complete juxtaposition to the troubled heroes already mentioned above. Danny Rand hasn’t been broken like Jessica Jones, he has lead a relatively sheltered life despite his extreme martial arts training, and he starts the series full of hope and optimism.

When it came to the fight scenes, they felt more elegant than the scrappy brutal action of Daredevil, even though there were (yet again) criticisms over choreography I never felt as though the action was phoned in (honestly I was more frustrated that Iron Fist didn’t seem to be as legendary a fighter as one would expect given his reputation). As someone who has trouble telling the difference between a roundhouse and a side kick, and I’m probably not the only one, the fight scenes were good. Granted I much preferred Colleen Wing’s sword play over the fisticuffs, but then I was on a Game Of Thrones kick at the time this came out.

iron fist posterSpeaking of Colleen Wing, it was Jessica Henwick’s character that stole the show for me. Her interactions with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple often provided some of the more entertaining and humorous moments in the show – and often at Danny’s expense. Indeed were it not for Colleen Wing and Claire Temple, one could argue that Danny Rand would have been utterly lost about half way through the series. Danny’s naivety was his biggest weakness in the series, often leading him into some dumb decisions and because of that the plot needed some strong characters to push, pull and guide the Iron Fist where he needed to go – and more often than not save him from himself. Iron Fist may have been a story around Danny Rand’s return to the world, but it’s the supporting cast who are the real stars of the show.

Iron Fist is the weakest of the Netflix Marvel shows, but when you stop comparing it to them you’re left with an enjoyable show that is, arguably, among the upper middle tier of live action superhero adaptations across the various distribution methods. However because the show is a part of the same shared universe that Daredevil, Jessica Jones et al inhabit the comparisons are inevitable (the less said the better about the seeming lack of connection to the larger MCU other than the odd mention of the Chitauri invasion from Avengers and the other plot points from the movie). Unfortunately for Iron Fist it doesn’t come off as well in those comparisons. The lead isn’t as strong as those in the other entries, but then few are. Finn Jones delivers a more than capable performance but is often outshone, especially in The Defenders, by his costars’ screen stealing performances.

All of this contributes to the general bad feeling toward Iron Fist, which when coupled with the internet’s love to hate on things (no judgement – I’ve been caught up in the wave as well before), didn’t allow the show to stand on its own legs. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a great show, but it’s better than you’ve likely heard – and that’s why I feel it’s Underrated.

That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time  when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E13 AKA Playland

Waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, Jessica once again finds herself torn between two worlds and facing an impossible choice.

The second season of Jessica Jones wraps up with an episode that reminds me of something but I can’t put my finger exactly on what. The season as a whole has had elements from elsewhere that it’s hard to nail down. Much like the rest of this season, this finale has thrown expectations out the window.

There’s three storylines, two of which play off each other.

Trish has to deal with her mother who is in manager mode, taking advantage and overall being a horrible human being. It’s the dynamic we expect. At times she seems great. At other times she’s horrible. But Trish is recovering with Jessica on her mind. She wants to help but also not turn her in.

Then there’s Jessica who’s on the run with her mother who shows sign of being super. It’s heartbreaking because you can see the hurt Jessica feels and the struggle with what she should do.

And it’s those choices that are interesting.

“We only have one mother” Detective Costa says emphasizing that Jessica is not in her right mind and is focused on blood over what’s right to do.

How that plotline wraps up is unexpected, shocking, and outright heartbreaking. It’s a great ending again preventing the formula we’ve seen so many times before. While not perfect, it’s probably the best finale of a Marvel Netflix series, especially in how it deals with its “villain.”

Then there’s Jeri’s storyline which has now roped in Malcolm. Out of all of the shit, this is Malcolm’s season to shine. Even after being fired, he fixes Jessica’s office, setting it up again. He also delivers the goods to Jeri which leads to a new status quo which should be interesting to see where it all goes in future series. Out of all of the characters, Malcolm is the one that has shown positive growth in so many ways and while he was “the junkie” in the first season, we can see he’s all heart and the best of the bunch. Out of all of the shit, there’s the slight glimmer of good through him. Without it, the season would be a rather depressing one.

The episode wraps up with Jessica figuring things out and taking stock of her life. The noir aspect of the season really comes through with the finale ending in a way that drips crime and detective stories.

As far as endings go, this was the strongest. It brought a lot of emotion and didn’t fall into what feels like the usual punch fest with a big villain. There was something rather muted about it, fitting for a season that as a whole was low key.

Overall Rating: 7.65

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E12 AKA Pray for My Patsy

As Jessica and Dorothy wait anxiously for updates on Trish, a call from Costa brings alarming news. Jeri hatches a plan to get her revenge.

With just one more episode to go after this, the focus is mothers. Both Trish and Jessica’s. The episode begins in a way where you think that Jessica and Trish’s mother actually have made amends in a way. It’s the most mother/daughter we’ve seen the two out of the two seasons.

We also get the confrontation we’ve been expecting and has been foreshadowed as Jessica’s mother goes after Trish resulting in a hell of a confrontation and a result that’s a bit unexpected in some ways. It’s the fight that has been rather limited this season. Where it goes is interesting and while I had hoped the season wouldn’t end with another fight, it seems like that’s where it’s all going.

Then there’s Jeri who’s out for revenge after being robbed. She’s pissed and she’s going to go after everyone responsible. Where that all goes is rather interesting and it brings Jeri back to being the manipulative shit she is. There’s a comment about that from Jessica in an earlier episode and much like this season, it seems foreshadowing is what it’s all about. The end result is horrible and shows how evil Jeri can be. It’s actually a bit shocking, even for her.

That foreshadowing extends to how the episode ends. Not going to ruin that but this is a season that each episode in various ways build upon the rest. They hint at what’s to come regularly and without massive action sequences it’s all more focused on the characters. With one more to go, it’s going to be an interesting ending.

Overall Rating: 7.45

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E11 AKA Three Lives and Counting

Shocked by her own actions and haunted by visions of Kilgrave, Jessica worries she’s turning into a monster. Trish’s plans for Karl become clear.

In the first episode of the season, Jessica’s client wanted her to kill her cheating boyfriend. She knew about Jessica and Killgrave and convinced that Jessica was a killer. For much of the season she’s struggled with that and we’ve seen her improve in so many ways.

The last episode had her make a choice though in a sort of act of defense where she killed again and now she’s haunted by her actions.

Literally haunted.

Killgrave is back haunting her as she deals with her choices as well as figure out what to do next with Doctor Malus. There’s something great about seeing David Tennant in his role. He brings such an evil and sadistic charm to it all and he and Krysten Ritter have a solid banter. Her grumpy demeanor, though she’s the good one, his happy/smiley responses, though he’s the evil rapist. It really works because it’s so unlike what you’d expect. It also brings Jessica back to her “traumatic center” that drove her narrative the first season. It was nice to see her make gains this season but this reminds us trauma lasts and isn’t an easy fix.

But, for as bad as Jessica is, Trish has gone off the deep end kidnapping Malus and betraying Malcolm. There’s some interesting stuff with her but her motivation is a little odd feeling like it’s driven by jealousy. The two’s dynamic has been a big part of the season and this episode really brings together the strange dynamic which while sisterly also is not healthy.

The episode explores Jessica’s loss. By the end of the episode, Trish is harmed, Malcolm’s relationship with Jessica has collapsed. For all the gains of the season, she’s now at rock bottom in many ways again shunned and shunning friends. With great performances by Ritter and Tennant, the episode is a standout of the season.

The season has been an interesting one in that way with ebbs and flows around relationships and this episode is one of the highs of the season.

Overall Rating: 8.35

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E10 AKA Pork Chop

Jeri finagles a deal for her new client in exchange for Karl’s location. Trish forges ahead with her own investigation. A prison guard crosses a line.

Jessica is in a bit of a tough spot. Her mother is arrested and to get a better deal she has to give up Dr. Malus. But, the government clearly wants Dr. Malus for his knowledge and experiments. So, her mother gets a better deal, Jessica hands the US government and weapons maker. If she doesn’t, she’s going away to the Raft where she’ll be in solitary for the rest of her life. It’s a tough decision for her to be in and interesting in some ways as it puts her in the position where she might have to help a criminal.

There’s some revelations in the episode that are the interesting thing that really focuses on the dynamic between Jeri and Jessica. There’s a friendship that has been brewing between the two. It’s tenuous but it’s different than what we witnessed in the previous season and even how Jeri was acting earlier in the season. That makes what Jessica has to tell her more interesting and rather heartbreaking. You can see the two attempting to connect and be friends but it’s a struggle. The end result is not surprising but heartbreaking and in a few moments we go from thinking Jeri as a character that’s hard to relate to, to one for which we should have tons of sympathy.

Then there’s that ending… Not sure what I think but it’s a bit odd to go there and can’t say I’m necessarily pleased with it all. But, it does bring back that discussion of her being a murderer or not. I’ll let you view and decide yourself.

This second season is giving us something a little different in that the solution isn’t about punching people. Instead we have had 10 episodes that are focused on personal interactions and moral choices. This was a good episode in some ways and horrible in others. Still what was good was great which feels like a recurring theme of the season.

Overall Rating: 7.05

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E9 AKA Shark in the Bathtub, Monster in the Bed

The shooting forces Jessica to rethink her plans. Meanwhile, Oscar asks for help with a family crisis, and Trish’s frustrations finally boil over.

The episode is an interesting one in that things have slowed down again but this one is bringing together a lot of various threads that have begun earlier in the season.

There’s the shooter from the end of the episode which turns out is Pryce Chang and he was aiming for Jessica’s mother. How was he hired? Who hired him? We don’t know but you better believe Jessica has him to find that stuff out. We haven’t seen the character in a while and the coincidence he’s the one hired feels a little too convenient and connect the dots but it at least uses the character in some way other than just being a rival to Jessica. It also explains why there was so many mentions of his military experience.

We eventually get his logic and it’s not bad at all. There’s some truth to it all and we can understand his choices, as extreme as they are.

Then there’s Trish and her using. Jessica finds that out and feels guilty that she wasn’t there to help at all. So, there’s another fall out that has echoes of the flashback episode. It’s sad to see her slide like this but Rachael Taylor has done an excellent job in the role and whomever handles her make-up has been doing a great job of making her look strung out. There’s a melt down which is interesting and where that goes builds into the cycle we’ve seen before of her being reworded in some ways for her destructive behavior.

Then there’s Oscar whose domestic issues come to a head and he needs Jessica’s help. There’s good in that Jessica has to work with her mother and also some good in that we get to see her again let down her guard a bit as well. There’s something nice about it all that humanizes her character even more.

This is the episode that sets up the last four of the series. There’s a lot good here in the way it brings things together and we see the struggle Jessica has with what to do with her mother. There’s this ongoing theme of sins of the past coming back and having to deal with them. This episode does a good job of emphasizing that.


Overall Rating: 7.25

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E8 AKA Ain’t We Got Fun

While Jessica debates her next move, Malcolm confronts Trish about her erratic behavior, and Jeri makes contact with a healer.

Jessica is captured and has to decide as to what she’s going to do about the revelation that her mother is a killer and a monster. After some action, the episode evolves into something rather claustrophobic in a way. Jessica and her mother are mostly in a room discussing about their past and what the two remember. It’s interesting in that Jessica’s memories don’t jive with what her mother depicts as the reality. It brings up in a way how we look at our childhoods with rose colored glasses.

In the end, Jessica must figure out what to do with her mother and how to deal with her outside of their dungeon.

Malcolm confronts Trish about her addiction but all of that gets cut short when Jessica tells them the whole investigation of IGH is off. And, while Malcolm attempts to do good, Trish eventually becomes a bad influence. It’s interesting to see her become the “bad guy” in this case. She’s the addict and dealer bringing down others.

But that’s not where the interactions end. Jeri and Inez have some back and forth that’s intriguing. Jeri wants to learn more about Inez and Inez learns about Jeri, and we do so as well. They both represent hope to each other in some ways. Inez sees that Jeri has made herself from nothing and Inez gives Jeri hope for a cure. There’s also Inez’s scars which clearly remind Jeri of her own. The mixing of all of this with sexual emotions is an interesting one and in ways reflects Jessica’s relationship with Oscar.

There’s some interesting stuff in Malcolm doing the work for Jeri and he digs up dirt on her partners. How that plays out, I’m a little uncomfortable with as it both feels uncreative but also has some bad tropes about it. Realistic? Sure. But, for a show that’s so good in some ways, there’s some cringy moments. And maybe that’s the point?

The episode in a way is the quiet before the storm as relationships advance. It’s those final moments that really matter. The episode is a step back from the excellence of the previous one and while delivering interesting character interactions, it slows things down as they begin to ramp up.

Overall Rating: 7.15

Netflix Gets Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Universe In a Seven Figure Deal

Deadline has reported that Netflix is getting another comic universe to play in. The entertainment company has cut a seven-figure deal for the rights to Rob Liefeld‘s Extreme Universe of comic characters. The project will get a writers room that will come up with a series of connected feature films that will be overseen by Avika Goldsman. This is on top of the deal Liefeld has with Paramount to develop a film based on Avengelyne as well as his creations for Marvel.

The Extreme Universe covers six comic series with over 50 characters such as Bloodstrike, Brigade, Cybrid, Re-Gex, Bloodwulf, and Kaboom.

An earlier deal with Graham King and Fundamental Films had been struck but that didn’t work out.

Liefeld said:

Netflix has become a part of every day existence for me and my children. Their programming is the most dynamic and diverse I have seen. I am beyond thrilled and inspired to be bringing my Extreme catalogue to life with the creative wizards at Netflix. What Akiva Goldsman has achieved with his craft and storytelling across all mediums in our industray is of absolute benefit for my Extreme characters. He is an absolute comic book fanatic and working with him on adapting Extreme Universe has been electric. His stellar work on Star Trek Discovery has wowed the fandom and trust me when I say that the Teen Titans show he is producing is going to blow fans away. I cannot wait to show the world what we have in store.

Netflix last year purchased Mark Millar’s Millarworld which is leading to new comic series as well as live action projects for the company.

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E7 AKA I Want Your Cray Cray

Flashbacks shed new light on the aftermath of the family’s car accident and reveal a painful turning point in Jessica’s adult life.

The second season goes deep into the “origin of Jessica Jones” as we learn about what happened to her mother after the car crash and this episode is as close to an origin story as I’d expect for the series. Taking place right after the accident and five years later, we see Jessica and Trish falling out as Trish’ singing career takes off and her drinking and partying gets out of hand.

The episode fills in a lot of gaps to the story of Jessica. We see where things just aren’t going right and she drops out of college. We see her falling into the wrong crowd in a way. We also see the “origin” of her leather jacket and “Alias.”

We also get a lot about her mother’s experience. We see her recovery and the experiments by Dr. Leslie Hanson and Dr. Karl Malus. We see the impact of their work in a negative way and we also see the good too. There’s decisions that are made that make sense for good and bad and the person we thought was a bad guy isn’t so much. But of course she is. She’s prone to violent outbursts and she’s dangerous. And we see how far she’ll go.

Then there’s Trish. We see a lot of bad here. While her going to rehab has been referenced multiple times in the series, we have no idea how bad it really was. This episode lets us see all of it and it’s bad. What’s going on in the “present” might seem like it’s a low for her but her actions here are far worse and out of control.

It’s all an interesting episode that adds a lot to the characters. We see Jessica slide to the character we know. We see Trish out of control. We see Jessica’s mother’s story too. There’s also the loss Jessica experiences. It’s her at her most vulnerable and it’s difficult to not feel some emotion at the ending of the episode as the two reconnect and talk. They’re both at a low point and the emotion flows from Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor. It’s the two’s best work of the series.

Overall Rating: 8.45

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S2E6 AKA Facetime

Jessica gate-crashes an exclusive country club on the hunt for the killer, and Trish’s new addiction begins to spiral out of control.

After the splash of the last episode, Jessica has to dry out her phone and use the photos she snapped to attempt and figure out who the mysterious individuals are. She heads to Oscar after all of it where the two finally get to it. What’s interesting is that paint spills over in which they have sex. But, it’s the color of that paint that stands out. It’s purple. Some nice transitions from last season to this in one simple detail.

Trish saves a woman, hears heightened noises. She’s drugged out at this point, a further slide for the character this season. In the comics she’s eventually a hero and we see a small glimpse of that here but who knows where it’s all going and if we might eventually get that version of the character.

Jeri asks Inez about the IGH experiments. We see lots of scars on her body. This is slightly triggering for Jeri who wants to find out more about what they were trying to do.

Malcolm heads back to his university he was put on academic probation. We learn a lot about him. He had a full ride to the school. He’s from a wealthy family. And he screwed it up due to addiction. We’re seeing his story play out in some ways with Trish this season, an interesting twist to the dynamics we’ve seen before.

Through Malcolm’s work, Jessica was is able to track down an individual who has info that might help her. We learn a bit more about what the mysterious doctor was doing and that some of it might not be completely evil. He’s helped people as well as doing some horrible experiments on others.

But during all of this, there’s Trish who is having withdrawal from what she’s been taking. It further emphasizes that Jessica is now the one in control and Trish is the one spiraling out of it.

But, what’s really interesting in this episode is scenes involving Inez and Jeri. Inez, being a nurse, is able to figure out what’s going on with Jeri. A connection is made and that eventually leads Inez to reveal there might be someone who was experimented on that might be able to help Jeri. Again, it’s these small character moments that really stand out in the series. There’s a real sense of pain and compassion between the two.

Fans will love the Gaydos art on display in the episode, a nice nod to the comics the series is based on. The episode does an excellent job of exploring the characters. And it ends with a hell of a twist that I definitely see coming. As the season has progressed it’s gotten better and has me wanting to see where it all goes.

Overall Rating: 7.95

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