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15 Mar 2017

True TV: 'Marvel's Iron Fist' Does Not Pack Enough Punch; 'Into the Badlands' Delivers Kung-Fu Action

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Unfortunately, Iron Fist’s “deadly kung-fu action” is mostly backyard pro wrestling-level, and star Finn Jones is too bland to carry the dramatic side. Unfortunately, Iron Fist’s “deadly kung-fu action” is mostly backyard pro wrestling-level, and star Finn Jones is too bland to carry the dramatic side.

Marvel’s Iron Fist (Friday, March 17, Netflix), series debut: Well, this sucks. Of all the Netflix/Marvel adaptations, I was most looking forward to Iron Fist, one of my favorite comic-book titles from back in the day. Where Daredevil was a fantastic surprise and killer introduction to this Marvel microverse, and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage delved even deeper into characters and motivations, Iron Fist is just … there. “Cultural appropriation” bullshit aside, the story of rich kid Danny Rand (Finn Jones) being orphaned in the Himalayas and trained in supernatural-adjacent martial arts (which includes manifesting a literal “iron fist”) to Save This City is one that’s been reinvented successfully ad infinitum, from Batman to Arrow. Unfortunately, Iron Fist’s “deadly kung-fu action” is mostly backyard pro wrestling-level. Jones is too bland to carry the dramatic side, and the exposition-heavy writing is more like Ham Fist. Sigh. On the upside, it’s the final lead-in to The Defenders team-up—maybe this Iron Fist will work better within an ensemble. In the background. Silently.

Into the Badlands (Sunday, March 19, AMC), season premiere: Now this is how you do deadly kung-fu action. Since the first season of Into the Badlands aired way back in 2015, long before we entered our own dystopian future, I’d suggest a Netflix refresher of those six episodes, which introduced Sunny (Daniel Wu), a bullet-biking warrior who serves one of seven warlord barons who rule future eff’dup ’Merica. Sunny’s looking for a way out of the Badlands for his pregnant wife, and his super-powered protégée M.K. (Aramis Knight) knows a place away from the despotic dickheads. (Canada?) Meanwhile, warlord The Widow (Emily Beecham) has a different plan: Kill off the other six, and take it all for herself. The plot isn’t always easy to track, but Into the Badlands’ martial-arts sequences are stunning—and a fun break from The Walking Dead’s gun-crazy melodrama.

Cosplay Melee (Tuesday, March 21, Syfy), series debut: Syfy’s previous foray into costume reality, 2013’s Heroes of Cosplay, was an overly staged pile of hot garbage that made all involved look like pissy idiots—you know, a basic, successful reality show. Despite its clunky title (“What’s a ‘me-lee?’” asks the average American who can’t place apostrophes correctly or differentiate “lose” and “loose”), Cosplay Melee is at least an improvement, focusing on Face Off-style competition rather than manufactured drama. Yvette Nicole Brown hosts, but the real reason to watch is judge LeeAnna Vamp, a pro cosplayer who must be seen to be believed. Oh, and it’s pronounced “may-lay.”

Shots Fired (Wednesday, March 22, Fox), series debut: Oh look, another cop show. But this one is about race relations, and social unrest, and media bias, and everything else that broadcast TV never gets right (with the possible exception of ABC’s kinda-preachy American Crime). Shots Fired—billed as an “event series,” code for “we’ll be lucky to air 10 episodes”—centers on two murders in a small North Carolina town: a white college student and a black teen, both at the hands of police officers; much hand-wringing and “ripped-from-the-headlines” pontificating ensue. Again, American Crime does it better, but, if you’re a fan of Richard Dreyfuss’ overacting, tune right in.

Rogue (Wednesday, March 22, Audience/DirecTV), season premiere: So, what’s going with Rogue? It began as the story of undercover Oakland cop Grace (Thandie Newton) out to avenge her son’s death, but then she became an FBI agent in San Francisco and hooked up with mysterious security consultant Ethan (Cole Hauser), eventually following him to Chicago and—spoiler—winding up dead in a Dumpster so she could move to Westworld. Then, a new fed (Sarah Carter) and a new femme fatale (Ashley Greene) entered Ethan’s vaguely criminal life to carry Rogue through Season 3. Now, for the fourth and final season, we’re back in San Francisco with a pair of new cops (Meaghan Rath and Neal McDonough) on Ethan’s ass—if Greene (really, the only worthwhile part of Rogue anymore) doesn’t put him in the ground first. FYI: This paragraph is the most that’s ever been written about Rogue.

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