Regardless of reviews or negative press, Iron Fist is not the worst story Marvel has told on the small screen.
But it certainly is not the best.
There are pacing issues, the acting can at times be overly melodramatic, and lacks a distinctive overall style that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage had in spades.
We'll start with the cast:
Finn Jones as Danny Rand is a very troubled guy. His family killed in a plane crash over the Himalayas, he's rescued by monks and taken to K'un-Lun, one of the seven Capital Cities of Heaven. There, he spends the next 15 years training to be a great warrior, with the singular goal of becoming the Iron Fist, a title only given once a warrior has defeated the great Serpent Shou Lou the Undying in single combat, plunging his/her fists into the dragon's molten heart.
Danny is haunted by his past, and the show takes great pains to make you aware of this. When his hands are not holding his head in sadness, Finn Jones' Danny Rand almost reminds me of the more brooding, unstable iteration in (our close personal friend) Kaare Kyle Andrews' Iron Fist: The Living Weapon. His demons are laid bare, yet there are still times when his fits of rage seem to come almost entirely out of nowhere.
And for a guy who can quote Sun Tzu's The Art Of War, Rand surely has not understood the complexities of the work, preferring instead to charge headlong into the fray with reckless abandon. Though, to be fair, that's the character in a nutshell: he's not the most clever superhero, but he's supposed to make up for it with courage and heart. There are times throughout the show where I feel like Jones was fighting against occasionally bad writing and odd directorial choices.
Ward and Joy Meachum's story arc was almost criminally underdeveloped. As heads of one of the largest companies on the planet, their story at times felt at odds with the rest of the show. Tom Pelfrey (Ward) and Jessica Stroup (Joy) worked with what they could -- Ward's descent was particularly potent, and the way his and Joy's relationship and power struggle changed throughout the show was a definite highlight... though this was undercut (again) by poor writing choices.
At first, I wasn't super excited to see Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing (her turn as Nymeria Sand in Game of Thrones was almost painfully poor). But seeing her character shift from angry to focused, devastated to determined was awesome. Also, she kicked far more ass in the show than Danny Rand, which is both impressive and kind of disappointing. In particular, keep an eye out for the scene featuring Run The Jewels' "Blockbuster Night, Pt 1," as it's definitely a series high.
This brings me to the coreography. It reminds me of something Jackie Chan once said in an interview, "In American movies, there's a lot of movement. When the camera angle moves, that means the actors don't know how to fight." And there's a LOT of cuts during action sequences. That's not to say that more cuts equals less quality, but it does mean that a lot of the kung fu is bogged down by unnecessary editing. I did enjoy the few throwbacks to older martial arts films (Legend of Drunken Master and Seven Samurai are all but name-dropped during certain scenes).
The music is not nearly as iconic as Luke Cage, but makes me feel like I'm watching another Marvel outing. It's just kind of there, most of the time. The strings shrill during tense action sequences, and low tones and plodding thumps provide more audio wallpaper during emotional scenes. It's not bad, it's just totally unremarkable, and stands as a stark contrast to other scenes, where we have awesome sequences set to Anderson .Paak, Killah Priest, Outkast, and (as mentioned before) Run the Jewels. This would have been MUCH more awesome if they would have stuck to that cool Hip Hop kung fu style. But they don't, and that's a damned shame.
In spite of the negatives, the show is more mediocre than actually bad. The acting, plot, and villains are standard Marvel fare... and frankly, there's nothing quite so obnoxious to warrant the horrible Rotten Tomatoes scores (16%? Sheesh. There's no way this is worse, overall, than Fifty Shades of Grey).
There are moments of real brilliance in there, and the cast does it's best to make at least their characters interesting. But the clumsy writing choices, occasional bad direction, and a distinct lack of cohesiveness really brings the whole project down.