Monday, April 10, 2017

Iron Fist REVIEW Part 2: In Defense of Colleen Wing

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When I was thinking about my review series looking at Iron Fist, an article discussing the character of Colleen Wing seemed like a no-brainer.  After all, she is one of the main characters and a love interest.  Additionally, she is based on a character with a long and interesting history in the comic books.  And it doesn’t hurt that she is already confirmed for an appearance in The Defenders.

However, those were not the primary reasons why I decided that I wanted to write this article. In reality, this originated as a reaction to a couple negative reviews I read shortly after the series premiered in which the reviewers noted their dislike for Colleen’s character in this series.  However, any more than that will risk spoiling elements of the series.

At the outset, it should be enough to say that I really like Colleen’s character arc in this season and think that it is setting up a strong future for her in the Marvel Netflix series.

So what were the reviewers saying about Colleen?

They were saying that she was another rehash of the same failed story arc that Daredevil season 2 gave to Elektra:  the love interest who’s really working for a mysterious sensei and is connected in some way to the Hand, but turns on the sensei and helps the hero fight the Hand.

And to be honest, it is true that there are definite parallels between Colleen’s story and Elektra’s.  But the fact that Elektra was kinda disappointing does not mean Colleen is also a disappointment.  On the contrary, I would argue that Colleen shows the right way to do this story.

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Start from the beginning:  Colleen’s meeting with Danny (unlike Elektra and Matt) is complete chance, not part of some greater plan by a hidden architect.  In fact, Colleen and Danny are friends before Colleen ever learns that he is the Iron Fist.  This gives that relationship a degree of legitimacy and innocence missing from the relationship between Elektra and Matt.  It also gives Colleen agency in her decision to befriend and fall in love with Danny.  Though she is a pawn of the Hand, her relationship with Danny is independent of that loyalty.

Having said that, her relationship with Danny is eventually used by the Hand in a bid to co-opt the Iron Fist into joining their cause.  This brings us to the second place where Colleen improves on Elektra.  In both cases, they are brought into their respective ninja clans as children and trained to view the world through the clan’s perspective.  However, Colleen actually moves past her loyalty to the Hand, and does so on her own.  Danny’s anti-Hand beliefs certainly sway her somewhat, but Colleen does not leave the Hand exclusively because of him.  Instead, she comes to her own realization after seeing for herself that Bakuto is ultimately no different than Gao.  After she breaks with the Hand, she does an excellent job of portraying the aftereffects of cult membership, specifically the hurt of betrayal.  She needs Danny to center her and give her a purpose once her purpose as Hand has been taken away, but she makes the choice herself to join his quest to drive the Hand from Rand.

As a whole, Colleen is a very complete character.  In fact, by comparison to her initial comic book appearance with Danny (in which she’s just the doting daughter who introduces Danny to her father and then gets captured), this is worlds better in terms of depth.  She is certainly a flawed character—intentionally so.  She is not the amazing swordswoman we know from the comics, but it wouldn’t be interesting to see these characters already at the height of their powers—at least not in the Netflix universe where we will be following them for many more seasons and series.

Colleen’s decision to engage in cage fighting to pay the bills was certainly a surprising one, but I liked what it did for the character.  Though honor is extremely important to her—she has been trained as a samurai, after all—honor alone cannot pay her bills.  Her internal conflict over using her abilities in that way feels like an important part of her decision to work with Danny.  And at the same time, it calls into question her ability to teach her students integrity and honor, which are more important to her than simply teaching them to fight.

Looking ahead to Colleen’s future in the MCU-Netflix world, we know that she is in The Defenders, which is going to be released on August 19.  Following that miniseries, there are a number of stories they could tell with her.  If there is an Iron Fist season 2, she will have to appear in it to continue her love story with Danny.  If there is no Iron Fist season 2, a team-up between Colleen Wing and Misty Knight seems like a no-brainer.

Even though Colleen is not perfect as a character, she does come out of Iron Fist as a more complete character than even Danny.  If Iron Fist has problems, she definitely is not one of them, even if her story is borrowed heavily from Elektra’s!

Do you like Colleen’s character in Iron Fist?  Where do you want to see her appear next?  Let me know in the comments!

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