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Why Ward Meachum is the real hero of 'Iron Fist'

TheFurry
Forget the magical martial arts – Iron Fist's real secret weapon is this guy.

If you ask Netflix, they'll tell you Iron Fist is the story of Danny Rand, a presumed-dead billionaire who resurfaces in New York with magic powers and dirty feet and sets out to reclaim his family's legacy.

Having seen all 13 episodes of the first season, though, I'm here to let you in on a little secret: Danny Rand may be Iron Fist, but Ward Meachum is the show's real secret weapon.

Yes, Danny is the reason most people will tune in. He's the big-shot superhero, the one confirmed to return as one of the four leads in this summer's The Defenders. But as an emotionally stunted, internationally famous golden boy who's spent the past 15 years in seclusion with a secret order of mystical monks, he is not, shall we say, the most relatable protagonist.

No, the job of keeping this series grounded quickly falls on the shoulders of one Ward Meachum.

Ward is the surprising audience stand-in

For starters, the only character who reacts to Danny's reappearance in anything resembling an appropriate manner.

Such as: anger, when Danny – who just looks like a random stranger at this point – beats up a bunch of security guards to get into the building where Ward and Joy work.



Or alarm, when Joy reveals Danny – who, again, has yet to prove his identity at this point – broke into her house.

"So, great! He's an insane homeless acrobat" is an actual Ward Meachum quote from Iron Fist.
"So, great! He's an insane homeless acrobat" is an actual Ward Meachum quote from Iron Fist.
Ward’s cranky skepticism doesn’t stop with Danny. He is also entirely out of fucks to give to Harold, who enjoys lecturing his son about war and business and Hand ninjas.

Who among us hasn't made this face while listening to our undead dads spouting generic business advice?
Who among us hasn't made this face while listening to our undead dads spouting generic business advice?
And that’s just in the first couple of episodes.

Iron Fist is rough going, especially early on. Danny alternates between childlike naiveté, smug condescension, and terrifying bursts of violence. Harold is clearly evil, in the gleeful, scenery-chewing way of Netflix-Marvel supervillains. And Joy manages to skate by all 13 episodes without ever once demonstrating a believable motivation or notable personality trait.

Yes, there's Colleen, who's got all the charisma and strength that Danny lacks, and a more grounded perspective than anyone from the Rand or Meachum families. But she's dragged down by her inexplicable soft spot for that mansplainy man-child. I know we can't help who we love, but girl, expect more for yourself.

Thank goodness, then, that Ward is there to serve as our audience stand-in. With his exaggerated sighs and can-you-believe-this-shit eyerolls, he's basically Iron Fist's equivalent of Jim Halpert.
We know the feeling, bro.
We know the feeling, bro.
Ward gets the most compelling story arc

But Ward's contribution to the show goes beyond just glaring at Danny. Since Ward is such a relatable character (relatively speaking – I mean, he's still a gazillionaire with a secret undead father), it becomes very easy to see the entire show from his perspective.

To Ward, Iron Fist is the story of a guy who's just trying to get along in life when a violent vigilante begins stalking his family. It's way more compelling than the show Iron Fist actually is, which is half-baked ripoff of Batman Begins, Arrow, Iron Man and Doctor Strange.
To be fair, Ward pulled the gun on Danny first. To be even fairer, this is Ward's car and Danny hijacked it.
To be fair, Ward pulled the gun on Danny first. To be even fairer, this is Ward's car and Danny hijacked it.
Ward's already dealing with some shit when we first meet him. He's running a multibillion-dollar business with a sister he may or may not be in love with (I'm getting serious Lannister vibes from those two, even if officially nothing is going on). He's keeping the secret that his abusive father has returned from the dead. And making matters worse, all this pressure has driven him toward an addiction to prescription painkillers.

Still, he's more or less getting by until Danny shows up and exacerbates basically every single shitty thing about Ward's life. Danny drives a wedge between Ward and Joy, between Ward and Harold, between Ward and his work. Thanks to Danny's miraculous return, Harold ramps up his nefarious plans, which forces Ward to do uglier and uglier things, which starts to make Ward kind of crazy.

Heck, it's even Danny who brings synthetic heroin into Ward's office, inadvertently pushing him down an addiction spiral. Danny may not have set out to ruin Ward's life, but he couldn't have done a better job if he tried.

Through it all, only Ward seems to understand how unreasonable and destructive Danny really is. Danny is basically Bob in What About Bob? with Ward Meachum as his poor Dr. Leo Marvin.

About halfway through the season, Ward snaps completely. He murders Harold, gets arrested for possession of heroin, and gets committed to the psych ward. Then he disappears for two whole episodes.

At this point, you might be thinking we're in the middle of Ward's supervillain origin story. Marvel baddies have been driven to worse by less, after all.

Ward is a rarity in superhero stories

But then Iron Fist takes Ward's story in a really interesting turn.

When Ward returns, he sets about the business of redeeming himself. And not for some bullshit abstract reason like "proving worthy of the Iron Fist," but because he realizes it's up to him to pull himself back out of the pit he's gotten into.

In other words, our boy Ward starts practicing self-care. Reader, I cheered.

After half a season of getting kicked around by Harold, Ward starts making moves against his evil dad. He screws up a bit at first, striking an ill-advised deal that results in Joy getting shot. (Don't worry, she survives). But he doesn't give up. Eventually, he figures out that the best way to take down Harold is to team up with Danny.

And when it comes time for the big, climactic superhero-vs.-supervillain showdown that the entire season has been building up to ... Danny and Harold go hand-to-hand and exchange some words, but it's actually Ward who deals the final blow.
Danny's there too. Somewhere.
Danny's there too. Somewhere.
On the one hand, it makes sense for Ward to be the one to put Harold to rest. Harold may have killed Danny's parents 15 years ago but it's Ward's life he's turned into a living hell. On the other, it's kind of weird that a comic book showdown has someone else step in to end the battle it's spent 13 episodes setting up. It's like even the show knows Ward's story is more compelling than Danny's.

By the end of the series, Ward has made his peace with Danny. They might not be friends, exactly, but they've at least come to an understanding.
Aw.

Ward is that rarity in a superhero story: a major character who’s neither a hero nor a villain. As such, there’s real tension in wondering which way he’ll go. He’s defined not by his ideals or by his job or by his comic-book destiny, but by the choices we see him make on the show.

Moreover, there’s no sense he’s fated for anything in particular. Ward’s comic-book counterpart wasn’t a hugely significant villain to begin with, and so much of that character has changed in translation that there’s no reason to assume the TV version will follow along the same paths.

As such, there's real tension throughout the season in wondering which way Ward will go. Unlike most superheroes and supervillains, Ward, as a (relatively) ordinary guy, actually holds his fate in his own hands.

What makes Ward so great?

Some of the credit for Ward's greatness goes to actor Tom Pelphrey, who's practically turned on-camera sighing into an art form. The character might've been too obnoxious or too pathetic in another actor's hands, but Pelphrey plays him with the perfect combination of arrogance and vulnerability.

Some of it goes to the writers, who've given him meaty material to work with. I won't presume to know what was going on in their heads as they put Iron Fist together, but it kinda feels like they enjoyed writing Ward more than they enjoyed writing Danny.

But some of it is thanks to the rest of Iron Fist being, well, not so good. The show is uneven at best and incredibly frustrating at worst. Its lead is maybe its worst character, blessed with neither likability nor believable action chops. Although he starts to come into his own by the end of the season, by then it's too little, too late. In such dire straits, it's hard not to gravitate toward one of the few characters written with any consistency.
Yes, Ward, we're talking about you.
Yes, Ward, we're talking about you.
This works out just fine for Ward, as we've established above. But it's a troubling sign for the Marvel-Netflix franchise as a whole that Iron Fist's most compelling character is a one-off supporting player with no plans to return for The Defenders (or even, necessarily, Iron Fist Season 2, should Netflix decide to move ahead with a renewal).

Our best hope is that the Iron Fist team has also noticed what we've noticed and will decide to bring Ward Meachum back for another round – or, better yet, take the lessons they've learned from writing him to add depth and personality to Danny, who's still the real star of this show.

But even if not, we'll always have this, quite possibly the single greatest gif to come out of Netflix's Defenders universe:
Is it too easy to caption this with "literally us while watching Iron Fist"?
Is it too easy to caption this with "literally us while watching Iron Fist"?

@темы: Творчество, Новости

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Комментарии
2017-04-27 в 22:18 

Terracaty
Спасибо за статью! :heart:

2017-04-28 в 10:34 

TheFurry
Terracaty,
Не за что)) Тоже приглянулся Уорд?)

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