It’s the 108th Primetime Emmys tonight, where the stars of television will all gather together to celebrate another year of brilliant artistic achievement on the silver screen. It’s a night of competition – between network dramas like This is Us, global hits like Stranger Things and niche cult favourites like Better Call Saul, and there’s no telling who will win. I can tell you this, though: it’s all a sham.
The Emmys don’t reward real artistic achievement. They don’t really care about the very best shows on television. They just care about congratulating themselves, and parading around another display of tedious ‘critically acclaimed’ dramas, watched by a maximum of twelve people, most of whom live in the same house. With that in mind, then, I’ve devised my own Emmy winners – for those who would be standing up on stage tonight in Hollywood if it weren’t for the Academy’s disgusting bias. Here, I’m not rewarding more of the same. These alternative Emmys will go to the real winners of 2017.
Outstanding Drama – Marvel’s Iron Fist
Reviled by critics, Iron Fist has been consigned to the dustbin of television. But that’s not fair. Those who have panned the show based on the negative reviews have missed a genuine televisual gem – a post-modern delight with a stunning deconstructive structure that eviscerated viewers’ expectations of a typical season. Slow and meditative TV is all the rage, but when Iron Fist makes the daring choice of creating entire episodes without any remarkable incident, reminding the viewer of the empty spaces that consume our life and suggesting an escape from the modern worker’s struggle through the practice of mindfulness, it’s seen as ‘boring’ and ‘sluggish’. In a year where the internet fell over itself to praise David Lynch’s surrealist work on Twin Peaks, they ignorantly passed over scenes of arguably superior power such as the moment where Danny Rand has just fought a dragon, but it’s not actually a dragon we see, as it’s just represented by two glowing eyes. Where the moody explorations of the human condition in Westworld captivated the internet, there was no room for Iron Fist‘s dark and terrifying journey into the heart of human torment, as represented by the scene where the main villain beats his personal assistant to death with an ice cream scoop. The show is full of dense metaphors like this, cloaked in disturbing allusions to the source of human evil and the decay of the modern American dream. Those who claim to have an enlightened outlook on television made the critical error of overlooking Iron Fist this year. It’s their loss. Their brains are smaller now than the rest of us.
Outstanding Dramatic Actor – Finn Jones (Marvel’s Iron Fist)
Repetitive, you say? That may be the case. But when a show contains an auteurist performance this singularly brilliant, it has to be highlighted. Most actors play superheroes. Ben Affleck plays Batman. Tom Holland plays Spider-Man. Finn Jones, though, is Danny Rand. He simply sinks into this beautifully complicated character, to the point where I occasionally forget that there is a man named Finn Jones with his own autonomy and personality behind the mask. He brings all of Danny’s multitudes to life: his anger, his rage, his petulance, his frustration, and his indignation. The way in which Jones pouts, and makes his face go red, is as compelling an embodiment of pure anger as we’ve ever seen on either film or television. Some may have claimed that the Iron Fist mythos was too strange for audiences, but the way in which Jones reminds us that he is the Immortal Iron Fist, repeating the phrase dozens of times to signify the cycles of time that probably have something to do with Buddhism, makes this magical world as real as the one we live in. It’s hard to know how he did it. Maybe it was method acting, where Jones went around set whining at interns while listening to ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 99’ for the eleventh time in a row. Maybe he was born with it. Either way: Finn Jones is Danny Rand.
Outstanding Comedy Series – Marvel’s Iron Fist
Do not interpret this as a criticism of the show, to say that it’s unintentionally funny. It’s not. Iron Fist is a deadly serious prestige drama most of the time, but it can be sharply, brutally funny when it needs to be. The show’s satirical edge is unrivalled on television, despite what others may tell you. The long, endless succession of boardroom scenes brilliantly skewers the monotony of the modern-day corporate world, poking fun at its inability to break from the capitalistic patterns that plunged the economy into a death spiral ten years ago and may threaten to do so again. At times, the show even takes its aim at the proliferation of superhero shows and movies, creating a bland and homogenous genre that Iron Fist aims to subvert. Danny’s choice to barely ever use his power is a clever rebuke to the impatient masses who desire action and explosions from their superheroes, tempting them with the promise of excitement only to snatch it away in a reminder of the creative command exercised by showrunner Scott Buck. Equally, the dialogue is as sly and cutting as anything you’ve ever seen. Lines such as “The Hand are murderers and killers!” and “What’s the Hand doing in Rand?” make a mockery of Hollywood’s slapdash scripting process and the unseemly dialogue it produces, indulging both in hilarious parody and highly enjoyable wordplay (‘Hand’ rhymes with ‘Rand’), demonstrating the show’s writerly touches. I haven’t laughed at any show more than Iron Fist this year. That, in my view, means something.
Outstanding Comedy Actor – Finn Jones (Marvel’s Iron Fist)
Danny Rand is an idiot. This is a well-known fact, and it’s the crux of Iron Fist. The show adopts a traditional superhero structure, and places a complete fool at its centre. Danny Rand is a cunning deconstruction of the impulsive hero, a pointed commentary on the prevalence of white male heroes who believe might makes right, and an absurdist parody of the imperialist post-war culture and disdain for cultures of the Eastern Hemisphere that helped birth these antiquated hero archetypes. This, truly, is a recipe for comedy, and it’s one that Finn Jones is perfectly positioned to craft into a delicious performative omelette. Jones always seems deeply conscious of Danny’s ridiculousness, turning his moments of supposed intensity into bathetic displays of incompetence, revealing the true inadequacy of the modern American hero, in a time of complex geopolitical instability that has revealed the flawed nature of American exceptionalism and military might in theatres such as the Middle East in a manner that just makes you want to laugh out loud. He brings dramatic power to his scenes, but there’s also an underlying comic subtext to his ravings about immortal dragons and secret disappearing cities, with Jones exposing the ludicrous nature of fantastical comic-book stories and the toxicity of escapist literature in a dark political climate where engagement with the reality in front of our eyes is paramount to ensure the survival of the democratic liberal order that has existed since 1945 in a way that had me, literally, crying from laughter, on the floor. Finn Jones is doing masterful comic work here. It’s simple, really. Any viewer could grasp this.
All Other Categories: Irrelevant
Iron Fist would be ineligible for these other categories, so, in my view, they should not count.
What do you think of my nominations? Leave a comment below and share yours!