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I’m Watching Iron Fist So You Don’t Have To: Episode 1 Snow Gives Way Recap

With Doctor Strange behind us, it was looking like 2017 was going to be a year blissfully free of rich white guys falling on hard times and turning to superheroism. I had forgotten, of course, about Iron Fist. But hey, at least I don’t have to relive Thomas and Martha Wayne being murdered in Crime Alley for like, the fifth year in a row.

My hopes aren’t high for this show, between multiple critics citing it as Marvel’s worst yet and Finn Jones’ poor handling of aforementioned criticism. Then the show’s writers and producers shutting down critics who suggested an Asian American Iron Fist would add nuance to the character, even though they almost cast Lewis Tan.

There’s also the fact that Iron Fist is the second Marvel property in two years that relies on cultural appropriation to develop its lead. At this point I suspect Jones must be inhumanly flexible after the reaching and bending he’s done to defend the show.

As far as I’m aware, the main reasons anyone has for watching Iron Fist are as follows:

  1. Claire Temple
  2. To get to The Defenders
  3. Zhou Cheng
  4. The Defenders though!!
  5. Colleen Wing
  6. Just have to make it to The Defenders guys, come on

In the interest of journalistic fairness, I have not read any reviews. Unless titles count, which they shouldn’t, because Twitter is inescapable. Despite this, I am prepared for the worst. I have taped photos of Rosario Dawson, Lewis Tan, and Jessica Henwick to a Homer Simpson-style inspiration board and am ready to begin viewing, and I’m trying really hard not to think about that interview where Finn Jones said he’s different from Danny Rand because he has definitely had sex before.

I feel that I am now fully prepared to begin watching a show that has been hailed as “a big superhero flop,” “can this possibly get any worse,” and “bad.” Inspiring!

Spoilers ahoy.

I’d like to say that, right off the bat, I’m not getting great vibes from the intro. I gladly sat through a season’s worth of Daredevil intros because the opening was visually interesting and the music was excellent–three episodes in I was watching the intro and living the “mind=blown” GIF when I realized Daredevil is the physical embodiment of blind justice. Jessica Jones’s intro echoed the watercolory covers from Alias and the instrumentals in it and Luke Cage tie together well.

Iron Fist’s intro isn’t nearly as interesting to watch as Daredevil and sounds like they recycled the building instrumentation of Jessica Jones. Somewhere in there, I’m guessing someone was like, “But make it sound Asian,” so they threw in a wind instrument instead of a piano.

Anyway. Danny Rand looks like that guy who shows up at a 100-level psychology class with two cans of Monster, and you can tell he’s never read the book but will participate in the discussion just to hear himself speak. At the very least, he’s wearing the same outfit. Barefoot and bearded, Danny spends the first twenty minutes of the show trying to convince people he hasn’t seen in 15 years that he is, in fact, Danny Rand, son and heir to businessman Wendell Rand.

Danny’s “Convince ‘Em” technique largely involves beating up security people at the company building, saying “I’m Danny Rand” over and over again, breaking into his childhood home, mild stalking of his former friend, Joy Meachum, and not offering to take a DNA test. This does not seem like the way a trustworthy person would go about doing things, but what do I know. Maybe DNA tests didn’t exist until Law & Order: SVU came on TV.

Rejected and still barefoot, Danny hangs out in a public park, where a nice homeless man lets him use his iPhone to confirm that the public believes Danny Rand to have died with his parents. So far, the most interesting mystery in the show is, who taught Danny to use an iPhone? If he could use an iPhone, how did he not already know this information?

Cut to the next morning, when Danny practices Tai chi unbothered on a public sidewalk. Where he found a quiet sidewalk in Manhattan, I am not sure. Let’s throw this on the mystery board with the iPhone thing.

Iron Fist starts to look up 21 minutes and 50 seconds in, which is when I recognize Jessica Henwick from the photograph taped to my wall. This introduction is immediately ruined when Danny begins to speak to her in Mandarin, which is ludicrously assumptive of him.

I can tell a man wrote this episode, because Colleen’s response is to engage with the random dirty man rather than the typical street harassment response of walking away immediately. She’s putting up signs for self-defense lessons, so she could probably handle herself if things went awry, but most women wouldn’t stick around long enough in an uncrowded area for that threat to come to fruition.

Whew. Back to the Meachums, who are discussing the dangerous threat posed by the dirty stranger invading their properties. I must say, Danny hasn’t particularly proven himself dangerous yet. I can understand why he would appear deluded to the Meachums, but the Meachums are treating this issue like Danny is waging psychological warfare on the company. Psychological warfare techniques being… clumsy assault and asking someone to tea?

We’re not even halfway through this episode yet, folks.

The next step in Danny’s Convince ‘Em Plan is to kidnap Ward Meachum by forcing Meachum into the passenger seat of his own Lexus. I’m now a little more convinced that Danny is dangerous, but still uncertain about the psychological warfare thing. As Ward threatens him with a gun that was hidden in the glovebox, Danny laments that he’s been met with nothing but hostility since his return.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that Danny has offered no concrete proof that he is who he says he is, and barged into a building only to immediately begin assaulting people.

Another thing to toss on the mystery board: Why does Danny know how to drive? At one point he mentions that his dad used to let him drive around their property but I will also take this opportunity to remind you that Danny was ten when his parents’ plane crashed. Is letting ten-year-olds drive a rich people thing?

Ward tells Danny what Wikipedia has already told him. Frustrated and without answers, Danny speeds out of the parking garage, crashes into a concrete barrier, and runs away.

Back in the park, the nice man from last night gives Danny chicken parm. They have a discussion about purpose and Danny says his is to protect K’un-Lun from oppression, which means absolutely nothing to his new friend and reminds me of the uncomfortable current of white savior-ness running through the show.

With part one of the Convince ‘Em Plan failed, Danny shows up at Colleen’s dojo, where she has just finished teaching a class. Once again, he asks her to teach a class and, once again, she refuses, telling him that her studio is closing. He asks her if she’s thought about teaching Kung fu, since that makes money. If Colleen doesn’t achieve sainthood for putting up with Danny’s constant mansplaining by the end of this season, why are we even watching.

Outside of the studio, two of the Meachums’ security guards come after Danny and he fights them before escaping. You’ll never believe this, but Colleen saw all of that. The feeling I’m experiencing is foreshadowing punching me in the face.

Seemingly recovered from his Lexus death ride but having failed at happy murder time, Ward pays a visit to–gasp–his father, who definitely hasn’t died from cancer like the Meachum children told Danny he did. The Elder Meachum knows about Danny, and he isn’t happy about it. They discuss Danny’s return, wondering, “Does that mean his parents are still alive?,” “Who has he talked to?,” “How the hell did he learn martial arts?,” and “Why has he waited so long to show up?.” These are all valid questions that I would also like to know the answer to. More for the mystery board.

Back in the park, Danny discovers that his only friend has died of an apparent overdose. He sneaks back into Joy’s office where they have a frank discussion about Ward’s happy murder time and the plane crash before he realizes he’s been drugged. Danny wakes up strapped to a bed, remembering the moments of his parents’ deaths, and the episode ends.

Look. This show was neither the best thing I’ve ever seen nor the worst, because I watch bad horror movies in my spare time and Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark? It was bad. (I would like to point out that it did pass the Bechdel Test, though.) On the other hand, Iron Fist also did not give me the emotional fulfillment of watching a giant mechanical shark destroy a megalodon.

Ignoring the fact that Danny Rand should have been Asian American, the first episode suffers because it just doesn’t feel as fresh or original as Daredevil or Jessica Jones. Going up against a corporation is pretty much the theme of the Batman, Arrow, Iron Man, Daredevil, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man movies that preceded Iron Fist, and so far it’s not doing much to reinvent tropes. I couldn’t help but think about the opportunities Iron Fist could have offered for varied storytelling and bringing a well-rounded Asian American character into the MCU as I watched. I mean. Just look at the possibilities.

Instead, the story was bland, bogged down by weirdly written dialogue and the introduction of too many storylines. Danny was overly optimistic and trusting for someone who spent 15 years getting smacked in the face with practice swords while learning Kung fu in a secret city. The Meachums were at times villainous to the point of cheesiness.

An optimistic superhero is a pleasant change of pace from Bruce-Darkness-No-Parents-Wayne, but it doesn’t make up for the slow pacing, lack of character development, and writing. The white savior-ness of Danny’s character hangs over the show like a “well, actually” cloud, as does the PR disaster of Jones and the show’s producers denying that they heard or thought about Any Of That while the show was in development.

If you can ignore all of that or live in a bubble where Batman Begins doesn’t exist, this might be your show, though.

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TV Review: Iron Fist S1E13 Dragon Plays with Fire

In a desperate search to clear his name, Danny learns a terrible truth that places him on a new path.

We find out the truth about who killed Danny’s parents and caused the plane crash as Danny attempts to get the tablet that has the information that’ll clear his name.

This episode features every issue I have of the series. The dialogue is cheesy and spells things out (For example a gun shot goes off and someone exclaims “they’re on the roof”). There’s glaring plot issues (Said tablet is in a vault which is left open when a gun is retrieved. And why are you keeping the evidence of your evil plan!?). The action is silly. A martial arts master runs after knocking the gun from a hand and the villain walks away after he knocks down Danny. We’re continuously reminded that Danny isn’t bullet proof (he’s not Luke Cage after all!). The episode is littered with bad dialogue and too many moments where I found myself yelling at the television.

The episode wraps things up as far as the story for this season, but the ending leaves things wide open as to where it all goes from here. But even that ending! Really, no head gear while walking around on a snowy mountain?

The finale is a flawed mess that’s good in a turn your brain off and try not to think sort of way. It says nothing, is completely forgettable, and screams mediocrity in a series of shows that have all excelled in some way. The one thing the series has going for it is that it improves as it goes along and does suffer from the late season slump that other Marvel Netflix endeavors have, but then again, it starts from a much lower quality point. Then again, all of the Marvel series have had a letdown of a final episode.

The end sets a lot up, but with such a poor first outing, does it deserve a second? Will fans want one?

Overall Rating: 5.05

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E12 Bar the Big Boss

Ward receives an offer with strings attached. Davos advocates for an extreme solution and a deadly duel gets personal.

In the penultimate episode, Bakuto makes a move and takes the Meachums hostage in hope of bringing Danny out into the open. Weirdly the Meachums plan is to screw with Bakuto by taking away his money and lure him out. It’s all rather goofy in some ways and doesn’t quite work. If the Meachum/Rand plan was smart, Danny would have intercepted Bakuto and his team beforehand. But, it seems like not too many people here are smart. It’s like a lot of the season where the small details don’t quite work and add up into issues, like the backpack in the first episode.

The episode feels like it telegraphs every major thing. Bakuto carries a sword which sets up his fighting Colleen. Davos’ actions were obvious as to what he’d do to the Hand compared to Danny and Colleen, which he of course does. And that sets up conflict between him and Danny. It’s like nothing can be subtle in this series and everything beats the viewer over the head.

And speaking of plot points…. whatever happened to the whole poisoning neighborhoods plot? That seems to be forgotten.

What’s interesting and stands out in this episode is that music is used to shock the viewer again. The music for the series is very underused and in the first episode and here we get hip-hop used to wake up the viewer in same ways. It’s an interesting tidbit especially when Luke Cage used music some prominently.

there’s a twist at the end of the episode which is…. interesting, and in the bigger scheme of things again makes little sense. Like a lot of the season it’s a bit blunt and feels forced in, especially since the series made sure to say multiple times that the drugs being moved around weren’t illegal.

With one episode to go, this is a wrinkle that feels like a plot point added in WAY too late.

Overall Rating: 5.20

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E11 Lead Horse Back to Stable

Claire uses her improvisational skills, and Colleen gets conflicting information. Danny yearns to be more than just a destroyer.

Danny is beaten, broken, and betrayed as he heads to the only person he feels he can trust, Claire. The episode really lays things out about Danny’s training giving us the best idea yet about K’un L’un.

The episode is interesting in that it lays out what it means to be Iron Fist and we get a sense from Davos that he’s not all too happy with Danny’s choices. But, what’s solid is that a lot of it is laid out in subtle ways. Certain breathing techniques show that emotion is repressed as an example.

There’s also clear tension between Danny and Davos obviously setting up things to come. It’s interesting to see how that plays out in the future.

Then there’s Colleen who really has no idea what the hell is going on it feels like. Things between her and Danny feels like a paint by numbers plot point. Hell, the two reconnecting takes place in a rain scene. The only good is we see her kick a little more ass.

The episode…. is. Again, like much of the season it’s not bad, but it’s also not good. There’s some interesting moments and it moves a lot of the plot along, but it falls very short of the quality we’ve seen in previous Netflix Marvel series.

Only a few more episodes to go!

Overall Rating: 6.05

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E10 Black Tiger Steals Heart

Exhausted from fighting. Danny tries to recharge with Bakuto’s help. Meanwhile, Rand’s management gets another shakeup.

Danny is taken by Bakuto to his training facility where he learns a bit more about the history of Iron Fist. That might be the coolest aspect of the show, revealing a previous Iron Fist which opens up some interesting history and potential of the series.

There’s some revelations about Bakuto and Colleen and it all spirals out fo control, but the episode introduces Davos who comes to rescue Danny from what’s a crappy situation. There’s a lot of action and Colleen chooses a side which is interesting.

The episode creates some interesting ideas in that there’s competing factions within the Hand which is something we’ve seen in the comics, but is new to the live-action Marvel universe. It’s actually a good addition and the way it’s presented leaves the viewer to wonder how much of it is truth and how much of it is bull. Bakuto’s actions would indicate a lot of it is bull, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The action increases here as Davos and Danny have to fight their way out and it’s all decent, though marred by darkness which makes some it hard to see. The martial arts sequences throughout this season has been lacking and the series lacks its iconic fight scenes that existed in Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones.

It’s a good episode, continuing the better latter half of the first season. While it’s not great, it’s worth a watch but like most of the season it’s not great. We’ve seen better.

Overall Rating: 6.30

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E9 The Mistress of All Agonies

Madame Gao plays mind games. Ward’s old habits catch up with him, and Danny discovers that he still has much to learn about being the Iron Fist.

Colleen’s not doing well in what was foreshadowed in the last episode. Madame Gao though is tied up and screwing with everyone. If this series has done anything, it’s made me love Madame Gao more. The delivery of lines, the attitude, the bad assness, it’s all great. And, it shows that the characters is so underused in the previous seasons.

But, the episode really emphasizes the secrets everyone is keeping. The Meachums have their secrets about their father. Danny has his secrets about his training and what happened. Colleen has her secrets as to who she works for and her training. And enter Bakuto, Colleen’s sensei who helps save Colleen.

Why this is important is the fact he knows how to do this.

It’s clear Bakuto’s knowledge and mentorship of Colleen has much more to it than initially let on. It’s clear he’s with The Hand in some way, but the fact he knows enough about Danny’s power to help him is interesting and intriguing.

This episode is the strongest of the series overall, except the Meachum stuff which continues to be out of place. We get to see Danny use his power in an interesting way and there’s a little action. What it does well is focus on a theme that threads throughout everything going on and shows off the characters’ beliefs. How they all want to handle Madame Gao is also interesting and really shows off a strong belief system that has been subtlely present throughout the series.

It’s a simple episode in some ways and also the strongest by keeping things focused and exploring the Iron Fist and what it can do and mean.

Overall Rating: 6.50

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E8 The Blessings of Many Fractures

Danny faces his fear, and Colleen meets her match. Joy makes a hasty decision, while Ward struggles to accept his sister’s admiration.

Iron Fist’s greatest enemy is… turbulence. Danny, Colleen, and Claire head to China in pursuit of Madam Gao and Danny loses his shit when they hit turbulence. That’s maybe the best use of the character so far in that it really explores his trauma, which while touched upon in the series, hasn’t really been used a lot. Finn Jones is decent in the trauma, but it’s Rosario Dawson who stands out in her reactions to it.

When the episode isn’t focused on Danny, Claire, and Colleen, it’s about Joy and Ward who have been ousted from the company. There’s a great nod to Jessica Jones in one of their scenes but this is the first decent sequence between the two. Each gets to show off real emotion and Tom Pelphrey as Ward is particularly good as a lot of what he says in his face and not his words. It’s actually really good acting between the two, especially because it hasn’t been all that great up to this point. While the two are interesting, their plotline overall feels rather superfluous in that it doesn’t directly have to do with Danny. Both have a history in the Iron Fist comics, but who knows where this is all going.

Claire, Danny, and Colleen assault Gao’s drug operation and it gives us some of the best fight choreography of the season up to this point. Colleen, in particular, stands out with a sword fight and Danny fights what I think is another Immortal Weapon, but I’m not 100% sure which. Drunk, flys, it all seems familiar from the comics.

But with the good, there’s also some bad. The end fight against Gao gives us some revelations, but the fight itself is a bit lackluster. It’s as if all of the energy has been focused on one point leaving little for elsewhere. The episode again makes the case that Marvel’s Netflix shows need to be more focused and trimmed by a few episodes.

Overall Rating: 6.05

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E7 Felling Tree with Roots

Ward’s loyalty is tested. Danny discovers a rogue division, and the mysterious Bakuto visits Colleen’s dojo unannounced.

It hasn’t been mentioned much, but there’s a line about Danny taking a vow of celibacy. A virgin superhero is actually a breath of fresh air considering many of the previous Netflix series have been steeped in sexuality. But, this episode is really interesting because we see Danny actually ask permission to have sex with someone. It might seem like an odd thing to mention, but it stands out as it does make the character stand out.

Madame Gao is the big thing here as well as a greater focus on Danny’s promise he’d do something about the poisoning his company has done.

There’s a mix of plotlines in this episode and the season. It has the drug dealing plot with the Hand and Gao and there’s the company doing wicked things. Focusing on one or the other probably would have been better, but we get both.

Out of everyone this season, so far it’s Madam Gao who stands out. Here demeanor and how she presents herself is really interesting and she feels like a threat to Danny, even though she’s half his size. She has had great presence in the previous Netflix series, but here things really stand out.

What’s odd in the storyline is the fact that no one has noticed a drug dealing operation is going on within the corporation. A floor that no one goes to. Warehouses. Shipping. No one? Seriously?

There’s some maneuvering to take on the Hand is the most interesting thing of the episode and how that all proceeds from here will be the most interesting, but it also could be a plot point that’s brought up and then abandoned.

It’s a better episode than most of the season, but still something feels like it’s missing from the episode. It’s almost good, just slightly off.

Overall Rating: 6.05

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E6 Immortal Emerges from Cave

Danny receives an invitation like no other. Colleen and Claire face a difficult choice. A worried Joy confronts her brother.

The sixth episode of Marvel’s Iron Fist is directed by RZA who gives us the most stylish of the episodes so far. The episode is a martial arts movie trope of the hero having to go through a string of battles to emerge out the other end a stronger warrior. In this case, the battles are against the Immortal Weapons, a relatively new addition to the Iron Fist comics world, introduced a decade ago by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja.

The episode is broken down into two parts, there’s the tournament and then there’s Claire and Colleen dealing with their injured guest.

The episode is full of tropes. There’s the fighting tournament. The martial artist who listens to the “ghost” of his teacher. Each battle teaching the fighter a lesson. There’s not much new here other than it introduces an interesting aspect from the Iron Fists comics and it teases something greater is going on.

Madame Gao makes her big introduction as she’s the one who’s pulling the strings. She admits she knows where K’un L’un is, having been there, but more interesting is she knows Danny’s dad. It adds a wrinkle to things and actually makes the series start to get interesting.

But, the highlight is Clair and Colleen who have to save their guest and that leads to some action down the road in a familiar hospital. If there wasn’t a case in previous episodes that we need a series of just these two, then this completely makes it. Their scenes and interactions are the breath of fresh air this series needs and has been lacking. It’s night and day as far as the acting, the interactions, the delivery, it’s actually entertaining and fun.

It’s taken six episodes to get interesting. But, at least it’s gotten interesting.

Overall Rating: 6.35

TV Review: Iron Fist S1E5 Under Leaf Pluck Lotus

An insidious new drug hits New York. Danny recruits Colleen for the fight, and Claire discovers that credit cards have many uses.

It’s Danny Randovich as Rand Corporation is poisoning the people and Danny Rand comes to the rescue! The series is diving into the average person versus the evil corporation story that has existed in previous Marvel live action series, but never quite like this. It’s a story that has been done before and done better. While the storyline is a nice change from previous series, it’s again a “paint by numbers” plot giving us nothing new and nothing all that interesting.

Finn Jones as Danny Rand shows off some personality though with his interaction with Jessica Henwick‘s Colleen Wing. That could be helped with the introduction of Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple to the series. There’s some personality given off by Jones and his interaction with the two. It’s almost a boy scout vibe about it and as the series goes on its becoming clearer that its a choice and not Jones’ acting itself. He lets his guard down a little bit showing off his swagger a bit more and opening up. But, it’s still bland overall and boring. I think that gets really noticeable around Dawson and Henwick where Jones’ tone and style shifts a little bit as he becomes more comfortable.

Much of the episode is laying out more of what the “villain” of it all is. But, the series seems to be in a “say” sort of focus instead of a “show.” We get Danny explaining things to Colleen or Claire explains things to the two. Instead of letting us figure things out through visual storytelling we’re presented with the situation in a blunt manner. It’s spelled out for us. There’s an almost lack of visual confidence in the series.

By the end of this episode we have a better sense of where things are going, or at least why they’re going the way they are. The plot is laid out clearly here after four episodes of build up, but that also brings up the biggest problem that has plagued Marvel’s Netflix shows in that sticking to 13 episode they’re drawn out where at times they could benefit from being condensed. These first five episodes are a prime example of that.

Overall Rating: 5.65

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