Let me kicks things off by saying, I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything the company’s accomplished since Iron Man hit theaters in 2008.
While the feature films have been ridiculously profitable and celebrated by critics/fans alike, it’s the fact the MCU’s characters coexist in the same universe that’s been key to their success. As far as the larger picture, Marvel’s Netflix shows are in a league all their own. They’re edgy, violent and quite adult for “superhero” shows. Basically, they’re not created for children, but for those adults (like me) who refuse to grow the fuck up. Ha! Danny Rand/Iron Fist is a welcome addition to the MCU, and after screening the first half of Season 1 I can tell you he’s already a favorite of mine. The Defenders miniseries can’t get here soon enough.
That said, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Unlike Daredevil or Luke Cage, which hit you upside the head and got to business straight away, Iron Fist takes its sweet time introducing Danny and the other major players. I found the first couple of episodes just a’ight, with a pacing that was slower than what we’ve become used to with these Netflix shows. However, much like Jessica Jones (which is probably my favorite of the Netflix series’), once Iron Fist puts the pedal to the metal there’s no stopping the binge. It is addictive and intense television.
I’m not going to get too far ahead into the story as this is, for all intents and purposes, a review of Episode 1 “Snow Gives Way.” Perhaps I’ll review the finale, as it probably leads into Defenders. Anyway, my first impression of the Iron Fist intro was that while cool/artsy, it’s not as memorable as Daredevil or Jessica Jones’ opening sequences. Don’t get me wrong, it’s creative and properly reflects the tone of our mystical hero. I’m just a massive fan of theme music, and this show’s pulsating techno ambience thingy didn’t stand out to me. FX’s The Strain did something similar last season, nixing Ramin Djawadi’s killer theme for a techno-ish remix. I still prefer the original. Naturally, the more you watch the sequence the more it grows on you. I just didn’t find myself looking forward to it in the same way I did with Jessica Jones, and I confess I may have fast forwarded a few times.
Finn Jones is extremely likable as Danny Rand, yet unlike Charlie Cox (Daredevil) who I instantly bought as a blind vigilante, it took a few episodes for me to accept Jones as a martial arts expert. Looking back, I realize the whole point of Danny’s introduction was that he wasn’t comfortable in his own shoes. Funny that everyone kept pointing out he needed to buy some shoes. Jones does his best with the material he was given to work with. It just didn’t make sense to me that a smart guy like Danny, would show up at “his” billion dollar company and expect to be embraced with open arms. “It’s me” Danny kept saying to everyone. Of course security was going to kick his ass out of there. In retrospect, the setup served to show the audience that he’s a naive young man struggling with his identity. What Jones managed to convey very early on, was that his Danny Rand has real heart and optimism. The innocence with which he looked at his office building, as well as his old friends was touching. You got the sense that once you’re his ally, he’d give his life for you.
Since I wasn’t familiar with Iron Fist‘s story, I didn’t know Wendell Rand from Harold Meachum or even who Ward and Joy Meachum were. It was a tad tough to follow the info dump in Episode 1. Eventually, you come to realize Ward and Joy were Danny’s childhood friends. Their dad, Harold Meachum (David Wenham), Danny’s dad’s business partner, wasn’t as dead as everyone thought. For some reason, David Wenham’s photo gave me that “bad guy” vibe… so I had a feeling he would pop up at any minute. I’m glad the writers didn’t drag out his reveal. Meachum Sr. is clearly a pretty complicated guy. Why hasn’t he aged? Hmmmmmmm
The one character I did connect with right away was Colleen Wing (Jones’ Game of Thrones co-star Jessica Henwick). From the moment she tipped Danny on the street, to her declining his challenge at her dojo, to finally giving him a pair of shoes… I began to realize it’s through Wing that we come to appreciate Danny Rand much more. Aside from the fact she totally kicks ass, I mean. I find it interesting that a series accused of “whitewashing,” before anyone’s seen a single frame, features Jessica Henwick as a co-lead and my series MVP. She’s our Misty Knight and just one of several strong female characters on this show. Leave your personal baggage behind folks, Marvel knows what it’s doing.
Let’s talk about those flashbacks, which were used as a storytelling device to helps us understand Danny’s life. Watching the plane crash that killed his parents was devastating, but learning how badly Ward treated Danny as a kid broke my heart. I loved it when Danny took off in Ward’s Mercedes and talked about how the bully used to kick him in the balls and put dead frogs in his sandwich. The guy was and continues to be such a dick, Jeezus! Joy, on the other hand, seemed to be coming around. Especially after witnessing Danny jump over that taxi (which was pretty cool by the way). Until she went and drugged our poor naive hero and had him committed to a mental hospital. Do you think that his “childhood friends” are going to feel stupid once everything’s cleared up? Personally, I hope they get what’s coming to them.
What a difference between those two
Trumps jerks and Big Al, right? A total stranger who was kind enough to help Danny fill in some blanks with his “borrowed” iPhone and even brought him a sandwich. I’m not clear if that tattoo Danny noticed belonged to Al or if an assassin left it as a warning? What are the chances Al overdosed on his own? Either way, a real sad turn of events.
While a bit convenient that a Chinese New Year parade was taking place just down the block, I found it amusing that Danny put on a mask to conceal his identity. Never mind he’s been wearing the same nappy clothes the entire episode. That’s just me nitpicking, but it did make for an entertaining chase sequence and gave Colleen a chance to see her boy in action. After that, she realized perhaps Danny wasn’t as crazy as he seemed and people were out to get him. Speaking of which, Meachum Sr. believes Danny might be who he says he is. They can’t let him go public, but will they try to kill him? Sure, they had Danny committed, but is that just the first step hoping perhaps he’ll waste away in there? They obviously have no clue who they’re dealing with. Wouldn’t it be fun if Ward ended up in there munching on pills?
To wrap things up…
The beauty of Netflix, and binge-watching in general, is that even if a show starts out slow when you stick with it there’s a tremendous payoff down the road. Like Jessica Jones, I have a feeling Iron Fist is going to ramp up to an immensely satisfying final act. Whereas Daredevil and Luke Cage started strong and fizzled slightly in their later installments. It’s exciting to know Rosario Dawson will once again reprise her role as Claire Temple, and that Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) will resurface at some point. After all, it’s The Hand that the Iron Fist is meant to take down. Therefore, the whole Meachum situation is just sort of an ‘appeteaser.’ Trust me, by the fourth episode the series will win you over. Not to mention, there are episodes to look forward to directed by RZA, Kevin Tancharoen, and Andy Goddard (currently shooting Marvel/Netflix’s The Punisher). Iron Fist is another win for Marvel/Netflix.
In case you’re interested, I also review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. weekly here at MustGeekTV. That Marvel show returns April 4th.
All 13 episodes of Marvel’s Iron Fist are now streaming on Netflix.