Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Random observations from a completed viewing of Iron Fist, season one, which I readily admit I watched out of a sake of obligation more than any sense of enthusiasm. Spoilers will be present for this series as well as for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, each of which I liked more than Iron Fist.
1) I genuinely enjoyed two episodes; unsurprisingly, these two episodes were directed by Kevin Tancharoen (who has been an MVP over at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., staging a number of exceptional action sequences) and RZA, who is, by all accounts, a walking encyclopedia of martial arts cinema. While I don’t generally advocate for style over substance, style is welcome when the substance is lacking.
2) Take a drink every time Danny Rand says “I am the Iron Fist” if you’re looking to suffer a case of severe alcohol poisoning. In general, the series is So Much Telling and Not Enough Showing, as well as an excess of Plot over Character, and these declarations only serve to drive that point home.
3) The previous three series in the “Defenders” line made judicious use of flashbacks to help illustrate the events that led to not only the current circumstances of Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, but what formed their character. Iron Fist gives us even fewer of these such flashbacks and shows us very little to help us fully understand how Rand became what he now is. This is particularly frustrating for a character with a much more complicated history to learn than any of those three. There’s a compelling story to be told about a ten year-old boy who remains more or less a ten year-old boy even as he is nurtured into a 25 year-old Immortal Weapon, but the characterization is so fractured and inconsistent that it’s hard for that story to emerge.
4) Lewis Tan, who plays drunken boxer Zhou Chen–and who famously auditioned for the part of Danny Rand as well as had several compelling ideas for what the series could have done with the character–brought so much energy and charisma to his brief appearance that I hope somebody else writes him the vehicle he truly deserves.
5) “If I kill you I’m no better than you” has been a superhero cliche for so long that it’s almost audacious to hear somebody express these words using exactly that phrasing.
6) When Mariah Dillard’s long-simmering frustrations and desperate need for validation lead her to murder her cousin Cornell in Luke Cage, we have spent several charged, fraught conversations with the two learning exactly how it could have led to this. When Ward Meachum stabs his father Harold to death we understand that there’s a history of emotional manipulation and abuse, but something about the rhythms of their relationship and the pace of the series feels less like this was “bound to happen” as much as “this was the story beat where it should probably happen.”
7) Claire Temple seems to exist in this show specifically to interrogate the screenwriters as they come up with new terrible decisions for either Danny or Colleen to make.
8) The nature of Danny’s powers often feels played as a convenient tool for dramatic effect since it is sourced from a nebulous notion of “chi” that, again, we must be told about instead of ever seeing. Danny’s not using his iron fist or says he can’t? Must be low on chi, or his chi is corrupted, or somesuch. Suddenly working again? His chi must be back!
9) I was infinitely more interested in the barely explored revelation that The Hand might be suffering internal fractures than I was in the constant boardroom concerns of Rand Inc. Madame Gao is a slippery villain who controls every room she’s in even when the room is her own prison cell. The corporate board is a typically faceless entity, and even its nominal antagonist is so underdeveloped that his disposal seems nearly an afterthought.
10) David Wenham does a fine job playing with the variety of shades Harold Meachum has within him, but there was a point where the Jekyll/Hyde tendencies had diminishing returns. By the time he was dispatched I could no longer tell if he was supposed to have been a master manipulator or somebody who genuinely had no plans at all, and whether this was who he’d always been or whether it was a result of the resurrections.
In summary, I’m glad to be moving onto Legion, which in its first episode alone has shown more inventiveness and depth than I found in all 13 hours of Iron Fist.