Saturday, 18 March 2017

Review - 'Iron Fist', S01E02 - 'Shadow Hawk Takes Flight'

Throughout the first episode of Iron Fist, the thing that troubled me the most was how slow and sluggish it all felt. The episode was full of long, drawn out, scenes of, occasionally, awkwardly written dialogue which severely harmed the pacing of the episode. Those moments where we were shown something a little more (the brief moments of action, for example, or the reveal that the Meachum patriarch, Harold, had faked his own death) had promise, sure – but, they weren't quite enough to carry the entire episode.

Even more frustrating, though, was the characterisation of Danny, himself. Throughout the episode, we saw him blunder, almost aimlessly, through every interaction, as he did absolutely nothing to appear as anything other than the crazy homeless man he appeared to be, while the Meachums responded in what could only be taken as a perfectly rational manner (up until the point where Ward Meachum chose to send some hired goons after Danny, at least).

Danny had arrrived at the Rand Corporation's building, only to almost immediately get into a fight with the building's security team. He broke into his childhood home, despite the fact that someone else clearly lived there, now (Joy Meachum, as it turns out). And, he even stole Ward's car, and practically kidnapped Ward, himself, in his efforts to force the Meachums to listen to him. Honestly, while Joy's decision to drug Danny's drink when he had suddenly turned up in her office had seemed like a case of her taking the side of Ward, and her father, on reflection it could just as easily be taken as the only way she could see out of a potentially dangerous situation. She may have had some degree of sympathy for him, initially, but he did suddenly show up in her office.

Basically, Danny had done absolutely nothing to help himself, throughout the first episode, to the point where he had appeared almost implausibly foolish. So, as we move into the second episode, it is actually every interesting to see the consequences of this foolishness played out in full.

In the time since Danny was drugged, at the end of the previous episode, it seems that the Meachums have pulled some strings to have him committed to a mental hospital – something which, considering his behaviour, actually makes perfect sense. Joy, still harbouring some lingering sympathy for this apparent stranger, feels some sense of guilt for her part in this – but, she is also, initially, able to convince herself that it was probably for the best. Ward, for his part, seems to have emerged as the more overtly villainous member of the family, as his only true interest is in getting rid of Danny, regardless of whether or not he might be telling the truth about who he is. Harold, for his part, observes in secret, having gained access to the hospital's security footage – and, seems to have plans of his own in mind for the strange young man.

Within the hospital, though, Danny's efforts to convince the staff of the truth only seems to dig himself in deeper. These characters may be living in a world that saw an alien invasion a few years ago – but, tales of mystic warrior monks, and cities that exist in other dimensions, are clearly still a bit too outlandish. Even toward the end of the episode, when Danny's doctor actually seems to come around to the idea that he might actually be Danny Rand after all, Danny's strange tales still leaves him believing that the young man requires treatment.

At the same time, though, both Joy Meachum and Colleen Wing find themselves slowly drawn deeper into this remarkably strange situation. After being contacted by Danny, who believes that she is the only one who might be willing to help him (despite only having met her a couple of times – though, to be fair, Danny is clearly pretty desperate for some sort of support, at that point), Colleen Wing is soon contacted by Ward Meachum. Ward's attempts to bribe her into signing some forms declaring Danny to be dangerous sets off some alarm bells for her – and, despite clearly not wanting to be involved, she becomes convinced that there might actually be some truth to Danny's claims. Joy, meanwhile, becomes convinced following a clever, and actually kind of cute, test involving a packet of M&M's (apparently, as children, they would always remove the brown ones – which Danny promptly does with the packet that she sends him).

It is actually Harold Meachum's response that is the most interesting, though – as, observing the whole thing through the hospital's security cameras (and, even taking the opportunity to visit Danny, during the night), he becomes increasingly interested in Danny's story. Latching on the Danny's mention of the Hand, in particular, Harold soon comes to the conclusion that Danny may actually be extremely important. Unfortunately, though, Ward doesn't agree – and, his decision to arrange for some of the other patients to attack Danny backfires pretty spectacularly when their attack only seems to result in Danny being able to push through his drug-addled state, and access the power of the Iron Fist, resulting in a prompt escape.

Overall, I think that it's probably fair to say that the second episode of Iron Fist is an improvement over the first, in a variety of ways. For one thing, Danny's time in hospital, finding himself at the mercy of the hospital staff, goes a long way toward allowing him to finally developed into something resembling a fully rounded character. This episode did actually manage to change my impression of him, slight. While, at the end of the first episode, I had come to the conclusion that there was something vaguely off-putting about him, and the way that he interacts with the people around him, I think that this episode did a much better job of portraying him as someone who is just at a loss with regard to how to act, and react, in the modern world. There was a genuine earnestness to Danny Rand in this episode, especially when it came to his clear desire for someone to actually believe him, that made him more likable, and relatable, to me.

Of all the cast, though, it is actually Harold Meachum that I find myself most interested in. First, there is the fact that he actually seems to be somewhat familiar with the Hand – then, this seems to be confirmed when we see the strange message left on his window. Ward Meachum may actually turn out to be little more than an antagonistic business-man, desperate to preserve his own wealth and privilege – but, Harold may actually turn out to be the key to broadening the scope of the series, over the next few episodes.

The second episode of Iron Fist isn't perfect, of course. There are still a few too many scenes of drawn out dialogue for my liking – and, some of that dialogue does come across as awkwardly writing and overly expositional. In many of these scenes, it's not so much the actor's performances that bother me (while there aren't any true stand-outs in the cast, just yet, everyone seems to be playing their part just fine), but rather the fact that they seem to be struggling with a script that could have used a bit more revision.

But, despite that, the second episode was still able to directly address some of my concerns about the first – so, as long as things are able to continue in this manner, Iron Fist should eventually develop into the entertaining series that I still hope it will be.

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