Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review - 'Iron Fist', S01E04 - 'Eight Diagram Dragon Palm'

With the previous episode ending on something of a underwhelming attempt at a cliff-hanger, the season's fourth episode makes the wise decision of simply moving things along. Surviving his fall from the top floor of a building, Danny regains consciousness to find himself inside Harold Meachum's secret sanctuary – where, it seems, Harold has decided to take the opportunity to attempt to bring Danny into the fold. Openly revealing his history with the Hand, and his current status as an apparent prisoner, forced to do whatever they wish, Harold's plan is clearly to use Danny as a weapon against his enemies – a plan which Danny, for his part, seems quite happy to go along with.

As a result of this new truce, Harold orders that Ward end any legal struggle between Danny and the Meachums, and openly acknowledge that Danny is, in fact, exactly who he has always claimed to be. It's a rather abrupt transition, of course – but, then, the legal drama we had previously probably wasn't going to lead anywhere particularly interesting, anyway (even if it did result in providing Iron Fist with its first direct connection to the rest of Netflix's corner of the MCU, in the form of Jeri Hogarth). So, I suppose I can just accept that moving this plot-point along so quickly will probably be for the best.

I do have to admit, though, that there was definitely something oddly endearing about Danny's shear enthusiasm for it all, as he found himself brought back into Rand Enterprises in an official capacity (despite, of course, having absolutely no business experience). One thing that I have found is that, as the series has progressed, those aspects of Danny's portrayal that initially bothered me no longer seem to do so. Danny's naive innocence, as he continues to blunder his way through just about every situation, actually become a source of some genuinely funny moments, in this episode. It also provided one very strong moment of character development, when he simply could not understand why a business would seek to raise the price on a drug capable of saving lives.

So, there was plenty to enjoy about Danny's arc throughout this episode – but, unfortunately, it also came with its weaker elements. One of the more frustration aspects of Iron Fist, over the past few episodes, has been its strange insistence of 'telling' rather than 'showing'. Here, for example, we have Danny telling Joy about some of his experiences being trained by the monks of K'un-Lun. It sounded like a horrible experience, certainly – but, the fact that we weren't actually shown anything does undermine the potential for drama, somewhat. Instead of giving us the flash-back to K'un-Lun that I would have expected, the episode instead chooses to provide Finn Jones with a close-up, while he tells us about the training.

It was a weak-point in the episode, certainly – though, fortunately, it was somewhat balanced out by the fact that this episode also provided us some great moments of action, both from Colleen Wing, and from Danny, himself. While Colleen's actual role on the series is still a point of some confusion for me, since she still seems to exist on the fringes of the primary story-line, I am still definitely glad that she has her own sub-plot. While there isn't anything particularly original about her experiences with the underground fight club, there is also some very complex character development going on, here. Colleen has clearly found herself caught between her need for money to keep her dojo open, and her lingering guilt over the idea of fighting for money – yet, at the same time, there is also a somewhat unsettling undercurrent suggesting that she actually enjoys the violence of her cage fights, too. But brutal manner in which she has brought both of her matches to an end, as she has seemed to momentarily lose herself in the violence, definitely gives the impression that there is more going on, here.

While Colleen's two-on-one cage fight was a definite high-light, it was also great to see Danny Rand finally have the opportunity to involve himself in a proper, large-scale, action sequence as he finds himself confronted by a group of hatchet-wielding Triad goons, set on kidnapping Joy.

Another of the lingering issues I have had with the series, so far, concerns Danny Rand, himself. Not his characterisation, or the performance of Finn Jones, of course (both of which have actually started to grow on me, after the shaky first episode), but rather with the way that he fights. After fifteen years of being trained at a monastery in K'un-Lun

I do understand why Danny's fight sequences are being portrayed in this way, of course. The staged theatricality of his movements is meant to give the impression of a measure, and methodical, thought behind every action. It's meant to give the impression that he truly is a master of martial arts, able to read his opponents and react before they have even completed their own actions. The problem, so far, is that there have been moments where Danny's action sequences have actually looked more like a choreographed routine than an actual fight – and, honestly, this has been a bit distracting.

At the same time, though, there have been other moments where everything has seemed to come together reasonably well, too. Danny's own 'Hallway Fight' sequence provides the best evidence we have seen, so far, of what Danny Rand is truly capable of. It was also a very entertaining action sequence, in its own right – especially when the action moved into the enclosed space of an elevator.

Honestly, if the rest of the series has more sequences like this one to offer, then that would go some way toward balancing out some of its weaker elements.

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