Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review - 'Iron Fist', S01E05 - 'Under Leaf Pluck Lotus'

Mixed in with its various issues with pacing, writing, and characterisation, one other lingering problem that has let down the previous episodes of Iron Fist has been the fact that it has lacked any sort of central narrative to drive the season forward. There just hasn't been any sort of central conflict, or a clearly defined central antagonist, to give the season a sense of focus. The Meachums (Ward, in particular) had seemed intended to fill that role, for the season's first arc. But, that ultimately went nowhere – and, now, Ward and Joy have each transitioned into simply being regular members of the supporting cast. There is still the mystery over exactly how involved Harold Meachum is with the Hand's various operations, and how loyal he actually is, of course – but, that is clearly a mystery that is being saved for later in the season. There have also been brief hints regarding the Hand, itself – with the sinister group clearly set to play a large role in the series.

But, up until now, hints at potential future developments was really all we were given – leaving the past few episodes feeling a little directionless. Fortunately, that seems to have changed, somewhat, with the season's fifth episode, as we finally learn something of what the Hand is currently planning. With Rand Enterprises recent acquisition of Red Hook pier actually having been ordered by the Hand, through Harold Meachum, it seems as though they have acquired the perfect staging area to bring a new form of synthetic heroin into the city – something which Danny, naturally enough, is opposed to.

The only problem, of course, is the fact that Ward is completely unwilling to help. Ward does know something about the Hand, of course (having been brought into his father's confidence), but it isn't entirely clear how much of what he had heard he actually believes. Of course, it's also just as likely that Ward does know more about how the Hand operates than he is letting on – which would provide a fairly a compelling explanation for why he's so determined to look the other way.

Faced with a distinct lack of support from within the company, Danny believes that he has no choice but to look outward – turning to Colleen Wing, once more. Her perfectly sensible suggestion that Danny should go to be police is shot down pretty succinctly, with the implication that the police would just hold Rand Enterprises, itself, responsible. So, the two eventually agree to infiltrate the pier together, during the next scheduled delivery, in order to gather evidence. This leads us into what would have to be the season's most entertaining sequence, so far, as the two attempt to make their way past the heavily armed guards – only for Danny to find himself locked in the back of a truck, as it leaves the pier.

I think that what made this sequence so entertaining, to me, is the way that it was able to mix moments of tension with some fun interaction between Danny and Colleen. The whole idea that their efforts to sneak through the shadows would be intercut with brief moments of such mundane dialogue just struck me genuinely funny, as well as being a great moment for both characters. Of course, the real high-light of this sequence came when Danny found himself trapped in the back of the truck with the chemist, Radovan Bernvig (Olek Krupa), and his imposing body-guard – with the fight scene that results providing another entertaining example of what this series is capable of.

Another clear high-light for the episode, as a whole, would have to be the first appearance by Claire Temple, though – with Rosario Dawson once more serving as main connective tissue binding all of Netflix's shows together. It was inevitable that we would see her again, of course – but, the casual way in which she was introduced, turning up as one of Colleen's students only to find herself struggling the save the life of the wounded chemist, was still very entertaining. Similarly, her reaction to learning that she seems to have, once more, found herself drawn into this sort of mess was a lot of fun (it's practically become a running gag, at this point).

Along with this, Joy and Ward Meachum each found themselves on their own, potentially interesting, character arcs. While Joy finds herself plagued by guilt over the company's latest challenge, centred around a class-action law suit concerning the possibility a chemical plant owned by Rand Enterprises is responsible giving people cancer, Ward seems to be starting a downward spiral brought about by the stress of his efforts to handled Danny's latest blunder, while also rebelling against is father. Of course two, at the moment, I would have to say that it is Ward who I find to be the most interesting – and, I am definitely eager to see how things develop for him, from here.

Joy, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have very much to do beyond support her brother, and quietly deal with her own lingering guilt. This feels like a shame – especially since I had initially believed that she would actually prove to be the more interesting of the Meachum siblings.

While Danny's first official turn as a crime-fighting vigilante seems to have gone reasonably well, for him, the same can't really be said for his role within Rand Enterprises – thanks to the aforementioned blunder. With Danny, as the majority share-holder of the company, finding himself ambushed by a plaintiff from the class-action lawsuit, he inadvertently finds himself caught on camera promising to resolve the situation. I have to admit that, at this point, it is actually becoming easier to feel a slight bit of sympathy for Danny Rand. He is clearly well-meaning, but his efforts to do the right thing also tend to be horribly misguided. As the heir to a wealthy company, his life comes with a great deal of privilege – but, it is obvious that his sheltered life in K'un-Lun has left him too naive to determine the best way to use that privilege. It's a character arc that I find to be potentially interesting – and, I can only hope that the series continues to make good use of it, as Danny gradually grows and develops.

So, in the end, the season's fifth episode seems to continue that slow, but steady, upward tend, as all of the pieces begin to fall into place. By finally bringing the Hand fully into the picture, Iron Fist also seems to have finally gained that a sense of narrative focus which will, hopefully, be maintained through the next few episodes.

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