Monday, 20 March 2017

Review - 'Iron Fist', S01E07 - 'Felling Tree With Roots'

As we move into the aftermath of Danny Rand's 'Tournament of Death' style challenge, it seems that there is a bit of a stale-mate between Danny and the Hand. He may have technically lost the contest, when he chose to back down to save Sabina's life – but, that decision only became necessary when Madame Gao changed the rules. Also, Sabina's rescue came at the same time as her father, Radovan, was captured once more. So, despite the best efforts of Danny, Colleen, and Claire the episode ended with the distinct impression of failure, on the part of the heroes. And innocent young woman's life was spared, certainly – but, with the chemist back under their control, the Hand are still able to continues with their plans for the production, and distribution, of their synthetic heroin.

This feeling of a stale-mate definitely continues into the moment where Madame Gao, herself, pays Danny a visit in his office – attempting to tempt him with an offer of continued wealth and privilege, if he would agree to back down. Of course, while Danny's naivety may border on foolishness, on occasion, he is still the hero of the story – so, instead of entertaining into what would have clearly been a 'Faustian' style deal with Gao, Danny follows her as she leaves. Finding himself on the thirteenth floor of the Rand Enterprises building, Danny finds himself in the perfect position to hinder the Hand's plan to use his family's company, when he is able to acquire some important information about the nature of their operation.

I do have to admit that, as great as it was to see Danny being so proactive in his genuine efforts to stop the hand, this whole sequence still struck me as a bit strange. For one thing, there were a couple of point throughout Danny's efforts to follow Gao, and eavesdrop on her meeting, where it seemed as though Gao was very aware of his presence. Also, the seeming ease with which he was able to convince the Hand's drug dealer to give him access to so much important information just didn't ring true. Were we, for example, meant to assume that she was serving the Hand unwillingly, in the same way that Harold Meachum seems to be? Perhaps – but, if so, the scene really didn't get that point across well enough. Also, even if she was being coerced the idea that she would be willing to betray an organisation like the Hand, and make a run for it, just because Danny Rand asks her to doesn't strike me as all that plausible.

Unless it's eventually going to be revealed that there is actually a deeper plan at work, here, and that Gao allowed Danny to acquire this information for reasons of her own (which is quite possible, of course), then the whole thing feels a little contrived. For now, though, I suppose I just have to reserve judgement on the whole situation. Regardless, though, the information that Danny acquires does provide the opportunity for Danny and Colleen, with support from the Triad gang who had earlier attempted to kidnap Joy (recruited as fodder, basically), to launch a raid on Gao's base of operations.

Of course, there was much more going on in this episode than Danny's continued efforts to drive the Hand out of his family's company. Harold Meachum has been oddly absent for the past few episodes – but, here, he makes a return to the spot-light in a truly fascinating, and darkly humorous, manner. The exactly nature of his conflicted loyalties as been a source of some uncertainty throughout previous episodes, of course – but, here, the manner in which he brutally turns on the Hand thugs sent to question him, once Danny blunders into the meeting, only serves to muddy the waters even further.

The brief action sequence that results from all of this may not have been the show's best, of course – but, in the end, that hardly seems to matter. The entire sequence did a great job of further cementing the genuine sense of moral ambiguity that surrounds Harold Meachum – which felt like a strong point for both the character, and the series as a whole. It even tied in nicely with Ward Meachum's continued downward spiral as, while still struggling with his own drug addiction, he finds himself drugged into this whole mess when his father forces him to be the one to dispose of the bodies.

Honestly, Ward is quickly shaping up to the the show's most interesting character, as far as I am concerned. While he had initially seemed to be little more than a blandly antagonistic shady business-man type, the fact that he finds himself increasingly in so far over his head is a very unpleasant, though still very interesting direction. That entirely sequence, beginning with Ward being forced to watch his father mutilate the bodies and ending with him dumping them in a lake, managed to be a perfect mix of genuine disturbing and depressing, while also providing a few great moments of black comedy.

Unfortunately, Ward's entire arc, throughout this episode, did lead to what might turn out to be a fairly significant mistake for the series, as a whole. With Ward's efforts to finally pull away from his father, and the company, and leave the country with his embezzled money brought to a rather decisive end when Harold manages to clean out his son's secret account, Ward pays another visit to his father at the end of the episode – only for their very tense conversation to end with Ward murdering his father.

Now, the reason why I feel this might turn out to be a mistake is that, as anyone who had been paying attention would know, this is practically the same plot development that we had in Luke Cage, with the murder of Cornell Stokes. In Luke Cage, Cornell's death was clearly intended to be a significant turning point for the season – but, it was also something that the season was never able to recover from. With Harold Meachum finally seeming to come into his own as a genuinely fascinating figure, it leaves me worried about the same is going to happen, here. At the same time, though, Ward Meachum has managed to evolve into a genuinely interesting character, in his own right – so, maybe Iron Fist will prove to be better able to handled the ramifications for such an extreme plot-twist than Luke Cage had been. So, I suppose that I will just have to wait and see how things develop.

Another minor issue of concerns, for me, is with the sudden development of the romantic relationship between Colleen Wing and Danny Rand. I don't have any issue with the idea of a romantic relationship between the two, of course – but, the way that it was handled has been somewhat unconvincing, so far. There has been some light flirting between them, of course. But, there hasn't really been anything to suggest that they had any real feelings for each other. The result of this is that, when they eventually ended up in bed together in this episode, it felt much more like a one-night stand than the start of an actual relationship. But, at the same time, I suppose it's possible that this was actually the whole point of the scene. Once again, I suppose I'll just have to wait and see.

Overall, though, the season's seventh episode manages to continue with the show's recent one of strong episodes. After an incredibly shaky start, it feels as though the series may have finally settled, as it continues to establish it's own identity. It may not have reached the same heights as the best of what Netflix's corner of the MCU has to offer – but, at this point, I suppose that does feel like it might be too high a bar to set. If it can just maintain this current level of quality throughout the rest of the season, I will be perfectly content.

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