Marvel’s Iron Fist is the latest installment in Netflix’s ongoing series of Marvel’s superheroes, a phenomenon that started with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Iron Fist introduces the fourth and last of Marvel’s Defenders: Danny Rand, a mysterious man who returns to NYC with special powers fifteen years after he was presumed dead in a plane crash. Which, albeit, is not the most unique superhero origin story.
Right from the start, Danny is easily comparable to superhero favorites like Batman and Green Arrow. He comes from money, and a lot of it, and it is heavily insinuated that corporate greed led to some business sabotage that got his parents killed. He was trained in the ways of martial arts, and we know from the trailers that he has somehow obtained powers that go far beyond this.
I’ll start openly by saying that I have loved most of Netflix’s Marvel series. (I get picky about Daredevil season 2 because Matt makes so many terrible choices that it’s hard for me to watch.) However, I’m not particularly excited to watch Iron Fist.
It has been heavily critiqued on social media for its unsatisfying themes, its lackluster production value, and above all, its messages and choices regarding race. However, as I know I’ll be watching The Defenders when it drops later this year, I know that checking Iron Fist off my Netflix watch list is a necessity.
So with as much of an objective mind as I can have, I’ll be reviewing the episodes as I watch them.
“Snow Gives Way” begins immediately with Danny’s return to the city—no flashbacks, no backstory, no nothing. Just Loras Tyrell—ahem, Danny Rand, walking down the street towards “his” big business building. He has no shoes, but he does have an iPod, which I can respect.
The first thing we find out about Danny is that he has the unique quality of optimism mixed with pure naivety, bordering on idiocy. Here is a twenty-five-year-old man who returns to New York and expects everything to remain unchanged. More than that, he expects to be given the benefit of the doubt, and for everyone to simply believe him when he says that he is the long-lost Danny Rand.
To back this up, Danny has the poor-explanation skills of a freshly escaped Sirius Black. The first time he finds his long lost childhood friends, Joy and Ward Meachum, there is no mention of the Monopoly tournaments on the rooftop, or family vacations, or any specific memories that may convince them of his identity.
In fact, it takes Danny a frustratingly long time to cite any real specifics that would be considered convincing. It’s one of the things that makes him initially seem like such a frustrating character.
Speaking of Joy and Ward Meachum, what a pair. From the start, we’re sort of set up to love Joy and dislike Ward. Joy is clearly freaked out by the homeless man who keeps saying that he’s Danny Rand, but she visibly can’t shake the feeling that he just might be.
Ward is, as Joy describes him, “a black-and-white kind of guy” who won’t believe something so ludicrous. And if you didn’t like him at the start, there’s a beautiful flashback scene where fifteen-year-old Ward tells Danny that playing by the rules “is for pussies,” and that Danny is a baby because his parents love him. He then proceeds to throw the board game they’re playing on the ground and blame it on Danny. Because we really wanted to remind the viewers that Ward is the bad guy in this situation.
For a truly confusing plot twist, Danny is not the only living character that’s been presumed dead. Harold Meachum—played by David Wenham of Lord of the Rings—is Joy and Ward’s father, as well as the business partner of Danny’s father.
Initially, it is revealed that Harold passed away twelve years ago after a battle with cancer. Then about halfway through the show, Ward strolls into his dad’s swanky underground lair to talk about their “Danny Rand” problem. That was truly the only time during the episode I sat straight up in my seat and said, “WHAT?”
It’s still unclear as to why Harold faked his death, or how many people know about this arrangement. For the moment, he appears to be using Ward as a puppet to run the company. I’ll be very interested to find out whether or not Joy knows that Daddy dearest is still alive and kicking.
Other notable characters include likable homeless man Big Al, who is easily one of the most compelling characters in the pilot. He strikes up a conversation with Danny after noticing that he’s new in town, and offers him food and advice about how to live in New York.
He also provides Danny with an iPhone, so that he can confirm what happened to his family. (This scene was pretty weak in my opinion, as we don’t learn anything new, and it makes Big Al’s introduction seem overly convenient.)
But my hopes for Big Al were squandered when Danny finds him dead of an overdose at the end of the episode. Thanks for being a pal, Big Al. I hope we find out more about the ominous close-up of your bird tattoo in future episodes.
By far my favorite character of the first episode is Colleen Wing, a financially struggling dojo-master who is just as confused by Danny as the rest of NYC’s inhabitants. She keeps her head pretty well considering that most of her interactions with Danny can be summarized as “cute girl is stalked by a homeless man from NYC park.”
She turns Danny down for a job, only for him to show up at her dojo asking to fight her, and ignoring her pleas that he leave her alone. When she asks where he trained, he even pulls a hipster “you wouldn’t have heard of it” line—yes, I know it’s a magical place she really wouldn’t have heard of, but it still sounds bad, dude.
Later in the episode, Danny is shown outside of Colleen’s apartment—which is either stalker alert number three, or another convenient coincidence. This time, Danny is under fire from Ward’s bodyguards, resulting in the first big fight scene of the series. (I’m biased, but I didn’t find it as interesting to watch as Daredevil’s famous hallway scene.)
Colleen follows the fight into Chinatown, and while there is some intense eye contact between her and Danny, she chooses not to confront him at that moment. Presumably, that’s something they’re saving for episode two.
The episode ends with Danny going to talk to Joy for the third time. This time, she listens, and they sit down to tea and start to talk out their issues. Right up until we find out that Joy is not much more forgiving than her brother Ward, and has poisoned Danny. Killer way to end an episode.
The big thing I’m walking away with from the pilot is that I feel more of a connection to Colleen and Joy than to Danny. Episode one reveals nothing about what Danny’s been through while he was missing for fifteen years. At this point, the viewers are operating with the same amount of knowledge as the other, suspicious characters. Anytime anyone threatened Danny with some mace, or gave him a doubtful look, and I found myself full-heartedly agreeing.
“Yeah, ya weirdo! You can’t walk into New York City and just expect people to believe you and treat you fairly! It’s New York City!”
Hopefully, this changes over the course of the episodes. I am interested to finally fill in some blanks with Danny’s past, but at the moment, I’m more intrigued with the Meachum’s. Why does Harold feel the need to hide in the shady underworld? What is he doing? And most importantly, how long do I have to wait until I get to see my beloved Claire Temple?
- Title sequence is not as fulfilling as the other Netflix originals
- Pretty sure I heard the Daredevil theme playing at one point when Danny crashed Ward’s car
- Ward sort of looks like an older, not as attractive Justin Long
- It’s fascinating watching Jessica Stroup on something that’s not 90210
- Still not sure what the relevance of “Snow Gives Way” is
- Danny Rand is the Dog Whisperer™
What did you think of this episode of Iron Fist? Share your thoughts in the comments below!