Welcome back to our reviews of each episode of Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist. You can check out my reviews of previous episodes by clicking the links below:
Episode 3: “Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch”
The third episode of Marvel’s Iron Fist immediately benefits from a change in director and writer, resulting in an episode with stronger and slightly more nuanced dialogue and action that actually delivers. Though some of the same problems of the previous two episodes plague this one, it’s to a lesser degree, and writer Quinton Peeples and director Tom Shankland provide just the right new touches to breathe some life into the series.
We open with Meachum goons breaking in to Colleen’s dojo looking for the on-the-run Danny Rand. Colleen takes care of business, though once again, the fight scene doesn’t impress beyond typical TV level fights you might see on “Arrow” or twenty-year old episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The only modern convention seems to be quick cut editing and murky lighting, though this means I don;t even get an impression of precision or skill from the fight. I promise I’ll stop talking about this eventually, guys.
Anyway, Colleen and Danny form an uneasy alliance, based on her extremely perilous financial situation and Danny’s promise to fix them if he can prove his identity. I do like how Colleen is still very wary of Danny. She is intrigued by him, and even suspects he’s on the level, but isn’t quite convinced he isn’t also unbalanced (and he kind of is, actually) and so keeps him at arm’s length even as she helps him. Jessica Henwick continues to give the character and her relationship with Danny a subtle and wary combativeness that is nice. It’ll make their eventual full-fledged alliance (which we can all see coming) feel earned as opposed to mandated by writers.
Ward and Harold’s situations also become more developed and interesting in the episode. Harold gets a few scenes that deepen the mystery surrounding his “death” and apparent resurrection while he also gets an interesting scenes where this alpha male uber-confident titan of industry is made to appear weak and vulnerable and in a situation he clearly is desperate from which to escape. Additionally, Tom Pelphrey‘s Ward finally gets to do something other than be smarmy, petulant and creepy with a nice scene between Ward and Joy that speaks to his desire to escape from his own trap. It was a nice scene, and it actually finally gave him something approaching depth.
Joy, on the other hand, mystifies even more this episode. The show can’t seem to decide if she is an antagonist or not. Look, I can get behind a character who is torn between two goals, not knowing how to serve them both. But we’re not getting any insight into her at all. One minute she seems to be actively glad and happy that Danny is back, which makes sense seeing as he is her childhood best friend (brother, really), trying for some accord and agreement. The next she’s trying to screw Danny over and serving him with crazily awful deals that offer money but force him to give up his own name. If she is genuinely frightened of Danny, then go with that. If her intention is to stay in command of the Corporation, then play that up. But it feels like the show wants to have their cake with Joy and eat it too, wanting her to be an obstacle but still be sympathetic. If that’s true, then let us in on how hard this situation is for her, give us a moment where she outlines her divided mind. But as it is, they don’t show her invested in the business enough to decide Danny needs to be cut out, nor do they show her invested in Danny enough to consider advocating for him. And so what we get is a wishy-washy character with no discernible intention. She is really the least engaging character in the show, because she isn’t even an easily detestable bully/villain like Ward.
There is another development that has a positive impact, and that is the addition of “Jessica Jones” cast-member Carrie-Ann Moss as attorney Jeri Hogarth, who agrees to become Danny Rand’s lawyer. Moss is a breath of fresh air immediately, and her first scene with Danny showcases what a talented actor given direct and clear dialogue can do. As she is ostensibly not required to obfuscate her motives from the viewer and simply be an ally, the result is that she speaks to Danny honestly and directly, like a real person would. She’s around for at least a couple episodes, so it’ll be nice to have her presence, especially as it looks like she’ll finally be able to advance the plot a bit forward.
And let’s get to that plot, shall we? That’s a direct quote of my though over these three episodes. I know that these Netflix series decompress the storytelling a lot, but the pace of Marvel’s Iron Fist has been particularly glacial. The first episode opened with Danny trying to return to his life, and the Meachums trying to prevent that. Aside from a few moments of foreshadowing the shady schemes of the Meachums and their relationship to the Hand, that is still exactly what the plot is. At this point, we need to start getting into what this show is going to be about, and their need to be some twists and/or turns to the narrative.
There’s a fight that happens in a hospital which is much better shot and executed than the previous fights, which makes for a big improvement over the first two episodes, and another sequence involving a desperate Colleen entering into paid underground MMA fighting is probably the best fight in the whole of the series to date. It’s a nasty, visceral, clearly-shot and exciting battle, and gave me hope that we’ll see better battles as we go on. Overall, director Tom Shankland brings a greater sense of urgency and tighter pace to the episode than I had previously seen, making it have more energy overall.
The episode ends with the narrative advanced due to the addition of Hogarth, as Danny finally proves his identity in a satisfying boardroom scene. This leads to a literal cliffhanger that made me eager to move onto the next episode. For a show that has gotten off to such a rocky start, it’s nice to see it start to pick up some steam and smooth out some of its rough spots. 7/10