After months of anxious waiting and disappointing early reviews, Iron Fist season 1 is here. My quickie first episode review is: it’s a little clumsy, the dialogue is strained and anxious but somewhere underneath all the fog and early teething issues, there is something compelling. There is a story that invokes mystery and wonder, a story that has you rooting for the hero as the villain is made so easy to hate, even despise.
Danny Rand is man displaced in Episode 1. He has come back to the city he left over 15 years ago following a plane crash that left him orphaned and stranded in the Himalayas. He returns to his father’s business expecting open arms from his childhood friends Joy and Ward but is greeted with hostility and disbelief. His friends refuse to believe that the man in front of them is Danny, choosing instead to conclude that it is a ploy by the company’s competitors to destabilize their bid to enter the Chinese market.
Unlike Joy however, Ward takes a significantly more aggressive view to this intrusion on his life. The episode’s first flashback gives us an idea why as we discover Ward was not a childhood friend but rather, a childhood bully that terrorised Danny. Later in the episode, Danny clarifies this saying, “You were a dick as a kid and you’re still a dick now.” And we agreed, Ward is a dick and as the emerging villain of the plot, I had no problem hating him.
Relegated to sleeping outside on his first night back, Danny is kept company by a retro iPod, a small indication he hasn’t been in any kind of civilization for a while. Although, it did leave me wondering, how has he been charging that thing for the last 15 years and how has the battery not died, they always did after a couple years, didn’t they? A little hole, yes but nothing to worry about. Maybe I’m just nitpicking.
We are given a small taste of the Iron Fist’s power after he breaks into his old family house, a house that is now occupied by Joy. After being confronted by her Rottweiler guard dog, he takes a moment in silent contemplation, a moment that pacifies the dog allowing him to freely roam. The second, oh so tantalizing hint comes minutes later as he leaps over a taxi, flipping and landing perfectly on his bare feet to avoid it hitting him. That however, is the extent of it. The rest of the action requires simple combat from Danny and we don’t get to see anything like the true power his is capable of yet. Let’s hope, we don’t have to wait too long to see it.
After visiting Colleen Wing’s Dojo (after meeting her in the park the day before) Danny is attacked by the security guards from the Rand building who seem intent on killing him. Danny quickly and easily disarms the assailants and discovers that it was Ward who sent the men to kill him.
Finally, as a last ditch effort to plead his case, Danny visits Joy in her office. Seemingly open to listing, Joy says “You said you have some questions for me, I’m not sure I am going to be able to answer all of them but I’ll do my best. I have a lot of questions too.” Her understanding is, however, just a cover to poison him with a cup and tea and commit him to a mental hospital with the help of Ward. The episode ends with Danny drugged up and reliving the crash that changed his life.
Like many Marvel productions before it, Iron Fist isn’t trying to do anything overly ambitious with the plot direction. The story is linear and the distinction between good and evil is clearly defined and easy to follow. This may seem self explanatory but it allows the viewer to really engage with the story, something that DC has struggled to nail with their last two cinematic releases. However, where the clear plot and likable main casting do credit to the show’s creators, the dialogue lets it down. There were multiple points in the first episode where the dialogue felt either over or under explained leaving me detached from what I was supposed to be hearing. If Iron Fist is going to shrug off its disappointing early reviews, future episodes are going to need smoother more believable dialogue.