Iron Fist: 1.01 Snow Gives Way
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If you've yet to watch the premiere for Marvel's last Defender, be warned: minor spoilers follow. Check in later for a spoiler-free review of the entire season.
The first episode of Iron Fist opens on a ragged man wandering the streets of New York, just a dirty face in the crowd. In the background, OutKast's classic "So Fresh, So Clean" plays, an obvious attempt at ironic humor that simply falls flat. Yes, we get it. He's not so fresh or so clean. Can we move on, now?
Unfortunately, that opening scene adequately foreshadows the emotional effectiveness of Snow Gives Way, which goes for some big twists and plot developments in the first episode that feel unearned, thanks in no small part to stiff acting and melodramatic writing.
Danny Rand (played with forced zest by Finn Jones, of Game of Thrones fame) returns to his home city fifteen years after a plane crash that killed his parents and left him stranded in the Himalayas. To his great surprise, his father's business partner, Harold Meachum, has also passed away, leaving his surviving children Joy and Ward as owners and operators of Rand Corporation. Refusing to believe that the man standing in front of them is their old pal Danny, and also worried about the implications of the majority shareholder still being alive, the cold siblings push Danny away by any violent means necessary.
Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup are utterly uninspiring as the Meachum siblings. If "cold nonchalance" is what the creators were going for, then they accomplished it, but it's not effective in any way. They play like a less-intriguing version of Cornell Stokes and Mariah Dillard, the dastardly cousins causing political problems for the titular hero in Luke Cage. Just like in that show, the Meachums will probably be major annoyances for Danny until the main antagonists (in this case, the Hand) pop up later in the season.
Nothing presented in this first episode is captivating in the slightest. Iron Fist's origin story--a wealthy orphan that learned martial arts from a mythical Asian society--is a not-so-subtle rip-off of Batman Begins. Actor Jones tries with all his might to put some spunk in this rich boy, but it's no use: compared to the compelling and relatable heroes that came before, Iron Fist and his polished world are simply boring. And if you expect awe-inspiring fight scenes to get your pulse racing, think again. The few minor scuffles in the pilot are Daredevil-lite.
In general, Snow Gives Way starts Iron Fist not with a bang, but with a sustained yawn. Credit must at least be given to the writers for their management of information: after dropping a minor bombshell that Harold Meachum faked his death (but not explaining why) and teasing Danny's immense powers without actually showing his trademark move, the show does a good enough job of making the viewer say, "Eh. I guess I might as well see what happens next." There's also a sliver of hope radiating from Colleen (Jessica Henwick), a martial arts instructor whose attitude just barely breaks through the poorly-written dialogue.
As the show progresses, it's probable that the plot will get more interesting. Here's hoping that everything else doesn't continue to drag it down.