TV Review: Marvel's Iron Fist - 1.01 "Snow Gives Way" (Spoiler Free)

EPISODE 1 "Snow Gives Way"

SYNOPSIS: Billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones) returns to New York City after being missing for years, trying to reconnect with his past and his family legacy. He fights against the criminal element corrupting New York City with his incredible kung-fu mastery and ability to summon the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.

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REVIEW (This is a SPOILER-FREE review of the first episode of MARVEL'S IRON FIST): Back in 2011, Marvel Studios released CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. As the final film before THE AVENGERS, the first Captain America film was saddled with taking Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the finish line. In a very similar manner, Netflix has been marketing their Iron Fist series as the final character leading into their crossover event series, The Defenders. After the positive reception for the first three series from Netflix and Marvel, Iron Fist has a lot of hype already built up and has an incredibly high bar to reach. As far as The Defenders go, Iron Fist shares more in common with Daredevil and should make fans of that series very happy with it's blend of martial arts, mysticism and well-choreographed fight sequences. But, even with that in mind, it does take Iron Fist a lot longer to gain momentum than any of the previous Marvel series that have debuted on Netflix.

Iron Fist is, like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, a lesser known superhero. Unless you are a Marvel fan you likely are unfamiliar with the origin story of Danny Rand (Finn Jones). Heir to the billion-dollar company, Rand Enterprises, Danny and his parents are presumed dead after their private plane crashes in the Himalayas. Fifteen years later, Danny shows up in New York City to reclaim his name which upends his company and friends who thought he was gone forever. This version of the Iron Fist origin story differs quite a bit from comic book canon but does introduce several key characters whose relationships differ on this series from the written page: Danny's childhood friends Joy (Jessica Stroup) and Ward Meachum are now in charge of Rand Enterprises after the death of their father, Harold Meachum (LORD OF THE RINGS' David Wenham) who died years prior. Danny also meets up with fellow martial artist Colleen Wing (Game of Thrones' Jessica Henwick) whose role becomes more significant later in the season.

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The first episode of Iron Fist does not give us much backstory on just how young Danny survived and made his way to the mystical realms of K'un Lun or how he became the iconic Iron Fist thanks to teachings from the monks of the Order of the Crane Mother. Instead, the show makes creative use of Danny's musical tastes from 2002 (thanks to his still working classic iPod). The show presents the tale as a fish out of water story of how Danny makes his way back to New York but seems to fall a bit short in terms of pacing. There is definitely something missing from this first episode. Yes, there are a couple of fight sequences that demonstrate that Danny is not the same boy who has been gone for fifteen years, but there is little to truly grab the viewer into accepting this unbelievable tale. In fact, the first hour of Iron Fist has so much world-building to do that it doesn't feel like a complete episode but rather the first part of a longer debut. The benefit of Marvel's Netflix series is that they all debut at the same time to facilitate binge-watching but when taken as individual chapters they do not work as well.

To be fair, I have watched the first six episodes of Iron Fist and I am glad to say the show definitely picks up in the subsequent hours but it takes a full three chapters before we really begin exploring who Danny Rand is and how his existence fits into the grander mythology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is also difficult to take Danny Rand in the same mindset as the other "street level heroes" of the MCU because of the naive manner in which Finn Jones portrays Danny. All of the characters in this show are painted with a very broad brush and sometimes come off as caricatures rather than three-dimensional beings. Jones struggles with the balance between being a man out of society for almost two decades and being the prophetic warrior destined to battle The Hand. Once you reach the halfway point of the season you will find yourself feeling more comfortable with this world and know that Iron Fist will work so much better in a second season as well as a member of The Defenders.

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At the same time, Iron Fist does get a lot right. The mythology of The Hand introduced on Daredevil is vital knowledge for viewers who will remember many of the plot elements and character threads left hanging on that series. The Eastern mysticism are martial arts are respectfully executed on this show which boasts fight choreography that rivals the great sequences showcased on Daredevil. Jessica Henwick is also a great find here as her portrayal of Colleen Wing makes a great case for a spin-off showcasing her and Luke Cage's Misty Knight. Iron Fist also allays all of the "white savior" concerns that plagued the development of this series. The Marvel Comics character of Danny Rand has always been Causcasian and he works within the context of this series much like how DOCTOR STRANGE handled that character discovering his role as the Sorceror Supreme. 

Iron Fist is going to appeal most to fans of Daredevil thanks to the tonal similarities and fight scenes. But, those who found it a bit difficult to get on board with either Jessica Jones or Luke Cage may not find themselves drawn back to this series. Still, Iron Fist is a nice addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and gives us a character whose debut has long been overdue. My biggest recommendation would be to binge this series immediately and absorb all of the magic the story has to offer. There are several welcome cameos from the other Netflix series that elevate this show from being a forgettable chapter. Iron Fist has some growing pains to get through but like Danny Rand himself, it soon learns it's place in the grand scheme of things and hits a welcome stride by episode four. If you are looking for a good dose of comic book fun, this is the show for you. Iron Fist delivers a roundhouse kick of action that will keep you revved up for The Defenders and that is exactly what Marvel and Netflix set out to do.

NEXT ON MARVEL'S IRON FIST: All Season 1 episodes premiere March 17th on Netflix. Stay tuned for reviews of every episode right here on JoBlo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com



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