I read that the majority of critics panned Marvel’s Iron Fist, and when it released, I saw a fair share of perfect scores for it from users. The users exclaimed to not trust the critics, yet, some of users aren’t trust-worthy at all with how overly zealous their reviews are. So, like a naive deer in the headlights; I decided to venture into the light to find out, for myself, the make and model of the vehicle.
Be warned: What you about to read is a set of notes and commentary on and only on the first episode. A few years ago, I picked up on a habit of editing what I watch as I watch it. How I am still able to find any enjoyment from watching shows and movies is beyond me, but here are my notes that I jotted down and then later refined to sound more coherent.
It helps tremendously if you have watched the first episode of Marvel’s Iron Fist and have it fresh in your memory. You could also skim through it with these notes, kind of like a commentary track… the transcript of one, anyway. Note that if a scene or particular exchange of dialogue wasn’t mentioned, it’s because I didn’t find any issues with it. The half-glass full expression would be: it was fine.
Editing & Nit-Pick Notes:
- Cut Danny from opening shots walking through the busy streets with people and have his first shot be of his bare feet, then being bumped by a random person.
- Have Danny look up at Rand Corporation, then pass by the hot-dog vendor which gives him the odd glance. Glance in the original episode lingered a second too long.
- Before Danny enters the building, there should have been a shot of him looking down at his bare feet and at his reflection in the glass doors. Bare feet seems to be a running gag in this episode, so make it so.
- Instead of Danny talking aloud how he used to skateboard through the main lobby as a kid, have an actual kid skateboard through the lobby and a security guard stop the kid. Pan to Danny with a nostalgic smile while witnessing the event for a later reference.
- Danny should also keep quiet when checking out the Rand Corporation directory featured in the main lobby. Just have him interact with it while looking both confused and fascinated by it.
- The slow motion shot of one security guard hitting the floor as he falls and the next soon-to-be security guard to be Rand-ered useless didn’t need to be in slow motion. It stuck out since it was never used again for the rest of the episode.
- Danny’s first dialogue exchange with characters Joy and Ward has this ill syndrome of characters only telling others that they should talk or listen to them and never stating the reasons.
- In this case, Danny tries to convince Joy and Ward that he’s himself without citing any events or personal information that would convince them to hear him out. There was a mention of a deli that’s is now closed, but that’s not exactly detailed, personal info.
- Danny is escorted out by guards and has an ill-proper use of a flashback of the plane crash. Danny then has a dialogue exchange with one of the security guards, telling him that the guard reminds Danny of the old head security guard, Billy.
- What should have happened in the elevator scene was no flashback at all, and Danny telling the security guard of how he reminds him of Billy. An exchange can happen where the guard asks, “Who the fuck is, Billy?” then have Danny tell him that Billy was the former head of security when he was a kid, and how Billy used to stop Danny from skateboarding around in the main lobby.
- Hence, the scene earlier where Danny should have witnessed a kid being caught in the main lobby by a security guard for skateboarding instead of exclaiming out loud about how he used to skateboard there as a child. Without any setup, the mention of Billy was unnecessary and meaningless.
- Shot of the words “Danny. Mom. Dad.” etched in the pavement in front of Danny’s old residence would have been better framed with Danny walking to the house, then the camera panning down of the words with Danny’s bare feet feeling them underneath. Another bare feet gag thrown in, but it also conveys him feeling (with his toes, too) longing for his deceased parents and happier times
- House coincidentally belongs to Joy. I can let this one slide. If my friend’s parents had a nice home that I wanted and later became available after their death – I’d buy it, too, but only if the commute was reasonable to and from work.
- Danny uses his chi to calm Joy’s dog after breaking into her home. I’m not familiar with the comics, but if Danny’s powers also allow him to pacify animals, then the Dog Whisper just gained some pretty stiff competition.
- Looking at a photo of Joy, Ward, and the family transitions into a flashback of his childhood playing board games with Joy and Ward. Not only was this a proper use of a flashback, but it also shows that Ward was a dick even when he was a kid.
- Danny settles down under a tree in the park at night, only to befriend a homeless man named, Big Al. Dialogue exchange felt natural at first, with Al looking at Danny’s old iPod and showing him his new – albeit, stolen – iPhone and telling Danny what it can do, like look up information on people. How convenient!
- It then becomes apparent this exchange was so Al can dole out and confirm information to Danny and the audience by having Al look up “Danny Rand” and Ward’s father, “Harold Meachum.” It would have been nice and a bit humorous if Al asked Danny how “Meachum” was spelled, but, oh well.
- Al telling Danny what was on the phone didn’t need to happen. Simply showing Danny the phone, then having the camera pan to the story on the phone (as it did anyway) would have been enough. Al could have simply said, “Here (ya go),” but apparently characters have to repeat things almost as though they think the audience isn’t paying attention or catching on.
- The next dialogue exchange when Al tells Danny about getting new shoes from the shelter and pissing on them or using goat’s blood to wipe away the bad juju was a nice touch. From this point on, every interaction between Danny and Big Al came off genuine, endearing, entertaining, and natural. I hope the writers don’t kill off Big Al.
- Danny flips over a taxi to avoid being run over. Danny backing off from Joy into the street was the obvious setup to displaying some of his abilities, but the flip looked so awkward, it’s being mentioned because I busted out laughing. For that, it gets a point for… something.
- Hawk flies through the air and lands on a balcony. Camera zooms in on its gaze, then transitions to Danny doing Tai-Chi in the park. Seemed like the Hawk is supposed to be a setup for something later, either in the episode or series. I’ll have to see.
- The other female lead is introduced when donating money Danny, mistaking him for a homeless person, which leads to their first interaction. This was nicely done.
- Danny gives up oddly quick when asking the girl for a job at her dojo. Especially, when he’s been quite persistent trying to convince Joy and Ward that he is who he is and is still alive. That’s a lot of “is” for one sentence, let alone one character.
- Audio between Joy and Ward in the next office scene seems inconsistent. Mostly clear, one of Ward’s lines are purposely echoed, and then lines randomly echo. This is made more apparent when office scenes before and after this particular one are crystal clear and devoid of echoes.
- Another good scene with Big Al and Danny. Big Al gives Danny a sandwich because he thinks Danny would be hungry. Just as Danny takes his first bite, Al is telling him that a deli threw it out and that there’s food if you know where to look for it. The reaction was funny, and the gesture of Al towards Danny is genuine. Again, these scenes between Big Al and Danny were the best segments so far. I hope they don’t kill Al.
- Danny visits the girl from the park and as she is asking him to leave, threatens to smack him in the face with her practice sword. She didn’t and I wish she did. Would have added some humor while establishing that it’s going to take a lot more than a practice sword to take out Danny Rand! Yeah!
- Danny gets ambushed by Rand Corps security guard and exclaims that they are the Rand Corps security guards. Honestly, a look of surprise, followed by revelation would have sufficed. Especially, when the assailant Danny exclaimed that to had his face revealed and was the same one that had a dialogue exchange with Danny when he was first being escorted out of Rand Corps in the elevator scene.
- Cat ‘n’ Mouse scene during the Asian Festival between the security guards and Danny was cool. Nice cinematic shots of Danny blending and disappearing in the crowds were all done well. Though, when Danny dropped behind the first guard he took out, I was scratching my head on when he decided to go all Assassin’s Creed (off-screen, mind you), but I’ll let that slide.
- Ward calls a mysterious person and opens with: “We have a situation.” It’s such a classic and cheesy line of dialogue. I’m only mentioning it though because it had me chuckling and palming my face at the same time. It’s like asking for money, and instead, you got a gift-card.
- Ward enters mysterious new building and the camera is centered on him, right in front of an abstract painting as he turns into a hallway. That shot should have been off-centered, showing Ward off to one side, and the painting centered, rather than Ward obscuring it. This is an obvious nit-pick.
- Spoiler: Harold Meachum is still alive. Granted, the writing kind of gave it away. Joy tells Danny in the beginning that Harold died of cancer 12 years ago. Danny has Al look up Harold Meachum. Then, Ward calls a mysterious person. It was pretty obvious that this was being setup to happen. It’s just a shame that it was setup so obviously and the reveal was done within the first episode.
- Ward’s father looks not-that-much older than Ward. Not sure if that was the best casting choice there. Nothing a bit of makeup and proper lighting can’t fix.
- I actually enjoyed the dialogue between Ward and his father. Ward’s body language conveys a lot of ill feelings towards his father when discussing the Danny Rand situation. From adjusting his posture, rolling his eyes, shifting his lower jaw, shrugging his shoulders, and tense movements while adjusting his tone shows a lot without telling us (the audience) Ward’s relation with and how he feels about his father. Really enjoyed the actor’s performance of Ward in this scene.
- Harold Meachum then goes on a monologue, asking aloud the same questions the audience is asking at this point: Are Danny’s parents still alive? Does anyone else know Danny is alive? If so, who and who has Danny told? How and where did Danny learn martial arts? Why has Danny waited so long to show up and what does he want?
- The monologue is almost fourth-wall breaking that it made me laugh in disbelief. Unless you are familiar with the comics, you are not going to know most of the answers to those questions, and most of those should have been made apparent within the first half-hour of this episode without having to know or read external resource material.
- They fucking killed off Big Al. I loathe it when stories kill characters almost as soon as they were introduced. There was a lot of potential there with Al and Danny, so let’s throw that all away because screw decent, genuine, character interactions and development. Way to go, Billy. Yes, I’m blaming this on the former Rand Corps Chief of Security. Where were you when the story needed you!
- Danny finds out that Big Al has a hawk-shaped tattoo on his arm which also happens to have a heroine needle sticking out of it. Al never mentioned he had a drug problem so this might be a staged death for later. However, I’m not sure why the hawk tattoo meant anything, especially when Danny never saw the hawk from earlier.
- 2 camera shot between Joy and Danny as they have a conversation at Rand Corps. It cuts back and forth between them before cutting back and forth between them with a slightly tilted and further back angle. Then, it cuts back and forth between them with a closer shot of their faces before cutting back and forth between them with the first camera angle used in the first several cuts back and forth.
- For the sake of puppies and cheese whiz, have a wide shot of the two in the same frame talking to each other with some clever use of lighting that makes them look like silhouettes due to the sunlight in the background! It felt like I was watching the dialogue scenes from the Star Wars prequels all over again.
- Close up shots of Danny’s hands holding the coffee cup were not needed. Just have the camera angled so we can see all of Danny and (hopefully) notice his hands trembling while holding the cup. By the way, the coffee was tainted, but it was made obvious the moment Joy looked down at his coffee cup instead of asking Danny about his well-being. They could have used only that and kept all the sweet surprise.
- Another appropriate use of flashback and imagery with Joy and Ward overlooking Danny while he’s laid out on the floor, changing to a depiction of two Monks, then two doctors, which are currently hovering over him while he is presently strapped to a bed.
- All of the flashbacks have a stuttering frame rate to them. I can’t recall the exact name, but it’s annoying, disorienting, and overall cheap looking. I wish they would just occur in real-time, even if not all actual flashbacks play out that way. Mine occur in black & white with elevator music.
- Song from the opening reprises as the camera pans to Danny’s iPod in the snow. All right, that shot is fine, but I couldn’t help but think that it would have had more impact if the song was muffled in the intro. You know, like hearing it as you would if someone’s earbuds were cranked. Then, as the song plays at the end, it’s more of an “A-ha!” moment rather than, “Oh, that’s the song from the start.”
So, if you made it this far or just skipped all that and went down here for the conclusion – then here it is: the first episode was a very rough start, but I’ll keep on watching. Sound a bit crazy, right? Sure, I guess. It might get better. It might get worse. I want to be fair and watch the entire season before I give my verdict.
Who knows? Marvel’s Iron Fist might be one of those shows where the sum of all its parts makes it worth the while. Either way, I’m not taking any more notes on Iron Fist. That first episode was a doozy, and it’s best saved for movies, anyway (2 hours vs 12 hours). So, cheers, and may all of your iron needs be acquired through food and not fists!