This is a SPOILER-FREE REVIEW of “Snow Gives Way” – the first episode of Marvel’s Iron Fist. We’ll be doing more detailed analysis of the show once it hits Netflix on March 17.
Missing and presumed dead for 15 years due to his plane going down over the Himalayas, Danny Rand returns to New York City to seek his friends and find out what’s happening with the family business. But those former friends don’t seem to recognise Danny, and there’s something decidedly fishy going on at Rand Enterprises.
Another Origin Story
Iron Fist is the fourth Marvel character to get his own Netflix show, following in the action-packed footsteps of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. The idea is that each hero is introduced in their own standalone series, before teaming up for a Defenders show later this year.
Trouble is, being last out the gate means Iron Fist is already starting at a disadvantage, with much of Episode 1 feeling familiar to those who have watched what has gone before. Yet another origin story – told via action in the present and flashbacks to the past – this kick-off effort often feels like it’s going through the motions, introducing characters and storylines in somewhat uninspired fashion.
In the present, a dishevelled and shoeless Danny Rand arrives in New York City and heads straight to Rand Enterprises, where he’s turned away by security guards who don’t recognise him. Having laid a beat down on them he makes it up to the head office, where he’s turned away by old friends who don’t recognise him. And the episode continues in this style, Danny trying to connect with people, then getting frustrated when they send him away. Which in turn is quite frustrating to watch. And hardly makes for a scintillating superhero story.
In the past – which Rand regularly has flashbacks to – we see him being bullied as a child, and get glimpses at his plane going down. A crash that killed both his parents, and resulted in Rand being missing and presumed dead for 15 years.
But because it’s Episode 1 of 13, we don’t get much more than that. Which is fine this early in proceedings. But with that past and present connecting in somewhat clunky fashion throughout, it all feels a little disjointed.
Finn Jones is terrific as Danny Rand however, holding the attention during the moments his storyline does not. The British-born actor – hitherto best known as Ser Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones – makes for a seriously likeable lead.
He imbues the character with child-like wonder and excitement when Danny first shows up, excited to be back home; little realising the rejection, and violence to come. And when that violence does rear its ugly head, he looks like a kung fu master, even if these early fight scenes are a little uninspired.
Jones is given some tough dialogue to work with – most notably when he’s getting spiritual and talking like a fortune cookie. But it’s fun watching him adjust to life back in the big smoke, whether befriending a homeless man in the park, taming an attack dog, or using his Mandarin to pitch for work at the local dojo.
The Plot Thickens
As this is a spoiler-free review we won’t go into detail about the episode’s storyline, but will give you some hints at what looks to be coming. The episode certainly sets up several plot strains, some of which pay off here, and others that are part of a larger mystery.
Issues at Rand Enterprises will obviously play a big part in the plot, with Danny potentially owning 51% of the company. Internal rivalry, corporate sabotage and potential foreign expansion are all hinted at in Episode 1, suggesting much of Iron Fist could revolve around the battle for Rand’s company.
The fact that Danny is presumed dead, but turns up very much alive also looks like it might become a recurring motif. At this stage, we have no idea how he survived the plane crash, but if he’s alive, might other passengers have survived? Previous series’ have already suggested that death might not be the end for these characters.
And what of Danny’s powers? We witness his lightning-quick reflexes, and the guy has a serious spring in his step. But there’s no sign of his ‘Iron Fist’ just yet, so we’re expecting to find out how and why he was trained in future episodes, as well as just how powerful a punch he packs.
Is Episode 1 of ‘Iron Fist’ Good?
“Snow Gives Way” is the weakest of all the Marvel-Netflix opening episodes. Part of that is down to the character. Where Matt Murdock has his blind lawyer shtick, Jessica Jones her strength and wise-cracking weirdness, and Luke Cage his invincibility and Blaxploitation cool, Danny Rand lacks a great hook. At the moment he’s just a likeable bloke who is good at fighting and easy to ignore.
The rest is down to plot, proceedings playing out in predictable fashion. One revelation does hint at interesting things to come, but the rest of the episode unfolds much how you’d expect it to, based on the opening scene.
Making for a show that lacks the spark, the intrigue, the excitement, and the polish of its predecessors. Meaning that taken on its own merits, Iron Fist is off to a perfectly serviceable start with the potential to improve. But based on what has come before, “Snow Gives Way” is a pretty disappointing way for the final Defender to debut.