The Good: Tom Pelphrey's performance
The Bad: Gross, Terrible character development, Stiff performances, Dull plot, Painfully predictable lines of dialogue
The Basics: "Felling Tree With Roots" might well be the worst hour ever produced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At this point in Iron Fist, I am entirely going through the motions. With most Marvel Cinematic Universe works, I do all I can to experience the new work as soon as possible and review it. The Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe television usually occupies an intense weekend as I watch and rewatch the new series over the course of two days. With the first season of Iron Fist, I found myself so unimpressed with the show that I could not bring myself to pound through the season twice. What I discovered during the rewatch was that I liked Iron Fist less than I thought.
So, by the time I got to "Immortal Emerges From Cave" (reviewed here!) and was alternately bored and horrified by it, it made it very hard for me to get at all enthusiastic about going back to Iron Fist to watch and review "Felling Tree With Roots." "Felling Tree With Roots" follows on the heels of "Immortal Emerges From Cave" and deals with Danny Rand reacting to the dangerous crucible of fights he just went through. "Felling Tree With Roots" also marks the return of Harold Meachum to the narrative in a very active way.
Opening with Harold Meachum waking up to a visit by The Hand's goons, Meachum is threatened, but before his fingers can be cut off, he kills the minions sent by Madame Gao. To throw The Hand off his killing the goons, Meachum cuts off his own finger, while a stunned Danny Rand watches. Back at Rand Enterprises, the wounded Ward Meachum is confronted by Joy. When Joy gets disgusted and leaves her brother, Harold calls his son for help with disposing of the bodies. At Colleen Wing's dojo, Wing stitches up Rand and the two discuss the nature of the Iron Fist and how Wing lost the chemist that Rand left in her care. While Rand and Wing have sex, Ward Meachum is called on by Harold to dispose of the bodies he created.
The next morning, Danny wakes up with Wing before going back to the office. There, Joy berates him for his irresponsibility with the business before Madame Gao shows up at Rand Enterprises. After Gao threatens Rand, she takes an elevator to the 13th floor where she has her heroin operation based. Returning to work, Rand makes plans to leave Rand Enterprises to pursue a better life for himself, much to the surprise of Joy. While Rand confronts Gao's lieutenant within his building, Wing is visited by her sensei, Bakuto, who questions her relationship with the Iron Fist. Joy is shocked when the board of Rand Enterprises ousts her and Ward over their poor handling of Danny's return. And when Ward's escape plan is threatened, he confronts Harold in a definitive conflict.
Danny Rand finally discovers just how deep Madame Gao's influence is in Rand Enterprises when he abruptly learns of her operation on the 13th floor of Rand Enterprises. The presence of Gao within the Rand Enterprises building might have been an audacious reveal had it been teased at all in any of the prior episodes. Gao's presence within the Rand Enterprises building has the unfortunate effect of undermining Gao's character, though. Gao is smart and something other than human, yet she leads Rand right to her lair and seems unaware of his presence in the next room after he arrives and listens in on her plans.
"Felling Tree With Roots" starts off with Harold Meachum making it clear that he is a more effective villain than most Marvel Cinematic Universe adversaries. Meachum is threatened and when Rand arrives, Harold capitalizes on the opportunity to dispatch his would-be assassins. Harold does not posture or talk up his game, he acts and that is a distinct difference from most Marvel Cinematic Universe villains.
In the process of illustrating Meachum's effectiveness, "Felling Tree With Roots" undermines Danny Rand's character even more. Rand witnesses Harold Meachum killing Gao's minions and he is only minimally shocked. In fact, Danny essentially accepts and goes along with Meachum's insistence that the goons were going to kill Danny and he helped Rand. Danny does not actually seem all that upset by Meachum violently murdering two people right in front of him.
That is followed by Rand and Colleen Wing making love for the first time. It is hard not to watch "Felling Tree With Roots" and ask, just what the hell does Danny Rand stand for anyway?! At the monastery, Rand was focused, celibate and kept at about the emotional maturity level of a ten year-old. Since returning to New York, Rand has beaten around the bush about how he abandoned K'un-Lun, was a bad pupil who frequently snuck out of the monastery to do things against the wishes of the monks, seems all right with people flat-out murdering in front of him and now breaking his vow of chastity. It is nice to see a hero who has an obvious weakness - Rand begins the episode unable to summon the Iron Fist because he was so drained by summoning it during Gao's tournament - but Danny Rand seems pretty well characterized as having nothing but weaknesses.
The only remotely bright spot in "Felling Tree With Roots" is Tom Pelphrey's performance of Ward Meachum. Ward is in the process of falling apart emotionally, a direct result of the increasingly gruesome tasks his father is giving him and things he is exposed to and his now out-of-control painkiller habit. Pelphrey plays the part competently, but even his character does not escape "Felling Tree With Roots" unscathed. In "Felling Tree With Roots," Ward is revealed to be an embezzler, undermining his few redeemable early character traits as actually caring about Rand Enterprises.
"Felling Tree With Roots" is plagued by stiff acting and one of the most passionless sex scenes ever created. Jessica Henwick and Finn Jones have no on-screen chemistry in "Felling Tree With Roots." Finn Jones's stiff performance is highlighted by Wai Ching Ho's charismatic and layered performance of Gao.
Ultimately, "Felling Tree With Roots" continues the unfortunate trend in Iron Fist of oscillating between gross and boring. That makes for deeply unsatisfying television.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Iron Fist - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
For other works with David Wenham, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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