Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" Fleshes Out Iron Fist In A Mundane Way.

The Good: Carrie-Anne Moss and Hogarth!, Moments of character, A few decent plot moments
The Bad: Direction/choreography, Some very stiff performances, Pacing
The Basics: Iron Fist emerges in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch"

As Netflix Marvel Television shows continue, usually, the new series' (after Daredevil) work to connect the shows to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the other Netflix Marvel shows. In Iron Fist, the second episode references "The Incident" from The Avengers (reviewed here!) and by the third episode, "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch," Iron Fist makes an explicit tie to the other Netflix Marvel television shows in the form of Hogarth. Jeri Hogarth was the lawyer in the first season of Jessica Jones (reviewed here!) and her appearance is far less oblique than other allusions could be.

"Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" follows "Shadow Hawk Takes Flight" (reviewed here!) and continues the story of Danny Rand and his antagonists, the Meachums, who have taken over his family's business. The Iron Fist manifested at the very end of "Shadow Hawk Takes Flight" and picks up moments after Danny Rand breaks out of the mental institution at which he had been committed.

Colleen Wing wakes up in her dojo moments before Ward Meachum's thugs from Rand Enterprises break in. Danny Rand is already in her place, bleeding, but manages to avoid the security guards, while Wing gets rid of them. Wing wants nothing to do with Danny and the next morning, Rand spars with Wing to try to get a job teaching at her dojo. When Ward Meachum visits Harold, his father once again pressures him to acquire a pier and he tasks Ward with letting Joy close the deal. The next morning at Rand Enterprises, Ward begs Joy for help in getting the Board to support his pier deal and enlists her aid in closing the deal with Patel, the man refusing to sell.

When Joy returns to her brownstone, she finds Danny waiting for her and she reluctantly begins a dialogue with him. Acknowledging Danny as her former childhood friend, she brings Rand inside to offer him the buyout she has engineered for him. Rand refuses, claiming to be looking only for family and a connection to the life he lost, before he visits his parents' (and his own) grave. Noticing how well-tended the graves are, Rand tracks down the executor of his parents' estate . . . Jeri Hogarth and he enlists her aid in authenticating his identity. While Joy and Ward use an unconventional tactic to get Patel's pier, Harold Meachum is visited by Madame Gao, who exerts her control over the business magnate. When Hogarth informs Danny that every record of his childhood existence has gone missing, Rand steps into Ward Meachum's last, desperate, trap!

David Wenham continues to play Harold Meachum with a strong undertone of anger to him. He uses an economy of movement when, as Harold, he strikes Ward. The simple brutality of the move, in concert with his manipulative dialogue - forcefully, yet quietly - delivered by Wenham helps to characterize Harold Meachum as a truly abusive parent.

Finn Jones continues to be forced into a position where he has to give an understated performance as Danny Rand in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch." After being initially charming opposite Jessica Henwick, Jones is stuck blankly staring as Rand listens to Joy Meachum. Even when Rand gets upset in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch," Jones does not manage to emote convincingly enough to sell the emotions. While some of Jones's performance can be interpreted to help characterize Danny Rand as emotionally stunted, much of his portrayal of Rand in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" comes across simply as flat.

That flat performance is contrasted by Carrie-Anne Moss playing brilliantly cold opposite Jones. Moss manages to convey a lot of emotions with minimal expression and movement. Moss's Hogarth is whip-smart, quickly asking the right questions needed to establish that Danny is who he claims to be. Moss is back in the mantle of the consummate professional as Jeri Hogarth and it is refreshing to see her character back at the top of her game. Moss performs with subtlety and enough emotion to land every line without ever betraying her character.

Jennifer Henwick is given her greatest amount of screentime yet in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" and her performance is unfortunately erratic. Henwick has to play angry and concerned in one key scene and she does a decent job of portraying Wing as upset with Rand. But in trying to express her character's protective instinct for her students, Henwick comes off as stiff. "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" fails to make the viewer emotionally invest in Colleen Wing; at this point in the season, she feels entirely disposable.

Joy Meachum is well-characterized in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch." Joy and Ward, despite being sister and brother, act like a power couple in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" and Joy steps up as a calculating, brilliant partner. Joy's plan to close the deal with Patel is risky and smart, but she is a strong-enough character to make it work.

"Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" might be most significant in that it humanizes Ward Meachum very effectively. Ward is shown being abused and in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" his character reveals that his heart is not in the corporate gamesmanship that he has spent years engaged in.

The fight sequences in "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" is painfully choreographed. It is the visual equivalent to listening to dialogue that feels scripted and the mild demonstration between Rand and Wing is so . . . performed that is does not even cast the illusion of being real sparring.

Ultimately, "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" is more melodramatic than it is real, more scripted than it is characterized, and the superlative performances are overwhelmed by the weaker acting moments. That makes "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch" one of the first truly erratic episodes of Iron Fist.

[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 Carrie-Anne Moss, please visit my reviews of:
"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" - Daredevil
The Matrix 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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