Monday, March 20, 2017

"The Blessing Of Many Fractures" Destroys The Suspension Of Disbelief For Iron Fist!

The Good: Joy and Ward Meachum's plotline, Pelphrey and Stroup's performances
The Bad: Horrible dialogue, Awful character development/direction, Dull a-plot, Groanworthy fight sequences, Unsophisticated philosophical debating, Flat performances by Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick
The Basics: Iron Fist has passionless deliveries of melodramatic lines during one of the most stale plots yet with "The Blessing Of Many Fractures."

By the time "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" comes up in the first season of Iron Fist, the show has fallen seriously out of balance. Iron Fist seems unsure of how to balance a street-level super hero story with a corporate espionage drama. Iron Fist awkwardly juggles Danny Rand's attempt to be a part of his father's company, Rand Enterprises, with his duties as the Iron Fist sworn enemy of The Hand following his return to the United States after being presumed dead for fifteen years. Iron Fist redirects in a more overt action-adventure storyline for "The Blessing Of Many Fractures." Despite moments of intrigue in the Meachum-centered Rand Enterprises business b-plot, much of "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" is obsessed with an a-plot that includes pointless moralizing, the continued forced romance between Rand and Wing and one of the most ridiculous fight sequences yet.

"The Blessing Of Many Fractures" continues the odd sense of narrative time in the first season of Iron Fist as it picks up the same night that ended "Felling Tree With Roots" (reviewed here!), yet Ward Meachum suddenly has quite a bit more stubble and Danny has, apparently, made pretty extensive travel plans in virtually no time.

Colleen Wing rescues Claire Temple from an attack while Danny Rand looks in on Harold and discovers the blood in Meachum's penthouse. Ward arrives and pushes Rand away. Rand returns to Temple and Wing with a half-assed plan to go to China to apprehend Madame Gao. The next day, Joy and Ward meet at Rand Enterprises to meet with Lawrence Wilkins, who presents the pair with the terms of their severance from Rand. On the trip to China, Temple asks Rand what his plans are for Gao and ends up debating the merits of life with Wing. Rand has a panic attack when the little plane hits turbulence around the same place his plane experienced turbulence as a child.

When Ward attempts to appeal to Wilkins to divest himself of his sister for the severance package, he learns that Joy has already rejected the Board's offer. In China, Rand and his team find Gao's heroin operation and they attack it to apprehend Gao . . . even as Danny tries to figure out if he is willing to kill Gao for her place in his father's death.

In all poorly-written works, there comes a time when the person taking in the art (be it television series, movie, play or novel) begins to feel like the characters have no one to blame but themselves for their misery. If that point was not reached before "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" for the first season of Iron Fist, the show is certainly there now. When Ward Meachum is presented as the best, smartest and most reasonable character in Iron Fist, the show has certainly gotten off-course. And yet, in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures," Ward is the voice of reason amid a cast of characters who are altogether idiotic and lack sensible consistency. "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" is troubling in that Iron Fist sacrifices the intelligence of the characters in favor of pending plot reversals.

First and foremost is Danny Rand. In "The Blessing Of Many Fractures," Danny Rand is generally moronic in his impulsive chase. Claire Temple reasonably confronts Danny Rand about his intent toward hunting Gao all the way to China. Rand's moralizing feels very forced in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" and his lack of ability to make a coherent argument for killing Gao is driven home by the fact that Temple and Wing debate the merits of killing Gao with only minimal input from the protagonist.

Colleen Wing is undermined almost entirely by the strength of Claire Temple's place in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures." As Danny Rand has a panic attack, Claire Temple centers him, not Wing. Wing is a martial arts expert and it seems like it would be her place to have some zen mastery to help the man she loves. Wing ends up in a fight with one of Gao's guards and the results of that fight are incredibly unsatisfying if one considers who Wing actually is. (Without real spoilers) If Colleen Wing truly believes that Madame Gao is the leader of The Hand and that she is in a real fight against Gao's Hand, there is no credible reason for Wing to show mercy to Gao's lackeys. In other words, Gao's guards willingly follow her version of the Evil Hand, which Wing is in conflict with. In a similar vein, there is no reason when Wing is on her own to not use her weapon in a way that is appropriate to the true nature of her character.

Claire Temple is not protected from the horrible writing in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures." While it would have made sense for Temple to introduce Matt Murdock to Danny Rand well before this point, it is ludicrous that she does not suggest a meeting in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures." Temple wants to know what Rand intends to do with Gao and she wants Rand to not kill the villain. Matt Murdock would not only be a philosophical ally in her fight, but could offer Danny Rand the legal advice he needs to make a decision that could end Gao. Barring that, Matt Murdock is a much more reliable force to bring to bear against The Hand than Wing or Rand. There is no sensible reason within "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" for Temple to not reach out to Murdock to try to help Danny Rand before he either goes off to kill or illegally extradite Gao. If nothing else, Murdock could add his voice to hers on how difficult it might be to actually end Gao.

Madame Gao also seems ridiculous by "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" for anyone who has seen where Iron Fist goes in subsequent episodes. As a tactic, especially if she honestly believes that the Iron Fist could be a threat to her life, she has no reason not to expose the true nature of Colleen Wing. Gao would never have a better opportunity to shake Rand to his core than when she has the home field advantage as she does in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" when she is in China. After hours of vacillating on whether or not to kill Gao, Gao could have knocked Rand off his game at the critical moment he threatened her simply by exposing Colleen Wing's truth.

"The Blessing Of Many Fractures" utilizes one of the most brutally stupid conceits in super hero works and it does so poorly. In China, Danny Rand encounters Zhou Cheng, a master of drunken combat (it's actually a style of martial arts, if some old video games are to be trusted). Cheng is one adversary with pretty limited skills, at least compared to the martial arts masters that Rand fought in "Immortal Emerges From Cave" (reviewed here!). Yet, Danny Rand takes longer to knock Cheng out than he did to stop his final adversary in Gao's crucible . . . and that fight was after he had already fought three people and was poisoned multiple times. Rand comes into his fight with Cheng healthy and comparatively well-rested, so the fact that he is unable to defeat Cheng speedily is ridiculous.

On the Ward and Joy front, Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup do a fine job with what they are given. It says a lot about how bad the episode is when the high points are Claire Temple's references to Luke Cage and Joy Meachum's oblique reference to Jessica Jones. Ward Meachum starts the episode in an interesting emotional place . . . before he is railed into a full-on MacBeth role. At least he does not shout "Out, damn spot! Out . . ." (which, I know, is Lady MacBeth), but Ward feels very Lady MacBeth in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures." Joy illustrates just how resourceful she is in "The Blessing Of Many Fractures" and in the process, it makes it hard to suspend one's disbelief that she would have allowed her position in Rand Enterprises to fall so far before she and Ward were ever ousted by the board.

Ultimately, the few moments of Ward and Joy that are well-executed, compelling character moments are vastly overwhelmed by the cheesy, predictable martial arts moments and lame moments intended to disguise the true nature or resourcefulness of the other characters in 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 Lewis Tan, please visit my reviews of:
10,000 Days
The Hangover, Part III
Olympus Has Fallen
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End


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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