The Good: Adequate performances, Fine direction
The Bad: Dumb, predictable, obvious, overdone reversal plot stretched out to mimic every other Marvel work, No good character development.
The Basics: Iron Fist does the same reversal episode every other Marvel Television Universe work has done with "Black Tiger Steals Heart."
If you are bothering to read this review, there is a reasonable expectation that you are a fan of the components of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially the television portions produced by Netflix. Remember when Vanessa was proven to be as knowingly corrupt as Wilson Fisk on Daredevil? Do you recall how it felt when Malcolm was exposed as Kilgrave's photographer on Jessica Jones? Or that moment when it turned out that one of the people at the Kilgrave support group was actually the villain's mother? Perhaps you recall what a huge character twist it was when the identity of the Black Sky was revealed on Daredevil or how cool it was when Diamondback first confronted Luke Cage on the street and revealed that he was Cage's brother . . . Remember that sinking feeling on Luke Cage when it became clear that Cage's beloved dead wife actually knew about the experiments that gave him super strength? Hell, if you even made it through the first season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. you might recall that it was a pretty badass reversal when Grant Ward was exposed as an Agent Of HYDRA.
"Black Tiger Steals Heart" is that episode of Iron Fist. And, if you think I'm beating the dead horse by pointing out that all of these aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have a prolonged build-up to a virtually identical reversal, now you know the frustration of experiencing "Black Tiger Steals Heart." "Black Tiger Steals Heart" makes the big character reversal for the least-developed, least-interesting character on Iron Fist.
"Black Tiger Steals Heart" follows immediately on the events of "The Mistress Of All Agony" (reviewed here!) and it is one prolonged, pointless tease, leading the most idiotic viewers to the revelation that Colleen Wing and her sudden sensei Bakuto are not who they seem to be. And "Black Tiger Steals Heart" might have been interesting if Bakuto had been a presence in any episodes before this (he's had, perhaps, five minutes of screentime before this episode) and if Colleen Wing had been presented in a more interesting fashion in any of the earlier episodes of Iron Fist.
Unfortunately, "Black Tiger Steals Heart" is obvious and predictable. The moment that Bakuto does not give Danny Rand a straightforward answer about what he did with Madame Gao, the episode is constructed to build to the not-at-all-shocking reveal at the episode's climax.
Danny Rand and Colleen Wing awaken, drained, at Bakuto's compound after Rand healed Wing and lost consciousness. The same morning, Joy and Harold have a heart to heart while Harold explains what being dead was like to her. Bakuto gives Danny Rand a tour of his karate compound and he shows Rand footage of a prior Iron Fist in action, defending the pass to K'un-Lun. Harold Meachum calls Danny Rand and is excited to learn that Gao has been taken out.
As Danny explores the compound, he becomes more and more convinced that there is something wrong there. When he discovers Madame Gao, incarcerated, on the compound, he learns the truth about the compound's nature. As Rand reacts to the truth, Harold makes a move to take back his position at Rand Enterprises by confronting Lawrence Wilkins.
"Black Tiger Steals Heart" gets off to a bad start when Danny Rand makes a comment upon touring the compound that mimic's Luke Skywalker's reaction to being on Dagobah. I mean, "Black Tiger Steals Heart" was already being derivative of every other Marvel Television show, but to rip off The Empire Strikes Back and try to make Bakuto into Danny's Yoda is enough to make viewers cringe. Bakuto becoming a dominant force in Iron Fist might have seemed like less of a storytelling "screw you" to the fans if it didn't come in the season at virtually the same place where Diamondback became the Big Bad for Iron Fist. So . . . many . . . formulaic aspects.
Most of the acting in "Black Tiger Steals Heart" is all right. David Wenham, Jessica Stroup and even Ramon Rodriguez manage to do fine in their roles. Finn Jones takes a while to build-up to a human reaction - looking more like he is attempting to remember his lines than actually reacting organically in some of his early scenes - for Danny Rand, but he gets there. Jessica Henwick is unfortunately stiff as Colleen Wing. In "Black Tiger Steals Heart," the romance subplot for Colleen Wing and Danny Rand feels entirely forced.
Ultimately, were it not for David Wenham's scenes where he is given the chance to play Harold Meachum as smart and manipulative (as opposed to bottle-throwing angry), "Black Tiger Steals Heart" would be utterly unworthy of watching.
[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 Ramon Rodriguez, please visit my reviews of:
Battle Los Angeles
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3
Pride And Glory
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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