Our heroes may be on their worst behavior, but it brings out the best in them for one of the best episodes in the series overall.
- Meaningful Conversation
In the last episode, characters began to connect with one another on a physical level. Now we get some real meat as characters come together and talk first, and then fight.
The character of Danny Rand sucks, for a multitude of reasons. Mainly because his character was never properly defined or even explored in his first series. This lack of definition left audiences with just the representational aspects of the situation and those already weren’t good. True to the source material it maybe, Iron Fist is based on some hackneyed orientalist storytelling that will not play now. While better storytelling can’t erase the root issue, it’d be better and more entertaining than what we got. Ill defined, Danny Rand on Netflix is some rich white dude who knows kung fu for “reasons” and can’t really see past himself and that mission he won’t shut up about. All the while Finn Jones mopes around making “tough guy face” at everything and Jessica Henwick runs emotive circles around him. It is tedious, tone deaf, and worse boring.
So, to have Luke Cage call Danny out on his shit is a cathartic and earned moment. It’s a real meaty character scene, the kind of scene that makes these shows worth it. It begins to build the kind of relationship the Heroes for Hire have in the comics. Mike Colter just exudes empathy and a desire to help people as Cage*. That care brushing against a character who claims to want to help people but routinely fails to listen plays like gangbusters. This begins the rebuilding process for Danny Rand, it won’t be easy or short but it finally makes him an actual character.
Brian Bendis said he wanted to see Luke crossover with Gilmore Girls and with Mike Colter how wouldn’t that be great.
- Did Someone say Hallway fight?
Hallway fights have become something of a calling card for the Marvel Netflix series. At their best, they are compact sequences that encapsulate the physical attributes and inner self of a character. The first one in Daredevil showed the characters indefatigable nature and resilience, smartly hiding the physical altercations and only showing the end cost. Luke Cage accompanied by “Bring Da Ruckus” highlighted his indestructibility and almost bemused reaction to everyone trying to hurt him. The Punisher’s sequence was just brutal.
The showdown in Midland Circle’s hallway with all of the Defenders present is the best overall action sequence this season and for good reason. It is a micro version of how Whedon handled The Avengers Battle for New York (this being a Netflix show I guess I should call it The Incident). There is a clearly defined, and well lit, space. Because of this defined geography, the sequence doesn’t feel cut to death or incoherent as little edits are slipped into emphasizing specific motions. The slow dolly out as they work their way through the crowd of white collar Hand henchmen lets everyone show off a bit. If you didn’t watch a previous series or where Iron Fist, this sequence explained the basics of what each character was about. Most importantly we get to see them work together, this is mostly between Danny and Luke. but you can’t really be a team unless there is teamwork.
- Iron Fist does something cool!
This is a good episode for Iron Fist overall. First Luke called him out on his shit and now the hallway fight finally made him look cool. He fought all those guys at the start and punched through a sword! These are the kind of giffable, encapsulating moment his introductory series never gave him and but everyone else got. For a few moments, he was something like the Iron Fist you see in the comics. It is a long road for rehabilitating Danny Rand after a moribund season of television, but “Worst Behavior” sets him up for an actual character arc! Yay for the absolute basics of western drama being met (with how this series is structured overall, it’s one of the better things they do.)Continued below
- The Supporting Characters Have Had Enough
C3PO thought he was made to suffer, he wasn’t wrong. That poor droid was a supporting player in someone else’s story. The key supporting cast in Defenders (Claire, Misty, Colleen, and to a degree Foggy) are nowhere near as subservient. Claire’s entire arc through guesting on all these shows has been a slow realization that she needs to act. Misty is a mostly competent police officer trying to get the lay of an ever-shifting board. Colleen is just a more interesting, developed, character than Danny. While poor plotting gets in their way and undermines them, these women are, mostly, allowed to be proactive figures and more mature than their lead counterparts at points.
Claire and Colleen’s reaction to Luke and Danny’s childish bickering is just the best. It’s the kind of reaction someone in their own story would have not just a supporting character. They understand something bigger is at stake even if that understanding is vague. Good character can make up for poor structure, and the ability for Marvel Netflix to continually deliver on that front is why these shows manage to work.
C’mon Netflix, where is a Daughters of the Dragon show with these three?
- Black Sky Rising
As the season goes on it becomes clear that Élodie Yung gets something of the short end of the stick. But what she gets to do in the opening of “Worst Behavior” is excellent and the kind of material that makes Yung such a fun screen presence. Reduced to mostly non-verbal emotion, Yung’s language does all the talking, with a little help from slick editing. The process is one-part Yung’s physical abilities and the nature of the sequence: training montage. As inconsistent as the fight sequencing as storytelling can be at times, this pre-title sequence lets the action do all the talking. It literally shows instead of tells, which is something these series don’t tend to do. Having the lights go out and Elektra surrounded by the bloodied remains of her enemies puts her over big as a physical force. This pre-title sequence is a good reminder of why Elektra is cool, even if the show barely gives a narrative justification for just about everything else.
The slow wipe transitions as part of the overall training montage are probably the most effortlessly (and old school) “cool” thing this series does. Much of Defenders formal style is predicated on neon lighting and some slick extended shots, these moments can feel disjointed from the whole and to a degree self-conscious. In contrast, this sequence feels unified, it’s built off of the defining tool of the medium, editing. Yes, Yung’s performance helps but it’s the editing that gives that performance context.