Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 1 Review: Episodes 11-13

Hello, and welcome back! Today, we bring my look at Netflix's latest Marvel Comics adaptation, Iron Fist, to a close. In this final installment, we'll examine the last three episodes: Episode 11, “Lead Horse Back to the Stable”; Episode 12, “Bar the Big Boss”; and Episode 13, “Dragon Plays with Fire.” In addition to examining these episodes from my perspective as a longtime comic fan and pointing out some comic Easter eggs, I'll also talk about the lingering questions the series leaves for the next Netflix Marvel adaptation, The Defenders (where the various heroes of their four shows will join forces), and my thoughts on a possible second season of Iron Fist.

Let's begin!

As a whole, Iron Fist was an incredibly underwhelming and infuriating mess. In these final episodes, I simply accepted the fact that this season was a train wreck and tried to appreciate really the only elements that worked: Ward Meachum and Davos.

Sacha Dhawan was so good as Davos that it feels like the creators of Iron Fist  wasted an opportunity by only featuring him in these last three episodes. His character was way more interesting than most of the other cast members we were forced to spend time with, especially Finn Jones's Danny Rand/Iron Fist.

The way Dhawan played the character, you could feel Davos's rage and disappointment. I especially enjoyed his interactions with Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple. And, as I mentioned before, his action scenes were much better than Finn Jones's. The looks he gave while dishing out punishment to his opponents were just badass. Honestly, I found myself actually rooting for Davos and wishing this was his show instead of Danny's.

Then, Tom Pelphrey continued his stellar work as Ward Meachum by completing the only character arc in the entire series with any real amount of payoff. Watching Ward go from a bullying jerk to sympathetic son to reluctant hero and ally of Danny was one of the only things that made Iron Fist watchable. He got some of the best scenes in what was an otherwise terrible final episode. Watching Ward shoot his father, Harold—perhaps the most uninteresting villain in a show crowded with them—and knock him off the roof was hilarious and highly satisfying.

As great as that moment was, though, it could have been folded into Episode 12. Making Harold Meachum the entire focus of Episode 13 was pointless and only served to make me dislike Danny Rand even more. David Wenham's Harold is such a mustache-twirling slime ball that Danny's surprise at Harold's betrayal makes him look even more foolish and childlike.

And that's saying something because the entire second half of the show Danny acted foolish and childlike. It was either, “MY PARENTS!” or “GRR THE HAND!” in the most whiny of ways. I would go so far as to say that the creators gave us one of the most dull and unlikable protagonists I've ever seen.

I've talked ad nauseam about how underwhelming the fights in this show were, and that only continued in these last three episodes with their horrible and distracting use of multiple camera angles. However, choosing to set the final battle of Episode 12 at Bethesda Fountain on a rainy night was a nice choice and looked great—though, the fact that so much of that fight was set up work for The Defenders and future seasons of Iron Fist undercut how great the backdrop was.

Speaking of tying into The Defenders, it's pretty clear Bakuto is going to end up being a villain on that show. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, Bakuto was a much better villain that Harold Meachum. For example, Episode 10 featured a truly chilling moment when Colleen's former students dragged her into the basement of the Hand compound and connected her to the blood draining contraption that the Hand used in Daredevil Season 2. If that's picked up and further fleshed out in The Defenders, we could be in for some interesting moments.

However, on the other hand, Bakuto is no Madame Gao. His incessant talk about making the world a better place made him come off as annoying. I think he's better when he's allowed to be more mysterious and menacing. Ramon Rodriguez has the acting chops to pull it off, as demonstrated by his role in ABC's Daybreak (a 2006 show that was basically Groundhog Day as an action/crime show), but the writing failed to bring that to light. 

The reason Bakuto will more than likely be back is because the show never answered why the Hand so desperately wants to control the Iron Fist. In Episode 12, Bakuto mentions that one of the Hand higher-ups wants to work with Danny. I'm curious to see that plot thread resolved, but hopefully by a production team that doesn't involve Iron Fist showrunner, Scott Buck.

Making the Hand the big bad of The Defenders is more than a little problematic, though. While Daredevil Season 2 somewhat dropped the ball with the way they treated the Hand, Iron Fist took a huge, steaming dump on their potential as villains. The Hand are supposed to be a combination of horror movie and action movie tropes: a demon-worshipping ninja cult. They're supposed to be scary and mysterious.

In Iron Fist, they're mostly portrayed as a mundane heroin-peddling crime syndicate with generic gun toting operatives. That means the writing team of The Defenders will have their work cut out for them with their chosen antagonists. The Hand need their mystique back, and they need a truly sinister, supernatural, and apocalyptic agenda.

It's unclear if the final moments of Episode 13 are more set up for The Defenders or a potential Season 2 of Iron Fist. The disappearance of K'un-Lun is a direct call back to the comic book incarnation of the city, which only comes into phase with our dimension for a short period of time every 15 years. That's why there was so much talk about “the way being open” in these episodes. It's a shame we didn't really get to see much of the actual city of K'un-Lun, though. In the comics it's an interesting amalgam of alien technology and pre-20th-century Chinese culture.

The other big comic element that was alluded to in these episodes and not really seen was the dragon: Shou-Lao, the Undying, which is the source of the Iron Fist's power. In the comics, the final step for becoming Iron Fist is to confront, steal, and kill the molten heart of the dragon, who is then reborn. While the thought of a kung-fu fight with a dragon is awesome, it’s probably a good thing we didn't see a flashback to it in Iron Fist. The show’s other fight scenes were so bad, I couldn’t imagine it would have looked all that great.

K'un-Lun's disappearance means Davos is now trapped in this world. The final moments of Episode 13 showed how upset he is about that, as he's seen plotting with Joy to kill Danny as Madame Gao lurks in the background. Part of me hopes that carries over to The Defenders, and part of me doesn't. Davos and Gao are great, but The Defenders already has a lot of characters. Plus, it won't have as many episodes as the other Marvel Netflix shows—it's slated for 8 instead of the usual 13.

Although, it would be quite unfortunate if we had to wait for an Iron Fist Season 2 to resolve the Davos plot. I might not care enough to watch it. If Scott Buck is too busy showruiningrunning the adaptation of Marvel's Inhumans for ABC and we get someone else at the helm, I might come back for a potential Iron Fist Season 2. But they'd have their work cut out making things interesting.

Ultimately, I just don't really care about the title character. The creators of the show ruined any excitement I might have had over Danny Rand and the Iron Fist. They've even made me skeptical about his potential interactions with Luke Cage in The Defenders, which is especially tragic since the friendship between Luke and Danny—as seen in Marvel's great Power Man & Iron Fist series—is one of my favorite friendships in comics.

Hey, Netflix! I have an idea! Instead of doing an Iron Fist Season 2 with Danny Rand and Finn Jones, you should salvage the only real redeeming elements from this series and give us a buddy action show with Ward and Davos? You could call it Businessman & Should Have Been Iron Fist!

That's a wrap for my look at Netflix's Iron Fist! Thank you so much for joining me for this feature!
 

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Episodes 8-10 The Defenders, Episodes 1-4

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

Comments

  1. Doreen Sheridan

    Yassssss to everything you said! I was so willing to give it credit given that the first few episodes were okay but not great, but then it just all went horribly pear-shaped from episode 8 onwards. Ward really was the best thing about this show and I still don’t understand how Danny felt compelled to take on a position that would mean he should never leave K’un Lun. Everything about Netflix Danny Rand sucks. He’s an entitled brat and I cannot imagine Luke Cage being besties with this guy (and don’t even get me started on the OTP with Misty Knight.)

    Also, showruining is my favorite new word :D.

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