Iron Fist had made its debut on Netflix, introducing the final member of New York City's very own superhero team - the Defenders. The show has come under fire for the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand, and the actor’s execution of the character. To be fair, Jones wasn’t given the best material to work with; the show’s writing falls flat in many ways, and so far it's received the least positive critical response out of any of the Marvel/Netflix shows. There are brighter moments, though, and despite a slow start the show does improve as it moves along.
Fans have found plenty to like about Iron Fist - from the inclusion of obscure comic book characters like the Bride of Nine Spiders, to the many connections to the other Defenders shows (at one point Danny ends up wearing Luke Cage's old shirt). Dotted throughout Iron Fist there are flashes of excellence, with certain moments and performances that are truly enjoyable. We’ve listed some of the series highlights below.
Jeri Hogarth Arrives
It’s not unfair to say that the first two episodes of Iron Fist are a drag. Essentially, two hours are wasted between Danny Rand saying he’s Danny Rand, and Ward and Joy Meachum saying he’s not. By the time Netflix/Marvel regular Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) appears in the third episode, it’s entirely welcome and very much needed. As viewers, Hogarth’s presence is an anchoring point, helping to remind us that while Iron Fist might feel unfamiliar, it still has a place in the Defenders universe. Her familiar cool, calm, snarky presence and steely determination quickly dominates any scene she is in, proving once again why Moss is such a brilliant casting choice.
Hogarth quickly ascertains that Danny should not accept any offer from the Meachums to disappear back out of their lives again, and she sets about winning him everything he’s entitled to (with a little help from Joy). Aside from Hogarth being a cool link to Jessica Jones, her intervention allows the series to move on from Danny proving his identity, and to get into the real meat of the plot. Also, we learn that Danny's nickname for her is J-Money. She should put that on her business cards.
Danny vs. The Triads
Hallway fight scenes are becoming a regular occurrence in Marvel shows, ever since Daredevil started the trend. When hatchet-wielding Triad thugs attempt to kidnap Joy from Danny’s apartment, he makes short work of them using his martial arts skills. The fight continues into the elevator, where some impressive camera angles and great lighting techniques enhance the scene still further. Finally, it feels as though Iron Fist is really getting going.
The scene is impressively well edited, which makes a change when you compare it to other fight sequences during the series. There’s also a strong display from the actual Iron Fist, giving a clearer indication of what Danny can be capable of. To this end, the hallway fight scene feels more like ‘proper’ Iron Fist source material - something that the series often lacks.
The Container Fight Scene
The middle episodes of Iron Fist are certainly the strongest, with the action really ramping up when Danny moves in to rescue Radovan from The Hand. The group have kidnapped the chemist’s daughter, forcing him to make a new type of heroin in order to keep her alive. Danny vows to find Radovan, and he does so in the best fashion - smashing into the container where Radovan is being held and taking out the guards. Again, it’s the camera angles that make this scene what it is, and the close confines make for some great moves from both sides. The editing isn’t great, necessarily, but it’s still easy to appreciate the scene as in impressive display of fighting skills. Danny also pulls off a stylish exit of the container - smashing the doors open using his Iron Fist abilities.
Claire Temple Performs Life-Saving Surgery
Danny manages to rescue Radovan from his holdings, but the chemist is gravely injured in the process. He’s unable to go to hospital, since The Hand will find him, and he’s bleeding out. Of course, there’s only one person who can help: Claire Temple. It’s always a pleasure to see Rosario Dawson reprising her role as the exasperated nurse who’s seen it all, and she’s no different in Iron Fist. If anything, she’s even more jaded after her experiences with Luke Cage.
Even so, Claire steps in to help, and ends up performing life-saving surgery on Radovan in Colleen’s dojo. Needing something to form a chest seal, Claire asks for Danny’s credit card, and he immediately hands it over. She then uses it to stem the flow of blood and get Radovan’s lungs working properly, before turning to look at Danny. “Hope you didn’t want your card back,” she says, deadpan. Brilliant.
Harold Cleans Up
Overall, episode 7 is just packed full of random and disjointed plot developments (like Colleen suddenly falling for Danny. What?). However, it also has the single best opener, when Harold sits on his couch trying desperately to convince two of The Hand’s heavies that he has no clue that Danny Rand is alive, or that he’s the Iron Fist. “Iron Fist? Sounds like a sex toy,” is a genius line, because let’s face it, it does. Not only that, though, but Danny chooses that moment to arrive at Harold’s apartment, covered in blood, with the line, “Harold, we need to talk.”
Marvel always have great comic timing and know how to use humor effectively, and they do it here. A fight breaks out, of course, during which Harold kills the heavies and then chops off his own finger to send back to The Hand. Not only that, but he then butchers the bodies entirely, and calls Ward to come and remove them. It’s horrendously grisly, and doesn’t really have any place in the narrative other than he removes one man’s tongue to send back to The Hand to make it look like he himself has been killed…but it’s so insane and full of dark humor, that it makes the list.
Harold Meets His Fate
Many tire of the Meachum’s antics throughout Iron Fist, but the extremely dysfunctional family actually does have a strong storyline - especially when it comes to Ward's tortured relationship with Harold. Therefore, another Meachum moment from within the same episode makes our list. Finally tiring of being his father’s slave, and being seen as a perpetual disappointment, Ward snaps and kills his father. Actually, he stabs him repeatedly in a fit of all-out rage, and it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for Harold’s (temporary) fate. Ward is continually berated, belittled, lied to and treated like dirt by his vile father, and the final straw seems to be when he’s ordered to dispose of two badly butchered bodies. It’s hard not to laugh when Ward rocks up at the lake to drown a third corpse. The whole affair is a reminder that Marvel should do more humor in their Netflix shows because the dark, wry humor they do show is great.
Claire and Colleen Fight in an Alleyway
In episode 8, Danny decides he must go to China attack Madame Gao’s headquarters. Danny, as always, insists he can do all of this alone, and the two ladies can wait for him to be done. Naturally, they won’t take him at his word, and when Danny enters the building, Claire keeps watch. She soon spots men approaching, and she and Colleen take the group on. Claire’s martial arts training might not be as intense or extensive as Danny’s, but she’s infinitely more watchable. As for Colleen, she is awesome at everything, so this scene of them fighting alongside each other is a total pleasure to watch. As with most fight sequences it’s not cut together brilliantly, but it’s still very entertaining.
Lewis Tan's Drunken Fighting
Let’s not get into the fact that Lewis Tan, a half-Asian, martial arts trained actor, auditioned for Danny Rand. And we won’t discuss the fact that Finn Jones was cast instead. Let’s just be grateful that Tan was given a role at all, even though it’s small and not nearly as long as we’d like.
Tan completely steals not only his scene, but the entirety of episode 8 as Zhou Cheng, the drunken doorkeeper to The Hand’s hideaway. Everything points to the fact that though he might be painted as a villain, he and Danny are cut from the same cloth. Sadly, that’s not really expanded upon, but the fight between the pair is brilliant simply because it’s hilarious. Highlights include Cheng being exceptionally light on his feet for someone so inebriated, and him stopping halfway through to compliment Danny on his haircut. We really could have done with more of Tan in Iron Fist, but we’ll take what we can get, and this scene is certainly right up there among the best offerings from the whole season.
After already dying once of cancer, and being brought back to life in a deal with The Hand, Harold is eventually stabbed to death by his son, Ward, and dumped in a lake. Right at the start of episode 9, we see Harold emerging from the water, still impaled on the knife that Ward lodged in his stomach. At first, the viewer might assume that this is a dream of Ward’s, but pretty soon it’s clear that Harold has really come back to life once more. In fact, he can’t stay dead unless he’s beheaded or burnt. The best part about Harold’s return, though, and his subsequent revelation to his daughter that he didn’t stay dead the first time around, is everyone else’s complete non-reaction to the news - even Ward seems to get over it pretty quickly.
Danny Heals Colleen
Really, this scene is most remarkable because it took Bakuto to tell Danny that he has the ability to heal, proving yet again how bad he is at this whole Iron Fist thing. After earning herself a cut with a poisoned sword on their trip to China, Colleen starts to rapidly fall victim to the poison and Claire realizes she’s dying. Worse still, even the Night Nurse can’t help her this time. Colleen asks for her sensei to be called - Bakuto, whom we later learn is not as full as good intentions as he makes out. Still, in this scene he really is genuine in his desire to save Colleen’s life, and he points out to Danny that his powers can draw the poison from Colleen’s body if he concentrates and centers his chi. Danny does as he’s told and Colleen’s health is restored, with the Iron Fist discovering a valuable new power along the way. While it’s intriguing for us as viewers, it’s subsequently frustrating because we don’t see that skill on display again. However, it will no doubt come in handy (no pun intended) in The Defenders.
Episode 10 is pretty packed in terms of action, and also marks the arrival of Sacha Dhawan as fellow Danny's fellow K’un-Lun alum, Davos, who has tracked his old friend to New York in an effort to drag him back to his Iron Fist duties.
When Bakuto takes Danny, Gao, and Colleen back to his compound, Danny works out that this is not the best place to be. As he tries to break out, Davos arrives and the pair fight side by side. There’s another hallway fight scene (because why not?) and a great scene between Bakuto and Danny in the surveillance room. The fight spills out into the grounds, and that’s when we really get to see what Danny and Davos are capable of when they’re together.
Davos urges Danny to use his fist to smash the gate so they can escape, but Danny isn’t capable of harnessing its powers, because Bakuto isn’t the best person to have around when you need to center your chi, which leads to Davos delivering the best line: “You’re the worst Iron Fist ever!”
Davos and Claire Eat Pizza
Pizza is the answer to all life’s problems, unless your name is Davos, and you shun such delights in favour of a restrictive diet that contains little to no joy. Thankfully, the ever-sensible Claire basically forces him to eat it, and though he describes it as “chewy,” he does seem to approve. The moment is light-hearted, and amusing; a reminder that sometimes a bit of mundane dialogue between two characters is really appreciated as a break from all the tense action.
Davos also opens up to Claire about why he’s so bitter that Danny left K’un-Lun and left the pass unattended. He believed the Iron Fist to be his birth right, and had to accept the monk’s decision to have Danny take up the mantel. A double blow, then, that Danny ran off from the post almost as soon as he’d taken it on. Having Davos tell all this to Claire is perhaps not the most inventive way to progress the story, but it does the job well enough, and Dhawan delivers all the info well.
Danny, Colleen, and Davos vs. Bakuto
Bakuto got what was coming to him, really. Colleen finally realized that her faction of The Hand was not as peaceful and harmonious as it appeared to be, and that Bakuto was aruably just as bad as Madam Gao despite his noble intentions. This lead to another hallway fight scene (because you can never have too many), which then spilled out into the rain-soaked night. This was definitely one of the better episodes of the season, and when Davos and Colleen pitched in to help Danny win the fight, it was actually pretty easy to be on Danny’s side for once.
The fight was epic, enhanced by the pouring rain. There was an annoying split screen moment, which thankfully only occurred twice, and the shots weren’t spliced together well, but the same can be said of every fight sequence in this show. However, what was good was the fierceness shown from Davos and Colleen, and the momentary appearance of the Iron Fist. Davos finishing off Bakuto was kind of understandable, really, and what followed was a fight between the last two men standing.
The Big Fist
With the end of the season in sight, Iron Fist had the chance to bring some sense to the writing and wrap up some of the plot points in a sensible and timely manner. They didn’t, though. Instead, we had the inevitable face-off between Harold and Danny when the latter finally realized that Harold was responsible for the death of his parents.
The confrontation took place in Rand’s offices, where armed guards stood ready to shoot the moment an elevator opened. But finally, that Iron Fist got itself into gear, and Danny entered the scene by smashing through the huge plate glass window - definitely the coolest way to enter a room. With the aid of Colleen, Danny attempted to dispatch with all of Harold’s men, but they gave a good fight and managed to corner Colleen. Suddenly, Danny punched the floor, with the power of the Fist in full force as it destroyed the entire office and knocked everyone to the floor.
Not a joke. As glad as we were to see Iron Fist come to a close, the final scene offers up some potential for the future, whether that’s in The Defenders or Iron Fist season 2. Ward was seemingly redeemed during the season finale, and Danny’s portrait took Harold’s place in the halls of Rand headquarters.
But what of Joy? Why doesn’t she get a picture? Well, that’s not really explained, but the final scene featured her sipping espresso sitting opposite Davos. Interesting on many levels, and seemingly hinting toward a more villainous role for Joy going forward. What made the scene more intriguing, though, was Gao sitting behind them, eavesdropping. There’s been much speculation over how and when Davos will become The Steel Serpent, and also questions over who is behind the Serpent branded heroin. If Gao is responsible for that, she could well collude with Joy and Davos in the future, thus paving the way for Davos to embrace his villainous potential.
Iron Fist is available now on Netflix.