Marvel’s Iron Fist episode 13 viewing notes: Dragon Plays With Fire

It's not as if Iron Fist can't be smart, satirical and funny, so why is the finale such a disappointment?

These viewing notes contain spoilers.

When we last got together at the monthly meeting for the liberal media elite and I was assigned the job of ensuring that Iron Fist was a failure, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. Despite the advance reviews, I was sure that the show would be no worse than the other Marvel Netflix shows, and that I would be unable to surrender my integrity and bash it despite the money being dumped on my front lawn by the wheelbarrowful.

But it turned out I need not have worried, because the climax to Iron Fist – a show about a Kung Fu master who once slew a dragon to empower his magic fists – ends with our hero and his insane surrogate father beating one another with pipes on a rooftop while shouting clichés at one another. Liberal media elite or not, I’d happily point out the flaws in this for free.

When Danny does use the fist, it’s to deflect a bullet after the fight is over, before Ward – the on-again, off-again series antagonist/drug addict – ends up dispatching his insane dad permanently, thus saving the day while the heroes look on aghast, having recently discovered the moral high ground over killing. 

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So Danny achieves the goal he established at some point fairly recently of discovering who killed his parents, and takes control of the company he already had control of for most of the series. The now-redeemed (er, are we sure?) Ward also finally gets control of the company he already had control of for most of the series. Joy, having realised literally no-one in her life makes any sense, teams up with Davos for the possible second series. 

These character fates are broadly nonsensical, and if you return to episode one and try to imagine what those people want, it isn’t really reflected in what they got. The revelation that Harold killed Danny’s parents was a surprise to literally no-one besides Danny, because we’ve spent thirteen episodes watching this psycho do things like smash up corpses with hammers while Danny happily believed, with absolutely zero examination, that he was the only decent guy around. It’s bad enough what the audience is ahead of the characters, but for us to be twelve episodes ahead is just bad writing. 

And in the coda to the story, Colleen and Danny also resolve their issues over a slice of pizza before returning to K’un L’un to find that it’s gone, in scenes that stretch the budget of this show to absolute breaking point. Are we supposed to be surprised that a city which is only accessible once every fifteen years isn’t there? Danny sure is, but I’m not sure why. Wasn’t he just telling everyone just a single episode ago that New York was his home now? Why’s he even going back!?

Perhaps the truly upsetting thing about this episode – aside from the fact that the previous one would’ve been a much better finale in many ways – is that there are glimmers of awareness in there. Danny bribing the DEA to drop all his charges because he’s a billionaire and can do what he wants. Hogarth openly rolling her eyes and complaining about the emotional honesty going on. It’s not like Iron Fist can’t be smart, satirical and funny. It’s just that it’s these things so rarely that I’m not convinced it isn’t an accident when it is.

The only thing that even slightly excited me about the finale was Claire taking some tiger-claw type weapons off the wall and declaring that they belong to her. Will Defenders give Rosario Dawson something to actually do beyond giving pep talks devoid of any subtext and tending to the wounds of large men as they flinch with masculine vulnerability? I should bloody well hope so.

Now, with that off my chest, here are the comics references for this episode:

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So, we learn that Harold Meachum was the one who killed Danny’s parents, and furthermore, that he had the murderous impulse to just push his friend, Danny’s father Wendell Rand, off a ledge. That sort of is how he killed Wendell in the comics: he was on the Himalayan hiking trip with the Rands and finished Wendell off himself. (Marvel Premiere #15, 1972)

Now, this is a long shot, but: I wonder if Netflix is setting up Claire as a version of the White Tiger. A  few versions of the White Tiger have been female, one of the versions – the one that was actually a mutated Tiger – featured in the 90s Heroes for Hire series alongside Luke Cage & Iron Fist, while a subsequent one – Angela del Toro – was Latina, and fought alongside Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Am I just speculating hard because Rosario Dawson is a far better actress than the material she’s been given in the majority of these shows? Well, yes. But those claws were a nod to something, and I really hope it’s this.

Oh, and eagle-eyed viewers will notice that this episode has the now-obligatory “Stan Lee as a cop” poster in it, which has been seen in the last few Netflix series in lieu of an appearance by the man himself.

And so that was Iron Fist. Can we imagine Danny Rand hanging out with the other Defenders? Personally, I struggle, but we’ll find out soon enough. I’m hopeful that there’s a way to rehabilitate the character – perhaps he’ll have some excellent chemistry with someone else in the cast, perhaps he’ll be a bit more stable and rational, perhaps he’ll have actually learned how to fight. Whatever he’s like in Defenders, it’s got to be better than this.

Read James’ viewing notes on the previous episode, Bar The Big Boss, here.