These viewing notes contain spoilers.
Iron Fist, the fourth and final member of the Defenders, has finally made his debut. As with previous Netflix series, we’ll be reviewing an episode a day highlighting the characters, reference points and easter eggs we spotted. Feel free to read along as you watch too, but please don’t spoil future episodes for anyone in the comments!
Ouch. Just when I thought Iron Fist had turned a corner, the cold open – sexy women pitching synthetic heroin to potential buyers – bordered on cringeworthy. After that things got a little better, but the show is veering wildly between being a soap opera boardroom drama (which I find actually quite engaging on its own terms) and generic Netflix Marvel action scenes (which I don’t).
For example, we get another fight scene at the docks. I don’t think Luke Cage had one of these, but I’m pretty sure the other three Netflix MCU seasons had one each. There’s only so much repetitiveness that fans can take.
The stuff I liked most about the episode was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the mythos-building stuff. I like The Hand as villains and I like the idea of K’un L’un, so even though Danny blathering on about Shou Lao to Ward is a bit lame in context, I enjoyed hearing the name. I seem to be in the minority in really enjoying the Hand’s presence in Daredevil season two, though, so I wonder how well it’s working for other people to have them showing up here.
Claire’s appearance in this episode was pretty odd, though. On a sheer technical level, I’m not even sure they established she’s a nurse, so she goes from being Colleen’s student who awkwardly plays third wheel at their not-date, to being the woman they immediately go to so they can save the life of someone with a stab-wound. And the rest of her appearance isn’t much better. It’s weird enough that she wouldn’t just excuse herself from the meal Danny brings, but even Rosario Dawson can’t sell the “meeting you people is my destiny!” talk she gets later on in the episode. Eesh.
So yeah, in case you didn’t know, Claire Temple is the (now former) Netflix version of Night Nurse, who helps out superheroes when they get bashed up. She’s met Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and now Iron Fist. I’m going to do this one last time and from now on we can assume everyone knows who she is: Originally a romantic interest for Luke Cage, Claire Temple is a doctor who first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #2 (1972). For the MCU Netflix-verse she’s been mixed up with Night Nurse, the current version of which (a nurse who treats superheroes) first showed up in Daredevil Vol. 2 #58 (2004). Though the original version of the character stretches all the way back to 1961.
Danny also mentions his childhood friend, Davos, who he trained with. That, readers, is the Steel Serpent I keep mentioning. He first appeared in Iron Fist #1 (1975). We’ll get his whole story eventually.
Furthermore, one of the good things about this episode is Claire finally asking all the questions that other characters should’ve been. Most notably “Why did you wait fifteen years to come back?!” Danny mentions that he had to wait for the right “window”. In the comics K’un L’un has a ten year cycle of appearing on Earth. Presumably in the Netflix series it’s fifteen years.
As for Shou Lao, that’s the dragon – a literal dragon – that the Iron Fist candidate has to defeat to actually gain the power of the Iron Fist. He first appeared in Marvel Premiere #16 (1974). Whether you believe this version of Danny could’ve done that is debatable, given that he can barely hold his own against random thugs, but I’ll admit there was some decent choreography during Danny’s fight at the end of the episode (though it’s a shame Colleen got reduced to, er, driving a van.)
Still, the show’s not on solid ground yet, but I’m enjoying it more than the first couple of episodes, and I’m not sure it’s as complete a failure as many critics said during the preview period. None of the shows were perfect, after all, and Iron Fist hasn’t yet become the chore that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones became in their second halves. That might change, but for now it’s still got me.