Episode 11 is the closest this series gets to an answers episode. After building a lot of mystery around the origins of the Iron Fist, finally, some of the details are made explicit. This occurs via a somewhat clunky exposition drop via the dialogue of Davos, but at least such a device makes sense within the plot. As a character with knowledge of the city of K’un Lun and the mythology of the Fist, Davos is a natural source of information for Claire and others.
Davos explains to the viewers how the Iron Fist works and how Danny came about getting the privilege. Well, mostly he does. When pushed on why Danny was chosen, Davos admits, “I don’t know.” It seems that the writers don’t really know either. Creators promised before the show was released that some of the “white savior” tropes would be explained, and they frankly are not. Danny’s ascension to the role is largely a mystery, given that his fighting ability and emotional make-up are not superior to Davos’ in any way. Due to the controversies, and just the sake of the story, the writers had to give compelling and interesting reasons why an outsider would rise as Danny did and they never deliver on that need. The positive side effect is that the confusion of the viewer helps develop Davos in a believable way. Why is Davos so angry and jealous about Rand’s reception of the Fist? Because it’s obviously an injustice which the viewer feels acutely as well. All that said, it was nice to hear a character finally state explicitly the details of the mythology (and probably important for those who came to the show not knowing the back story before viewing).
Possibly worse than the non-explanation of Danny’s success is the muddled way that his powers work out. Throughout the series, it feels like the Iron Fist and Danny’s chi are the world’s longest running deus ex machina device. Whenever the writers need Danny to be able to use it, it’s there. And when the writers want some more tension they take it away. Early on in the series, Danny can’t use it because he’s drugged and lethargic. He needs the adrenaline and emotion of violence to use the fist. But now he can’t use it because he’s feeling too much pain, or there’s a drugged metallic weapon in him or something. The details seem forever sketchy. At the risk of beating a dead horse, the powers issues highlight the worst bit of cultural appropriation in the show. Rand is always spouting Buddhist teachings. And having an observant Buddhist as the lead on a show is relatively novel and refreshing for ideological diversity. The problem, however, is the research into that philosophical system seems shoddy. Danny lacks the emotional maturity and understanding one would expect from someone who studied the “four noble truths” for fifteen years. The willy-nilly use of chi in the show often borrows from eastern cultures without really understanding the concept. And that confusion leads to viewer confusion as to why and when Danny’s powers work.
Whenever a cast is as large as Iron Fist‘s cast and has as much time as thirteen episodes afforded for plot development, eventually you get surprised by delightful interactions between unexpected characters. The Davos and Claire conversations are such a rare treat. Between Claire’s blunt questions and Davos openness (he’s the only character on the whole show who seems to not be burdened by a need to be clandestine), the conversations seem natural. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Rosario Dawson and Sacha Dhawan are possibly the two most charming actors on the show. Some of the humorous fish-out-of-water moments (like the Pizza experience) are fun but also makes the viewer wonder why Danny wasn’t afforded some of these lighter moments as well so that he might be better liked.
Speaking of Finn Jones’ likability, it isn’t very high as the show gets to this point. Early on in the series, the naivety of Danny is refreshing. Instead of the dour cynicism of the Meachums, he is filled with hope and optimism. Their gruff compassionless exterior is a foil to his oppenness and caring. As the series has continued, however, Danny deals with anger and does so with the skills of a child. It makes sense in some ways (given his adolescent years), but it gets so grating. Brooding Rand just feels juvenile. Jones acting doesn’t help, as his angry face likes strikingly similar to constipation face. He just doesn’t do gravitas well. Future installments of this character will benefit from keeping him light and rid of angst unless Jones improves in his ability to portray it.
Looking at the bigger picture of the series and the upcoming Defenders, Colleen Wing gets close in this episode to suffering the same fate as the zombie kids from Daredevil‘s second series. The connection point is good in that it makes the universe seem to be cohesive. Meachum’s resurrection also works in a similar way, with his means of death matching Nobu’s (i.e. Hand zombies must be beheaded). Some critics want more details on how this resurrection process works, but the mechanics aren’t all that important to me. Consistency and setting the rules of the universe is the more vital issue, and that is done well here. Despite diversity between Gao, Nobu, and Bakuto, they seem to all be part of a larger picture that fits together well. It will be good to see how Midland Circle comes into play with the other pieces.
The final scene with Colleen and Danny kissing in the rain likely felt cliche to many viewers. I’m enough of a romantic that I enjoyed it. That cliche is popular for a reason. The relationship between the two is in a remarkably good place a mere one episode after Wing’s big revelation. One thing the writers have done really well is to make the relationship focus be about something. Whereas some Netflix Marvel romances have tended to be largely about sexual chemistry and little else, Wing and Rand have some obvious similarities that would naturally bind people. They’re both orphans, emotionally as much as any other way, and that shared experience binds them together, even if co-dependently at times. The connection makes sense and is believable.
Two slices of Joe’s Pizza out of Five. This episode might have the best humor in the entire series. It also finally shows glimpses of Iron Fist’s origins. The problem, however, is that none of it makes a particular lot of sense. The more exposition that flows, the more it becomes obvious that the writers just never quite figured out who Danny is, what makes him tick, and how the mythology should work. Pull on any of the multiple hanging threads, and the whole piece starts to unravel a little. One is left wondering if the show made an error in not spending more (any) time in K’un Lun, or if the wisely avoided something that really didn’t have a handle on.
That scar! Given the lack of nerd out moments in the show, Danny waking from his battle with Shou-Lao is deffintly a great bread crumb for the fantasy lovers.
Staples in Danny’s side. Ugh! It might be an odd thing to be squeamish about, but I hate the idea of proper medical staples, so this about passed me right out. Still, perhaps the best witty back in forth of the whole series is Davos sarcastic critiquing of Claire’s bedside manner. “You are a gifted healer.” “Thanks.”
More connectivity with Luke’s bullet hole shirt. It was pretty funny to see Danny look at it and think, “What happened here?” Did anyone else feel like in real life Mike Colter‘s clothes would be nowhere close to fitting Finn Jones?
Puzzle of the day, which is stupider: Danny trusting the Meachums or Colleen trusting the Hand? It really is hard to cheer for these two when they constantly show a complete inability to see evil in others. One would struggle to make a villain more cartoonish than Harold, yet Danny keeps treating him like a father figure. Of course the same could be said of Joy as well. Ward becomes a bit of a hero in that he is the only one with a lick of sense.