This is it, the finale of Iron Fist and the last of our reviews here at MCUExchange. Thank you for reading our reviews and interacting with them. You can also check out our Podcast review here, with myself and Rhiannon and Adam sharing our thoughts in glorious audio! Overall it seems that critics hated the show, fans were decidedly mixed, and most of us on the site were relatively positive. Personally, I think it was thoroughly average. Some moments I really like, but some of the logic of the mythology is just too head scratching. In my reviews, I probably sound more negative than I am. As a reviewer, I find that the criticisms are easier to voice than praise.
In this final episode, we have a sudden new plot element that feels unnecessary. Danny is set up by Harold Meachum for the heroin trade Madam Gao has been running since Daredevil. In many ways, this feels like one additional hurdle added to the season just to extend it a bit. It’s as if the writers had twelve scripts and forgot they needed a thirteenth, so they tagged this on. I’ve already said in my previous review that episode 12 is a far more appealing finale. Viewers never really believe that Danny will go to jail for the infraction and he doesn’t. The saving grace is that the set up gives one more excuse to bring Carrie Anne Moss‘s J-Money Hogarth back for one more go.
The Meachums all come to some sort of plot conclusion in this episode, with varying results. Harold continues to be a raving maniac, and an over acted one at that. His death should never have been reversed, so it is nice to see it occur again. (The ominous music as they cremate him better not be foreshadowing of his return or I may just give up on Netflix and Marvel.) Ward’s arc is somewhat gratifying. He again gets to kill old dad and he goes to significant lengths to help Danny. Seeing his and Danny’s portraits on the wall in the place of their fathers’ is a nice moment. In the end, I like Ward more than I rationally should, but it likely is because his story is one of redemption. Seeing him back together after drug issues is also nice. In many ways, Ward functions something like Frank Underwood in House of Cards. He is never truly a hero, and Danny shouldn’t trust him, but yet one just feels the desire to cheer for his success.
This brings the conversation to Joy, and her turn deserves its own paragraph. Many reviewers and fans are complaining about her evil turn near the end. It really isn’t much of a turn as much as a disjointed scene that almost serves as a post-credit scene. Throughout the series, she vacillates between heroism and cynical strong arm tactics. The whole purpose of her visit to the ER with the man selling the docks was to show how down and dirty she can get. Also, her devotion to her father clearly short circuits her good sense in the latter parts of the season. Joy has trained to be as hard-edged as Ward for a decade and a half, so those describing her as sympathetic or heroic throughout seem to have missed some of the characterization. She also drugged Danny while pretending to be friendly to him. That’s not to say her conversation with Davos isn’t an abrupt shift. It is. And it’s one that undoes much of the work on her character throughout the show, in the same way Colleen’s Hand reveal undid her character work. The concept seems to be that her father’s shocking return and nearly immediate death (and her own foolish inability to see Ward is saving her not harming her father) combine to create a sort of tragic event that makes her snap. In reality that is all a bit of guessing, however, because the show doesn’t adequately tell or show the viewer any of that detail.
One of the more interesting choices made by the writing team was to connect Harold and Shou-Lao. The thematic concept was that in many ways Harold, the killer of Danny’s parents, in his Hand-zombie form was the true undying dragon in the protagonist’s life. His final face off with Harold flashes back Danny to his face off with the dragon. By choosing to reject fear and revenge Danny comes to grips with his past. The obvious problem here is that it’s just another excuse to not show viewers the dragon! It’s the one thing everyone wanted and, instead, viewers got two red light bulbs. Also, the decision is the perfect example of how the Meachum/corporate drama/NYC concerns of the show dominate and crowd out the martial arts/K’un Lun/Shou-Lao stuff that so many fans desired. It’s the ultimate sign of how tone deaf those in charge were of the desires of the fans. Comparing a goofy businessman with the undying dragon is just ridiculous. Also, given how often Gao has been correct one has to wonder if sparing Meachum really was the most necessary thing. Danny seems to be on an “I’m going to be a different kind of Iron Fist” kick, but that line of logic is problematic when the series already flirts with a white savior trope. Not only has Danny stolen and abused the gift of K’un Lun, but now he claims the right to redefine it too?
While the martial arts on the show vary from passable to failing, the latter is certainly the case in the final episode. How the living weapon, the Iron Fist, has such a hard time taking out Harold Meachum the Hand Zombie is befuddling. No amount of boxing training by himself in the penthouse should make him capable of standing up to Danny Rand, yet for drama’s sake, it happens. The scene is underwhelming and contributes to the feeling that this episode was a last minute addition.
Finally, the ending needs to be addressed. Danny and Colleen travel to K’un Lun and find that city was attacked by the Hand and has vanished. Has the city vanished in an unusual way? Or is this just the standard every-15-years disappearance? It seems the former, but who knows. While the plot twist makes sense from a marketing stance, it makes for a terrible way to cap off the season. All of Danny’s survivor’s guilt that viewers thought were finally dealt with ten minutes before? It’s probably back. Is Danny really an irresponsible, selfish child who took the Iron Fist and left his adopted people behind? Yep. Was Davos right all along and clearly a more qualified candidate for the Iron Fist? Affirmative. It just stinks to end the series liking a villain (Davos) far more than the hero, but that’s how I left this last episode.
Many of these things point to an overall problem that has nothing to do with the actors or writers or anyone else on the creative side. It seems this show just plain wasn’t given enough budget to do the work they needed to do. Why is there no Shou-Lao? Why do viewers see tiny glimpses of K’un Lun, and most of that fake snow on a sound stage? Why did the trip to China look like a random warehouse in Jersey? Why do the fight scenes seem half-baked? A lot of this comes down to decisions that have to be informed by a lack of money to do anything else. Without more details from Netflix the theory can’t be proven, but it seems far more likely than Marvel striking out on so many accounts, particularly given the excellence in so much of the Netflix shows.
Two Disappearing Cities out of Five. That’s a lot of negative reviewing, but there are some redeeming attributes to the show’s final episode. Ward’s story concludes well and satisfyingly. Hogarth is witty as ever, and Claire charming as ever. Madam Gao is set up to continue her run as the best mysterious story thread throughout the Netflix series. Her combination with Davos and Joy could be powerful. Also, the ending focusing on K’un Lun suggests a second season would focus largely on that locale and hopefully give fans what they want. (Netflix is notorious for giving renewals to even shows that are critically panned.) Open a second season with five minutes of full on Danny versus Dragon mayhem before the opening credits even run and many errors will be forgiven. A story following the “Immortal Iron Fist,” contest of champions storyline would be a lot of fun, particularly with better fight choreography. Iron Fist was an entertaining, and frustrating, experience, but the future could and should be much better.
One of the endearing things about Jeri Hogarth and Claire is that they speak about things like the viewers often. Hogarth is incredulous that Harold is alive after all these years, as everyone should be.
The prophecy about a “child touched by fire” seems important, and maybe an excuse for why Danny was selected as the Iron Fist. More detail on such an important plot point would be nice.
Why are Wing and Rand allergic to strategic thinking?
That’s a pretty nasty three iron to the head that Ward managed to survive.
The money shot of Danny plunging his fist into the floor of the conference room looks great. Too bad it’s literally the only one like it in the show (and thus the reason a scene five minutes from the climax is spoiled in the trailer).
“I’m saying this as a friend, but you two share a lot in common. No, that’s not a good thing. Your first instinct to a problem is to respond with violence. I guess what I’m saying here is you’re both pretty effed up and need some serious psychological help.” Boom! Claire once again brings the common sense and wisdom. It will be interesting to see if the Netflix romantic pairings of Claire & Luke and Danny & Colleen are meant as a long term change to the mythology, or if the more traditional Luke & Jessica and Danny & Misty will eventually take over. Danny could certainly benefit from the maturity of someone like Misty Knight far more than Colleen’s similar emotional issues. I for one hope the non-comic pairings are just placeholders until The Defenders.
The development of Claire’s skills (and those claws) seems to be foreshadowing her own vigilante future. Who might she be? The White Tiger?