For as much as Iron Fist can be said to have ever founds its groove it would be in these three episodes, “Black Tiger Steals Heart,” “Lead Horse Back to Stable” and “Bar the Big Boss.” That’s notable because this tail end of the season area is typically where the Netflix drift/creep/strain sets in for the Marvel shows. Not Iron Fist. Instead, this is when the season becomes something more than merely “watchable.”
Hold on there. You’re not actually saying Iron Fist finally became a really good TV show?
Well, I wouldn’t go that far, not when Finn Jones is still around doing his pass at a painfully naïve version of Danny Rand who lobs insults like “Yeah, well, at least I am not in prison” with all the force of a small child. I will, however, say that this is the stretch of the season where the will to keep watching was easier to come by.
Why is that, exactly? Largely, because shit finally started happening, from Colleen’s heel turn to the emergence of Bakuto as the “Down with corporations”-spouting big bad to the reveal of Davos and the lingering resentment he feels over Danny’s betrayal of K’un-Lun to Joy’s hostile re-takeover of Rand and nefarious scheming with her father, who is far more homicidal than anyone realizes (other than Ward, of course). A half-season’s worth of story set-up finally started paying off, and Danny’s continued need for family and acceptance again led him to ruin before building him back up as someone more willing to use his powers to protect all, not just K’un-Lun.
Also, though, it is in these episodes where Iron Fist suddenly found its sense of humor, a rare commodity since laughs had pretty much been the exclusive province of Harold Meachum. However, throughout “Black Tiger Steals Heart” and spilling over into the subsequent episodes the producers, directors and writers finally gained the confidence to lean in to the absurdity of the situation, giving voice to what most of us have been thinking (“You are the worst Iron Fist ever”) and pleasantly revealing what a warrior monk raised on a diet of vegetables thinks of pizza (“not terrible” and “it’s chewy” are the best he could come up with).
Episode 10 – “Black Tiger Steals Heart”
Madame Gao, you devil. Contrary to what Danny had assumed, Gao is not actually a liar. So, when calls him an idiot for not realizing the super happy fun monastery Colleen has taken him to is actually just The Hand she’s not wrong. Colleen reluctantly confirms as much, arguing Danny needs to keep an open mind about it because while she is technically a part of The Hand (and has been this entire time) she has nothing to do with the extremist Madame Gao wing. She follows Bakuto, who is super chill and..okay, the episodes wastes very little time in admitting he’s actually evil, just a more silicon valley shade of evil. Colleen doesn’t know that though, and as she tries to defend her actions Danny expresses a moral outrage which comes off more like a hissy fit.
Elsewhere, with Ward committed Harold now needs Joy to serve as his proxy, and after their tearful reunion she quickly partners with him to orchestrate her return to Rand. Super convenient that her primary opposition on the board suddenly shoots himself. Harold had nothing to do with that, right? Right? Oh, Joy, it’s adorable you believe that, but, yeah, he shot that dude dead after the blackmail attempt didn’t work.
When Bakuto’s attempt to convince Danny to join his side fails a giant rumble in the monastery breaks out, but Danny has Iron Fist impotency and can’t light up anymore since all of his recent anger, hurt and emotional suffering disrupted his chi. Thankfully, his old buddy Davos, who had been introduced as a mysterious player on the outskirts of the prior episode, rushes to his aid, and with Colleen’s assistance they escape into the night.
Funniest exchange of the episode:
Gao: You are still a child.
Rand: Yeah, well, at least I am not in prison.
Way to prove you’re not a child, Danny.
Episode 11 – “Lead Horse Back to Stable”
Oh, if only someone other than Finn Jones was playing Danny. If so, “Lead Horse Back to Stable” could have been fairly interesting considering the way it attempts to confront Danny with a less myopic worldview where perhaps everything he’d been raised to believe isn’t as ironclad as he thought. While suing for peace and begging for forgiveness, Colleen struggles to open Danny’s eyes to at least the small possibility that life might not be as simple as “I am the Iron Fist, sworn defender of K’un-Lun and enemy of The Hand.” By the end of the episode, Danny comes to believe her because even though it turns out The Hand really is up to no good Colleen had genuinely pure intentions, and their Romeo & Juliet, star-crossed romance need not end in tragedy. But it’s all being played out by Finn Jones. So, yeah…
Anyway, the rest of the episode reveals Danny left K’un-Lun because becoming Iron Fist for goal-related, non-altruistic reasons was an emptier achievement than he realized. However, he never stopped to think what his absence would mean for K’un-Lun as well as Davos, his oft-referenced friend who would have likely been the better choice for Iron Fist and doesn’t understand what the heck Danny is doing in New York (at least he doesn’t until he sees the way Danny looks at Colleen). Uh-oh. Heartbreak in bromance central, even if the two are working together to take down Bakuto and the Hand.
Episode 12 – “Bar the Big Boss”
Harold and Joy’s plan to use Danny to take out Bakuto hits an obvious skit: everyone forgot about Ward. Not Bakuto, though. He’s the only one to remember Ward is out there in the mental hospital, going through the detox program with no hired muscle on hand to look after him. As such, Bakuto easily frees him from the hospital and brokers a deal, which results in Ward trying (but failing) to get Joy out of the penthouse before The Hand shows up to take Harold’s head (the only way to kill him for good). Always reliable for a great line reading, Harold’s final words before his beheading are as follows:
Ward, I invested my life into you, to raise you to be a great man. You’ve been the greatest disappointment of my life. Joy, I apologize for choosing Ward over you. It was a mistake. Never trust him again.
Of course, Harold doesn’t die. Danny [who has re-centered his chi, much to his own surprise] shows up just in time to save the day, leading to a prolonged penthouse lobby fight scene which spills out into a rain-soaked courtyard where Colleen destroys Bakuto. Once Colleen and Danny try to play the hero, though, Davos jumps in and delivers the killing blow to Bakuto, and then departs for K’un-Lun because, dammit, if Danny won’t protect it someone else has to. Colleen and Danny make-up, and meditate to hip-hop together, with Danny pledging to use his powers to help everyone. Awwww.
[Checks watch on hand] Huh. Everything seems wrapped up, a little earlier than normal too. I can’t imagine what’s left for the finale.
[DEA Agents attack Danny and Colleen likely as result of a classic Harold frame job] Ohhhhhh yeah, Harold’s clearly the deranged big bad father figure Danny still has to confront. On to the finale.