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!
This episode is made up of two strands: Danny, Colleen, and for some reason Claire head to China to catch Madame Gao and bust up her operation. Elsewhere, Ward and Joy attempt to deal with being forced out of their company. We’re squarely into the meandering portion of the narrative, which is the part of all Netflix series where everyone cares about something else for a bit so that they can make sure the actual final battle happens at the end of the season.
I think I’m right to say that at least the fighting has really come on in the last few episodes. This one especially has a quite enjoyable fight where Danny gets into an altercation with a version of Zhou Cheng, practising a drunk style of kung fu, and with a mixture of comedy and inventiveness it makes itself one of the most distinctive fights in the series, if not the whole of Netflix’s MCU output. It’s just a shame it isn’t a bit better and a more impressively shot, because then it could really seal that deal.
Character-wise, I could’ve done with a little more interiority – the various members of the cast spelling out their particular damage to one another wasn’t especially subtle in narrative. Likewise, Danny’s determination would be a lot easier to accept if he actually had a plan or any particular driving motivation. He wants to know how his father and Gao knew one another, because… well, no reason. He just does. And when other characters ask why it’s important he can’t answer them. And when they ask how he’s going to find out he doesn’t really know. When characters are standing around wondering why they’re doing what they’re doing, that’s a sign the writing has slipped.
Still, the trio capturing Gao was, if nothing else, a plot development. Gao herself has been pretty charismatic as villains go, so I’m hoping we’ll see more of her interacting with the rest of the cast.
This episode was quite light on references, though there were a couple:
Claire is reading a letter on the plane, and it’s from Luke Cage. At this point in continuity, he’s back in jail following the conclusion of his own series, and sort of in a relationship with Claire (as much as one can be from prison). She also refers to Luisa, who is her friend who got killed by The Hand in Daredevil season two.
Why Joy announces her plan to blackmail the board, she refers to a PI who was “pretty good, when she wasn’t drunk”, so that’s clearly a Jessica Jones nod.
In the comics, Zhou Cheng is a character who attempts to kill every Iron Fist when they reach age 33. He’s quite different from the comics version here, but if you want to read that story you can find it in Immortal Iron Fist #18 (2008).
That’s more or less it for this episode. A mercifully short diversion in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve got to be honest, it still feels like there’s a long way to go before the end of the show and I’m not particularly relishing it…