These viewing notes contain spoilers.
1.3 Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch
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!
Now that people actually believe Danny Rand is Danny Rand, he sets about attempting to prove that to the rest of the world, while Joy and Ward attempt to retain control of the company Danny feels he’s owed.
I thought significant parts of this episode were actually good, though mostly in a “they should’ve got to this point in the pilot” way. The whole of episode two feels like a weird diversion at this point.
This episode is the first time we get one of those racially awkward moments, as Danny teaches Colleen how to fight, even though she’s a professional martial artist and it’s literally her culture. This is the kind of scene that reads fine in isolation, but couple it with colonial history, white saviour narratives and the general lack of representation on screens and it becomes fist-bitingly awkward. Not least because it’s the kind of thing that could easily have been avoided with a little forethought.
It’s also got two other fight scenes, one of which is quite good, the other of which is borderline laughable. Guess which one doesn’t feature the show’s lead character? That’s right! The fight in the hospital records room, which is a total narrative dead end, does not suggest that Danny is a brilliant martial artist. Though I admit, any time he actually uses his Iron Fist I’m enjoying it.
At least Hogarth is back, reminding us that gay characters can exist in the MCU. Hogarth was last seen in Jessica Jones, where she was way more ruthless than she is here. Although to be fair, she’s been through a lot since her power-mad, borderline-evil days. I’ve got everything crossed for a Foggy Nelson cameo given that he’s working at her firm, but I think that’s unlikely based on Netflix’s previous form where Claire Temple’s basically the only person who can cross the series line in any serious way before Defenders.
And in case you needed reminding, Jeri Hogarth is a gender-flipped version of Jeryn Hogarth. Jeryn was introduced in Iron Fist #6 (August, 1976) as the attorney for Heroes for Hire. Since she’s asking for a permanent retainer from Rand-Meachum if Danny gets his company back, it seems likely she’ll end up in some similar capacity here.
Oh, actually, as well as Claire Temple, this episode sees a character who is clearly Madame Gao show up – although she’s not referred to as such and we don’t see her face. But it’s worth remembering that way back in Daredevil Season 1, Gao was manufacturing drugs with the Steel Serpent logo on them. Here’s what I said at the time:
When Madame Gao checks out after her factory is destroyed, she tells Owlsley that her home is “considerably further” than China. Combine that with the symbol on her heroin packets – the logo of the Steel Serpent – and it’s pretty clear that she’s talking about K’un L’un, the mystical city where Iron Fist’s power comes from.
That leads me to believe that Madame Gao might actually be the Crane Mother. Indeed, without knowing all the details, I’d put money on the Steel Serpent showing up before the end of this series.
In her cage fight, Colleen calls herself the Daughter of the Dragon. In the comics, she and Misty Knight teamed up to form the team, Daughters of the Dragon. The pairing first appeared (under that name) in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #32 (January 1977).
Is it a stretch to say that the colour choices of Danny’s ceramic bowl – green and yellow – are a reference to his comics costume? I’m saying they are. Speaking of which, that moment – Rand one-upping Ward and Joy – was the first time this series where I felt like I was on Danny’s side. Though I’m not sure I wasn’t just thinking “thank Christ we can get away from the “but is he Danny Rand?” stuff.
And finally, the New York Bulletin and Metro-General Hospital have both showed up before in the Netflix-verse, as the official newspaper and hospital of choice for the Netflix MCU’s New York.
This episode ends with an almost literal cliffhanger, as Danny goes from hanging out of a tall building to falling off it. The likelihood of him actually dying here seems low, but I guess it’s interesting to imagine how he’ll get out of it. I guess. I sort of resent any cliffhanger that assumes the viewers have never seen a TV show before though.