Marvel’s Iron Fist
Season 1, Episode 10: Black Tiger Steals Heart
The Hand starts to close around the Iron Fist.
The tenth episode finally shines a light on the shadowy Hand. We are in the home stretch and Iron Fist is still struggling to find its footing in characterization and establishing motivations, but it is finding its stride when it comes to action. I’ve also realized a big mistake I’ve made during my viewing of Iron Fist. I’ve tried (very, very hard) to like and sympathize with Danny Rand as character, but as “Black Tiger Steals Heart” makes clear, maybe I shouldn’t. He might actually just be the worst Iron Fist, to paraphrase Davos.
All things considered, this episode is a pretty entertaining. The problem with a good Iron Fist episode, however, is the fact that it reminds us the show doesn’t have to fall so far off base. The intention of this season has been to distinctively not be an origin story. It has tried very hard not to be. Though, halfway through it has tried to ham-fistedly insert some version of an origin story in, but by this point the story has suffered too many internal wounds to effectively tell it. What I once thought was ultimately going to be a story about a hero in search of his destiny, I’ve come to understand is more about cultish conditioning. If only Iron Fist had employed some of these elements earlier in the season…
In any event, stage has been set for the final act and if “Black Tiger Steals Heart” is any indication we may be in for a satisfying but frustrating conclusion.
We wake up to Danny and Colleen in bed, where we will come to learn is the Hand’s campus style compound. I must say, the subtlety of having everyone dressed in black and red was a nice touch. This version of the Hand seems more like the Hand of Daredevil fame. Gao’s sect of the Hand, as it turns out, is indeed an offshoot and I get the impression that there may even be more than just these two. Strangely, they all share the same umbrella organization name and yet have such different objectives. Bakuto teaches Danny how to recharge his chi, which, surprisingly, is a technique he’s unfamiliar with (especially since the forms are very similar to what Danny always uses.) Bakuto also unveils this footage from the 40’s showing a proper Iron Fist with two glowing hands engaging in some of the coolest fighting I’ve seen thus far in the show. He also wears the actual mask of the Iron Fist of the comics, which may be an indication that Danny might don it at some point in the series.
Danny, of course, is slow to realize he’s actually been with the Hand this whole time until he finds where Bakuto is keeping Gao. She is creepily aware that Danny is watching her through the monitor outside her cell. Side note: Are they ever going to address Gao’s abilities? She’s possibly undead, telekinetic and now maybe even psychic or telepathic. Maybe she just happens to have a monitor that points outwardly inside her cell, though that seems unlikely. I have a feeling these, in my mind, plot holes will not get addressed meaningfully by the end of the season.
Anyway, upon discovering that Colleen has been serving the Hand, Danny rightly points out that he can’t trust anything she says anymore. I mean, how could he? Their relationship is clearly predicated on Bakuto’s desire to get his hands on the Iron Fist. This development re-contextualizes the characters of Colleen and Danny for me in a positive way, in terms of the story, of course. They have more in common than I could’ve imagined.
Revealing Colleen as a member of the Hand would have been more impactful if we had better context of Danny’s life in K’un-Lun. Being able to visualize the similarities between the Order of the Crane Mother and the Hand could have greatly improved the impact of this moment. Their fallout offers all the shades of gray you’d want in a series like this. Colleen is right to criticize Danny’s inability to think clearly when it comes to the Hand. Though I’d argue he hardly ever thinks clearly, about anything (strange for a monk.) But Colleen might want to reassess what Bakuto is building with this group. There’s an awful lot of secrecy involved with Bakuto and deciding to work with Harold Meachum doesn’t exactly inspire all the confidence in the world.
Speaking of Harold, he gets a hold of Danny and is brought up to speed on the status of Gao. Believing that he’s out of the clutches of The Hand, Harold wants to celebrate. However, when Joy is uninterested, he lashes out, shattering a 40 year old bottle of scotch he’s offered her. Joy, you’ve got wise up and realize Harold is just plain off his rocker. If it wasn’t clear enough before, later he shows up at Lawrence’s office and shoots him point blank in the head with zero remorse or hesitation (unless you count the five minutes prior of grandstanding beforehand.) Harold has lost a decent portion of his humanity and is acting purely off greed and selfishness. He does, however, clear the way back for Danny, Ward, and Joy to return to their positions at Rand. But in all honesty, I dread Rand coming back into the story since things have been much more interesting since we’ve stopped worrying about it. And seriously, guys, when Harold offers you something, just take it.
Let’s get to the most awesome part of “Black Tiger Steals Heart,” the fight sequence. We learn that Danny’s friend from K’un-Lun, Davos, has been the mysterious figure stalking him for the last couple of episodes. Cornered and outnumbered, our K’un-Lun duo quickly get to work in what becomes an enthralling battle that spans from open courtyard to hallway to the entrance of the compound. When Iron Fist dedicates more than a couple minutes to a fight sequences, I’m reminded that it really shouldn’t be a rarity in a series like this. It’s at the point now where I am just so relieved to see one that I may not be as critical as I otherwise would be. That said, I do believe this was an entertaining set piece. The way Danny and Davos complement one another is a promising testament to their history in K’un-Lun. There’s a sense overwhelming defeat, especially since Bakuto has presumably curbed Danny’s ability to use the Iron Fist with whatever he stabs him with. Colleen does act in the end to save Danny, but Davos has other plans for the Iron Fist.
As always, there’s potential with Iron Fist, however, the way in which the story has been told, its punches continue to only just graze the mark. The introduction of Davos at least signals an impending look into Danny’s life at K’un-Lun, which the absence of has persistently held the show back. Let’s be clear, the selling point of Iron Fist is Iron Fist and the longer we are kept in the dark about his story, the less patience the audience has. Colleen’s ongoing character development still strongly resonates with me and the Hand’s role in her life makes her story all the more compelling. Her conflict with the Hand’s goals will likely be a centerpiece for her character beat going forward. The back half of the season has definitely shown some improvement from the opening half, but I’m starting to worry that Iron Fist has confused its intentions. If the focus here is to show how Danny will overcome his cult-like conditioning and become a hero, then let’s zero in on that. Stay the course and focus on the fight with the Hand and leave the corporate dealings for Ward to handle, preferably off screen. I know I felt bad for him a few episodes ago but he’s still a giant tool.