Marvel’s Iron Fist
Season 1, Episode 4: Eight Diagram Dragon Palm
Danny climbs the corporate ladder to reclaim not only his name but his purpose.
Iron Fist just might be learning that it needs to give the audience more of what it wants. It’s fighting, we want more fighting. Hopefully the show will to continue to lean into the elements of the Iron Fist’s story that make him an interesting superhero. It’s a strategy guaranteed to net a positive return on investment for viewers. Because go figure, people might have queued up this Netflix series to watch a show about a martial artist with super powers. Use those skills in the show. If this episode is any indication, we might finally start getting what we bargained for.
Competing interests come to a head during the fourth installment of the Marvel series. The part of the show that wants to be about corporate intrigue and executive posturing is starting to give way to a story about a super powered kung fu master in “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm.” And honestly, if the battle has to take place, the kung fu stuff should always win out, in my opinion. I can’t help but feel like the series would have been better served by starting from this point in Danny’s story rather than from his return to Manhattan. C’est la vie. In other news, we are treated to not one but two extended fight sequences, which is still a peculiar rarity for a show about a martial artist. The corporate intrigue is still slotted time but with a different, more compelling angle. And more importantly, the true foe of the season is emerging from the shadows. Well, not completely out of the shadows yet (I mean, we all know it’s Madame Gao, though, right?) This episode is not perfect but the shift in tone has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for future of this season.
Thanks to Harold, Danny is gifted his father’s old office at Rand Enterprises, complete with controlling interests in the company. After last episode, I was all prepared for an extended courtroom battle but “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm” quickly resolves a lot of the major conflict of series right up top. It also establishes The Hand as the true villains of the story. As a result, the episode comes off as sort of a reset or a fresh start for the season, which is a good thing. The pleasant development, made better by each over the top eye roll Ward gives, is Harold explaining the details of his “rebirth.” Can Ward really be in such disbelief? I mean, his dead father is sitting right in front of him. I assume his revival must have been of a similar variety to the process Nobu and potentially Elektra have gone through.
Harold also manages to validate Danny’s entire life up until this point, confirming the existence of the Hand and the need to stop their control over Rand. The strength of the show shines through in this exchange. Danny operating in his element is much more interesting than Danny the outsider. Purposeful and destiny bound, maybe cliche, but it’s the sort of motivation needed to drive a compelling story about the Iron Fist. If they can just build on that with, I don’t know, flashbacks maybe? Now the real question is, what angle is Harold playing? He wants to use Danny to save himself, that’s clear, but what’s unclear is how. Also, why would The Hand be cool with letting Harold see Danny? Curiouser and curiouser.
Back at Rand, Danny is reintroduced to the world as the face of Rand Enterprises. And what’s a newly minted face of a corporation without an awkward boardroom meeting entrance? Well, thank god we don’t have to find out here. And what’s Danny’s first order of business? To ruffle the feathers of everyone on said board, of course. This does, however, present a whole new intriguing dynamic between the Meachums and Danny. The financial business interests of the Meachum-controlled Rand and the Buddhist monk teachings of K’un-Lun were never going to mesh well. Joy and Ward will have to be a little more thoughtful going forward to be able to push their agenda around Danny’s honorable eyes. If Iron Fist plays its hand right, maybe we’ll see if the Meachums can actually start to walk and chew gum, showing the audience just how they’ve been so successful at Rand all these years.
It’s fight night and Colleen steps into the ring again, double or nothing this time. If it wasn’t clear last episode, it’s made crystal clear this episode. Colleen Wing enjoys the fight. She’s troubled by her enjoyment but drawn to it all the same and, worst of all, she’s good at it. That headbutt punch deflect was pretty impressive. They are also letting her take some licks, too, which is nice to see. It really grounds the action. Colleen’s story mirrors Danny’s in a way, going back to what he says back in episode two. The fight is where he felt most alive and Colleen is experiencing that seem livelihood now. Lucky for her, she knows Danny Rand, recently established billionaire, and just now he’s swamped with plenty of conflict to spare.
I know I’ve been doting a lot on this episode. It’s largely because of how the latter half of it unravels. The moment axe-wielding fighters show up and kidnap your childhood best friend, you know you’ve got to unleash the hurt. It felt as if I stepped into a kung fu flick when the axes (I’m sorry, hatchets) were unsheathed, which is what you should expect when you sign up for a comic book adaptation about a martial artist. I can’t say it’s enough. This show should be inundated with well-choreographed action sequences and, while this one is serviceable, it shouldn’t continue to be a rare event. So far it’s felt like watching an Iron Man movie and he’s only now putting on the suit an hour into it. I do appreciate the continuation of the Defender hallway fight scene tradition. There was a brief second where I thought we wouldn’t get to see the fighting in the elevator but luckily they didn’t pull any punches. Hell, even Joy gets a shot in!
I’m very excited for the direction Iron Fist is heading. It continues to struggle with Danny’s character, largely because there hasn’t been enough time spent developing him. However, by putting him into an environment he understands, it makes these issues surrounding his motivations easier to stomach and his character much more enjoyable to watch. The restructuring of the plot has done wonders here and The Hand taking a more prominent role as villains is very welcome. I’m still confused as to why they are stalling Madame Gao’s reveal. If you’ve watched Daredevil you know who she is and if you haven’t, revealing her face in some flashy way later will probably be meaningless to you. But all in all, I’m very anxious to see how the show builds upon these changes. At the very least the tattoo reveal must mean we are going to get some K’un L’un action next episode… right?