Marvel’s Iron Fist
Season 1, Episode 6: Immortal Emerges From Cave
Iron Fist receives an invitation and a threat.
So let’s just address the elephant in the room up top. When exactly did Danny learn to drive? Iron Fist puts forward an illuminating story in its sixth episode but the outlook doesn’t exactly look any brighter. I know I should be happy, I got an episode with extended fight sequences, but the result just left me wanting. Danny tees off with the Hand bringing to bat all the honor he can muster, too bad for him that honor is a parlor trick for this enemy.
I have mixed feelings on “Immortal Emerges From Cave.” On the one hand, I enjoyed the combat challenge sequence concept but I also felt the action fell far short of what it was aiming for. Having Danny square off against multiple skilled foes is by no means a bad idea but the troubles lie in the execution. Failing to establish at this point the strengths and weaknesses of our hero is a sore spot that can no longer be ignored. It’s episode six and we still have no idea about the extent of Danny’s abilities or its imitations. We are constantly left uncertain as to whether or not Danny is actually the amazing fighter he claims he is.
Boy, I never thought I’d feel bad for Ward but, jeez. Maybe it’s a testament to the actor playing the character but he’s clearly spiraling out of control here and it’s sad to see. Starting his day out by seeing a severed head probably didn’t help things, either. I did enjoy their “buddy cop” adventure in the Aston Martin, though. I wish they’d actually showed us the trips to the other warehouses, too. (Can you imagine the combative back and forth?) The display of Danny’s invitation turns out to be the thing that finally cracks Ward. Now Joy will have to not only hold Rand together but her brother, too.
Back at the dojo, Claire works to keep the chemist alive but things don’t look good. I get that it might be “risky” to go to the hospital but when your alternative is that he dies and then the Hand definitely kills the daughter anyway, the hospital option is worth considering. Colleen’s character suffers here a little. Electing to wait it out for Danny while this guy bleeds out in her bed doesn’t exactly jive with who I thought Colleen was. She’s sticking her neck out way too far for Danny, who has proven a few times now that he’s not all that stable. And come on, Claire, I was expecting at least one plug to call Daredevil in to help. Not that I’d expect for it to actually happen before Defenders but it’d still be nice to hear.
Actually, Claire’s got a point, Danny. Even I, this far into the season, don’t know what being the Iron Fist means. We all get that speaking in vague prophecies is a monk thing, but how about powering up the fist so she can see that you’re not just some whack job? Winning the grand duel as the only sure way to get the chemist’s daughter back safely seems a dubious claim from the get-go. Danny’s eagerness rightly puts everyone off the idea (except the chemist, of course.) I’m glad that Claire and Colleen ultimately decide to take the chemist to the hospital because it was stupid not to in the first place. Sure, things go badly, but there again the chemist would have died if they didn’t take him and so would the daughter. The Hand operatives act quickly and move the chemist out of the hospital. Of course, not before Colleen and Claire get to lay the smack down on a couple first. Man, I don’t know what Colleen does to that one guy’s arm but it looked pretty permanent. With the chemist in the wind, our gang loses their only bargaining chip. Well Iron Fist, you’re up.
Danny arrives to the grand duel and, after a few formalities are out the way, we are off to the races. The first match is between the butcher brothers (they don’t name these guys in the show so I will.) This is actually my favorite of the three matches we get. The choreography is engaging and it also has the benefit of being the first time Danny’s challengers underestimate him. I don’t understand why everyone just writes off Danny immediately because of what he looks like. Clearly Madame Gao wouldn’t set this whole ritualized fight up if he wasn’t a worthy contender. Though, by the end, I don’t know what Madame Gao is thinking.
The second match is decidedly less entertaining. Lady Spinal Tap is honestly the worst contender. They don’t really even fight. The ground rules are never set and it’s amazingly unclear what is even going on. Either there’s some sort of toxin in the air that makes Danny susceptible to her advances or he’s just super horny. If it’s the latter she could have easily won by just seducing him and, instead of drugging him, just stab him in the back. At several points in their exchange, she could have easily subdued or killed Danny. The only reason I can think of as to why she didn’t is because the plot dictated that she lose the fight. Towards the end, Lady Spinal Tap pulls out a dagger, suddenly remembering she needs to kill Danny, not sleep with him. It’s too late, however, as Iron Fist regains control of his chi and is able to fend her off to emerge victorious.
The last combatant is the apparent serial killer/weapons fanatic. He puts up much more of a fight and is definitely not tired of the childish insults (it was pretty cheesy but I kinda liked that line.) Danny is able to overwhelm him in the end with the power of the Iron Fist. The fight, however, failed to convey a compelling reason why Danny used the fist here and not in the previous two contests. The “A-Ha: Take On Me” serial murderer was not particularly impressive and the choreography for this final bout in the competition came off as pretty uninspired. I’ve been annoyed since they introduced Danny’s ability trying to figure when he can use it. I understand that he has to channel his chi, which is made difficult when he’s on mind altering medication, but in these fights there’s no indication that he’s anything but focused with the exception of Lady Spinal Tap (if indeed she drugs him before the fight starts.) Lives are at stake here. As far as I know, Danny could’ve ended each fight with a glowing punch immediately. If it needs to be charged up or something so be it, but tell us that’s the case. As it stands, waiting for the Iron Fist to actually be used has become irritating. I don’t know, maybe a flashback to K’un-Lun could clear some of this up.
One thing I didn’t touch on, largely because the show itself doesn’t, is the appearance of who I assume is Lei Kung. He appears throughout the fight sequences as either Danny’s memory or a mental projection of some sort. Danny remembers Lei Kung’s teachings as a means to overcome each fight’s challenging obstacle. Well, I say it’s a memory but the show wants to keep it ambiguous as to the nature of these visions. This aspect of the episode falls on its face because we have nothing to contextualize what these “visions” truly mean to Danny. It would have been far more effective if we had spent some time exploring this relationship before this episode. Especially considering Lei Kung urged Danny to sacrifice the chemist’s daughter’s life in order to defeat the Hand. The mental battle between conditioning and morality practically writes itself but here you could almost miss that concept all together.
Danny clearly wins the challenge, but Madame Gao is a cheater so actually she wins. Why go through all the meticulousness of setting up such a rule bound engagement just to so brazenly and casually break the rules? Honestly, the whole thing was barely explained, which is strange considering there seems to be some defined ritualistic order to it. If honor is the only thing at stake for not following the rules, then I guess you shouldn’t be surprised when the Hand doesn’t play fair.
If I held stock in Iron Fist’s future, I might be thinking about selling right about now. The story in “Immortal Emerges From Cave” is fine. It’s just the execution that fell short. The things I had hoped the show was turning around, they actually seem to double down on in this episode. If ever there was an episode that would’ve have benefited from a peek into Danny’s training at K’un-Lun, this is it. The fight sequences themselves are not all that compelling and are made less so by a weak foundational understanding of our hero. The outlook is bleak, but there’s still potential in this thing. I’m running on reserve hope, but let’s see if the latter half of the season packs a punch (don’t worry I’m running out of punching puns.)