Marvel’s Iron Fist
Season 1, Episode 7: Felling Tree With Roots
Iron Fist delivers some backstabbing, frontstabbing, chopping, bashing oh and more stabbing.
In “Felling Tree With Roots,” the plot takes things slow, in more ways than one. (Heh.) I made a declaration last episode that I needed to see Iron Fist deliver on some key plot points in this episode and they kind of do. The characters are even starting to ask Danny the questions I’ve been asking since the second episode. Places are being set for a lot of big confrontations and this episode gets the ball rolling with some large plot advances.
Crucial story elements are getting built and the bigger picture is coming into focus. In a lot of ways, this episode felt unfamiliar and less predictable, which is a good thing considering a lot of the front half of the season has been agonizingly bland. The Hand’s hand is revealed and surprise, it’s getting played from within Rand Enterprises. Danny is forced to clear up some details on the limits of his abilities. And the biggest development is actually with the Meachums, Ward in particular. It’s hard to tell what’s happening with Ward in this episode. He’s either becoming a villain or just losing his mind. In either case, it’s been a steady decline for the former high school bully. With this episode, Iron Fist really picks up the pace on the road to recovery. Hopefully, unlike Ward, we actually reach our destination.
“Felling Tree With Roots” picks up right on the heels of the last episode. Danny shows up at Harold’s penthouse right as he’s telling the Hand operatives that he knows nothing about the Iron Fist. Of course they immediately start shooting and Danny goes to work. Surprisingly, so does Harold. He takes it a little too far though, killing both members of the Hand. He says it’s to protect Danny, but it’s pretty apparent he’s only worried about protecting himself. The one thing Ward was right about is that Harold only cares about Harold.
Hark! What’s this? An actual explanation as to the limits of the Iron Fist’s power? A couple seconds of dialogue that explains much of what frustrated me about Danny’s abilities. It’s mind boggling why they are tip-toeing around this aspect of Danny’s story. It would have improved the action immensely by having a better understanding of his limitations. Knowing that the Iron Fist has to be a finisher because Danny is drained of energy afterwards helps to establish the stakes of his bouts. Retroactively, it does very little to repair the damage that’s been done, but I am glad that it happened.
Harold reveals how much of a sociopath he is in this episode. You could kind of gather as much from the manipulation and self interest in earlier episodes, but it’s made pretty clear he may be technically alive but mostly dead inside. Effortlessly severing his own finger, killing two guys with zero remorse, and then brutally bashing their corpses’ faces in to make sure they are unidentifiable. Pretty chilling stuff. No wonder Ward has a hard time keeping down his lunch. I don’t know why you’d enlist Ward to get rid of the bodies. He’s clearly not up to the tasks. But you know, by the end of the episode he might be getting more comfy with the idea.
Ward and Joy share an emotional moment. Joy is genuinely worried about Ward’s health and asks him to get some help. It’s unsurprising that he agrees later on since he was apparently booking a flight to flee the country, with stolen money as it turns out, but more on that later. Having been one of I’m sure many that came down hard on Ward (I’ll contend rightly so,) I recognized the familial connection between the two siblings and I could sympathize with Ward and the strain his father’s return from the dead has put on him. It’s no small feat to bring someone back around on a character like Ward, but Tom Pelphrey has truly honed in on a persuasive performance. The evolution of his character from the first episode has surprisingly been the most gripping of the cast. As if out of nowhere, Ward’s character pivots from as predictable as you can get to something way more engaging. Ironically, a similar evolution happens with his namesake in Agents of Shield.
So who’s ready for some cringy sexual intercourse? Colleen and Danny make it official in this very melodramatic scene that almost felt too cringe-worthy to watch. The chemistry between Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick has been okay up until now, but the intimacy here is so apparently artificial, especially juxtaposed with the prior scene between Joy and Ward. Though, perhaps it’s intentional given what happens with Colleen later. We at least get another small data dump from K’un-Lun. It’s actually Colleen who questions what Danny means when he refers to himself as the Iron Fist. Of course, he doesn’t give her too much because the show wants to hold back on a lot of that critical info, for some reason. We do find out the winged dragon on his chest is not exactly a tattoo, it’s a mark. He again reiterates that once used, the Iron Fist needs an undefined amount of time to power up again. A fact that would sound like BS to me if I were in Colleen’s shoes. But as we find out, Colleen may know more than she lets on about the Iron Fist.
Back at Rand, Joy is running damage control. She wants Danny to apologize to the board to get back in their good graces. But Danny is less concerned about the fallout from the video and is more concerned about what Rand’s plant is doing to people. He ultimately decides to double down and shut down the plant until they can determine whether people are dying from its toxins. It’s hard not to be on Danny’s side here. Sure, it may not be the most business savvy thing to do but the plant is killing people. By taking the moral high road and attributing it to the new popular Danny majority share owner, Rand would surely benefit from the positive press. Maybe if the board didn’t act to remove the Meachums and Danny by the end of the episode we would’ve seen how that panned out. When news gets out that Danny was removed for being too sympathetic to a victim, I can’t imagine it will be a good look for Rand.
Madame Gao is much more direct and calculating than I expected. After a brazen entrance into Danny’s office, she proceeds to encourage him to just be Danny Rand. She determined that Danny left K’un-Lun willingly, realizing that a true defender of the city would never spare the Hand for the life of a girl. Thus, the only explanation is that he left to get his old life back as the head of Rand. Still, I’m curious why she doesn’t just take him out; clearly he’d be a constant threat to her operation. Danny follows Madame Gao (after a sweet fireman’s pole slide onto an elevator) to the Hand’s apparent headquarters within Rand. Of course, I’m not a heroin dealer but I’d think setting even part of your shop within a large multinational corporation’s headquarters isn’t the safest place, but I guess I can’t criticize a group that is able to bring people back from the dead.
At the dojo, Colleen gets a visit from an old friend. It seems like he’s co-opted Colleen for presumably some nefarious end. Could this be the Hand? Seems unlikely. Possibly it’s some new group but, either way, Danny is in for a rude awakening. Speaking of which, he shows up to the dojo to recruit Colleen to help him rescue the chemist. Then, in yet another unexpected move, Danny suggests they enlist the aid of the Triads to attack the Hand’s compound. It’s a weird move for Danny considering the Triad’s lethal methods, nevertheless they charge the compound. They get to Radavon (I figured I should finally use his actual name considering what happens next) just in time to see him kick the bucket. Before he goes, he imparts that Gao is going to the very place Danny and his family were traveling before his plane crashed. Maybe Wendell actually did work with Gao in some capacity. Whatever the case, it surely doesn’t sit well with Danny.
We save the best for last, of course. You have to play the hand you’re dealt and Ward gets dealt a really crappy one in this episode. Watching Ward descend to the level of common lackey would have been particularly enjoyable a few episodes back. But now it’s just pitiful. After a failed attempt to acquire another muscle relaxer fix, presumably seeing a severed head for the first time and then having to dispose of not one but two bodies, things start to weigh on him. Ward books a flight to Central America to escape his pain and conveniently Joy brings him a perfect alibi, suggesting he go to a recovery facility to get help. This scene between the two is very emotional and made all the more sad when Ward realizes that Harold’s emptied out his entire bank account.
So close, Ward. You had to have known that Harold knew about the money, though. He monitors your every move. Maybe Harold was right. Ward should’ve just stuck with business. Unfortunately for Harold, that was an insult too far. In all his monitoring and manipulation, he somehow missed how fed up Ward has become with his crap. Harold’s abuse of his son turns out to be his second undoing as Ward finally breaks down and stabs his father to death. Now an experienced body disposer, he dumps Harold’s body where he earlier dumped the members of the Hand. Doesn’t seem like the smartest move but, you know, he’s just killed his father a second time and looks pretty psyched about it. Who am I to judge?
“Felling Tree With Roots” is a serviceable episode. The plot pushed forward significantly and new developments emerge. Madame Gao makes it clear that she’s a serious threat that isn’t going away anytime soon and she’s way closer than Danny would like. This episode was able to clarify what I thought was just poor storytelling last episode when it comes to Gao. But she does fall into the same old villain trap of letting the hero live out of misguided sense invulnerability; however, she does seem to be playing a different game than everyone else. With Harold dispatched and Ward looking to take on a more villainous role, I hope that Joy gets a more interesting role in this story (she really hasn’t done much of anything.) Although I’m glad we have gotten something out of Danny in terms of what the Iron Fist is, we are going to need more, and soon as we near the final act. With the board rearranged and all the key players in place, I think Iron Fist is going to come through with a strong finish to make up for lost time.