Warning: This contains spoilers.
With Danny having now secured his identity and place atop his father’s business, he begins working towards stopping The Hand in any and all endeavours. He does this in the only way this incarnation of Danny Rand does anything: he walks up to their doorstep and tells them to stop, or he’ll fight them.
In Episode 6, Danny is presented with a series of three fights against different styles of martial artist, all under the watchful eye of The Hand. Danny does not pause to wonder if it is a trap, or a test, or if The Hand (a multi-national murderous ring of supernatural heroin dealers) are to be trusted. While this strategy-devoid honour-driven style might suit the isolated idea of a kung-fu hero, watching him do this for 13 episodes is unlikely to be entertaining.
Where Iron Fist seemed to be gathering pace after its opening episodes, in actual fact, it appears to have simply established a very low bar to contend with – the opening episodes were so tedious so that the rest might appear interesting by comparison. But really, Iron Fist is only a success out of context. It is exciting that a young, talented hero chooses to face Madame Gao alone, until it is happening on-screen at which point it seems lazily constructed and filled with inconsistencies. It’s the same elsewhere – the concept of having Ward Meachum brutally murder his unloving father seems striking and gritty, but when brought to screen, it plays like another drug-addled tantrum from Ward, for which we will spend several episodes enduring his guilt. The whole series is much better in theory than in practice.
Episode 8 rules the dojo for entertainment value, at least, with Danny’s tactic-bereft ‘storm the gates’ challenge to The Hand. Most of the fight sequences continue to be interesting rather than thrilling – kung-fu is one of the less conventional looking martial arts, packed with flowing, sweeping movements, as opposed to staccato strikes. The Blessing of Many Fractures, though, delivers the highlight so far: Danny’s battle with Zhou Cheng (Lewis Tan – who initially auditioned for the lead role), the drunken defender of The Hand. Taking ‘drunken fist’ technique too literally (or just as literally as the show takes every aspect of Chinese martial arts), the oddity of the movements stalls even Iron Fist’s legendary training for a few moments.
The primary issue with Iron Fist is the awkward pacing; each episode is packed with filler storylines, designed to create tension – Will Ward finally explain his behaviour to his sister? – but really just creating frustration. (No, he won’t. He’ll back out and lie unconvincingly at the last second.) It’s as though the audience can sense exactly where Iron Fist is headed and are, inexplicably, excited for it. But Iron Fist keeps sending them on detours just when they’re getting somewhere. It’s monotonous, irritating, and unforgivable in a show already packed with mediocrity.
All episodes of Iron Fist are available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.