Iron Fist: 1.13 Dragon Plays with Fire

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This review contains spoilers for Iron Fist's thirteenth episode. A spoiler-free review of the entire first season will be released soon.

A lot happened in Dragon Plays with Fire, the season finale of Iron Fist, so it's best to begin with a quick recap.

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If there was any doubt that Harold played a bigger role in Danny's life than previously thought, then the intro to the finale smashes it, with Harold admitting that he's always been messing with Danny's life with a very evil grin. Sure enough, Danny confronts Gao at Bakuto's suspiciously empty compound, where she reveals that, yes, Harold is the one who poisoned the pilots and brought down the Rand plane. Enraged, Danny sets out with Colleen and Claire to put an end to Harold's reign of terror. Colleen decides that she will kill Harold to save Danny's conscious, but he's not having it.

Ward, disgusted by his father's framing of Danny and reentry into society, decides to help the Iron Fist and his crew infiltrate Rand Enterprises and steal back the tablet containing the information needed to clear Danny's name. Harold is not fond of his son's continued betrayal, and whacks him on the head with a golf club. But it's too late: Danny and Colleen reach Harold's floor and take down his armed guards in fight scene that is poorly staged, with the henchmen taking unrealistic pauses between their inaccurate shooting so Iron Fist can perform another stunt. Still, watching the hero break the entire floor is pretty cool.

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Harold escapes to the roof with Danny in hot pursuit. Iron Fist gets shot in his fist of all places, rendering him powerless for the second time in three episodes. Still, he overcomes his nemesis, impaling him on a protruding piece of metal and then sagaciously choosing to harness his anger and spare Harold's life. But Ward is not feeling that decision, pumping his mean dad full of lead and sending him toppling to the street.

Again, the issues of Iron Fist remain unsolved. Dialogue is terrible, Harold is more of a caricature than a character, and everyone else makes choices that don't line up with their character. For example, why is Ward so shaken up by his father's permanent death? He was so happy last time he killed him, and he had even more reason to be relieved this time around! Ultimately, he was the redemptive character of the show, and it shows: at first, I despised his character, but now I am simply confused and indifferent.

Also, Danny's final decision to return to K'un Lun comes very soon after he defied Davos by choosing to stay in New York. It made no sense for the character, and was obviously only added for the big cliffhanger that the heavenly city has disappeared after the Hand took advantage of Iron Fist's abandonment. I hope that this issue doesn't come up until Season Two, because I really don't want the Defenders show to be marred by the ill-fated plots of Iron Fist.

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Finally, as if things weren't contrived enough, Davos has found Joy and recruited her in his efforts to kill Danny Rand. To that, I say, what? Joy has no reason to hate Danny: if anything, she should be on his side since discovering that her father was a psychopathic monster hellbent on destroying the Rand name. And what about Gao, sitting right there, smiling with malicious contentment? To quote Luke Cage for the second time, "Sweet Christmas."

You'll have to wait on my full review of first season for my final thoughts, but for now, I'll say this: Iron Fist did not have to be bad. There is nothing inherently wrong with the hero himself. But this is a case study in how a show on a prestigious network and acclaimed television universe fails in execution. The second season will need a huge creative overhaul if it hopes to get up to the level of Danny's fellow Defenders.

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