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Have comics on TV reached saturation?

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I started this site way back when with the name “Comic Book Clog” because I liked the name, the imagery it invoked, but more to the point, it’s the way I felt about comics at the time.  For example:  to follow Batman, you had to read all of the Batman family books.  (I made a video about this an even longer time ago.)  Same goes for Spider-Man… and this is how it’s been for a long time.  Then it became that way for other characters and groups like X-Men, The Avengers and so on.  It became too much (both from a content and cost standpoint) and it pushed me out of a ton of books.

And now, I feel that it’s reached this critical point on TV.

While I’m still watching the movies (although DC/WB has tried my patience – it’s great that 93% of reviews for Wonder Woman are positive, but a 7.6 average score isn’t exactly, “run, don’t walk” territory), it’s hard for me to get excited about comic books on TV.

I started watching Agents of SHIELD because I like the actor who plays Coulson as well as the character and a TV show seemed to be the perfect place to explore the MCU.  I enjoyed the first season and the way they tied it into Winter Soldier, but as the show devolved into Daisey’s Agents of X-Men somewhere in season 3, I completely lost interest.  (I’ve talked about this before.)

So, I moved into the Netflix corner of the MCU.  There, I enjoyed season 1 of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but Matt Murdock’s season 2 didn’t wow me the way the first one did and I have yet to finish Luke Cage or even start Iron Fist.

And don’t even get me started on Gotham.

So where do I go from here?  I watched the first few episodes of Supergirl and quickly got bored, I enjoyed the first episode of Arrow but immediately forgot it existed… and wtf is Preacher?  I heard The Gifted was good, but I just haven’t gotten to it.  Does it tie in with the X-Men movies?  I’m not sure I have the energy for that at this point.

I’ve reached saturation.  To everybody else, hang in there.

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Iron Fist: Dragon Plays With Fire

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Oh, THIS Iron Fist…

Iron Fist reaches the conclusion of season one (with sadly no confirmed word on season two as yet) with “Dragon Plays With Fire.” There are a lot of dangling threads they manage to (mostly) resolve, and they leave enough hanging if the show does return. And I’m relieved that a troubling rumor I heard about the show is proven false.

In the Penthouse, a very self-satisfied Harold stops to check his reflection in the mirror. He sees the news carrying the story of Danny Rand being hunted by the DEA and smiles. One car ride later, he’s at the lobby for Rand, abusing a guard for doing his job. I don’t know if they did this on purpose, but it’s an interesting parallel with Danny’s first time coming here.

In his office, Ward is talking with Jerri Hogarth, Danny’s lawyer. He assures her the charges are false, and she wryly observes he’s changed his tune where Danny is concerned. Their talk about Danny’s legal troubles with the DEA gets interrupted by Harold arriving. Jerri is, to put it mildly, stunned. After some more unpleasant comments from Harold, he dismisses Jerri, then shows Ward he doesn’t even know everything about his own office. Harold spins an unlikely story to cover his miraculous return from the dead, and then surprises Ward with another revelation about what’s been happening in the background with Danny.

Continuing to mirror the first episode, the next scene is Danny in the park. This time, he’s skulking around with his hood pulled up, avoiding the various police officers, since Danny is on the Most Wanted List. Colleen brings Danny a copy of the New York Bulletin, showing his picture as a dangerous criminal. They compare notes on how each other are, and then Colleen says they need a go-between to get to Jerri, since the Feds are probably watching her.

Naturally, this leads to Claire bringing a note to Jerri, and then Jerri to Danny and Colleen. Personally, I don’t think that’s the best way to go about not leading police to Danny, but it seems to work. Jerri isn’t thrilled to meet Colleen, who also has charges against her. They debate tactics and decide they need to try and find the unaltered documents that Harold tweaked to implicate Danny. Jerri doesn’t want to hear about Harold returning from the dead, gives some more advice, and leaves the three heroes.

Danny and Colleen return to The Hand compound, now eerily deserted. Working their way through the buildings, they find Madame Gao, still in her cell. She seems happy to see Danny, although she rains more bad news down on him. She also offers insights about Danny and Colleen that unnerve both of them. Danny leaves having learned more about the deaths of his parents and unsure about what to do next.

Danny, Colleen, and Claire talk about their next move. Danny is heading down a dark path, and Claire is trying hard to steer him in another direction. Colleen then complicates Claire’s life by finding a new unpleasant way to go. Claire compares Danny to the other “special” people she’s met, contrasting them all being dark and haunted with Danny’s innocence when she met him. She’s worried he’s losing that, and I’d say she has a point. She suggests they focus on the tablet that may prove Danny’s innocence.

Ward goes to see Joy in the hospital, and it’s not exactly a warm reunion. Given what she saw from Ward last night, she has no interest in talking to him, which might be one of her smartest decisions. They argue as he tries to justify himself, and tell her what a monster Harold really is. Joy isn’t buying any of it until Ward raises the stakes. He tosses down a copy of the Bulletin with the cover story about Danny the fugitive, and she is shocked.

In a surprising alliance, Danny and Ward meet up. Ward really does seem to want to help Danny. Whether Ward feels badly about how he treated Danny before or just wants revenge on Harold, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure Ward is sure, either. Ward warns Danny about the increased security, and Danny shares the news from Gao about the Rands’ deaths. Danny is still suffering his blurry flashbacks, and finally runs off, with Ward staring after him.

Motivated by Ward’s visit and news, Joy rises from her hospital bed and goes to Rand to confront Harold. He tries more of his lies, and she’s not buying them. She lays out how she knows Harold framed Danny, and Harold isn’t pleased. During the course of the conversation, Joy realizes Harold has been spying on her. They argue more, and Harold’s paranoia comes to the fore. He yells at her that whatever Danny told her is lies, ignoring Joy repeatedly telling him she hasn’t seen Danny. She finally leaves, with Harold furious behind her. Down on the street, Joy sees Ward, but ignores him and is driven off in her own car. I think of everyone involved in this story, I feel worst for Joy. She had the rug pulled out from under her life, and she didn’t do anything to deserve any of this. Ward goes inside after watching her take off.

Hiding in a car nearby, the Colleen, Claire, Danny trio wait. Danny has a big bag of money he’s giving to Claire for a distraction, while he and Colleen prepare to go inside. Ward calls them and says they need to call it off, because Harold has added so many armed guards. Ward’s warning gets cut off rather brutally by Harold.  Claire agrees they should try another night, so of course Danny refuses. Colleen follows after Danny rushes off, leaving a frustrated Claire to pick up the pieces of their plan. She’s not happy. Colleen and Danny manage to get separated almost immediately but keep working their way inside.

Harold gets a warning from the staff downstairs and readies his men for the ambush. Ward protests, but isn’t in any condition to really stop anything at this point. Colleen gets up there and starts her own counter-ambush, which is when Danny makes a very dramatic and unexpected entrance. There’s a lot of fighting here, and another new use for the power of the Iron Fist which I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure it quite works for the concept from the books, but it sure looked cool.

Eventually, Harold retreats to the roof, luring Danny after him. Harold positions himself really badly for his attack on Danny, which might be part of why he misses. Danny actually gets hit a bit later, and it’s an ugly-looking wound. As they stalk each other across the roof, Harold goes into another long monologue which makes him sound even less sympathetic as it goes on. The end of the confrontation goes very unexpectedly, or at least I didn’t see it coming. It made sense to me overall, although Danny steals one of Wonder Woman’s moves.

Sometime later, it’s day, and the hawk we’ve seen before flies through the city. It finally lands on a building, and then we see Ward and Danny inside. Jerri stops by to give them some good news, and they attend to something that really needs to be done. I’m hoping that’s the end of that little problem.

Once more back at the dojo, Colleen is still training Claire. Danny comes with pizza, and they talk about future plans. Claire, wisely, suggests therapy for both of them. She takes the claws she captured in China and walks out. Danny and Colleen make plans to go to K’un-Lun. I don’t think they’d be please that Danny brought them both someone they didn’t know and a former member of The Hand at that. Danny talks about his hopes for the future.

We end on a few closing scenes. Ward has made some changes at the office, and I’m glad he did. There’s a meeting between two very unlikely people, who don’t seem to have Danny’s best interests at heart. They’re overheard by another familiar face. Danny and Colleen go on their trip, and get a big surprise at the end of it, which is where we leave them for now.

What I liked: The action was good. Claire, as always, was a stable, wise presence who brought much needed common sense. I’m hoping Ward’s change of perspective is lasting and sincere. It was a nice touch that Colleen’s blade is still damaged. There are a lot of loose ends for possible continuation.

What I didn’t: For all the trouble he was having with it earlier, Danny’s power seems to be fine now. If he rebalanced his Chi on his own, we never saw it. I really don’t know why Danny thought the people of K’un-Lun would welcome Colleen. The final meeting over tea didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why did Danny blur every time he got a flashback? Was this some psychedelic version of PTSD?

I’ll give this episode, and the show in general, a 3 out of 5. I’d rate it as the lowest of the four Netflix/Defenders shows, but even with that, I thought it was decent and I’d watch another season.

All four heroes will return in the Defenders in August.

Iron Fist: Bar the Big Boss

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It’s a REALLY awkward elevator ride

Iron Fist is close to wrapping things up with “Bar The Big Boss,” episode 12 out of 13. Matters are coming to a head, and the various plotlines are starting to close in on themselves. Lines are being drawn, and Danny Rand has to deal with forces pulling him in several directions at once.

They open with us checking in on Ward, still confined to the same hospital he once sent Danny to. Ward isn’t doing well, having hallucinations, withdrawal, and a generally wretched time of it. When a nurse comes in to check on him, he first tries to charm her, then bribe her, and both work equally well. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Later, he gets another visitor. Bakuto gets around, that’s for sure. The Hand Sensei offers Ward a deal, which makes me think of devils and pitchforks, the way that man operates.

Danny and Colleen wander down the street. Colleen is still stunned about the way her world is collapsing around her, especially Bakuto ordering her to be killed. Davos cautions Danny not to believe her, since she’s Hand. That pretty much sets the tone for all the interactions between Davos and Colleen for the rest of the episode. Danny isn’t going to enjoy playing referee. They argue about what to do about the compound, Colleen’s former students, and pretty much everything else.

At the Penthouse, Harold rhapsodizes about working with Joy. She buys all his talk, and is planning on a big family vacation after they finish with their current crisis: her, Ward, Harold, and Danny. It’s almost painful seeing her get hopeful, considering what we know of the way Harold operates. He adeptly dodges her questions about Ward. That ends up not mattering when Ward himself walks in a few moments later. Kind of nice to see Harold surprised.

Tensions rise immediately as Ward wants to talk to Joy away from Harold. He’s really pushing for them to leave, which becomes increasingly desperate. Joy wants to stay and work, and Harold is clearly suspicious, but then, he always is. Ward warns her that Harold isn’t who he thinks, and will use her and just toss her aside. Ward gets a lot more emphatic about how bad Harold is and that they need to leave.

Ward’s insistence on going makes a lot more sense when the elevator opens and Bakuto and his entourage walk out. Harold’s guards make the big mistake of resisting, and the body count in Harold’s penthouse goes up again. Bakuto keeps exuding his fake charm and calm while he drops a few bombshells among the Meechums. Bakuto veers from recommending a family therapist to telling Ward how to kill the annoyingly immortal Harold. Ward isn’t so much worried about something happening to Harold as he is Joy having to see it. Things get calm, sort of, for a moment when Bakuto demands Ward’s phone.

Danny and Colleen return to the Chikara Dojo, because that seems to be the only place they hang out. I wonder what happened to Danny’s apartment/suite/whatever it was. They talk about her situation and the general duality of life. This gets interrupted by Bakuto calling and sending video of him holding the Meechums prisoner. To emphasize his point, Bakuto takes violent action. Danny agrees to go there, and Davos argues that the Iron Fist doesn’t surrender to anyone. Naturally, Danny goes anyway.

The Meechums debate if Danny will come or not and what kind of man he is. Joy seems to be the only one who has a clear picture of both him and them. Bakuto goes on about the history of his sword as he prepares to execute Harold, which I’d actually be ok with. Harold, for last words, flings a stream of abuse at Ward. This about when Danny gets there and gives himself up to save the Meechums. Well, at least one of them is worth the effort. Bakuto cuffs Danny and takes him away.

On the elevator ride down, Bakuto shakes his head, calling the Meechums a pit of vipers and telling Danny he should be glad to be away from those people. I can’t really fault him there. When the elevator gets to the lobby, things get interesting, if inconsistent. Davos and Colleen are there, and a general fight ensues. Danny fires up the Fist for a moment and frees himself from the cuffs before it flickers out again. In the elevator on the way down, I counted carefully, and it was Bakuto plus five men. Now, somehow, it’s three vs. three as Bakuto fights Danny and Colleen and Davos take on a guard each. It’s a very back and forth fight. Everyone involved is quite skilled.

Eventually, it’s down to Bakuto alone, and he flees. The fight moves to a stair and archway location I’ve seen in a lot of New York filmed movies. I think it’s in Central Park. Bakuto taunts Colleen, and she takes him on. Davos tells Danny to stay out of it, that it’s her fight because Bakuto is her sensei. That almost sounds like respect from him, which is a lot different from how he was treating her earlier. It’s an impressive fight that Colleen eventually wins. Then tensions rise to the boiling point and Danny takes on Davos. It’s fight marked by apologies, and, since we know whose show it is, the outcome isn’t that hard to guess. Colleen stupidly watches the fight, and we get the old “I know he was dead, but where’d he go” trick.

Finally, morning arrives, bright and sunny. The Meechums are at the hosptial, and Harold is once again switching sides without batting an eye. Seriously, why does anyone trust this man at this point? He vaguely talks of his future plans, none of which involve anything good for Danny. When Danny calls, Harold stops him from coming to visit, but also finds out where he is. Danny is remarkably naive.

Danny and Colleen go back to the Dojo once more, and have a few cute moments together, talking about the future. Later, which might be the next morning, Danny is doing hip hop kung fu, and then starts teaching Colleen. They get a warning from a very unexpected source, and the dojo gets attacked again. I swear, that door has almost as much bad lack as the one to Jessica Jones’ office. Men in tac armor attack again, and we do get to see who they are. Danny and Colleen get away and the episode ends with them running down the street.

What I liked: As you’d expect from both a martial arts show and a Marvel project, the fight choreography is good. Danny has his share of flaws, and maybe part of someone else’s share, but he is a hero and willing to sacrifice himself for others. I can’t stand Bakuto or Harold, which means they are well written and well acted villains, so points there.

What I didn’t: I’m really over the Meechums as a whole. It’s an ongoing soap opera I don’t really want to watch. All we need is an evil twin or an unexpected pregnancy and we’d be ready for daytime tv. The characters were stupid in their fight in Central Park. If Iron Fist gets a second season, which as far as I know is not confirmed, I wouldn’t mind it being Meechum-free. Maybe Joy if we have to.

This wasn’t a great episode. I’ll give it a low 3 out of 5. I hope the conclusion really ups the game here.

Iron Fist: Lead Horse Back To Stable

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Danny has a bad morning after…

 

This is another review that has spoilers in it, so be warned: there are spoilers below.

The 11th episode of Iron Fist, “Lead Horse Back To Stable,” begins with a flashback to a very significant event in Danny’s life. Davos finds Danny just outside a cave, sprawled on the rocks there. Davos sees through the rips in Danny’s robes that he has a very fresh brand across his chest- the symbol of Shao Lao the Undying. When Davos touches him, Danny starts up and instinctively triggers the Iron Fist, surprising both of them. Davos and Danny limp away from the cave, both commenting on the power not being what they thought it was.

In the present, Danny tends his wounds from the battle with Bakuto’s section of The Hand. He gets a series of flashbacks from recent events (I really think the boy has PTSD) and tries, and fails, to get the Fist working again. Leaving the mens’ room, Danny meets up with Davos, and they talk about what to do next. Danny asks Davos how he managed to track him down, and Davos admits that the Internet can be useful. Davos pushes for them to return to K’un-Lun and lays on a heavy guilt trip, while Danny says he wants to stay. He makes the decent point that, if the Iron Fist is supposed to destroy The Hand, and The Hand is here in New York, this is where he needs to be. Davos reluctantly agrees, if Danny will return to K’un-Lun afterward. Danny agrees and says he knows someplace to get his wound tended to.

Colleen returns to her Chikara Dojo, surveying the wreckage from the big fight there. I’m still wondering who that was assaulting our heroes. The Hand uses traditional martial arts weapons and dress. So far, I don’t know that we’ve seen a faction in this story that uses modern weapons and tactical gear. That to one side, Bakuto drops in, and he and Colleen have an argument about her level of respect and what to do about Danny Rand. He reminds her that his group gets kids off the street and into good jobs like hospitals and government interns. Bakuto leans heavily on Colleen, insisting on her compliance.

To no surprise at all, Danny headed out to see Claire, interrupting her studies of various Eastern Philosophies. This is part of why I like Claire so much. She doesn’t just see these heroes and their powers, she works hard to understand them. I’m not sure we’ve seen another character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe do that, aside from maybe Simmons on Agents of SHIELD. After some initial confusion, Claire agrees to help. That confusion doesn’t clear up any after she digs an arrowhead out of Danny’s side. Her treatment is simple and effective, if a bit painful. Claire asks if he can’t just heal himself with the Fist, and he says he can’t right now. Davos is surprised she knows about the Fist.

Danny persuades Davos to give them some privacy, and then gives Claire some bad news. Not only does he tell her about The Hand building an army right here in New York, but that Colleen is part of it. Claire is stunned, and Danny gets loud about it. They talk about broken hearts and antibiotics, and even use a simple shirt to tie-in with Luke Cage.

Harold is working out on the heavy bag in his penthouse. When he decides he’s had enough, he goes to the work station where Joy is typing away on the computer. It’s not like Kyle is going to be using it anymore. Joy has found out what Bakuto is doing with Gao’s money, and manages figure out how to control it. Harold is thrilled and goes on about using this to bring down The Hand. Joy is clearly a lot less certain about this. She’s also worried about Ward, which Harold dismisses.

Claire and Davos talk while Danny is up on the roof doing forms. It could be seen as an info-dump, but it ends up being a really entertaining contrast of their two worlds. I think my favorite part was Claire saying dragons don’t exist, and Davos, completely serious, asking her, “Why would you think that?” They also talk about Danny’s duty, where the Iron Fist comes from, emotional repression, and pizza. You know, the important stuff. When the bell rings, Claire insists on going down to get the pizza herself.

I was expecting this to be some kind of trap, and was all set to be annoyed with Claire. Instead, the pizza guy has been replaced by Colleen, who wants to talk to Danny. First, she has to get by Claire, who is very disappointed to learn that what Danny told her is true. With her usual sass, Claire suggests that, if Colleen’s Hand is supposed to be so different from the other part, they need a different name, and makes a few suggestions.

Apparently Colleen persuaded Claire, because the next scene is Danny on the roof, his moves being hampered by his injury. He has more flashbacks, this time to the boredom of guarding the pass to K’un Lun. Colleen joins him on the roof and they argue some more. There’s a passing mention of the need for antibiotics, and Danny pretty much refuses to listen to, or trust, Colleen. I can’t say I blame him at this point. Catching your lover in a lie is painful, and it’s worse when the lie is about an evil organization.

Davos very suspiciously sniffs the pizza that Colleen delivered, and finally allows that it’s not horrible. Claire is not pleased by someone dissing New York pizza. The food comedy gets interrupted when Danny comes back down to talk to Claire. Davos doesn’t quite, but almost, rolls his eyes and goes on “guard duty” again to give them some privacy. Danny shares his plans with Claire and then asks to borrow her car. Considering her history with heroes and her cars, I’m amazed she said yes.

Colleen really is trying to make things right between her and Danny. She goes to one of her former students, Becca. Becca is now working in a hospital, and Colleen hits her up for some of the antibiotics that Danny needs. Becca says of course, The Hand always comes first. Colleen really should have listened to that.

Danny and Davos go to the penthouse, meeting up with Harold and Joy. Davos once again has to explain that not everyone from K’un-Lun has the Iron Fist, which is painful as he thought that was his birthright. I’m not clear on how Harold knew Davos was in the elevator. We never see Harold look at the monitors. Maybe his resurrection comes with increased senses? They go over their somewhat simple plan to lure Bakuto out of his compound. I can actually see this working, barring complications. Which, of course, occur. Joy also isn’t happy about the direction the conversation takes in terms of what to do with Bakuto.

Colleen gets a nasty surprise about loyalty within The Hand. Bakuto has a long reach, and Colleen herself drilled obedience into her students’ heads. A group shows up to take Colleen in, and she’s not at all happy about this development. Still think you chose the ride side, Colleen?

In the penthouse, Harold is taking a few extra precautions. Joy isn’t sure this is a good idea, and tries to point out some flaws in the idea. Harold is still having rage issues, and flares up again for a moment. He’s also more than willing to play Joy off against the still-missing (to her) Ward. Harold’s a real prize. I’m not surprised Ward is as screwed up as he is, I’m astonished Joy isn’t.

Colleen is under some heavy security, and firing off a lot of questions. The people holding her are short on answers and long on scorn and mockery. Bakuto drops by, just to remove any doubt that all of this is at his order, and leaves again. Colleen gets taken to a very sinister-looking room, and decides she’s seen enough. Colleen manages to get loose and have the only action sequence in the episode. While her former students are good, she is much better, and manages to get free.

Outside, we learn that even martial arts masters aren’t immune to the boredom of stakeouts. Davos and Danny talk about their shared history in K’un-Lun. Davos listens to Danny’s’ problems, and essentially gives him an “I told you so.” Danny talks about his decision to leave and the sign he followed, which doesn’t impress Davos at all. Then, they see someone fleeing the compound, and the plan goes off the rails. Danny chases after Colleen, and, after a violent confrontation, they more or less patch things up. Davos doesn’t look happy about this, and walks off into the suddenly occurring thunderstorm.

What I liked: I really don’t like Ward, so his absence from an entire episode was fine with me. I always enjoy Claire’s appearances, and she was her usual steadying, helpful presence. Davos’ reaction to pizza was entertaining. Colleen’s escape and fight made sense and worked within the story. There were no business meetings for once.

What I didn’t: Danny’s loss of the Fist doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I’m hoping they don’t drag this out for the rest of the season. For a kung-fu themed show, there was a notable lack of action. Harold and Bakuto are both annoyingly smug in different ways, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them both die by the end of the season. I’m wondering why no one seems to be curious about the guys in the tac gear were.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5. I’m curious to see how they wrap all this up in just two more episodes.

Iron Fist: Black Tiger Steals Heart

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Danny gets some help

 

Events get interesting as they start coming towards the end of Iron Fist’s first season. “Black Tiger Steals Heart” has a lot of surprises and revelations. Danny hasn’t been the most likable character through a lot of this season, but by the end of this, I do feel a bit sorry for him. And there’s a lot of action, which is what most people watch this kind of show for.

Last episode, we saw Danny getting carried off by Bakuto after unlocking the healing aspect of his powers. Now, he wakes up in a nice room with Colleen. Not a bad way to start the day. They have a very nice little reunion, which is about the only peace Danny gets this entire episode.

Joy is still trying to come to grips with Harold’s resurrection. I don’t blame her for being rattled. They talk a lot about Harold’s illness and his kids caring for him. Joy also understands a lot more about why Ward is the way he is. Even in the midst of this shock, she’s thinking about her brother. A lot of what Harold says to her sounds like what he said to Ward earlier. To me, it sounds like a rehearsed story. He also offers some odd insight on what his death was like.

Colleen and Danny walk through Bakuto’s compound. It definitely seems like one of those too good to be true places. Then again, how many forces for good live in compounds? Colleen talks about how much this place means to her, and Bakuto offers another lesson to Danny how his Iron Fist power works. Danny presses Bakuto for some hard answers and gets a lot of polite evasions. Even as naive as Danny is, he sees enough to make him realize there’s something off here. In Bakuto’s office, he shows Danny an interesting bit of archived movie footage from China. He makes his pitch to Danny for the Iron Fist to join him to stop, “the Gaos of the world.” Among the inducements offered is that Bakuto seems to know a lot more about Iron Fists in general than Danny does.

Harold and Joy keep talking about his return. While he fusses with drinks, Joy calls Danny. They both share various surprising bits of news, like Harold being alive. Danny’s also surprised to know how much Harold has told Joy. Harold is very curious about what happened to Gao, and who Bakuto is. Joy is confused by most of these exchanges, and a few minutes later, turns down Harold’s offer of day drinking. She also sees a hint of what happened to poor Kyle.

In Bakuto’s office, we get the confirmation (not that it was needed) that he’s not exactly one of the good guys. Bakuto is doing all sorts of surveillance and is very well informed about more than just the history of the Iron Fist. Bakuto is also keeping secrets from Danny, and taking Colleen along for the ride.

Danny wanders around the compound, and runs across Daryl and a few other students. Daryl can’t, or won’t, answer Danny’s questions, but he’s eager to prove he’s a cocky idiot. We get one of the stereotypical martial arts scenes of student trying to hit master and master evading without trying. Danny does find out about a curfew for the students and a few off-limits areas. He takes advantage of this to later find out where Gao is and sneak in for another round of dodge the question. Bakuto walks in during this and takes Danny away, also showing his evasion skills.

Bakuto leaves Danny with Colleen, apparently expecting her to seal the deal or at least distract the young warrior. Colleen cautiously tests the waters, and gets worried when she finds out that Danny both knows Gao is there and has spoken with her. Colleen tries to argue her point of view about Bakuto’s group, but Danny isn’t buying. He learned something very troubling from Gao that Colleen has confirmed, and it’s not going to help their relationship. This quickly escalates to their first lovers’ spat, which ends with a sad Colleen and a dramatically storming off Danny.

Harold gets a surprise dinner guest who tells him nothing he wants to hear. Even crazy apparently immortal people aren’t coming off well in this mess. But, the guest does offer him a carrot he very much wants.

Danny slips out of his room and sneaks around in the compound. He finds a way into a building which has a very odd combination communications center/dojo. Danny, upon seeing how much they’re spying on people, starts smashing the place up. Either the destruction attracts Bakuto’s attention or he’s been watching Danny, but either way he shows up. After some smug talk from Bakuto, they have the inevitable fight. Bakuto might be a know it all, but Danny manages to teach him a lesson anyway. Danny gets away and runs into an unexpected ally from his past.

Harold goes to pay a call on Lawrence at Rand International. I’ve never liked Lawrence, so I’ll admit this is a satisfying scene as far as I’m concerned. Harold lays out a very insane plan that Lawrence doesn’t agree to, and Harold does what he feels he needs to. Ruthless is a good word for Harold.

Danny and friend fight their way out of the compound. The initial plan fails horribly, and there’s a lot more fighting. Finally, with some unexpected help, they manage to get out. Bakuto walks among the wounded later, and gives another few cryptic comments about Danny’s future. I’m really hoping Bakuto doesn’t come back after this season. He’s annoying.

We almost made it an episode without a business meeting, but I guess we can’t quite do that. Joy goes back to Rand and sits in as they discuss what to do next in the aftermath of Harold’s visit. Joy seems to have taken control, and I’m not quite sure why. The entire board at this point seems to be lemmings who just go along with whoever talked last. They really aren’t remotely impressive. After this, Joy goes to a follow up meeting with Harold.

After the chaos of the escape, Danny and his friend are wandering through the streets. They argue about what Danny is supposed to do next. Danny is torn between two different sets of responsibilities. The episode ends with Danny trying to decide what to do and a Rand billboard looking down on them.

What I liked: There was a lot of action, and the fight scenes were really well done. I’m glad that Danny wised up about Bakuto’s place quickly. Joy is finally mostly out of the dark about what’s going on. We got to go a whole episode with no Ward, which I applaud.

What I didn’t: I don’t get why there were weapons in their computer center. I’m not wild about what Bakuto apparently did to Danny. I wasn’t expecting the comic book costume on the show, but we’re most of the way through the season and there hasn’t even been a hint of it. I really don’t like Daryl.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5, and we’ll see where the show goes next.

Iron Fist: The Mistress of All Agonies

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Danny really does have those magic fingers…

I try to write my reviews to avoid spoilers. Sometimes, that isn’t possible. The ninth episode of Iron Fist, “The Mistress of All Agonies,” is one of those times. So beware, I start off with spoilers and have more of them throughout. I just don’t see how to do this episode without them.

I had sort of wondered if this might happen, so the opening scene wasn’t a complete shock to me. The camera pans around the spot where Ward has been dumping bodies. The water swirls and then Harold emerges. He crawls to shore, removes the knife Ward killed him with from his torso, and then smiles. It’s a good day to be resurrected, I guess.

Team China has made it back home, and they’re holding Madame Gao prisoner in Colleen’s dojo. I have a lot of questions about how that worked, considering how many people must have been involved with this: pilots, customs officers, whoever got them back to the dojo, and whoever might have been passing by at any of those points. But she’s there, tied to a chair. Again, considering the abilities she has shown before, I’m really wondering how they are keeping her prisoner. They have a stalemate going on, in that Danny, Colleen, and Claire aren’t going to let her go, but Gao isn’t talking. After a lot of debate, they send Danny back to Rand to try an idea of Claire’s.

The resurrected Harold wanders the streets and has a few odd encounters. It seems that not quite all of him came back, or at least that’s how he’s acting at the moment. While that goes on, Joy is leaving a message for Ward about the building he brought her to before he had his little breakdown with her. It’s not entirely clear where she is, but Joy has managed to position herself to find Danny as he walks down the street. I guess they’re near the dojo; Joy’s been there before. She tells Danny about all the news from Rand, her and Ward’s trip to the building, and what she’s found out about it since then. She also tells Danny Ward has disappeared. Danny seems a bit stunned, but tells her they’ll work all this out later continuing on his mission.

Gao shows she knows how to fight on many fronts. Claire is trying to be nice by bringing her water, and Gao starts playing head games with her. She has a vicious tongue, Madame Gao. She does seem to know a lot about Daredevil and Luke Cage, and their connections to Claire. Gao goes on to do the same thing with Colleen, who is not looking well at all.

Danny somehow manages to sneak into Rand. Then again, he did say that, practically growing up there, he knows all the ways in and out. He gets to the lab to attend to Claire’s grocery list, and manages to get some help and show that it’s good to be nice to people. You never know when you might need a favor again.

Harold’s wanderings eventually take him back to Rand, where his passcodes apparently still work. He gets inside, very late and after hours, and wanders the executive suites. He’s remembering more now, and is not happy at seeing that Ward and Joy’s offices are assigned to someone else now. Finally, he calls for a ride, and has a very odd conversation with his loyal minion Kyle, who continues to fail to impress.

Outside Rand, there’s a very quiet man prowling around with a bag on his shoulder. Eventually, he approaches a nearby food truck. After a run in with the poor guy who runs it, our silent newcomer shows he can not only fight like Danny, but does origami as well, although his version seems more practical. And deadly.

Ward, like the proverbial criminal, returns to the scene of his crime. Oddly, the big terrarium has been fixed after it was shattered, but Ward gets a much bigger surprise when he finds Harold there. It’s a very entertaining conversation, with Harold apologizing a lot and Ward being totally shell-shocked, although still slipping in some nasty verbal barbs. Somehow I expect Ward’s last words are going to be something ugly to someone who is probably trying to help him.

Danny returns to the dojo and they give sodium pentothal to Gao, trying to get her to tell them the truth. She has a lot of interesting things to say, covering her long life, Danny’s parents, and one important immunity of hers. Colleen is looking worse and worse, and her claims that it’s the flu or something are proven wrong. Gao cackles as Colleen tells them to call for help, on her phone, under Sensei.

After a scene showing poor food truck guy is having a horrible night, we return to Ward and Harold. Ward has recovered enough from his shock to start making demands. What else is new? Also, Ward’s hand that was so badly injured seems to have recovered completely. That was fast. Bad writing, or does Ward have powers, too? Ward does show some concern when Harold reveals what he plans to do after Ward leaves. Ward has some feelings left, just not a lot.

At the dojo, Colleen is looking worse and worse. When Danny tries to reassure her, Gao says they are all such children. They get some unexpected visitors, although not the ones I was expecting, unless The Hand has been switching out ninja oufitts for tac gear and flash-bangs. The team does much better than I’d have expected, considering Colleen’s poisoned and Claire is, at best, a novice. Gao makes more threats and promises after the fight, trying to deal for her freedom.

Ward proves that, whatever his other numerous faults are, he’s pretty damn smart. Trying to get a handle on what’s going on, he goes to see Yang, the head of the Hatchet Men. Yang talks about another case like Harold that he knows of. The ones The Hand bring back turn on those closest to them first, which sounds a bit like the vampires on The Strain to me. Ward doesn’t get the answers he wants, and makes even more bad decisions on the way out.

Speaking of bad decisions, Harold tries to do something nice for Kyle, which was unexpected. It turns in to one of the most brutal murders we’ve seen yet, with a very unique weapon of choice. Harold seems shocked by what happened, which doesn’t bode well for his mental state, such as it is.

Ward’s bad decisions finally catch up with him. He has an encounter with some public servants that doesn’t go well for him, and ends up someplace we’ve seen before. There’s some irony involved as Ward is now going through what he did to someone else earlier in the series. Where he is might not be a bad place for him, all things considered.

Harold is watching both his children, albeit in different places. With Ward indisposed, and some convenient timing, he turns to his daughter, instead. Harold and Joy have a tearful reunion. You really have to feel bad for Joy. She’s had so much happen both to and around her so far, and now this. She’s really holding up remarkably well when you take everything in to account.

Things are looking worse and worse for Colleen and Gao is trying to use this to her advantage. Everyone is surprised when there’s a knock at the door, and Colleen’s friend Bakuto shows up. What I think is really striking here is Gao’s reaction. She not only knows Bakuto by sight, it’s the first time I remember her seeming actually afraid. Mind you, I’m not sure that having someone who rattles Gao suddenly turn up is the best thing for our heroes, but they are desperate. Bakuto gives Danny a lesson that I’ve been sort of hoping for, when I hadn’t given up on it, for most of the series. The episode ends with a change in status for Danny and Gao both, an unexpected departure, and a very confused Claire.

What I liked: One of the things that set Danny apart from many heroes finally happened this episode, and I’m glad to see it. I’m not sure things changed for the better, but whatever happens might be worth it just to see Gao’s reaction to Bakuto. Harold was sort of entertaining in some of his scenes as he came back. I admit to enjoying seeing the bind Ward got himself in.

What I didn’t: I’m not sure I get how that poison from China was instantly deadly to the guards but took so long to get to Colleen. He was always way out of his depth, but I feel bad for Kyle. I really wonder how Gao is so well informed about Claire. I also wonder how long before Joy just plain completely snaps. Danny, in general, needs to grow up a bit more.

I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. I’ll even admit I’m biased because Danny learned his new power that I’ve been waiting for since they started. I’m very curious to see what happens next with Danny and Colleen.

Iron Fist: The Blessing of Many Fractures

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Field trip to China! No, really, it’s not New York, honest.

Last time was a lot of plot and character development. With “The Blessing of Many Fractures,” we dive back into a lot more action. The scenes before the credits are divided between Danny going back to Harold’s place, and Claire at home. Claire is reading a letter from Luke Cage, which is a really nice touch. Claire gets some visitors, both welcome and less so. Danny goes to Harold’s place, and finds the aftermath of Harold and Ward’s last meeting. He also runs into Ward, who does such a great job pretending he doesn’t know what happened I actually wondered if he was having some kind of psychotic break and/or memory loss. But after Ward drives Danny off with some really harsh words, we see what’s in the bag, and know that Ward knows exactly what’s going on.

Danny meets up with Colleen and Claire, telling them he’s going to China in pursuit of Madame Gao. After a lot of talking, they eventually decide that all three of them are going to Anzhou, where Gao’s fortress supposedly is. Personally, I think Claire going was a bad choice on many levels, much as I enjoy the character. There’s a lot of tension among these three, and even Danny, their supposed leader, doesn’t seem too clear on what they’re going to do when they get there.

Because we can’t get away from meetings on this series, back we go to Rand. Joy and Ward suffer the indignity of having to wear Visitor badges for their meeting with Lawrence. Lawrence is enjoying his victory far too much. The Meechums don’t manage to present a unified front, in part because Ward is suffering from hallucinations that appear to be linked to last episode’s patricide. Lawrence offers the siblings a decent, although not wildly generous, buyout, which Ward is ready to take so he can just walk away. Lawrence is also smug about Danny not ever having an official title, so no severance for our young Kung Fu hero.

The plane ride doesn’t go wonderfully smoothly. I’m also curious where the plane came from. If Danny has been ousted from his non-position at Rand, how did he have access to the plane in the first place? That to one side, Claire when not rereading her letters from Luke, is teasing Danny about his relationship with Colleen, who appears to be asleep with earbuds in. Eventually the plane hits some serious turbulence, triggering some understandable flashbacks for Danny. This becomes the first time he’s given details about the plane crash to Claire and Colleen. Weirdly, as Claire manages to talk Danny down, the weather miraculously improves. A bit heavy on the symbolism there, guys. There’s also another brief flashback, complete with the odd blur effect they insist in using, to the Rand family crash.

Ward manages to sneak in to Lawrence’s office, interrupting a corporate cliche of golf putting practice. Ward is trying to cut a deal without Joy, dropping his price considerably and even trying to bribe Lawrence. Lawrence actually acts almost human in this scene, and gives Ward some very unwelcome news.

The away team runs some very low-grade surveillance on Gao’s stronghold. Danny and Colleen talk about the loss of their parents, and Danny proves he still has no plan. After Danny is reduced to macho posturing, Colleen gets clever and manages to learn what they need to know from a nearby blind beggar. From his injuries, I wonder if he was blinded like all the workers Gao had at her New York warehouse in Daredevil’s first season.

Joy is out walking her dog (I was wondering what had become of him) when Ward finds her. Ward is pissed off about her going behind his back before he could go behind her back. First they argue about what Joy did, then they have a long talk about their relationship, and Joy reveals what her big plan is. We also get a mention of a PI that was “worth every penny when she was sober,” which pretty much has to be Jessica Jones. Ward finally decides he’s going to tell her everything.

The mission against Gao devolves into low comedy for a while. Danny comes up with the brilliant idea of burning the building down to attract Gao’s attention, which Claire, Colleen (and I) all think is not the best plan. Claire, recognizing her limitations, decides to stay outside and play lookout. Danny and Colleen do have some good teamwork to get a guard taken care of, I’ll give them that. They talk more about what to do with Gao, and Colleen seems to be pushing for Danny to kill her. Claire sees the woman herself coming in with her big thugs, and then can’t find the phone to warn our heroes. Claire resorts to blowing the horn a lot, alerting everyone involved. I really wanted the blind beggar from before to look up and shake his head, muttering something.

Instead, after more talk between Danny and Colleen (bad place and time for a heart to heart, folks), Colleen goes off to find Claire while Danny shadows Gao and company. Colleen finds a lone female guard with a Chinese style sword, and these two have a big fight. Either Colleen is nowhere hear as good as she thinks she is, or The Hand was really wasting this woman’s talent as a faceless guard. Danny then has the best fight of the episode, although they telegraphed it coming a mile away. He sees Gao move a drunk aside to get into the next building. Somehow, Danny doesn’t manage to figure out this is a Drunken-Style master. Maybe I’ve watched more kung fu movies than he has. Their fight is great, after you get over the somewhat jarring shock of the Chinese master fighter having a British accent. Not what you’d expect in rural China. The drunk, Zhou Cheng, gets in some great lines and manages to taunt Danny enough that he goes nuts on the guy. Once again, for a martial arts master, Danny has serious control issues. At least they’re being consistent about that. He beats the man to a pulp, shocking Claire as the others rejoin the young Iron Fist. Colleen, for her part, simply kicks the guy’s feet out of the way to close the door.

Ward brings Joy most of the way to Harold’s hidden penthouse. Then his hallucinations get the better of him and he practically drags her out of the building. They have more harsh words, and Ward is about as nice to Joy as he was to Danny back at the beginning (or any other time, really). Ward storms off, leaving behind a surprised and hurt Joy. If she’s smart, she’s going to dig into why Ward brought her here to have her meltdown.

Claire tends the pulped fighter while Danny sobs. Their emotional scene gets interrupted by Gao coming in with her thugs. She makes Danny an offer, and is her usual smug and mocking self. While the Danny/Zhou fight was fantastic, this one is poorly done on several fronts. The heroes face off against two big martial arts goons. Somehow, even Claire holds her own. Gao, the powerful, skilled fighter, watches. She needed popcorn or something. Danny realizes that Gao did, indeed, have a hand in his parents’ deaths, and goes nuts again. He does finally use the Iron Fist where others can see it, so now Claire and Colleen have seen what he’s talking about when he says he has that power. Somehow, Danny destroying a door convinced Gao to surrender without a fight. I’ll grant, she does look nervous during the fight. Maybe the Iron Fist is one of the things that can do something about her longevity/immortality? The whole scene has many issues, and ends the episode.

What I liked: Ok, it has little to do with the story, but I was glad to see Joy’s dog again. It was a nice little touch, as were the letters from Luke. Danny’s fight with the drunken style fighter was really nicely done. Colleen’s duel was staged well, although it didn’t make a lot of sense as I stated above. I enjoy Claire injecting practicality into the moments of high emotion and adventure, like she’s been doing on every show so far. The nod to Jessica Jones was nice.

What I didn’t: Ward, any and everything. They keep getting me to almost like him, and then he swings back to bigtime jackass. I even liked Lawrence the Smug better than Ward this time out. Claire going to China made little sense, and her part in the fight even less. Why did Gao watch that final fight? Joy’s attempt at preparing for blackmail didn’t feel right somehow, and what she caught the board doing didn’t seem that bad. Joy needs something to do besides look concerned, shocked, or sad. Danny seems a very directionless, reactionary hero so far. And I really don’t like Finn Jones’ beard. Danny Rand has always been clean-shaven. I don’t see what the point of changing that was.

I’m enjoying the series overall, but this was not one of their stronger episodes. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5 and hope this doesn’t mark a slide in quality that continues to the end.

Iron Fist: Felling Tree With Roots

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Danny gets a bright idea about elevators

“Felling Tree with Roots” isn’t the most action packed episode of Iron Fist, but you could argue it’s a pivotal one. A lot of things change, and we learn about others. There were a lot of surprises that I did not see coming, and I like how they did the majority of the reveals. They also tied it more closely to the other Netflix/Marvel series.

The episode starts with Harold Meechum sleeping in that weird tube of his. His rest is rudely interrupted when some representatives from The Hand come calling. They are very displeased with some of Harold’s recent activities, and expect him to atone in a very Japanese Yakuza kind of way. Harold is trying to talk his way out of trouble when Danny walks in at what is arguably the worst possible moment. There’s a brief fight that the Meechum/Rand side wins, and Danny sees how ruthless Harold can be. Harold tries to play the whole thing off as a bonding experience between them, and spins a few new lies for Danny.

Joy stops by Ward’s office to castigate him for his really foolish behavior at the clinic. They argue about his choices and the secrets he’s keeping. I don’t like Ward at all, but you do sort of have to feel bad for him with the spot he’s in. This delightful family scene gets broken up by Harold calling, telling Ward that Harold needs his help. A frustrated Joy storms out when Ward won’t tell her who’s calling.

Danny’s next stop after last time’s grueling tournament is the Chikara Dojo, where Colleen helps patch him up. Apparently, she’s pretty good with needle and thread. She also mocks the “Madame” part of Madame Gao’s name, which is pretty funny. The scene also shows fairly conclusively that either Danny doesn’t know the power of the Iron Fist can heal, or that the writers decided to ignore that part of the hero’s background. Either way, the scene eventually changes from friendly banter to a love scene. Honestly, I prefer the comic book pairing of Danny and Misty Knight, but I guess she’s busy dealing with Luke Cage’s mess.

Ward goes to Harold’s place, and definitely looks the worse for wear. This scene illustrates a lot about how cold Harold is, as he greets Ward in a conversational tone while disfiguring the bodies of the two Hand men. After some manipulation and abuse, Harold convinces Ward to get rid of the bodies. There’s a small logic failure here. If The Hand is watching close enough that they know Harold left to visit Danny, shouldn’t they both know their men went in and didn’t come out, or at least see Ward struggling with the bodies? At any rate, Ward eventually ditches the bodies in a park, after finding some more of his pills and having a very odd, one-sided conversation.

After that eventful night, Danny and Colleen have a kind of sweet morning-after scene before he goes off to work. That was probably the high point of Danny’s day, because it’s all downhill from there. He gets to work and asks Megan to find all of his Dad’s old files. Joy comes by to tell him what he’s to say at the board meeting later today, which Danny is less than thrilled by. Their bickering about this is interrupted when Danny gets another visitor: Madame Gao, flanked by two big thugs who wait by the elevator.

Gao has a very odd talk with, or frequently at, Danny. They cover such topics as feng shui, Danny’s responsibilities as Iron Fist, her relationship with Danny’s father Wendell, and a business opportunity. Gao also mentions Daredevil and Luke Cage, although not by name and leaving Jessica Jones off the list, and obliquely threatens Colleen and Claire Temple. She’s very smug and superior and not really interested in anything Danny actually has to say. Gao hobbles off when she’s done, taking the elevator back down, using a special pass card. Danny finds a new and unique use for his Iron Fist ability as he sort of follows her. At least he takes a moment to pray first.

Ward, having had a really bad last 24 hours or so, is at his desk researching trips to South America. Joy comes in, a lot more conciliatory than she was last time. She subtly hints at him going to rehab, and he agrees, sort of. They make up from their spat last night, and Joy reassures Ward she’s there for him.

Danny manages to creep up on Gao in her meeting with one of the drug rep ladies we saw earlier in the series. They talk about distribution, and give a passing reference to the Dogs of War street gang, which was part of the second season of Daredevil. They also discuss Hai-Qing Yang and his Hatchet Men gang, who Gao is supremely unconcerned about. Gao and her thugs finally leave, and Danny manages to get to the drug lady. The lady, who I believe is called Sophia, proves she’s not just another pretty face before she finally gives Danny what he wants.

Things take an odd turn at Colleen’s dojo. She’s working out when she gets a mysterious visitor, a man known as Bakuto. They’re clearly on friendly terms, and he asks a lot of questions that Colleen unhesitatingly answers. The scene really casts some doubts on where Colleen’s loyalties lie. I have an idea or two that I really hope are wrong.

Danny looks the worse for wear from his earlier adventures, and Megan helps him spruce up, which also gives her an entertaining chance to drool a bit. The only thing Megan managed to find is a box with an envelope in it that holds Wendell’s old building pass. Danny asks her about Rand being a good company, and there’s some initial banter and misunderstanding about her losing her dental plan before she gets what he meant and gives a more serious answer. Danny goes in to the board meeting and continues to make friends with his unique approach. He actually pulled off something slick, and bypassed them to go to Karen Page, reporter at the New York Bulletin and supporting cast member from Daredevil. He leaves after issuing a few fait accompli, and then pauses to add getting the dental plan back for the assistants.

Next up is another visit with Harold, but at least this one is corpse-free. Harold tries hard to tempt Danny over to the dark side, but Danny has his own plans that he’s not going to change. Harold analyzes the info Danny got from Sophia and figures out where the warehouse is The Hand is most likely using to manufacture their synthetic heroin.

Colleen has a graduation ceremony at her dojo for Daryl, the smart-ass student who seems to be the only one who has a name used more than once. Coupled with Colleen’s earlier scene with Bakuto, this leaves me very suspicious about what’s going on. Danny drops by near the end of this, and none of the students seem to recall he’s the one that footswept Daryl when he wised off. Danny fills Colleen in on what’s going on, and she decides she’s coming with him on the raid. Danny has one more stop to make which was actually fairly clever.

They once again manage to make me feel bad for Ward, bully that he is. Ward’s all set to take off on his holiday when he gets a few rude surprises. His account, that was in the millions earlier when he checked, is now empty, thus hampering his travel plans severely. As Ward flips out about this, Danny and Colleen seek allies.

Things slide really downhill as the episode moves toward the end. Joy is surprised to find out that Danny’ stunt earlier actually got them good press, but board member and all around jerk Lawrence has pulled off another, much less welcome, surprise. Joy is stunned, and Danny, Ward, and Harold won’t be too happy either when they find out.

Danny, Colleen, and their small army attack the warehouse. While Danny still doesn’t have anything close to his costume from the comics, Colleen is fighting in her white outfit which is at least close to one of her many looks from the books. It’s a very mixed victory, as the good guys take the warehouse and find Radovan, but it’s a bit too late on several fronts. Radovan tells them where Gao is heading now, and Danny is shocked. I suspect Danny at least, and maybe Colleen as well, are about to go on a trip.

Ward is furious about his account being drained, and goes to confront Harold. It’s an ugly scene with a few surprises, like where Ward got that money in the first place. Harold is dismissive and patronizing, as he has been every time he deals with Ward. I do sort of wonder what became of Kyle, Harold’s assistant earlier in the series who was always around and then suddenly vanished. At any rate, Harold pushes things a bit too far and Ward snaps in a shocking development. The episode ends after Ward has most definitely surprised Harold, and Ward is driving off by himself, smiling in a disturbing way.

What I liked: While this episode wasn’t as action packed as last time (arguably not good for a kung fu themed show), I actually didn’t miss it. I think they did some good character work here. This is the most we’ve ever heard Gao say, and it was interesting hearing the way she talks about things. I’m not sure why she needs the hulking bodyguards since we’ve seen her beat both Daredevil and Iron Fist without even touching them, but maybe that was a status thing. They did a good job showing Danny’s resolve to do the right thing, and Ward’s descent into what I believe will be full-blown madness before too long. Danny’s choice of allies made a lot of sense. No one can say Harold lacks commitment to his cause.

What I didn’t: I don’t like what seems to be happening with Colleen. I really want to smack Lawrence the board guy, even if I sort of see where he’s coming from. I mentioned the bit about The Hand guys Harold dealt with earlier. I missed Claire after getting to see her earlier in the series.

This was a character driven piece of an action series. I know some people won’t like that, but I thought it was pretty well done. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5.

Iron Fist: Under Leaf Pluck Lotus

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One of the most awkward meals ever seen on an action show

“Under Leaf Pluck Lotus” starts off differently than the other episodes of Iron Fist so far. Three women with matching bags walk down the street in prefect step, finally separating at an intersection. These three are drug reps like you find in any big city, except that they are selling the new heroin we’ve been hearing out. They impress their respective clients, and clearly are willing to rely on sex appeal in addition to the product itself.

Danny is in his office, reading over a report. Sandy, one of the Rand chemists, is remarkably impressed with the drug sample he gave her. It’s the new wonder-heroin, but it doesn’t act like the real thing in a few key respects. And the biggest thing about it is that, since it’s totally synthetic, it’s not illegal. She theorizes that it could start a major epidemic.

Rand has clearly not been doing great things in Danny’s absence. Case in point, Joy is in yet another meeting, this one apparently about one of Rand’s plants causing cancer. Joy’s position is pretty much what a gamer would recognize as D&D Lawful Evil. Rand has followed government guidelines, so even if they manage to link the cancer to Rand, it’s not their fault, because Rand isn’t responsible for the guidelines. It’s a really nasty argument, and even Joy seems troubled by it.

Speaking of non-productive meetings, Danny goes to see Ward. He brings the drug with him, and tries to warn Ward about Rand being infiltrated. As we all know, Ward is always willing to listen when it comes to something he doesn’t want to hear and/or contradicts what he thinks should be happening. Danny doesn’t help his case by invoking several things from K’un-Lun, which I don’t think Ward really believes in at this point. Danny also tries bringing up Harold, but Ward says that’s between the two of them. I think he’s feeling jealous. Danny finally leaves, and stops by assistant Megan’s desk. He’s still exploring his new world and getting a feel for everyone’s roles in it. He does set something up for later, and leaves Megan a piece of origami for her troubles, which she seems to like.

Ward and Joy have lunch, and we see Joy’s facade is starting to crack. She’s really wondering about the morality of their stand on the cancer cases, comparing it to her own experience when their father died. Ward, for a change, is actually nice to her and complimentary of her skills and feelings.

Danny is on his way out when he has two momentous meetings, and doesn’t realize how important either of them are. As he leaves the building, he holds the door, polite guy that he is. He’s actually holding the door for the three women drug reps we saw earlier, so whoever they are working for is actually in the Rand building. Then, he runs into a woman from Joy’s earlier meeting, and makes some rash statements that are recorded, just to make things worse.

At the Chikara Dojo, Colleen is training a new student. Yes, it’s time for the inevitable Nerflix appearance of linking character Claire Temple, this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s answer to Phil Coulson. It’s nice to see Claire getting some actual combat training, considering everything she’s been through, and Colleen definitely knows how to fight. I don’t know if it was a nice touch or the actress herself not knowing how to fight, but her form was pretty bad. Danny walks in during the lesson to ask a favor, and there’s some of the greatest awkward looks and pauses I’ve seen so far on any of the Netflix/Marvel shows. It gets worse when Danny reveals he’s brought dinner, a very unique version of take out.

Ward and Joy meet up in Ward’s office again, now discussing the video of Danny’s run-in with the woman from earlier. Danny’s well-meant comments have far-reaching legal repercussions which he probably didn’t know about, and Ward is not happy. Ward and Joy argue about what’s right in this situation. Ward is going to set up a board meeting and makes some unkind comments about Danny. Joy leaves, and Ward gets a very strong hint that his office isn’t as private as he thought. He also apparently takes his meds with Scotch, which can’t be good.

Back at the dojo, Danny and Colleen bat awkward and cryptic phrases back and forth while Claire looks on, amused, as if she’s watching a tennis match. Colleen and Danny compare notes on some unusual cuisine choices, surprising Claire. After some surprising revelations about Danny’s life in K’un-Lun, Claire exits, laughing, laden with leftovers. Danny reveals what he’s looking for- backup when he goes to check out the shipment arriving at the Red Hook pier tonight. After protests from Colleen, and revelation about Danny’s newest investment, she agrees, with one condition.

Ward runs yet another meeting with the board. I get that Rand International is a big part of this show, but man, there are a lot of meetings. He outlines a plan to handle the Staten Island plant situation and the cancer suit. The board is unsure, but Joy backs Ward in a strong show of support. There are a few disparaging comments about Danny, who isn’t even there.

Danny and Colleen get ready for their mission, showing their respective prowess with various weapons. It’s almost like their version of flirting. While this goes on, Ward delights in his father likely being pissed off about developments with Danny, and contemplates a really bad choice.

After dark, Danny and Colleen go to the infamous pier. Colleen starts realizing what she’s getting herself into when she sees the guards patrolling with machine guns. Danny dismisses the guns with the both over-confident and naive statement that the guards carry them just because they don’t know how to fight. Colleen also chooses this somewhat odd time to reflect on Danny’s celebrity and warn him about people looking to take advantage. Largely under Danny’s leadership, they sneak close to three large shipping containers set up like semi-trailers. His initial plan falls apart, and he decides to slip inside one. He makes a very surprising discovery here; they aren’t smuggling drugs in this containers, they are hiding the chemist. The stakes go up when Danny finds a huge security guard inside, and the truck takes off. Colleen improvises a way to follow, and, after a desperate fight, Danny escapes with the chemist. The man is really badly hurt, but, as Colleen says, they know a nurse.

Joy tries to talk to Ward after the video of Danny is released and goes viral. Instead, she gets a nasty surprise when she gets to his office. I get the impression that this isn’t the first time she’s found him incapacitated. He babbles a bit, and we see a bit more of the bond between them.

Claire answers Colleen’s desperate call for help, and improvises some first aid solutions that would make MacGyver envious. It’s tense enough until The Hand gets mentioned, at which point Claire quite understandably freaks out a bit. She knows of them through her contact with Daredevil. When Claire leans that Danny knows how bad they are and that he’s been trained to fight them, she sighs and reflects on her destiny, or her mother’s version of it. Claire does warn Danny that he can’t do this alone, when Colleen suddenly pipes up that he’s not alone.

The episode ends with a scene about the bad guys. The huge thug that Danny took the chemist from has to answer for his failure. The one he reports to is someone I’ve been hoping would be in this series, and I was glad to see them. The thug, by the end of it, is a lot less thrilled when his punishment is meted out. The boss seems familiar with the Iron Fist, if not necessarily Danny in particular.

What I liked: It’s always good to see Danny in action, although I’m not sure why he took so long to beat that one man in the truck. Claire is someone I always enjoy, and she was great in this. Colleen is being dragged into this in a way that makes sense. The meal between them was fantastic. I like that Joy is showing a conscience and Ward isn’t just a flat villain. And I was very happy with the boss at the end. I’m glad we finally got to see the pier, and Danny moving on his doubts about his own company.

What I didn’t: Too many meetings! I get it, but enough. Danny should have beaten the thug easier, as I mentioned above. Does Harold really spend all his time spying on his kids, or at least Ward? I get Ward arguably needs a keeper, but still.

I thought it was a good episode. Things are speeding along nicely, although I hope the rumors I’m hearing about Claire aren’t true. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5, and look forward to the next one.

Iron Fist: Eight Diagram Dragon Palm

colleen

Really, Colleen, who wears white to a fight?

Netflix’s Iron Fist continues with “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm,” the fourth episode of Danny Rand’s adventures in New York. Last time, they ended with him plunging off the side of a skyscraper to his potential doom. He manages to catch himself on a protruding light after falling not terribly far. He breathes out a murmured, and kind of unique, prayer, and falls again, this time to a ledge which is uncomfortably far beneath him, but much better than landing on the streets below. He does land hard enough to knock himself out.

We wakes up on a couch with an icepack behind his head. He has time to take in the luxurious furniture before Ward walks in, sipping coffee. They have a chat where Ward calls him a “goddamn Daredevil,” for climbing up the outside of the building. That seems like a really old-fashioned insult, so I have to think it’s a nod to Netflix’s premier hero show. Ward also admits to being the reason Danny fell. Their heated conversation gets stopped when Harold walks in, stunning Danny to silence.

Danny and Harold have a very touching reunion, which is genuine on at least one side. Ward looks on uncomfortably, maybe jealously, as Harold shares a lot of secrets about what lies behind his current circumstances. What’s most interesting is the name-dropping of The Hand, and Iron Fist’s traditional role as the defender of K’un-Lun against them. In the comics, Iron Fist is K’un-Lun’s champion in general, but The Hand isn’t part of the original Iron Fist mythos. They finally agree that Danny will be publically welcomed back, all lawsuits against him will be dropped, Danny will look into why The Hand is making Rand International buy this damn pier in Red Hook that keeps coming up, and Harold’s hidden life will be kept from Joy. On the way out, Ward warns Danny that the only person Harold cares about is Harold. I could see this being equal parts jealousy and actual warning. While he’s a slimy, selfish villain, I do think Ward actually has some doubts about what Rand is doing.

Things are not going smoothly back at the Chikara Dojo. Daryl, the only one of Colleen’s recurring students to actually get a name, is showing everyone footage of Colleen’s cage match. She’s appalled, both at her own hypocrisy and when she learns he’s posted it online. What I’m not sure about there is the source of the footage Daryl’s so enraptured by. If the cage match people did it, where’d he get it? If he took the video, where the hell was he, because that’s a weird angle for him to have been recording from. I also found it odd that someone who claims to be such a traditionalist that she worries about Bushido (which is Japanese, not Chinese, like most of the rest of the influences on the show so far) is leading a class while wearing a t-shirt. That’s arguably disrespectful to the class, her dojo, and her status as a teacher.

Joy and Ward have a short scene talking about the change of heart regarding their stance on Danny Rand. The man himself walks in, getting a compliment on his suit from Joy and a cutting remark from Ward about his tie. I really do think a great deal of Ward’s motivations for just about everything he does is jealousy with overtones of greed.

Danny’s official acceptance isn’t a quiet thing. They have a big press conference, where Ward instructs Danny in hushed tones to keep to their script. The only real questions come from the New York Bulletin, the paper that was such a big part of both seasons of Daredevil. Danny at that lectern is probably the most uncomfortable we’ve seen him, which says something considering how many people have been trying to beat on him and/or kill him. After the conference, he has a quick meeting with Jerri, who puts him in his place about their relationship and his place in the company. Danny tries to honor his deal with Harold to follow up on the pier, but Joy’s assistant Megan puts him off by saying Joy should have an opening in “two or three days.” Danny looks very lost and alone sitting in his empty office, although his delight at the stickers from his childhood still being under his father’s desk is fun to see.

We get our earlier impressions about Ward, Joy, and Danny all reinforced in a business meeting, or at least my impressions of them are. Danny crashes a meeting about a new drug they’ve developed which can cure a disease in East Asia. The board is all about charging $50 for their $5 pill, which Ward is quite happy with. Danny is appalled and insists they should sell a life-saving medicine at cost. Danny is alone in this stance, with Joy going along with Ward and trying to explain to Danny that this is how business works. Danny, however, is adamant and controls 51% of the company stock, so he wins, alienating much of the board. Joy suddenly decides her schedule has cleared up and hurries Danny out of the meeting to talk about the pier.

After a brief scene of Colleen being frustrated and borderline out of control at her dojo, there’s a conversation between Ward and Harold. Interestingly, Ward pops a pill before he picks up the phone. He’s done this before. I’m wondering if the pills are tranquilizers or some kind of anti-psychotics. Then again, with the way Harold treats Ward, they might just be some kind of antacid. Harold directs Ward to handle Jennifer, the reporter from the conference. Ward assures him he’ll handle it, and Harold says that will make up for the screw up over the drug price earlier. I can’t really stand Ward, but that was in no way his fault. That’s very illustrative of how Harold thinks, and his relationship with Ward .

Out on the street, Joy and Danny banter about monks and robes. I think the two purposes of this scene are to show the deepening friendship between Danny and Joy, and to make Danny feel guilty when she talks about missing her dad. I suspect Joy will learn about Harold’s survival before this season is out, and that she’s not going to handle both Ward and Danny keeping it from her real well .

Colleen Wing returns to the cage match, and is cocky, even if it’s justified. She insists on adding a second opponent. While the guy running this place is shady as hell, he is at least concerned enough to ask her if she’s sure about that. After a brutal fight, she wins (no great surprise there) but completely loses it on the last guy standing. Like I’ve said a few times, Colleen has some temper issues.

Danny and Joy talk about the pier deal, and Joy eventually admits there are some strange elements behind it. Their chat gets interrupted when a gang of Chinese thugs show up and try to kidnap her. This is, of course, another chance to show off Danny’s fighting skils. The only bit I didn’t like is minor, I admit, but struck me as a bit odd. At one point, one of the men brings a hatchet down on Danny’s hand. He summons up the Iron Fist power and it shatters. I’m being picky, and a comic geek, but, while Danny’s power lets him strike with great power, his fist, “like unto a thing of iron,” it’s never made him invulnerable before. It was a weird choice.

Danny hustles Joy off to Colleen’s place and asks Colleen to watch over her. Colleen provides a clue about something Danny overheard, and he goes to the Golden Sands restaurant. Danny fixes her hand, damaged in her fight, which gives me hope they might recall that the Iron Fist is supposed to heal. I wonder when Colleen got her door fixed, since she was complaining about not being able to afford it and Danny apparently hasn’t paid her yet.

Ward meets with Jennifer the reporter, and does a great job of being blinded by his own ego and perspective. He talks about Danny insisting on selling the drug at cost. His approach is all swagger and “can you believe this guy?” clearly anticipating her seeing his point. Instead, she hurried out after this reveal, calling in and telling the paper not to give he front page to Karen. I suspect this is Karen Page, supporting cast member from Daredevil, who works for the same paper.

Danny gets to the Golden Sands, and there are all the elements of a classic showdown. Bearding the bad guy in his den, the hero being all alone, all of that is in place, but Danny shows he’s a different kind of action hero. He talks to them instead of fighting. The head of the clan, Yan Mai Ting, is mocking about Danny and then gets annoyed when he hears Danny is the man from Rand Enterprises. They argue about the damn pier (I hope Danny goes down there and checks this out soon, enough of the hints), and then Ting looks shocked and scared when he hears The Hand is involved, backing off at once.

Speaking of The Hand, Harold gets a visit and is literally taken for a ride. While this is going on, Danny returns to collect Joy, who Colleen is giving some simple training to. I swear, Colleen is a bit obsessed, although Joy seems to enjoy it. They talk, and Danny thanks Colleen before seeing Joy home. They agree to keep the matter from Ward, who no doubt will horribly over-react.

Harold gets taken to some building that lets him watch Joy from across the street. Joy really needs to learn to close her drapes. Harold is very thankful to his handlers for letting him see her, then realizes she’s been hurt. You can see his whole manner change as soon as he sees that. He asks for a favor from his Hand contacts, and deals with things decisively.

The end is a quick scene of Ward seeing a Bulletin article calling Danny a hero for his stand on the drug price. Ward’s reaction is unclear. Then we get back to Danny at his place, doing forms. There’s a knock on the door and he gets a package left for him, which appears to be the Steel Serpent drug we saw on Daredevil, with some info for him from Yan Mai Ting. The last thing we see is Danny standing there, shirtless, which shows off both what great shape he’s in and Iron Fist’s trademark symbol (no, it’s not a tattoo, at least not in the comics).

What I liked: I can see why some people are complaining about this being a slow build, but I’m enjoying the pace. While there’s a good bit of action in this one, a lot of what we see here is characterization. Danny really is a hero on several levels, not just in the badass willing to beat on people way. Harold is really dark and manipulative, and Ward is sort of caught in the middle, although he’s clearly not a great guy. Joy just seems to go along with whoever she’s talking to. The scene with Jerri was a bit sad for Danny, but in character for her and made sense. The fighting is pretty damn good .

What I didn’t: Colleen is acting really weird. I’ve said it before, but her control issues are very much at odds with being teacher in this tradition. I mentioned being curious about her door being fixed. It’s a bit odd that she’s so hard up for money on one hand, but is refusing Danny’s help so she can keep fighting for cash. Does she enjoy it that much? I mentioned the odd bit about Danny’s power above. How’d Yan Mai Ting’s thugs know where to find Joy, since she was at Danny’s place when they came for her, not at home. I’m hoping they move forward on this pier mess soon instead of just talking about it so much.

I thought it was a good episode. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5. I’m really curious to see how the rest of this develops, and looking forward to Claire’s appearance later on.

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