Welcome back to our reviews of each episode of Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist. You can check out my reviews of previous episodes by clicking the links below:
Episode 9: “The Mistress of All Agonies”
With its ninth episode, Marvel’s Iron Fist wholeheartedly embraces the ridiculous plot contrivances and silly coincidences that, in a more enjoyably over-the-top adventure, a viewer would normally ignore. I love pulp comic book stories, particularly the bombastic insanity that was the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, but if there’s no joy and fun accompanying the cheesy bluster, then I’m much less likely to go along with the proceedings. This episode finds the series throwing its arms around its comic book roots, but it doesn’t let go of its ham-fisted attempts at loftier character-driven drama. The result is an episode that is maybe the silliest instalment of the series to date, with none of the simple fun that should accompany such a move.
The episode opens with Harold (David Wenham) returning from the dead in the swampy lagoon where Ward had dumped his body. Having cheated death once before, it was no surprise to see Harold return, and I for one was glad, having enjoyed Wenham’s hammy inclinations in the part. It may not have been at all subtle, but it was fun, and fun has been sorely lacking in this show. Harold wanders the streets of New York, his body healed but his mind in chaos, and we’re treated to funny/creepy scenes of him slowly coming back to something approaching sanity. It’s clear that Harold is disturbed, and growing more so all the time.
Meanwhile, as I predicted, Danny, Claire and Colleen bring Gao back to New York. So…..no need to go all the way to China really. Could have just set that last episode in Newark and it would mattered as much. The team holds her in the dojo while Danny tries to force Gao to reveal the nature of her relationship with Danny’s father. All the while, Gao taunts and manipulates the good guys, playing on their fears and weaknesses. All this could have been compelling stuff, if Danny, Colleen and even Claire weren’t kind of paper thin and Gao’s observations weren’t similarly bloodless. I’m not saying there isn’t a way you could write these kinds of scenes in a compelling way, “Silence of the Lambs” made it a kind of art form. But this show is no “Silence of the Lambs.” These scenes triggered an old, long dormant actor’s response in me. If I had been on set, and my objective was to not let her get to me, I would have asked my writers and directors why I didn’t simply gag Gao? In the case of Claire and Colleen, who aren’t at all interested in what she has to say, I kept wondering why they listened at all.
Over on the Rand Enterprises side, Ward gets locked up in the same psych ward into which they had chucked Danny, and how easy is it for people to be involuntarily committed in the MCU? Pretty damn easy by the looks of things. Joy and Harold meet for the first time since his “death” from cancer in the most contrived way possible, and the resulting scene test my appreciation of David Wenham’s performance even as it confirms my opinion of Jessica Stroup‘s (to be fair, she’s probably a perfectly fine actor, though she’s been given an abysmal part to play).
The dojo finds intel funder assault from Gao’s forces, resulting in Marvel’s Iron Fist‘s most murky and indistinct fight scenes to date. Colleen succumbs to a poison I can only assume is called “convent device” and only her mysterious sensei Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez) can help cure her. The episode ends with Bakuto arriving to teach Danny the healing powers of the Iron Fist and then making off with Gao, Danny and Colleen while Claire can only watch.
A lot happens in the episode, which is good. A lack of incident has definitely been one of the problems to date. And you can feel that the series is trying to introduce new elements and developments to up the stakes and change the conflict, which could perhaps give the series more complexity going forward. And while I wouldn’t call this episode as flawed and dull as the previous one, it certainly isn’t fun either. And when you get ninja assaults and mystical healing and undead tycoons and villainous mind games in the same episode, things that ridiculous should at least be fun and engaging, even if you’re laughing. But this episode doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be, and even if it’s not as bad as the worst of Marvel’s Iron Fist, it’s still nowhere near its best. 6/10