MY TAKE: IRON FIST - SEASON ONE
So I did this on TWITTER the other day. This isn't a dig at anyone. Too many people work on any TV series and too many variables have to lock into place for ANY show to find an audience. I make TV and I rarely criticize the work of others because I know how it actually works. That said, I never got a crack at running the IRON FIST series. If I had, this is very likely what my first season would have been.
The Rand Family plane crashes in Tibetan mountains just as the gates of K'un L'un coincide with our reality. The elder Rands are killed but the 5 year old Danny survives, barely.
Normally the sentries would murder any potential intruders/witnesses to the Coincidence but this is a dying child. After a short debate, one of the sentries opts to bring Danny into the city for medical treatment. Danny is cured, healed but now the question becomes, what to do with him. When K'un L'un shifts away from our reality, will they really kick a child out into the frozen wastes of the mountains? If so, why not just kill him now and be merciful? Obviously they can't so Danny Rand is integrated into K'un L'un's society.
It's a bad fit.
Danny's the definition of an outsider, marked by his ethnic difference on sight. Kids are bastards and there are lots of fights, in school, in parks, in alleys. Basically anywhere Danny goes, unaccompanied, SOMEONE calls him out for being an outsider, unwanted and, worst of all, being the house pet of Yu-Ti, the August Personage in Jade.
Danny is naked before these onslaughts. For all its spiritual serenity and calm structure, K'un L'un is a martial culture, engaged in a perpetual cold war/stand off with the six other Celestial Cities.
Every kid over the age of three is a skilled hand-to-hand fighter.
Danny's got nothing. This can't go on. The kid won't live to see his 7th birthday if he isn't taught to defend himself.
So Yu-Ti hands him over to Lei Kung, the Thunderer, for private tutoring.
Though obedient to Yu-Ti, Lei Kung was one of those who was against Danny being allowed to stay in the first place. His plan is to train Danny up enough so, at the next Coincidence with our reality, kicking him out of the city won't be a death sentence.
Danny is crap at martial arts.
Clumsy, not intuitive, the sort of pupil Lei Kung would never allow after the first day of teaching. Which is odd because Danny is, in all other areas, pretty agile, not stupid and quick to pick up new things.
He's already fluent in the complicated, not-actually-Cantonese language of K'un L'un after very little instruction. But the kid has no family; he has no actual friends. He is completely outside. To be a good fighter means connection with the world and Danny has none, He needs a friend.
SOLELY to further his training, Lei Kung drafts his son, Davos, to be both sparring partner and "friend."
Slightly older, Davos is also of the mind that Danny shouldn't even be here but he is very much his father's son and obedient to his authority. He does befriend Danny– at first as an act but then the boys bond for real.
Danny isn't so bad, after all. Every weed thrives with some water, sunlight & love. Things go well after that; Danny finally is accepted into (& accepts himself finally as part of) K'un L'un. Even Lei Kung softens, allowing Danny to become a de facto member of his family, letting join them at gatherings & cultural functions– which brings us to the CONTEST.
The Coincidence doesn't just line K'un L'un up with Earth but, every few years, the Celestial City aligns with six others. The balance between these principalities is maintained by the Contest in which each city champion fights the others to determine who will govern their extra dimensional not-quite-medieval-magical-China. Cut to the chase, K'un L'un usually wins and has done for centuries because K'un L'un's champion is the Iron Fist.
The current Fist is female and won the last two Contests by defeating and/or killing all opponents.
The other Cities are fed up. Not because Yu Ti is a bad ruler but because it sucks to be humiliated time after time, contest after contest by an apparently unbeatable opponent.
No Iron Fist has lost the Contest in centuries. Lotta bad vibes in the other cities. A lot of secret plots are in play to do anything to knock Iron Fist out of the top spot and K'un L'un with her.
Danny and Davos know none of this. Pushing into their tweens now, they both think Iron Fist is the hottest, deadliest woman they've ever seen. Getting to attend the Contest is like Christmas, a homecoming dance and the Rumble in the Jungle all rolled into one.
The fight is fantastic. Iron Fist is fantastic. K'un L'un, as predicted, remains in the top spot. BUT, this is the first time anyone outside K'un L'un has seen "the outsider."
Much is made of Danny, both publicly (pleasant, happy, congrats. SUCH a moral and upstanding thing to do, rescuing this child from death, etc.) and privately ( WHAT the HELL? Yu Ti has gone too far, this time. He's acting like an Emperor, flouting whatever custom and laws he sees fit. Adopting an OUTSIDER into the their society? Hell no.).
The Masters and Mistresses of the other cities are mostly unhappy with all this but what can they do?
Three masters (Khan, Sereet and Purana) hatch a plot. It's long term but it will ultimately lead to the toppling of Yu Ti and K'un L'un's supremacy.
It all hinges, says Khan, on Lei Kung's family and the Outsider boy, Danny Rand.
First, they must remove the current Iron Fist. Martial assassins will not work. She's unbeatable by any foe or any army of foes. But... poison? Administered over time so her death looks natural? Yes. That is doable.
Once the Iron Fist is dead a new one would have to be chosen prior to the next Contest, meaning ALL teenagers and young adults would have to compete to replace her. Danny Rand included. All they have to do is ENSURE the outsider becomes the Iron Fist and Yu Ti's rule is as good as over.
"Why would that topple Yu Ti?" the others ask. "Whoever becomes the Iron Fist will still be unbeatable."
"Perhaps,"says Khan. "But a scabbard with no blade describes the warrior's end."
The plan proceeds. Iron Fist is poisoned and does die, apparently naturally, triggering all the expected events. Meanwhile Danny and Davros are becoming young men, both eager to prove themselves in the fight to face the dragon and become the Iron Fist.
Did I not mention the dragon? There's a dragon.
After beating all human opponents, the potential Iron Fist must face and survive the dragon to fully gain the title. The city is buzzing with excitement and anticipation, everyone wants to be or know the new Iron Fist. It will take months. During which there are many social activities to attend, girls to notice, be noticed by and to impress, if possible, for the chance of a kiss. Hormones. What can you do?
Danny and Davros are ALL over it but, again, Danny is pulled up short by his otherness. The Moon of His Affection, Qing Shan, while perfectly sweet and even fond of him is horribly aghast when he makes his strong affection for her known. She's noble. She's K'un L'un. He has no status, he's an outsider. She LIKES him but, attachment? Not possible.
Danny's crushed of course and Davos is little help. He does try to buck his friend up but, really, the girl's right. Danny has no status, no family, no actual place in their society which is based on family history and inter connection.
More than that, Davos doesn't see a way for Danny to ever get status beyond, at absolute best, Advisor to either his father or, if Danny's insanely lucky, Yu Ti himself. This last is out of the question, really because, who are we kidding? A master of subtlety and long-term planning, Danny Rand is not.
Davos, it should be noted, is having ZERO female troubles. The ladies love Davos; he's like a whole K Pop band rolled into one mostly nice guy. He's also one of the favorites to make it to the final round to compete for the Iron Fist. AFTER that, Davos will choose one of the honies that flock to him, marry her and found his own dynasty. (relax. he's a teenaged boy born into privilege. he's going to have some wrong notions about the whole boy-girl-marriage thing).
That's the plan anyway until BOTH boys lay eyes on Hui Yin, the Poet's First Daughter.
Hui Yin is also competing to be Iron Fist but doesn't like her own chances. She's mostly doing it for fun and, as much as it would be a great honor, who really wants to devote their whole ENTIRE life to beating up or killing some random from the next city over? Hui Yin also has ZERO problems with Danny's suitability for kissing.
Artists occupy a unique space in K'un L'un where normal social strictures often don't apply. She likes BOTH boys for potential kissing but you and I know there can be only one.
As the Iron Fist contest moves forward, the boys vie for Hui Yin's affections, each trying to out do the other and, consequently, upping their Fighting & Romeo games to greater and greater degrees.
Also, Danny realizes, if HE becomes Iron Fist, he will INSTANTLY gain not only legit social position in K'un L'un– putting the "outsider" name to rest– but it will be HIGH status as he will become the city's champion. He's winning this thing. Period.
Davos has his original drives but now it's all focused on wining Hui Yin to complete the picture.
The boys' friendship begins to fray and, when they've reached the second-to-final level of the contest, it breaks. Hui Yin chooses Davos and Danny is CRUSHED. Triple crushed.
Danny's zeal to win the Iron Fist title is now all-consuming. He defeats opponent after opponent until, in the final round, you guessed it, he's facing off against Davos.
Davos is the Thunderer's Son. Are we kidding here? Danny has turned into an amazing fighter but Davos is MAGIC.
Danny is beaten. Broken. Ego destroyed.
As the rest of the city parties in preparation for Davos' meeting the Dragon and gaining the Iron Fist, Danny broods in the Bonsai Redwood Grove (think about it).
He's approached by a fan, a female city guard who tries to buck him up.
Yeah, he's not going to be Iron Fist but after his showing in the contest, she's sure he'll be accepted into the city guard. it's an honorable profession. You don't get rich and there's not much to do (who would dare attack the city where the Iron Fist lives?) but, for an outsider, that's a pretty sweet deal, right? Also, she points out, Davos is his best friend. Once he faces the dragon and becomes the Iron Fist, he's sure to show Danny favor. Who WOULDN'T want crumbs off that table, right? And who wants to face the Dragon anyway? Brrr. No thank you.
That's when it clicks with Danny. He can still win. The whole ceremony, the battling all comers, all of it is just ritual.
The only thing that matters is who faces the dragon and survives. HE doesn't need permission. HE doesn't need ceremony. HE is "the outsider." All he need do is face the dragon on his own terms. If he doesn't survive it, well, what would his life have been anyway?
But, if he survives? All the rituals and ceremonies in the world won't be able to take the Iron Fist from him.
As all of K'un L'un celebrates, Danny steals away to the mountain where the Dragon sleeps. He bypasses the sentries and, yep, comes face-to-face with an actual dragon, one Shou-Lao, by name.
The Dragon is amused by Danny's arrival but not surprised.
"I had a feeling you'd show up," says Shou-Lao.
Danny is surprised that he was expected but Shou-Lao isn't just *A* dragon, she's THE dragon from who all other dragons were born. There's almost nothing that happens in Reality that she doesn't know. Danny was not only expected but anticipated.
Shou-Lao is happy dozing here for a few more millennia but, sometimes, even she needs an amusement. Danny's life is a delightful comedy from where she sits. All his struggles, his dashed hopes, his hurt feelings, his loneliness and his place outside society?
"Delightful," she says. "Simply delightful."
Danny is outraged. His life isn't just a story to amuse her or anybody. It's real. HE is real. He deserves better than to be always shoved outside, always alone, never part of anything firm or lasting. He's like an autumn leaf waiting to fall and be forgotten.
Shou-Lao laughs at him. Does he not know the story of his arrival in K'un L'un? Did he never think to ask where his parents came from? Who they were? Why they were even flying over Tibet at that time and place?
Now she's getting bored. This complete lack of inquisitiveness is extremely unattractive. Maybe she should just eat him and wait for Davos. Davos is a good boy, despite a slight hint of vanity. He will make an excellent city protector.
Of course this enrages Danny. He rails at Shou-Lao! How could she expect him to know enough to even ask these questions? Yu Ti told him almost nothing over the years. Lei Kung knows nothing more than Yu Ti (probably lots less). Danny's a young man now. K'un L'un is his home. It's all he knows.
"But, isn't life not about knowing more?" she says. "Isn't it aboutanswering the Question? Solving the Mystery?"
"What Questions?" he demands. "What Mystery?"
"The one you've been asking your whole life, Danny Rand. Who am I? Where do I belong? What is my place in the multiverse?"
Shou-Lao presents images for Danny - Asgard, Shiar, Kree-Lar, the Microverse, the Dark Dimension, Earth.
Danny is amazed by all of it but FASCINATED with Earth. The cities, the people, the INSANE diversity of ethnicity and cultures. Mind = Blown. Shou-Lao smiles.
"You like that, eh?" she says. "You should. That's Earth. Your home."
She can see he's longing for it, everything else forgotten, and offers him a chance.
"You know... the Iron Fist could hold that window open long enough to crawl through," she says. "If he was of a mind to. Do you think Davos will want to take Hui Yin there on their honeymoon?"
Danny demands the Iron Fist. NOW. If everything she told is true, if he was expected, PREDICTED, then just GIVE it to him.
"Not so fast, little snack. There are rules. I know. I wrote them. The Iron Fist can't be given. It has to be found. It has to be won."
He asks her where it is.
Shou-Lao points one talon at her MASSIVE and now MASSIVELY glowing chest. "Right here," she says. "To get it, all you have to do is beat me and then you will win my heart."
There are bones armor and weapons of the fallen who've tried this before & died strewn All over the cavern. Danny uses everything he's learned, every technique he's mastered, every trick, every weapon and, to her absolutely delight, Shou-Lao is forced to actually fight.
Outside, at the city-wide party for Davos all of K'un L'un can see the light show, tongues of dragon fire EXPLODING out of the mountain. Most are scared at the sight but Davos, Lei Kung and Yu Ti know what's happening.
Someone's up there. Someone's fighting Shou-Lao. Someone's trying to win the Iron Fist.
As the relevant parties scramble to get up to the cave, Danny and Shou-Lao continue to fight. Let's face it, it's pretty one-sided. She's a freaking DRAGON. But the, as she's lunging for him, Danny notices a spear that wasn't visible before.
He sweeps it up at the last instance and JAMS it through her chest. Shou-Lao falls.
Danny reaches into the wound, now spewing fire and energy like a reactor melting down and takes hold of her glowing hear. And he screams.
"That's right," she says. "Nothing comes for free."
Danny withdraws the heart which expands to consume HIM, burning his clothes away.
When the heart's energy fades, Danny is there, naked, all the hair burned off his body and the familiar emblem of Shou-Lao's favor burned into his chest.
"You are mine now, Danny Rand," she says. "I have given you my heart. What will you do with it?"
Danny only has eyes for the gateway to Earth. It's closing, almost closed. For the first time Danny manifests the Iron Fist and smashes the gateway open again.
The power climbs up his arm and across his body like fire and he falls through the gate, screaming.
"Good boy," says Shou-Lao. "This should be fun."
As her body generates a brand new heart, she fades back into the shadows, disappearing into the dark. Davos and Lei Kung arrive just in time to see the last of the dimensional gateways fade and wink out.
It's just a cave now, just an empty cave.
Where is Shou-Lao?
Where is Danny Rand?
Where is the Iron Fist?
In the middle of a stand of trees in Central Park a massive bonfire suddenly erupts and just as suddenly winks out. It draws the attention of a couple of homeless guys who find, at the center of a brand new scorched circle, an unconscious Danny Rand. END SEASON ONE.