We gave it a C+
PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist series premiere recap
All right, welcome to your even-numbered Iron Fist recaps! First up, we have one of the weirdest selections of the first few episodes. After being betrayed and drugged by his childhood friends, Danny Rand is now well secured inside a mental hospital. After waking up, he’s immediately greeted by a creepy-looking doctor who keeps telling him weirder and weirder things. Eventually, the doctor tells Danny to commit suicide and offers to help – at which point orderlies rush in to restrain this doctor, revealing that he’s actually a fellow patient named Simon in disguise. At least his trolling is entertaining, though – the real orderlies have no problem forcing Danny’s mouth open and shoving pills down his throat.
Though we’re still not sure what (if any) powers Danny possesses, it becomes clear right away that the mental hospital drugs are really screwing him up. When he tries to meditate, he’s able to briefly visualize himself back at his family’s crash site in the Himalayas, but he can’t maintain that state. He tries explaining this to his doctor, that he is Danny Rand, the lone survivor of his family’s plane crash who was taken in by nearby monks, but the doctor clearly thinks Danny is deluded. He even has a passport with Danny’s picture and the name “John Anderson” to prove it.
The whole “Is he a superhero or just insane?” story line was probably done best in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s comic series The Ultimates. They got a lot of story mileage out of the mystery of whether their version of Thor was just a hippie who got hold of advanced technology – only to climactically reveal at the end of their run that yes, he was the same old Thor as always, complete with Loki and Asgard and all that. The creators of Iron Fist may have been trying to do something similar, but for one thing, Iron Fist isn’t nearly as recognizable a pop culture character as Thor. Even before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic readers could be relied on to have a passing knowledge of the Thunder God, thus allowing Millar and Hitch to play with expectations. But a decent amount of Iron Fist viewers will be seeing the character for the first time here, so going for the mental hospital fake-out this early is bound to confuse them, especially since we still know next to nothing about Danny’s origin. There’s no tension there.
Portraying mental hospitals as a prison to be escaped from is also an uncomfortable look. Simon, for example, walks Danny through the hospital and tells him about all the other patients. Danny is confident he’ll be out of the hospital soon, but according to Simon, every time a patient is due to be released, they get slapped with a different diagnosis to keep them even longer. So on top of failing to provide interesting tension, this episode’s hospital story line also makes weird implications about the nature of mental health treatment. At least Simon’s a real friend – he helps Danny out of his restraints so he can call Colleen Wing for help. Colleen, who in her brief appearances has already become the show’s most interesting character, hangs up on him. Oh well.
Though ultimately ineffective, that call was observed by Harold Meachum, who sends Ward to follow up with Colleen. When Ward protests, saying Harold should send “one of your guys,” Harold easily replies that Ward IS “one of his guys.” Ward is such an insufferable character that it’s somewhat satisfying to see him get constantly undermined by his father. Hopefully that relationship stays compelling.
In his meeting with Colleen, Ward brings his two favorite weapons to bear: money and lies. He tells a falsified story of his encounter with Danny last episode, saying that Danny was the one to draw a gun on him. Then he tells Colleen that if she signs a statement that Danny similarly threatened her or made her uncomfortable in any way, he’ll provide all the money she needs to upgrade her studio. It’s a tempting offer, but in true Faustian fashion, Ward gives her a few days to think about it.