PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist episode 9 recap
Well, there you go. This episode finally revealed the show’s big plot twist. If you weren’t even expecting a big plot twist, well, that’s not entirely your fault. The show did a terrible job of telegraphing that something was coming. My co-recapper Chancellor Agard noted as much back in episode 7 when Bakuto first appeared. Remember that? He just kinda showed up, said hi to Colleen, acknowledged that he knew about the Iron Fist, and then vanished for a few episodes before triumphantly returning to defeat Gao last episode. The show should’ve done a much better job of setting up the reveal about him and Colleen.
Part of the problem in this episode is that the monastery/school/safe space (its exact nature is unclear) Colleen and Bakuto take Danny to seems pretty awesome. There’s a welcoming atmosphere, everybody seems happy, and no one will look askance if you start doing yoga poses in the middle of the lawn, as Bakuto and Danny do to “recharge their chi.”
Once he takes Danny to his office, Bakuto basically becomes the official mouthpiece for the semblance of an anti-capitalist critique that sometimes peeks its head out from underneath the surface of the show. Bakuto sounds a bit like Bernie Sanders as he talks about the world being run by corporations, not governments. He explains his plan for how to stop them by showing Danny grainy footage from 1948 of a previous Iron Fist defeating a squad of Chinese soldiers with ease. If Danny could learn to harness that power, then together he and Bakuto would be unstoppable. Together, they could defeat all the “Gaos” of the world, and instead stick up for the marginalized, forgotten people of the world – like Colleen, the other students at this place, and even Danny himself. Danny laughs that off, telling Bakuto, “I’m a billionaire,” but Bakuto points out that Danny is obviously tortured on the inside. Actually, it’s hard to tell exactly where Danny’s head is at. Take that “I’m a billionaire” line, for instance. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that for a guy who spent 15 years in a heavenly monastery learning to let go of material attachments and only got his obscene wealth back like a week ago, Danny sure does love his money.
In that way, he’s not too different from Harold and Joy, who call him to get his help with their harebrained scheme to regain control of Rand. Harold is so overjoyed to hear Danny defeated Gao that he breaks out the bourbon for his newly in-on-it daughter, only to freak out and break the glasses thanks to his deteriorating mind (perhaps we should call this Beric Dondarrion Syndrome). Bakuto, it turns out, was listening in on the call somehow, and tells an underling to trace its source.
Danny suffers from a common superhero ailment likely produced by the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies: He literally refuses to stop thinking and talking about his parents who died decades ago. As such, he infiltrates Bakuto’s compound until he finds a feed of Gao’s cell. Wai Ching Ho proceeds to quickly steal the entire episode as she renews her mind games with Danny, telling him that the people around him are not who they say they are. Gao says they’re trying to erode Danny’s sense of trust, as if they’re Russian internet trolls peddling fake news for Vladimir Putin. Who are they, exactly? Why, Gao says, the Hand, of course. Just then Bakuto comes in and takes Danny away. The camera then lingers on Gao for several seconds, totally unnecessarily. Shots like that go on way too long on this show and are probably part of the reason episodes like one this drag on for a whopping 56 minutes.
NEXT: The Hand is everywhere
So, yeah, Gao was right. When Danny confronts Colleen about the Hand ceremonial knife he apparently saw in Bakuto’s office, she admits that they are part of the Hand. Colleen says that she’s not a double agent or whatever, that Gao’s organization was a “rogue faction” of the Hand while Bakuto’s group is working for good, but Danny’s already yelling his face off. It’s actually pretty funny: Danny keeps screaming at Colleen to explain this whole thing to him, something made impossible by the fact that he won’t stop yelling over her. As ever, the show seems completely unaware of this contradiction.
Honestly, it’s hard to make heads or tails of this. Colleen points out, reasonably I should say, that Danny has only ever reacted to news of “the Hand” by instinctively rushing off to fight them without a second thought, as if it was an impulse conditioned in him by the monks of K’un-Lun. Those would be the same monks who physically abused a young grief-stricken boy for 15 years and whose whole goal is to stop people from entering their sanctuary. They don’t exactly sound like good guys, but the show seems to take Danny’s side that they must be right because hey, he’s the Iron Fist and they’re the enemies of the Hand and that’s how it is.
A quick note on the capitalist critique I’ve mentioned before. EW’s TV critic Jeff Jensen noted that the first six episodes seemed to demonstrate that “Iron Fist wants to be some subversive scold of capitalism or secularism,” positioning Danny as a redemptive force trying to reorient a giant corporation around values of social justice. This critique has gotten muddled somewhat, even more so in this episode. Thanks to Bakuto, we get a look at a possible alternative to corporate capitalism, a safe space of learning and relaxation and spirituality… and the show despises it with a visceral hatred (the way this episode immediately reveals its collegiate “safe space” as a cover for an evil ninja death cult makes me wonder whether it wasn’t written by Jonathan Chait). So I’m not sure what, exactly, the show thinks about anything. Not saying that a pulp-y superhero show has to express the ideas of The Communist Manifesto, just that it has to have some kind of perspective. Luke Cage’s views on race and social justice may have sided too close to respectability politics for some viewers’ tastes, but at least Cheo Hodari Coker’s show was consistent in articulating its beliefs and making them relevant to the story.
A consistent point of view is valuable because it allows viewers to understand what happens in the show. Iron Fist can’t even explain why you should be rooting for its good guys or against its bad guys. Bakuto, for example, takes over for Gao as Harold’s handler, and he sure seems like an improvement. Instead of making Harold kneel on glass, Bakuto comes up with a plan to help him re-enter the public sphere. Nevertheless, Harold later insists to Joy that they need to destroy Bakuto. Since Harold spent his life destroying his son and has now murdered two people over the course of two episodes, I’m not sure who you’re supposed to be rooting for there.
The closest the show comes to proving Bakuto’s evil is Danny’s discovery of a room full of camera feeds, which enrages him even though no one else is even in the room watching said feeds. Bakuto shows up and they fight. Danny is quickly overmatched, as he typically is by everyone he fights, but lucky his old friend Davos shows up to help. That’s right: The mean-looking guy who stole a poor man’s food truck and tied him up in the back is apparently a good guy, and he proves it by ordering Danny to kill as many Hand operatives as possible. They take on squads of these agents (who are really just college kids?) first in a hallway, where things are so dark you can hardly make out the fight, and then in the yard. Danny can no longer activate the iron fist for some reason, but thanks to Colleen’s help, he and Davos are able to escape. Again, it’s not entirely clear why Colleen betrayed her so-called “family” so suddenly, nor where she’s wandering off to at episode’s end.
On the upside, it looks like we’ll finally be getting a look at K’un-Lun. Davos wants to take Danny there since the gate is open and there’s currently no one to protect it. One of the show’s major flaws has been its refusal to show K’un-Lun or explain why it’s worth fighting to protect. At least now we should get some answers.