Iron Fist recap: 'Eight Diagram Dragon Palm'
PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist episode 3 recap
Iron Fist is not a show that likes to drag out its cliffhangers. After leaving Danny dangling from a building at the end of last episode, this one begins with him waking up looking fine — in Harold’s penthouse, no less! Turns out that after throwing him off the building, Ward actually went and retrieved him. And now, Danny and Harold get to meet face to face, for real.
Harold tells Danny that he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the Rands disappeared in that plane crash. Saddled with a gigantic business and a young family to take care of, Harold made a deal with the Hand. They brought him back from death with the conditions that he can’t leave the penthouse and must help the Hand with whatever tasks they demand. So Harold is very excited to learn that Danny is the “sworn enemy of the Hand,” someone who might be able to help him escape this horrible deal. In order to secure his help, Harold demands that Ward give Danny everything he deserves as the Rand heir. Ward is obviously not happy about this, even less so when Harold digs at him yet again by telling Danny, “We’ve needed a fighter like you back in the family.” After they leave, Ward gives his former childhood friend a piece of advice: Don’t trust Harold; he’s only out for himself. This advice is honestly probably the first unequivocally good thing Ward’s done for Danny so far, and his relationship with Harold remains one of the most interesting on the show.
After a hastily called press conference, Danny is officially crowned as majority shareholder of Rand Enterprises, and the major part of his conflict with the Meachums appears resolved. Even Jeri Hogarth notes that this dispute was resolved in record time – the show is clearly eager to start introducing other antagonists. One possibility is a reporter at the press conference who insists on asking about Danny’s stay in the mental hospital. But it would be better for the show to still find ways to pit Danny and the Meachums (particularly Ward) against each other.
An example of what this might look like comes in Danny’s very first business meeting, where he learns that, as in real life, the pharmaceutical division of his company sells life-saving drugs for profit, rather than selling them at cost to whoever needs them. Danny puts his foot down and insists these drugs be sold at cost, sparking indignation and frustration from his board members. Although corporate drama is not nearly as thrilling as kung fu fight scenes, it could be a good way to generate tension and undermine Danny’s relationships, both with the Meachums and with his family’s legacy. And it’s a real-world issue to boot!
For now, though, the show seems eager to avoid that. Instead, Joy is assigned as Danny’s babysitter, to stop him from interfering in important business matters. They hang out, and Danny tells her about the difficulty of his training in K’un-Lun. He makes the training sound pretty awful and almost abusive (his room was almost jail-cell small, and he started every day trekking a mile uphill, for starters), but, as before, we get this directly from Danny. There are sound effects of monks screaming, but no visuals. The show is pretty bad at the age-old storytelling rule: “Show, don’t tell.” It prefers to just have characters narrate things that happened to them rather than visualize or dramatize them, and that’s one of its major weak points so far.
Luckily, this episode spices things up in a major way. That’s due in no small part to the fact that Colleen Wing, who remains a more compelling character than Danny himself, gets a lot to do. Upon returning to her dojo, she finds out that her cage fight from the other day has gone viral, both among her students and the public at large. Her students are excited because it’s good advertising for the dojo, but Colleen clearly still has qualms about fighting for money. Honestly, it’s not entirely clear why she’s going to these cage fights at all, unless she just wants to unleash her full skills against deserving opponents instead of clumsy students.
She gets a great soundtrack this time, too. Run the Jewels’ “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” one of the most energetic tracks off the rap duo’s second album, is what plays when she returns to the cage and demands two opponents this time. It would be hard to have a boring scene while that pulsating song was playing, but this three-person fight is also choreographed to it pretty well. Colleen brutally punches out the last man left standing to the sound of Killer Mike’s epic closing declaration: “Tell ‘em f—- ‘em, I never loved ‘em, and salutations.”
Danny and Joy don’t get a lot of hanging time before ending up in their own epic fight sequence, as hatchet-wielding gangsters arrive to grab Joy. The battle that ensues, first in the hallway and then in a red-lit elevator, is definitely the show’s best so far. It makes a great combo with Colleen’s two-on-one cage brawl. If only Iron Fist could keep these cool fight scenes coming while making the boardroom politics interesting, they might be able to overcome the show’s early lags.
Danny and Joy go to Colleen’s dojo to regroup, where there are hints of a possible love triangle between the three, especially after Danny delicately resets Colleen’s sprained finger. Colleen still declines Danny’s monetary offer, but she does point him to the restaurant base of the Triads who attacked him and Joy. There, Danny learns the attack on Joy was a response to her hostile takeover of the Red Hook pier. Since that move was directed to Harold by the Hand, neither Danny nor Joy really knows much about it. Once Danny brings up the Hand, the Triads retreat and refuse to tell him anything more.
For their part, the Hand is satisfied with the pier deal and gives Harold a reward: They allow him to glimpse his daughter through a window. The sight of Joy almost brings Harold to tears, until he sees her scar from the Triads. The Hand are more than happy to bring him to the restaurant so he can kill the offending gangster himself, another helpful indication that Harold is not nearly as good a guy as he seemed in the opening conversation with Danny.
Shortly after, Danny receives a mysterious message in his office. It’s from Yang Hai-Quing, and it gives him the “answer you seek” in the form of a piece of paper emblazoned with a winged figure. That same symbol, it turns out, is already tattooed on Danny’s chest.
Thanks to a couple of awesome fight scenes and big plot developments, this episode was probably Iron Fist’s best so far, but it still has some annoying habits to fix. Hopefully later episodes will focus on the stuff that works, and keep showing viewers things instead of settling for “tell.”