Iron Fist recap: 'Under Leaf Pluck Lotus'
PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist episode 4 recap
Claire Temple is in the house!
If there’s one thing we know to be true, it’s that Rosario Dawson’s unofficial concierge nurse is the best part of Marvel’s Netflix shows. Not only is she one of the few characters who has appeared in every show so far, but her presence almost always livens up the story because Dawson is pretty damn fantastic in the role. This is especially true in “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus.” Dawson’s brings some much-needed personality and charm to this episode and helps Iron Fist not take itself too seriously. This is definitely my favorite episode of the season so far.
One of the things that makes “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus” an improvement on the episodes that have come before is that it starts to shed some light on the nebulous goals of the Hand. The episode opens with three very attractive women going to different parts of the city — a shady drug dealer’s den, a businessman’s office, and a doctor — to promote a new, synthetic form of heroin that prevents the user from building a tolerance. Later in the episode, we even see them enter Rand Enterprises. It’s clear that this drug is pretty insidious.
Remember how I said in my series premiere recap that this show had many similarities to Arrow? Well, here’s another one: Danny Rand, who received a sample of the drug from the head of the Yang Clan Company at the end of episode 4, realizes that the Hand is using Rand Enterprise’s new Red Hook pier* to smuggle the drug into the city, and he takes it upon himself to put an end to it like a good social justice-conscious superhero. Danny’s goal in this episode isn’t all that different from, say, Oliver Queen’s crusade against vertigo on Arrow; however, here it just never quite comes together because I’m still not super invested in Danny as a character or hero. In other words, I still kind of find him insufferable. And you know who else feels the same way? Ward. Danny shares his concerns about the drug and the pier with Ward, but Ward ignores because he’s too busy popping pills and rebelling against his overbearing father. So Danny decides to take matters into his own hands and look into this on his own — well, kind of.
*Is this the first Marvel/Netflix shows to acknowledge that there’s life in New York outside of Manhattan?
Danny asks Colleen Wing to help investigate the pier, which leads to Danny meeting the Marvelous Claire Temple, who, in case you forgot/didn’t watch Luke Cage, is one of Colleen’s students. Claire immediately detects the awkwardness between Danny and Colleen and makes sure her presence is known. It’s hilarious, as is the ensuing dinner she invites herself to. See, Danny showed up to the dojo with takeout — and by takeout, I mean a catered meal on a white cloth table. Colleen asks if it’s a date, but Danny says no…”unless she wants it to be.” Naturally, Claire is quietly amused by all of this.
Claire’s amusement continues into the dinner, which, despite how fun and playful it is, reveals the show’s lack of self-awareness (or pacing issues, it’s still up in the air). As the three of them enjoy dinner, Danny reveals he renounced “material attachments, indulgent activities, [and] romantic entanglements” as part of his training. (Colleen’s reaction to his vow of chastity is priceless.) Yet here he is bringing this lavish meal to Colleen, taking full advantage of his privilege. Like privileged social justice warrior Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, Danny is paradox of sorts; however, the show hasn’t really acknowledged that yet. In addition to paying for this meal, Danny is also driving a fancy, expensive-looking sports car, but he still views himself as some kind of outsider. “The world hasn’t been exactly kind to us,” he says to Colleen at one point, which is kind of ridiculous. I understand that he suffered while in the monastery and was probably treated like an outsider, but the show hasn’t done a really good job of showing us that. So when he equates his struggle, as a white male, with Colleen’s, it’s kind of laughable. Hopefully, the show digs into this paradox in later episodes.
This episode definitely starts to turn up the romance meter for Danny and Colleen. After she agrees to help him out, the two flirtatiously spar and show off their mastery of weapons. While they might be impressed with each other, the audience probably isn’t because the scenes are edited so much that it’s hard to really get a good a sense of what’s going. So I guess we just have to take their word for it. But I’m not going to complain too much because this is one of the few times when Iron Fist seems to be having fun. (I’m calling it now: Danny’s first ‘ship will be with Joy, and then she’ll turn to the dark side and Danny will end up with Colleen.)
Now, it’s time for Iron Fist to fulfill its dock scene requirement because pretty much every Netflix Marvel show has at least one. I couldn’t help think of Daredevil and Elektra in Daredevil season 2 as Danny and Joy skulked about the Red Hook pier. They don’t get anywhere by keeping their distance, so Danny hops into one of the containers, where he finds Radovan, the scientist responsible for making this new drug, and a Hand henchman. One Bourne-esque fight later and Danny and Radovan, who was accidentally injured in the brawl, are jumping from the back of the container onto the hood of car that Colleen is driving. (The henchman doesn’t survive the episode because Madame Gao, who is very intrigued by the fact that his opponent punched his way out of the container, kills him for his failure.)
Colleen and Danny call on Claire to tend to Radovan’s injuries when they get back to the dojo. Because she’s the best, Claire manages to inflate the chemist’s collapsed lung using a credit card, like she’s on Royal Pains or something. (God, I love this character so much!) Claire immediately regrets her involvement after she finds out that the Hand is involved. (Remember what she went through in Daredevil season 2.) If you were like me, you probably thought, “This would be a GREAT place to segue right into The Defenders or at least some kind of super quick crossover because Claire could just say, ‘Oh, I have a friend in Hell’s Kitchen with a particular set of skills who recently fought the Hand and can help you,'” and were disappointed when that didn’t happen. Instead, Claire just tells Danny he can’t take them on alone, and Colleen offers to stand by his side for this. Despite my frustration with this scene, I loved Dawson resigning to the fact that she can’t escape superheroes.
“My mother says I can’t escape me meeting people like you,” Claire says. “That it’s my destiny.” Honestly, god bless narrative contrivance for ensuring that Dawson is here! (I mean that in all seriousness.)
While all of this is going on, Iron Fist continues to explore its feelings about the evils of capitalism. Joy is busy dealing with a lawsuit claiming that a Rand Enterprises chemical plant in Staten Island is responsible for giving 15 people cancer. Joy remains cold and denies any wrongdoing because Rand followed the governmental guidelines, but after the meeting, it’s clear the sight of that suffering mother moved her because she knows what she’s going through. “Are we on the right side of this?” Joy asks Ward, who isn’t much help because he knows his father is alive and thus isn’t as moved by the plight of the people suing them.
After hearing about what Danny did with the medicine in the last episode, the mother approaches Danny, and her lawyer records Danny taking responsibility for giving her son cancer and apologizing. Even though Danny didn’t realize he was speaking for the company, it still causes them problems. Joy, Harold, and the board want to consider settling for PR reasons, but Ward ignores them mostly to piss of his father, who he finds out set up a camera in his office.
Family is definitely a burden of sorts for the Meachums. Harold’s continued interference and unwanted counsel drives Ward crazy. Each time Ward receives a call from his father, he takes some kind of pill and drinks. Eventually he runs out, and it’s heavily implied that he takes the heroin sample Danny left with him, because Joy finds him high as hell in his office at the end of the episode. However, it’s clear that family definitely means a lot to them. Ward still puts up his father, and Joy stands by Ward even after he goes against what they discussed and refuses to take a settlement.