Danny brings Colleen and Claire on a mission to China
PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist episode 7 recap
After this episode, it seems easy to prescribe a possible cure for Iron Fist’s ailments. This is supposed to be a martial-arts superhero show, after all, so the more cool fights you have, the better the show will work! This episode is proof positive of that.
We pick up first with the aftermath of last episode’s bloody cliffhanger. Danny is looking for Harold, which is unfortunate timing because Harold juuuuust finished getting murdered by his own son. Danny, of course, thinks the gigantic trail of blood in the penthouse must be the Hand’s doing. There’s a little bit of dramatic irony when he tells Ward as much and the real murderer acts horrified at his own crime, but as usual the show can’t even build that tension very well. Instead, Ward calls Danny a “cancer” on their family, and the two go their own ways for the remainder of the episode.
That’s good news for Danny, who gets to hang out with Claire and Colleen in a miniature heist movie. He wants to attack Madame Gao’s base in China. Claire mentions her friend who’s fought the Hand before, but Danny once again decides to totally ignore this potentially priceless information. Ah well, save that for the next show, I guess. In any event, both Claire and Colleen insist on coming along, which Danny can’t really argue with since he got his butt kicked the last time he tried to take on the Hand alone.
Meanwhile, Joy and Ward are getting some comeuppance. Lawrence, the mastermind of the board’s coup and apparently the new head of Rand, offers them termination papers to sign. As an added “screw you,” the severance offer is $100 million each — a.k.a. exactly what the Meachums offered Danny, once upon a time. Ward is ready to sign, since he’s too busy thinking about the dad he just murdered to care about all this very much, but Joy promises to fight. Running Rand may not have been her childhood dream, but she’s leaned in, dammit, and she wants to fight for the corporate feminist career she made for herself.
On their plane to China, Danny and Claire use the occasion of Colleen’s nap to discuss their sex lives. Claire correctly guesses the two hooked up, and her friendly teases once again prove Rosario Dawson is the most charismatic screen presence on this show. After that, Danny turns the tables and asks about the letter she keeps reading from Luke Cage. She waves it away, saying he’s currently “unavailable,” at which point Colleen wakes up and the three debate what to do about Gao. Claire insists that killing is wrong, no matter what, but Colleen sticks up for her bae and says that’s easy to say when you’re not the Iron Fist. Claire responds with one of the best lines of the series so far: “I may not be special, but I’ve seen enough people die to understand the value of life.” While the two women are having this fascinating and intense debate, Danny starts freaking out about the plane turbulence, until they calm him down. This is why it’s always hilarious when Danny tries to stop Claire and Colleen from accompanying him, as if they aren’t the only people keeping him alive.
(And for those keeping track at home, that Luke mention is the second shout-out to a specific Defender in this episode so far. Will we get a third? Stay tuned to find out!)
If you thought murdering his dad would get the sliminess out of Ward’s system, well, you were wrong. Knowing that Joy plans to fight their termination, Ward goes to Lawrence for a one-on-one meeting and asks to separate his severance from hers. He’ll even take a measly $30 million. Unfortunately, Ward still can’t do anything without getting undermined by someone. As it turns out, Joy already called Lawrence to reject the offer, so there’s nothing for Ward. Lawrence expresses surprise that what he thought was a rock-solid sibling duo is falling to pieces over money, which is pretty rich coming from a guy who just instigated a palace coup because his company’s owner wanted to sell life-saving drugs at cost. At least Danny isn’t the only hypocritical person on this show.
Speaking of Danny, he’s just arrived outside Gao’s stronghold with his two women friends who are both better than him at basically everything. Case in point: Danny wants to capture and beat up a guard to get information, but Colleen instead takes his wallet and gives money to a beggar in exchange for answers to a few questions. She gets the info.
Back in New York, Ward finds Joy walking her dog and decides to scream his head off at her like a good big brother. He shouldn’t worry so much. Joy has a weapon of her own: incriminating photos of every single board member, including Lawrence, getting in trouble for various DUI and cheating scandals. How did she acquire this good dirt, you ask? Well, she hired a private investigator, who was actually pretty good at her job when she’s “sober,” and – yep, that’s our third Defenders shout-out! We’ve got ourselves a turkey here, ladies and gentlemen.
Anyway, Joy is still mad that Ward won’t tell her his big secret. Once she tells him that he’s the person she most admires, he decides to show her the penthouse, even if the things she admires him for are just the crazy things Harold told him to do. Unfortunately, Ward’s going through a whole Macbeth/”Telltale Heart” thing right now, visualizing his father’s blood everywhere. When he tries to take Joy up to the penthouse, he sees blood pouring out of the elevator, The Shining style, and flips out. So Joy stays in the dark.
Back in China, Claire is having the time of her life: “Oh, how was your trip to China? Well, I committed arson and then got killed by an evil ninja cult.” Speak of the devil, there’s Gao now, so Claire lays on the car horn to warn Danny and Colleen inside. The two split up and end up fighting their Mirror Universe opposites. In the first of this episode’s cool fight sequences, Colleen gets in a swordfight with a female Hand agent. Colleen’s fights are typically much more entertaining than Danny’s, since Jessica Henwick clearly has martial arts experience and doesn’t need to be covered up the way Finn Jones does. This one is no exception, and the fact that her enemy moves and fights almost like Colleen’s evil counterpart makes it even more fun.
While Colleen’s fights are better with cool opponents, Danny’s fights almost totally rely on his opponent being interesting to make up for Jones’ awkwardness. He’s lucky, then, to encounter one of the most interesting fighters of the series so far: a drunken Hand operative who literally fights with his sake cask as a weapon and transitions out of dropkicks by lying on the ground like a blackout drunk, only to swing back immediately. Good stuff. He also works as a thematic counterpart to Danny, declaring himself “the sworn protector of the Hand,” the way Danny is the sworn enemy. Like Colleen’s duel, this feels like Danny battling a dark-mirror universe version of himself, which gives it extra gravitas.
Once the team beats him and gets inside, Gao again whips out her Emperor Palpatine impression, offering to teach Danny in the ways of the Hand. When that doesn’t work, she orders her goons to kill Claire and Colleen. They, of course, make quick work of said goons, poisoning them on their own weapons (a.k.a. the Hamlet Maneuver). When those poor guys’ veins start going black, Danny recognizes the same symptoms from his father and the pilots after the plane crash. With final proof that Gao killed his parents, Danny powers up the iron fist and appears to kill her – but he actually just destroys the wall behind her. They take Gao into their custody and leave.
As I said at the top, an Iron Fist episode that features some cool fights, lots of Rosario Dawson, and important plot development at least feels like the show playing to its own strengths.