Iron Fist recap: 'The Mistress of All Agonies'
PREVIOUSLY: Iron Fist episode 8 recap
If there’s one thing I haven’t talked about nearly enough in these recaps so far, it’s how much I love Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao. She was one of my favorite characters on Daredevil (see EW’s Superhero TV Villains ranking for proof) and she’s one of the best parts of the mess of a show that is Iron Fist. She brings a quiet intensity to the role, which is on full display in the ninth episode of the season, which is fairly scattered. But before we get to her, we need to talk about the big return in the episode.
Yes, surprising no one, Harold Meachum has returned from the dead, and it’s quite silly. The episode opens with him waking up in the lake Ward dumped him in, and then he spends half of the episode staggering back to the heart of the city. His body may be back, but his mind definitely isn’t, and he slowly regains his memories along the journey. Harold’s internal compass basically leads him back to Rand Enterprises, and his tour of his children’s empty offices helps him remember everything, including his assistant, Kyle, whom he calls to pick him up.
Having realized he cannot die, Harold decides to make the most of it. He tries reconciling with Ward, but Ward has no interest in it, so Harold arranges for Ward to be arrested on drug charges and sent to the mental hospital where they sent Danny in the second episode, because irony is a mistress of agonies. With Ward out of the way, Harold decides to tell Joy the truth, which is rather convenient because Joy, following her suspicions, returns to her father’s gaudy art deco building. From his penthouse, Harold guides her upstairs and is reunited with his daughter.
But, we shouldn’t get too happy about this family reunion because Harold definitely isn’t in his right mind. Before being arrested, Ward turned to the Hatchet Men for advice on how to get rid of his father once and for all. He was disappointed to find out that it’s impossible to reverse whatever the Hand did to him and that each time he dies, he’ll come back even worse. It’s sort of like Ra’s al Ghul’s relationship with the Lazarus Pit. And tonight’s episode doesn’t waste any time in showing us how screwed Harold is: Right before his reunion with Joy, he beats his assistant Kyle to death with an ice cream scoop because he turned down ice cream. It’s a hilariously over-the-top scene and might be the show’s most ridiculous moment so far. That being said, at least it wasn’t dull.
The new information we’ve gained about Harold Meachum has implications for the entire Marvel/Netflix universe, specifically for Elektra. In case you forgot, Daredevil season 2 ended with a dead Elektra — a.k.a. the Black Sky, a.k.a. the weapon of the Hand/Living MacGuffin — being put into some kind of fancy casket. Before Iron Fist was released, we knew Elektra would pop up in The Defenders, but we didn’t know how. Now that Iron Fist has confirmed that the Hand can bring people back from the dead, it’s fair to assume they’ll do the same thing to Elektra, which is worrisome because it means that the Elektra who comes back will be even deadlier than the one who died, which kind of sucks for little ol’ Matt Murdoch. (I swear I’m going to be very annoyed if the whole point of Iron Fist was to introduce resurrection to these shows…)
NEXT: Colleen’s got the “flu”
Now it’s time to talk about the show’s heroes. Taking a page out of Jessica Jones‘ book, “The Mistress of Agonies” also finds Team Fist holding Gao prisoner inside of Colleen’s studio. It’s kind of like when Jessica and company captured and interrogated Kilgrave in “AKA Sin Bin,” except there’s no torture involved because Colleen and Claire talk Danny out of it. Instead, Claire suggests that Danny use sodium pentothal, a.k.a. truth serum, to get some answers about his family out of Gao.
While Danny runs off to find the truth serum, it’s time for Claire and Colleen to have some one-on-one time with Madame Gao, which was probably my favorite part of this episode because Gao is having the time of her life screwing with them. She begins with Claire. Referencing Daredevil and Luke Cage, Gao says the reason Claire gets involved with these special people is because she hopes their specialness will rub off on her; however, instead she just ends up ruining them. I can understand why the writers thought this would be interesting for Claire, but it really feels like a waste of time if you’ve watched the other shows in the universe. You know Claire is special in her own way, and Claire knows that, too, which is why she doesn’t let Gao’s words bother her too much. Then, Gao prods Colleen about the secret she’s been keeping from Danny, but Colleen tries to ignore her.
The other problem with this entire setup is that we know Gao is quite powerful. We’ve seen her take out both Danny and Daredevil with a single push, and in this episode she revealed that she’s been alive since at least the 18th century. Why is she allowing herself just to hang there? I’m sure she could’ve escaped by now. Does she just enjoy screwing with people that much? I realize this is the sort of narrative contrivance that’s part of the genre, but at this point it would be nice to see shows find a way to avoid this kind of trope. Despite the fact I do enjoy watching Gao screw with people, the whole setup is kind of silly.
Once Danny returns with the truth serum, they inject it into Gao, who reveals that she approached Wendell about joining forces with the Hand, but he said no. Fortunately, Harold Meachum was more than willing to work together. And that’s all she reveals, which is rather anticlimactic since we could’ve put those pieces together ourselves. Gao passes out, and then Colleen falls ill from being poisoned in the last episode. In her near-delirious state, Colleen tells them to call her sensei Bakuto.
While they wait for Bakuto to arrive, Gao’s assault team shows up trying to get her back, but Team Fist takes the first wave out. The only redeeming part of this very dark sequence is seeing Claire kick some butt for the second time on this show; it seems like those lessons with Colleen are really paying off. When Bakuto arrives, he takes care of the rest of Gao’s men who surrounded the building. His presence there clearly worries Gao, which is why Danny allows him to enter. Ignoring Gao’s warnings, Danny allows Bakuto to teach him how to use the Iron Fist to kill the poison coursing through Colleen’s body, which drains all his energy and causes his to collapse from exhaustion afterwards. Bakuto picks up an unconscious Danny and leaves the dojo with Colleen and Gao. Meanwhile, across the street, a dangerous man who loves throwing stars watches them toss Danny’s body into the back of a car. Who is this man? It’s not clear, but he definitely has ties to Danny because he’s dressed exactly how Danny was in the premiere, and he spent the entire episode looking for him. This leads me to assume that he must be from K’un-Lun.