Season 1 | Episode 102 | “Shadow Hawk Takes Flight” | Aired March 17, 2017

This is a recap of Season 1, Episode 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist. For the recap of Season 1, Episode 1, click here.


Going into Marvel’s Iron Fist my expectation was that I’d be watching a Kung-Fu television series. After all, it is based on a comic book that was inspired by 1970s Kung-Fu movies, That being said, this episode of the show plays with genre in a way that I could see an argument for.
So far, the series has centered around the identity of our protagonist. He claims to be Danny Rand, heir to his father’s company. The people around him, particularly his childhood friends Joy and Ward, don’t believe him. They’ve had a lot of trauma in their lives and they buried Danny Rand 15 years ago. For them, it is impossible to imagine that Danny is still alive. From that sound premise they arrive at the only conclusion they can: this man, claiming to be Danny Rand, is a crazy person.
The episode opens up with Danny being held in a mental hospital against his will. When he wakes up, there is a doctor sitting at his bedside. This doctor seems like an affectionate fellow. But when the only course of action he can suggest to Danny is suicide, we start to see the actual state of things in this hospital. The man is actually one of many patients with a limited grip on reality in the institution.
When Danny meets his real psychiatrist, the two talk about the last 15 years of Danny’s life. We are treated to a momentary flashback of Danny’s training- something that would be wonderful to actually watch but which has been withheld from us thus far. The doctor listens patiently to Danny’s story but then confronts him with a hard truth. According to the doctor, Danny’s actual name is John Anderson. And it’s not just the doctor’s word. Danny’s passport agrees with him.
If the series wanted to authentically explore this space, it would be a very interesting twist. While Iron Fist doesn’t seem like a character that would naturally thrive in a Twelve Monkeys style psycho-drama, taking him out of his element could be fascinating. Unfortunately, the exercise is fruitless. We know that Finn Jones’ character is Danny Rand. If not for all the political hullabaloo made about it in the media for the last few months, we also know that Jones is filming The Defenders right now. So questioning his identity immediately loses all dramatic value.
On the outside, Colleen Wing is training her students at the dojo. They aren’t doing great, but Colleen’s finances are doing even worse. After one of her classes she gets a phone call. It turns out that Colleen is the only person in New York who Danny trusts to not try and kill him or commit him to an insane asylum. But Colleen does not know Danny well enough to trust that he isn’t crazy, so she hangs up on him.
At Rand Headquarters, Ward is under strict orders from his father. Harold cannot leave his penthouse apartment since the world thinks he’s dead. That means that Ward is his envoy to the world. Ward has two tasks on his plate: buy some warehouses on a pier in Brooklyn, and check out who this Colleen woman is that Danny was calling. With thing one taken care of, Ward is headed to the dojo for thing number two.
But life can be hard when you’re pretending to be dead. Even in a penthouse apartment with your sheepish assistant at your beck and call, sometimes you want to get out. So, even though the world thinks he’s dead and there’s no reason to make trouble, Harold sneaks off to visit Danny in the hospital. Harold, very menacingly, whistles Danny Boy as a test to prove that the unidentified man is, in fact, Danny Rand.
Then Danny, who is on a boatload of drugs, tells Harold all about being the Iron Fist, and about his destiny to defeat The Hand. He tells him about his training in K’un-Lun and about how the only time he feels like himself is when he is in a fight. This is exactly what Harold wanted to hear since, when he gets back to his apartment, he has a note written on the outside of his penthouse window reading “Where did you go?” signed with only a handprint.
Danny spends the majority of the time left in the episode convincing various people he is actually Danny Rand. He regales them with tales of his youth. He does very precise OCD tricks with M&Ms. If it’s a quaint, non-government issues form of ID, Danny’s got it up his sleve. The only person who will not be convinced is Ward. Feeling an increasing level of hostility towards Danny, Ward orders yet another hit on his childhood friend.
In the middle of the night, the other inmates drag Danny into a cell. They give him a through beatdown. But the only time Danny feels like himself is when he’s in a fight. After one of the inmates declaires “Ward Meachum sends his regards,” like Danny’s a guest at the Red Wedding, Danny charges up his super power. Two lengthy episodes into the show, Danny finally uses the Iron Fist. He punches his assailants, then he uses it again to escape the hospital.
This episode had a higher possible upside than the first, but it did not deliver on that. The biggest distraction is the quality of the acting. The three actors with the most on-screen time, Finn Jones, Tom Pelphrey, and Jessica Stroup, feel like the weakest members of the cast. So much fuss has been made over the racial make-up of this cast. It seems like they may have just been bad choices because of their acting ability.

Furthermore, the pacing throughout the show exactly wrong. For a superhero show, it would be much more enjoyable to watch the protagonist explain who he was once, and then use his super powers in three or four fights, rather than the other way around. Considering that our main character refers to himself as a living weapon multiple times in this episode, the talking to punching ratio is slanted in entirely the wrong direction.

 

While this episode was worse than the premiere, the spaces where it had the chance to grow have given us hope for the future. Be sure to stick with us and see if those improvements really do happen. Recaps will post at 8:00 am every day for the next two weeks. We will also have a special edition of the podcast at the end of the run of recaps. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all our ongoing Iron Fist coverage.

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