Warning: This recap contains spoilers for the Iron Fist episode,"Immortal Emerges from Cave." If you haven't watched yet, in the words of Colleen Wing: "That would be a mistake."
The Iron Fist is back and you're gonna be in trouble / hey la, hey la, Iron Fist is back! Or something like that. Now that the Hand knows the Iron Fist has left K'un L'un and shown up in New York, they're rounding up their veritable rogues gallery of fighters and assassins to try to take him down. We see a pair of Russians abandon their job of butchering some meat in a restaurant kitchen, a Korean scientist pause in extracting venom from spiders, and a well-dressed Japanese man finish off his last victim at a karaoke bar with the cord from a microphone. They all receive the same message, each in their own language: The time has come.
Rand Industries has hired a crisis-management adviser to try and spin the issues that have arisen from Danny's inadvertent missteps. The video of Danny consoling one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Rand has now gone viral, and Joy informs Ward that Danny needs to be at the upcoming meeting so they can all figure out how they're going to handle the problem. Trouble is, Danny's more focused on tracking down all of the warehouses Rand owns so he can determine where the Hand may be keeping Radovan's daughter. When Ward demands Danny show up to the meeting later that day, he winds up the unwitting tag-along in Danny's mission to investigate each of the Rand warehouses before it's too late.
Ward and Danny hit the jackpot at the fourth warehouse on the list. They find the abandoned truck from the previous episode inside, the back doors still warped from the power of Danny's Iron Fist punch. It's mostly empty aside from one thing: the dead bodyguard's head impaled on a sword. Ward wants to leave right away, since Rand doesn't need to be connected to a murder scene - but Danny notices the message left for him identical to the one received by the assassins in the cold open. It's an invitation, for him only.
Danny heads back to Colleen's dojo to prepare for his first meeting with the Hand - a grand duel against their best fighters. Tradition dictates that he will have to face a series of challengers, each more difficult than the last. It was how he rose through the ranks during his training to become the Iron Fist. If he wins against the Hand, they'll have to meet his demands - return Radovan's daughter Sabina and remove their people from Rand Industries for good. Colleen wants to come along as backup but Danny says it's something he has to do alone. It also explains the reason he's back in New York after 15 years instead of guarding K'un L'un. The Hand is here; this is where the Iron Fist has to be too.
And so Danny shows up to the meeting place alone, walking into a courtyard filled with paper lanterns and trees. He approaches a fountain just inside the main door and announces his acceptance of the Great Duel against the Hand. Shortly after that, Madame Gao emerges to accept his terms; the two wash their hands in the fountain to complete the agreement and Gao leads Danny to the next room to face his first challenge. It's the two Russians we saw chopping up meat - Grigori and Andrei Veznikov - and they don't seem convinced that Danny is the Iron Fist, much less that he'll pose much of a threat. Although the Russians try to goad Danny into making a deadly mistake, it doesn't take long before he bests them, knives and all.
Danny's next challenger is the Korean scientist - Alessa - and apparently, her love of spiders extends to her fighting style as well. She preys on Danny's physical weaknesses and attempts to seduce him, getting close enough to stick him with small needles that are each tipped with Singing Spider venom. "You want to be free of all that is boiling inside of you to get out," she taunts, trying to urge Danny to lose control of all the emotion he struggles to keep locked inside. "Don't you want to be free of the burden of keeping all that in its cage?" Because of the venom's effects, Danny is disoriented and weak, his moves sloppy. He swings out wildly at first until he remembers his training and stops Alessa just before she stabs him with a dagger, managing to overpower her and knock her unconscious. By now, Danny is limping visibly and showing signs of the toll these fights are taking on him, but he refuses to withdraw when Gao presents the option: "I'm not leaving without the girl."
As talented a nurse as Claire Temple is, she can't keep Radovan alive without help and so she and Colleen take him to the hospital where she used to work (you know, the one that fired her to try and cover up a giant conspiracy). She's greeted somewhat frostily by her old boss, but they take Radovan away on a stretcher as a John Doe to try and tend to his wounds without raising any flags. Given the Hand's wide reach, though, it was only a matter of time before they tracked down their missing chemist and they snatch him from under Claire and Colleen's noses. The women race after the Hand-hired kidnappers, but by the time they catch up to the ambulance it's empty; they took Radovan out by a different route.
Danny faces his third and final challenger - Scythe, the Japanese man who also has a penchant for very sharp weapons. He invites Danny to choose one from the racks positioned around the room, but Danny declines: "I am the weapon." As the fight begins and progresses, it's clear that in spite of his earlier trials Danny is still a strong and capable fighter, holding his own against an opponent wielding multiple blades. They battle their way through scaffolding and by the time they emerge on the other side, Danny summons the power of the Iron Fist to cause the blade to break apart as his opponent brings it down for a killing blow.
Danny is seconds away from victory when Gao brings out Sabina at knifepoint and offers him a choice: if he kills his opponent, she will die, but if he withdraws from the duel her life will be spared. Weighing his options, Danny ultimately chooses to withdraw to save Sabina - but points out that Gao's manipulation of the duel constitutes cheating and is a decision made without honor. She drops just enough hints over the course of their conversation to reveal she's met Danny's father Wendell, but when he demands to know more she lifts a hand and tosses him across the room by way of some unseen force. Danny takes the hint and leaves with Sabina, but continues to question his actions: "What was I supposed to do?"
- All throughout this episode, Danny receives counsel from an unnamed man in a robe (subtitles refer to him as the Thunderer). He seems to be a product of Danny's own mind, since no one else can see him. In the comics, he's Danny's warrior mentor - so this is likely not the last we've seen of him.
- After trashing his prescriptions to prove a point to Joy, Ward sinks further into the depths of his withdrawal. When he can't get a refill from his doctor soon enough, he resorts to slamming his hand in a door to try and procure some pain meds from an urgent care center. I don't think anyone realized how serious his problem is, least of all Ward.
- Harold has been conspicuously absent these last couple of episodes. What's going on with the Meachum patriarch?
- Claire's been hanging out with a certain hero for hire lately; she exclaims "Sweet Christmas!" while running after an ambulance.
- We now know that Gao has been to K'un L'un at some point in her lifetime. Could we also get a flashback to a younger version of the character moving forward?
I'm guessing this isn't the last we've seen of the Hand, but they definitely know now that Danny Rand is the Iron Fist. As we gear up to dive into the second half of the series, which characters are you most hoping to see? Let's talk in the comments or on Twitter!
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