In this episode, we learn more about Madame Gao and the Hand. Specifically, that she’s smarter than Danny, and there’s a reason she’s lived so long. Danny has suffered through some difficult experiences, and worked hard to get through his training, but he hasn’t really experienced treachery and betrayal first hand yet. Madame Gao is happy to help him fill in those gaps in his education.
At the start of the episode, we hear Danny’s mentor from K’un Lun instructing him as he meditates, while invitations are passed out to a pair of Russian butchers in a restaurant, an entomologist working in her office, and an assassin relaxing with some karaoke after murdering several people. The invitations say, “The time has come.”
Danny remembers his mentor, Lei Kung, telling him, “I tolerate no questioning from you because doubt leads to death.”
Meanwhile, back in the more mundane world of Rand, Inc, Joy has hired a crisis management firm to help them with the cancer-causing factory issue. She’s worried about Ward’s increasing drug use, which she can no longer turn a blind eye to. Ward throws out all of his pills, in the classic addict’s move to prove he doesn’t really have a problem. He can stop any time! Like now! Just leave quickly so that he can get the pills back out of the trash. Joy gives Ward the job of getting Danny to the crisis management meeting later that day.
Danny is busy trying to figure out where the chemist’s daughter, Sabina, is being held. He’s narrowed it down to several warehouses. Ward tries to explain the way corporate liability works to Danny, but Danny tends to work in more concrete ways that don’t lend themselves to legal technicalities and media strategies. They agree that Ward will go with Danny to search the warehouses, so that he can be with Danny to get him to the meeting on time. Corporate CEO as babysitter. OK.
Claire is still trying to keep Radovan, the chemist, alive, but he’s not doing well. He should be taken to the hospital. Colleen and Radovan overrule Claire.
By the 4th warehouse search, Ward is becoming frustrated. But there is a Rand truck in this warehouse. The head of the dead man who Danny fought and Gao executed in episode 5 is in the truck, with Danny’s invitation. Ward doesn’t take finding the decapitated head well.
Danny goes back to the dojo to check on Claire, Colleen, and Radovan, not necessarily in that order. He tells them that he doesn’t have Sabina yet, but the invitation will be a way for him to get her back. It’s a challenge, and if he wins, they’ll have to meet his demands. He participated in many of these challenges in K’un Lun. He needs to go alone.
The challenge is called the Grand Duel. It’ll be the Hand’s best fighters against Danny. If he wins they’ll meet his demands. Danny fought many challenges in order to advance through his training in K’un Lun. This is the way he plans to get Sabina back.
Claire is not okay with this idea. Haven’t these people ever heard of the police? Danny thinks notifying the police is too risky, which I would think Claire would realize. Chances are the Hand have the police in their pocket.
Claire freaks when she realizes that Danny has no practical experience with the Hand. Why is he so overconfident? He tells them that this is what he’s supposed to do. Colleen asks what he means. Danny says he’s not an ordinary fighter, he’s the Iron Fist. The term means something to Colleen, but Claire just thinks he’s even more nuts. Danny is realizing that NY is where he’s meant to be, since this is where the Hand has been all along.
Ward is falling apart without his pills. Then he finds some blood on his shirt cuff just before the crisis management meeting. He tries to pull himself together in front of Joy and goes to the meeting. The crisis management expert, Wayne Olsen, tells them that Danny’s apology YouTube video has more views than the incredible green guy. Hulk shout out! YouTube views are a form of success, so they need to build on that. Danny has actually helped the company by turning it upside down!
Danny does his meditation and practice in preparation for the challenge at sundown. Colleen does his worrying for him, as the loved ones left at home always do. Danny hears memories of his mentor in his head again.
Danny: “Tell me the legend again.”
Lei Kung: “Why are so interested in hearing it?”
Danny: “Because it gives me courage.”
Lei Kung: “A child, touched by fire, delivered from heaven, to be our greatest warrior. Destined for victory.”
Claire is great and all, but sometimes she really can’t read a room. She interrupts Danny’s preparations to ask him who he’s talking to. Geez, maybe he chants or prays out loud as part of his prep. He tells her that it’s time for him to leave.
Radovan takes a further turn for the worse. Colleen finally agrees that he’s needs to go to the hospital.
Danny enters the site of the challenge and recites the ritual acceptance speech, including stating his terms. Madame Gao speaks for the Hand. He and the Hand each want the other to stop interfering with their business if they win. And Danny wants Sabina back.
The first challenge begins. It’s the two butchers. They draw a ring of blood on the floor, and declare that whoever falls outside of it loses. Dying is also losing. Not sure why that has to be said. Lei Kung gives Danny advice throughout the fight. Danny must be a double-edged sword. The Russian butchers love knives and taunts. Danny needs to put everything aside but the fight. He is a living weapon. The butchers end up outside the ring, alive.
Claire takes Radovan to the hospital she used to work at, and runs into her former coworkers. She talks them into helping her, and Radovan, despite some hostility.
Danny moves on to round 2 of the challenge. This time his adversary is the Bride of Nine Spiders, dressed in a black corset and skirt with an overall goth look. She winds around him, playing a sexy game, trying to distract him. Everytime she gets close to him, she pricks him with acupuncture needles laced with hallucinogenic spider venom. Her taunts try to convince him to leave discipline and emotional repression behind so that he can be the real Danny Rand. He must choose to be the Iron Fist all over again in order to beat her. Danny marshals his energy and burns the poison out of his system, then beats her in their fight.
Madame Gao enters and announces that he’s won the second round. She sees Danny stumbling, and offers him the chance to withdraw from the challenge if he’s hurt. Danny is determined to bring Sabina home.
The crisis management meeting has come up with another statement for Danny to read, because that’s gone so well so far. Joy, who doesn’t have to deal with Harold, or face much of Danny’s reality, thinks this is just great!!! She is a sane, normal, efficient, competent woman in the muggle business world. She, unfortunately, hasn’t been told yet that they don’t live in that world anymore.
Ward, on the other hand, is drowning in the superhero/crime syndicate underworld. He knows where its bodies are buried. He looked one of those bodies in the eye earlier today. And he foolishly gave up his main coping mechanism a few hours ago. All he wants is a new prescription. His reaction probably isn’t too far off from the way a normal person would react to trying to run a major corporation while caught in the middle between Joy, Harold, Danny, and the Hand. He’s the only sane man, but they’ve driven him crazy. I kind of love him right now.
Colleen and Claire wait for word on Radovan’s surgery. Claire realizes that Shirley, her former supervisor, would never normally let Claire bring in a patient the way she did, no questions asked. Claire thinks that Shirley was probably coerced into it. They check with the nurses station and discover that Radovan never made it to surgery. A check of the security cameras leads to a fight and a run through the hospital. The Hand successfully steals Radovan back.
Danny reaches the 3rd and final round. He’s locked in a room with the assassin and a cache of weapons. The assassin, Scythe, chooses a weapon, and starts in on the required insults and taunts. Danny refuses a weapon, since he is the weapon. He ends up using the Iron Fist during the battle, which Gao finds thrilling. She leaves the room and brings back Sabina while Danny knocks Scythe to the floor and is ready to win. Gao tells him he must yield the battle and leave Scythe alive, or she’ll kill Sabina. Danny is shocked that she would act so dishonorably. She tells him she cares nothing for honor. He hears Kei Lung telling him that he is nothing but a weapon meant to beat the Hand, at all costs, but Kei Lung isn’t here in the real world having to make these tough decisions. Danny withdraws, and Gao gives him Sabina.
Madame Gao says that she thought that she’d never meet another Iron Fist in her life. She asks why he left K’un Lun and came to NY? Then she describes her favorite parts of K’un Lun, so that Danny knows she’s really been there. He tells her that his reasons for his choices are his own. She says that she’s amused by the way his mind works, and he’s different from the people of K’un Lun that she remembers. He says that they still teach honor there. She says his father could have used more honor. He tries to get her to say more, but she waves her hand and he’s thrown across the room.
Danny and Sabina leave, as Danny second guesses his decision to yield.
Ward has been driven to full on addiction by Harold, complete with crazy eyes and hair, and criminal drug-seeking behavior. Tom Pelphrey is amazing in this episode as he cycles through the fear, anger, despair, manipulativeness, need, and desperation that Ward feels while he’s craving his drugs but trying to pretend that he’s okay and doesn’t need them.
Gao plays Danny like a fiddle. She spotted his weaknesses and figured out how to use them against him within about five seconds of meeting him. The Bride of Nine Spiders was an especially nice touch. Gao seems to have a soft spot for K’un Lun and Iron Fists. Maybe she had an old boyfriend who was an Iron Fist?
Is there a licensing reason why they can’t say the names of the Avengers on these shows, or do they just enjoy being coy?
From The Hollywood Reporter: ABC will then premiere the first episode of the TV drama on Sept. 26. All eight episodes are expected to run on the network over consecutive Tuesdays, barring unforeseen interruptions.
Very exciting! I don’t want to lose AoS in order to gain an 8 episode series though. Hopefully this is more of a companion series, like Agent Carter, than a replacement.