Iron Fist: 1.05 Under Leaf Pluck Lotus
This review contains spoilers for the fifth episode of Iron Fist. A spoiler-free review of the entire first season will be released soon.
Under Leaf Pluck Lotus has some of Iron Fist's highest and lowest points. On one hand, characters from the extended Defenders universe make their impact and Danny's relationship with Colleen finally gets more screen time. On the other, Joy vacillates between priorities at an increasingly annoying rate, Ward continues to be a total drag, and there's an excessive amount of hammy and over-explanatory dialogue.
Over at Rand Enterprises, the Meachums are successfully fending off a lawsuit claiming that a Rand plant is releasing carcinogenic chemicals into the surrounding neighborhood. That is, until Danny, being ever so sympathetic, inadvertently acknowledge's the company's blame while being recorded. Ward and Joy are then put on the defensive, having over-simplistic philosophical discussions on human decency business dealings while deciding whether or not to settle that suit. Ward, being the billionaire crybaby that he is, decides to finally rebel against his father's wishes by refusing to settle. His substance abuse subplot draws no sympathy from me towards his character. Damn, he's awful.
Joy's presence in the show is as convoluted as ever. One second, she's arguing with her brother to settle, connecting with her "good" side, partly because of her sympathy for those diagnosed with cancer. The next, she goes against the rest of the board and backs her brother's decision to fight the suit. It's another demonstration of her inability to take a stance against anything in the show, hopping from one side to the next thanks to her convoluted senses of morality and loyalty.
But enough with the bad stuff: this episode finally featured Danny and Colleen together for an extended amount of time. A chemistry's beginning to spark between them, to such an extent that when Colleen stares at Danny with heart eyes for half of her screen time, it doesn't feel unearned. The reveal that Danny took a vow of chastity adds an interesting layer to their relationship, and even though he may break that in the future, it would be a fun twist if they remained a strictly platonic crime-fighting duo.
Iron Fist needs the Daughter of the Dragon's help investigating the pier, which Danny suspects is being used by the Hand to smuggle synthetic heroin. That the Hand's motivations include drugs is not a huge revelation, given the return of Daredevil's Madame Gao as Harold's boss and the orchestrator of the Hand's plans. It's great to see such a brutally captivating character return, and her arrival, coupled with Danny's interference with her operation, injects Iron Fist with tension that it's been desperately lacking so far.
Speaking of returning characters: Claire Temple is back! That's right, the almighty Night Nurse has been training under Colleen in an effort to gain independence from the heroes she's had take care of her so far. Although she's yet again relegated to the roles of third wheel and medical expert, it's always exciting to see her show up in a Defenders show. Hopefully, the show will be smart enough to add some dynamism to her character in later episodes.
Unless the writers pull out a mid-season surprise and does to Ward what Luke Cage did to Cornell Stokes, we'll be stuck with the meandering Meachums for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, the Iron Fist/Hand conflict seems to be heating up, and Danny and Colleen are proving to be enjoyable characters, especially when they're together. Iron Fist made too many errors in its foundation to ever be great like its fellow Marvel shows, but Under Leaf Pluck Lotus is a stepping-stone on the rest of the season's path to redemption. But knowing the show, it's very prone to slipping again.