A bounce back from laughably embarrassing to more-than-okay
I have never made my disdain for Iron Fist more evident and apparent. Identity politics aside, the first season depicted what I believed to be a whiny white rich boy going on temper tantrums, in an aimless television show with subpar fight choreography, terrible editing, and a total lack of atmosphere.
Iron Fist season 2 is a completely different show, with little resemblance to its first season. There’s been a change of showrunner, going from the guy who ruined Dexter (and later drove Inhumans into the ground) to, uh, the guy who wrote the Elektra movie. Not promising on paper, but believe me when I say that Iron Fist season 2 is actually… okay.
Iron Fist (Season 2)
Showrunner: M. Raven Metzner
Release Date: September 7, 2018 (Netflix)
Danny Rand (Finn Jones) is a real superhero this time around. Inheriting the role of New York’s protector from Daredevil after The Defenders, we see right from the start of the season that Danny is fighting crime instead of fighting for himself as he did in the first season. His retreats to what used to be the dojo of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), now converted into an apartment and base of operations, security screens and all. I will dub this the “FistCave.”
Gone is the existential and vague threat of The Hand from Daredevil, Iron Fist season 1, and The Defenders. Instead, Danny and Colleen find themselves embroiled in a gang conflict in Chinatown. But rather than attempting to beat the living hell out of everyone they see in Daredevil fashion, Danny and Colleen instead find themselves as mediators of the gang war, a much fresher approach than the tired and violent ways of the other Netflix-Marvel shows.
But the real antagonist (I hesitate to say “villain” here) is Davos (Sacha Dhawan), essentially Danny’s “brother” from their time training and growing up together in the mystical place of K’un-Lun. Davos has a bone to pick with Danny, believing him to have abandoned his mission in protecting the now-disappeared K’un-Lun—but the motivations are far more rooted on a personal level, with Davos believing that he deserved the Iron Fist more.
Davos joins forces with Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup), who feels burnt by Danny and her brother Ward (the excellent Tom Pelphrey) after the events of season one—together, they plot to take the Fist away from Danny, with Davos aiming to fulfill what he believes to be his destiny, and Joy wanting Danny, who she blames for her life turning upside-down, to feel pain. They hire Mary Walker (Alice Eve), a former Special Ops soldier, as a private investigator to spy on Danny—later, it is revealed that Walker has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s less scenery chewing to be seen here compared to season one—Dhawan’s Davos is calm and well-composed, making his more intense and emotional moments stand out. His tendency towards violence for justice over Danny’s pacifism is something we’ve all seen before, but flashbacks giving context for his strife help to flesh him out. Joy was a static and passive character in season one, but here we see her wrestle internally between her desire to begin anew with her life and her lust for revenge. Eve is convincing as both of her character’s alters, the intensely awkward and meek “Mary” and the violent and unsettling “Walker”—but the show doesn’t help to destigmatize the harmful idea that people with mental health issues are dangerous.
With skilled characters like Danny, Colleen, Davos, and Walker, one would expect some decent action from such a television show. The first season was plagued with problems—it showed that actors like Finn Jones received very little preparation time to train, and the editing of action sequences was comically bad. Here, the action is just fine, actually. Save for an awesome fight scene that pitted Colleen and Luke Cage’s Misty Knight (Simone Missick) against a trio of tattoo artists, no particular action sequence stood out to me—the one with the most potential was a flashback depicting the bloody duel between Danny and Davos for the right to obtain the Iron Fist, but the fight was segmented throughout different points in the episode.
The show still lacks a visual flair, as it still blends too much in with the other Netflix-Marvel programs. I know these shows are street-based, but man, am I tired of every fight scene being in a warehouse of some sort. While this season does get deeper into the mysticism of the lore, the show doesn’t take too much advantage of it—I can’t tell if it’s a reluctance or a lack of budget. This is the show that had the main character gain his power by punching a dragon. I need to see that dragon, dammit. But to support my claim of this being a different show than season one, this season avoids most of the elements that I hated about that first one, namely the “corporate intrigue.” In fact, not a single scene in the season actually takes place in Rand Enterprises. If you somehow loved those dull, corporate boardroom scenes, you’re out of luck.
It’s worth mentioning here that this season of Iron Fist is only 10 episodes long—other than The Defenders, which was an eight-part limited series, these Netflix-Marvel shows are generally 13 episodes a season. While in theory, this should have led to a tighter season, the slow pacing that has plagued all of these Netflix-Marvel shows still rears its head. Danny’s arc goes in circles, with him trying to control his emotions (again) and eventually getting sidelined by an injury. If it’s any indication, there is an early episode of this kung fu-focused show that focuses on a dinner party. It takes until the last few episodes to really ramp up, and I was surprised how satisfied I was by the narrative at the end of everything. Not to mention, the last couple minutes of the final episode was a genuinely exciting peek of what a season 3 might have to offer.
So there you have it: Iron Fist season 2 is not the finest that Netflix-Marvel has to offer, but it is certainly the most improved show out of its entire line-up. All it took was a completely different creative team, addressing every single flaw that the first season had, and overall just being a whole new television show. Easy, right? The circular motion of Danny Rand’s character arc is still apparent, but his dynamic with Davos is compelling enough—and hell, I didn’t even talk about Ward Meachum, whose character arc involving his former addiction was my favorite.
But despite all of my compliments, I’m not going to strongly recommend watching Iron Fist season 2; although the show is at a point where I might finally call it good (emphasis on “might”), it isn’t “must-watch” television—there’s too much good content out there to spare ten more hours. But if you’ve been invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly the Netflix branch, and you used to roll your eyes every time Danny appears on-screen, you should give it a chance. You could very well be surprised.