The first season of Netflix’s Iron Fist was abominable. It was easily the worst Marvel show on television, with a badly cast Finn Jones as the titular Iron Fist. Jones’ lack of martial arts training was painfully apparent during the fight sequences, which were unspectacular and uninspired in comparison to the scintillating choreography of Daredevil or the hard-edged brutality of The Punisher. This was compounded by the tedious storytelling, which often lapsed into too much telling and not enough showing. Overall, Iron Fist was an unwatchable mess of a series that some fans hoped would never get renewed.
But he's not called the Immortal Iron Fist for nothing, and Netflix has given the hero with a glowing hand a second season, which turns out to be a pretty good thing.
Showrunner Scott Buck—perhaps the biggest villain of season 1—is gone, replaced by Sleepy Hollow producer Raven Metzner. Jones and Metzner were in APCC last July to promote the second season of Iron Fist, giving some lucky APCC attendees a sneak peek at the first episode of the show, which packs more excitement and promise than the entirety of the first season. Jones, who exudes the same, easygoing demeanor as his character Danny Rand, says that he underwent intensified martial arts training and studied Tibetan culture in the wake of season 1’s lukewarm reception, and it shows.
Danny Rand is Becoming the Hero Everyone Wants Him To Be
The first episode sets the tone for the new season, and Danny has matured more than any of the other Defenders. If Season 1’s Iron Fist was annoying and cocky, this time around he’s calmer, cooler, and actually really likable. Metzner downplayed Danny’s lack of maturity in the first season, saying, “what’s more interesting? Do you want to meet a character who already knows everything? Yawn.” He explains that from a storytelling perspective, it was important to see an evolution of the character, “it’s a more interesting story (for audiences) to be with Danny as he becomes the hero that everyone wants him to be.”
Danny’s journey sees him breaking away from Rand Enterprises, working a blue collar job as mover, and shacking up with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) at her old dojo, which they’ve converted into a bohemian apartment decked not-so-subtly in the Iron Fist’s signature green and yellow.
Jones and Henwick have absolutely no chemistry, but their pairing works because it feels familiar and comfortable. Their zen-like, almost asexual relationship contrasts with, say, the fiery passion of Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), or the animalistic, raw sexuality of Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and whoever she’s decided to hook up with. Colleen and Danny are playing house, and it’s about as steady as it gets for a crime-fighting couple.
One of the best things of the second season is the decision to ground the series in Manhattan’s Chinatown. If Daredevil protects Hell’s Kitchen and Luke Cage has Harlem, it’s fitting that the Immortal Iron Fist’s beat is the Asian-American community beset with a turf war among the Triad gangs.
Another great thing about the second season is the wise decision to make Danny more pacifist in his dealings. Yes, he lets his glowing fist—which, Metzner points out, has been improved in terms of animation and effects this season—fly every now and then, but Danny constantly attempts to broker peace between the triads, greatly reducing the need for Jones to display his martial prowess or lack thereof. From a character development perspective, it works. For martial arts fans, it’s only a little bit of a letdown and wuxia fans will need to turn to ANC’s Into the Badlands for their kung fu fix. That said, there’s just enough action to keep this series interesting.
(Iron) Fists Fly in This New Season
Jones credits stunt coordinate Clayton Barber, who’s worked on Black Panther and Creed, for bringing an interesting dynamic to the fight scenes. “He’s a great mentor, a great coach,” Jones relates, “and he really helped elevate the sequences.” The more exciting fight scenes in season 2 aren’t actually with the Iron Fist, but rather with Colleen, especially when she takes on a trio of tebori artists dressed like they were on their way to a Clash reunion concert. She’s helped by Misty Knight (Simone Missick), who cameos in the series, so comic book fans should enjoy the Daughters of the Dragon pair up again after their brief stint in Luke Cage.
Danny’s adoptive brother Davos (Sacha Dhawan) plays the main villain and assumes his role as the Iron Fist-usurping Steel Serpent. Dhawan is a competent actor but falls short in terms of menace, which is a shame. He is unfairly tasked with living up to the utterly terrifying Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) from Daredevil and Kilgrave (David Tennant) from Jessica Jones, but he is even less scary than Shades (Theo Rossi) from Luke Cage. Fortunately, Alice Eve picks up the slack with her layered portrayal of the dissociative identity disorder-afflicted Typhoid Mary. Metzner directed 2005’s Elektra, which also featured Typhoid Mary, and this version is an even deadlier one.
The strongest elements of Iron Fist are its women. From Colleen to Hatchet Gang matriarch Mrs. Yang (Christine Toy Johnson), from Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) to Typhoid Mary, the series is permeated with so much feminine energy it almost feels like a deliberate effort to tie Eastern mysticism to femininity.
Although it isn’t new for Netflix to give the directorial reins to women—actress Lucy Liu directs the first episode of the second season of Luke Cage—several episodes of the second season are directed by women, and as a whole Iron Fist emanates more Yin energy than Yang, and the series benefits from it. Whereas Luke Cage is an extremely masculine black hero with shades of domestic violence, his traditional comic book partner Danny Rand is less testosterone-laden alpha male and more tea-drinking, meditating zeta. Giving Colleen Wing nearly equal billing in the posters and even the story gives Iron Fist a different feel from other Netflix Marvel series.
Unlike Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, the second season of Iron Fist doesn’t drag its feet and there are hardly any pacing issues. Things happen quickly and there’s no feeling of trying to stretch the ten-episode season. Even the parts that focus on Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) and his sessions with Narcotics Anonymous and how he deals with the aftermath of season 1 feel meaningful and interesting.
Under the stewardship of a self-confessed Iron Fist fan (Metzner sported a Tom Whalen Iron Fist enamel pin during interviews), the second season is eminently more enjoyable than the first, with a hero fans will hopefully no longer love to hate, but actually grow to love.