It sometimes feels like I’m one of the few people who actual tends to enjoy the Marvel shows that Netflix is currently putting out. They aren’t perfect, but for reasons that I don’t fully understand they seem to illicit and almost irrational amount of hatred in people, most of the shows having been completely written off by the majority of people who write obsessively about pop culture on the internet. I assume they must still be popular, otherwise Netflix wouldn’t keep making them, but it can be lonely to be a seemingly lone defender of these weird little superhero stories. So far I’ve more or less enjoyed all of the shows that Netflix has produced, giving us the adventures of some of my absolute favorite Marvel characters. There is one pretty big exception to that though. Even I couldn’t find much to enjoy from the first season of Iron Fist. I discussed the show when it first aired, and did my best to grapple with the profound disappointment that I felt after slogging through that season of television. Very little of Iron Fist worked, and it was a colossal bummer, because I’ve been a big fan of Danny Rand and the entire Iron Fist mythos for quite some time. It seemed like an easy show to make work, but they appeared to make every bad decision they could, creating a season that somehow had simultaneously too much plot and a serious pacing problem. Everything was dragged out, the acting was spotty, the writing wasn’t great, the fights were terrible, and it was generally just a lot of wheel-spinning and exposition to get the Defenders up and running. It was really the only one of these Marvel shows that I actively disliked, and was worried that maybe the bloom had come off the rose, and I was starting to pull away from these shows.
But then something odd happened. Danny wasn’t terrible in the Defenders. The writing, directing, and choreography on Defenders was better than Iron Fist, so that helped a lot, but in general the portrayal of Danny Rand was greatly improved. And then, earlier this year, we got a single episode cameo from Danny in the second season of Luke Cage, and he was a downright delight. They seemed to have finally cracked the character, which was a major problem with the first season. So, for the first time, I started to feel some excitement towards the second season of Iron Fist. And that excitement continued to grow as more information came out about the show. A big sign of improvement was that they got rid of Scott Buck, the man who, potentially unfairly, was blamed for a lot of the first season’s problems, replacing him with show-runner Raven Metzner. Then there was the announcement that the show was only going to be ten episodes instead of the typical thirteen, something people have been recommending almost from the very beginning of this mini-franchise. A greater focus was being put on plotting and action, and they actually seemed to be listening. I’ve enjoyed these shows, but some of the complaints have made sense to me. And for quite a while it’s felt like the people who didn’t like these shows were yelling at a brick wall, raising complaints and concerns and watching the shows ignore them and keep doing what they’ve always done, losing more and more people. But, that seems to have changed. Things were handled differently for the second season of Iron Fist, and in my opinion, it paid off. It’s still not my favorite of these shows, not by a long shot, but it’s a vast improvement in almost every single way. And, I’m genuinely curious and excited to see where Iron Fist goes from here, something that I couldn’t imagine being possible after ending the first season.
Iron Fist season two opens up some time after the events of the Defenders. Danny Rand has helped save New York from an army of evil ninjas, and in the process has defeated the ancient enemy that he seemingly was born to defeat. And, with his purpose more or less completed, he’s struggling to find a new calling. He’s trying to start a life with his girlfriend Colleen Wing, he’s working at a moving company to gain some perspective, and he’s continuing to help influence the massive multinational corporation that his family built with his friend Ward. Things seem to be going well for Danny Rand, until he decides to make his new mission to eradicate the triads from his new home of Chinatown. He has problems playing the multiple allegiances against one another, and generally makes a fool of himself in the process. And, in the process, he ends up being too distracted to notice that a plot is forming to destroy him. Ward’s sister Joy has returned to New York with a man named Davos, a former friend of Danny’s who trained in the same mystical city as he did. The two both swore vengeance on Danny Rand at the end of the first season, and their return seems to show that things are going to go bad pretty soon. And that’s confirmed when we find that Joy and Davos have hired a mercenary named Mary Walker to take Danny down. Mary lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder, having two separate personalities, the meek and kind Mary and the brutal killer Walker. Walker has specifically been brought in because she’s found a way to counter the Iron Fist, letting her defeat Danny. And, she succeeds. She takes Danny out, giving Davos the chance to perform a forbidden ceremony that transfers the might of the Iron Fist from Danny to himself.
At this point Danny has been grievously wounded, and no longer has the mystical power that has made him a superhero. He’s forced to sit back on the sidelines at this point, having Colleen carry the brunt of the work as Chinatown’s defender. She does her best, but a newly superpowered Davos becomes untenable in their small community. Because Davos actually seems to have liked Danny’s plan. The magical city of K’un L’un has vanished off the face of the earth and their great enemy the Hand have been vanquished. There’s technically nothing else an Iron Fist is supposed to do, so Davos decides to also take down the triads and keep New York safe. But, he does this by brutally killing everyone he comes in contact with, escalating the gang war to a violent extreme, causing quite a bit of chaos. He even convinces a local gang of angry teenagers to become his own personal army, training them to become his kung fu minions to spread his violent gospel. Danny and Colleen really have no idea what to do, until Joy ends up having a change of heart, and manages to give Danny a magic bowl that Davos used in the ceremony. He, Colleen, Ward, police officer Misty Knight, and Walker then end up teaming up to help take the Iron Fist away from Davos. But, Danny doesn’t think he deserves to have the power back. He’s felt disconnected from his power, and has decided that he wasn’t a worthy wielder of the Fist. Instead, he wants Colleen to take it. She’s pretty against this at first, but ends up agreeing eventually, giving the Fist a new wielder. They manage to take Davos and his army of children down, and Colleen performs the ceremony to take the Iron Fist from Davos. Davos is then arrested, and people figure out what they’re going to do from now on. Misty tries to tempt Colleen into starting a private investigating company, but Colleen seems more interested in figuring out her new role in the world. And, oddly enough, so does Danny, because by the end of the season he’s realized that Colleen may be more than she ever though, and could be an ancestor of the first woman Iron Fist, making her royalty of K’un-L’un. So, Danny and Ward then decide to leave New York and begin travelling the world, tracking down the history of K’un-L’un and the Iron Fist, eventually stumbling upon a mysterious person called Orson Randall.
I actually found myself really liking this season, which I wasn’t really expecting to. I didn’t want to watch this show begrudgingly or anything, but the first season really didn’t inspire much confidence. Danny’s appearances in the shows after were enough to convince me to give it another shot, and I’m glad I did, because I had a good time with this season. The fighting was much more satisfying, the writing was a lot better, and that shortened run-time worked wonders for the show, removing a lot of the glut and making it much tighter story. Basically everything about this season was an improvement over the first, and it was nice to see these characters I love so much at least get closer to their comic book selves. Yeah, Danny’s still arguably the worst part of this show, but it almost seems like the show has realized that? The way this season ends, with Colleen becoming the new Iron Fist and Danny becoming some sort of K’un-L’un historian investigating Orson Randall was me very excited. I have no idea where things are going to go from here, since it’s not really anything I’ve ever seen in the comics, but I like the way things are going.
I’m a big fan of Iron Fist, and specifically of the truly spectacular the Immortal Iron Fist run. That series focused deeply on Danny, and built up the mythos of the Iron Fist in a fascinating way, introducing the long legacy of the Iron Fist, the wonderful Orson Randall, and the delightfully complex world of the Seven Cities of Heaven. It makes sense that they couldn’t really start this series by adapting that story, since you kind of need to introduce Danny before reinventing him, and I’ve been excited to see this story slowly moving into the territory that that run created. And, just as the series starts to tease us with Orson Randall and multiple Iron Fists, they throw the wonderful twist of Colleen getting the Fist. Which really recontextualized the entire season in a way that I really loved. Because this season really takes an interesting look at the whole idea of the “chosen one” mentality that often comes with characters like Iron Fist. It’s always felt weird that Danny Rand, a rich white guy from America, was chosen to be the predestined wielder of a magical weapon in a mystical Far East city, and this show ended up confronting that weirdness head-on. Davos isn’t exactly the deepest villain, but his entire motivation is that he finds it incredibly unfair that Danny got to be Iron Fist. He was born and raised in K’un-L’un, the son of the man who trains potential Iron Fists, and then this white kid falls from the sky and gets the job he was born to do. He doesn’t think that Danny deserves to be the Iron Fist. And he especially doesn’t think that Colleen deserves to be the Iron Fist. He hates Colleen and everything she represents with a passion, and believes that just because he was born into K’un-L’un he deserves to be the Iron Fist. It’s a weird kind of gatekeeping, someone who has decided who should and shouldn’t be the Iron Fist, and how that power is to be wielded, unaware of the way the world has changed. Yeah, things get a little muddled at the end when we learn Colleen may actually be some sort of K’un-L’un royalty, but the way the season was going, saying that there shouldn’t be chosen ones and that great power should be given to whoever can do the most good with it, really worked wonders for me, and I’m fascinated to see how things go from here.
Iron Fist was created by Scott Buck and showran by Raven Metzner, 2018.
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