TV Reviews

I Just Reached the Halfway Point of Iron Fist’s Second Season. I Have Some Thoughts.

After a rocky first season, Iron Fist returns with a new showrunner, shortened episode total, and tonal course correction. After five episodes, I’m rather unimpressed with what they’ve come up with. Here are my spoiler-lite thoughts:

It was only 18 months ago that Iron Fist debuted to yawns and often outright mockery. In the time since then, Danny Rand has undergone several reinterpretations, handed off to The Defenders and Luke Cage showrunners, presumably after receiving an email from Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb with the subject line: “Help Fix This!” The results have shown marginal improvement, mostly by turning Danny more into a comic relief presence disrespected by his fellow Netflix heroes and a galling symbol of white privilege to be battled and then befriended by Luke Cage. Safe to say, the man has been sufficiently humbled and although he still has his riches he’s lost much of what gave his life meaning, apart from Colleen.

But, Danny has to stand on his own again. Surprising many, Netflix opted to give Iron Fist a second season, albeit with Sleepy Hollow’s Raven Metzner replacing Scott Buck behind the scenes and a reduced episode order (10 instead of the customary 13). When Metzner was hired, Loeb gushed, “Raven’s love of all things Iron Fist and his extensive knowledge of martial arts films made him the perfect choice to continue telling the adventures of Danny Rand and Colleen Wing.”

Not surprisingly, then, Metzner’s version of the show leans heavier into martial arts tropes and comic book easter eggs (look the Iron Fist costume!) and characters (Hey, here’s Alice Eve playing multiple personality sufferer-Typhoid Mary!) and moves almost entirely away from the RAND corporate settings of the first season. The odd thing, however, is I find myself missing those old boardrooms, those scenes of Ward and Joy Meachum playing Donald, Jr. and Ivanka to their deranged father Harold.

For example, I’m five episodes into the new season and I don’t have any sense that Ward does anything with his time other than attend AA meetings (where he regularly insults everyone and seduces his sponsor), hang out at Danny’s apartment (which used to be Colleen’s now-shuddered dojo), and yell at his assistant. To be fair, his arc of seeking redemption and forgiveness is the single most successful part of the season so far, but you’d never really know he runs a multi-billion dollar company.

This might be a reflection of budget cuts. This might also be a purposeful choice to prioritize the mystical side of the show over its more sedate trappings of legal wranglings, corporate contracts, and general CEO shenanigans. If the season 1 criticism of Danny was that he wasn’t sympathetic or relatable enough – a rich, lost boy dropped into a universe populated by a blind lawyer for the downtrodden, badass, PTSD-suffering private investigator, and Black Lives Matter hero – the second season understandably seeks to reform Danny into the new Daredevil.

He’s now a creature of the streets, striving to carry on Matt Murdock’s mission (since the world believes the man dead after Defenders). By day, Danny works a blue-collar, labor-intensive job as a mover, but he’s not balancing his two lives well, causing friction with an increasingly worried Colleen. Still, at least he’s not sneering at Ward and Joy from the opposite side of boardroom anymore, that’s for sure, nor is he walking around naively quoting proverbs.

I get what they’re doing, but turning Danny into a Daredevil clone, interrupting gang wars in the neighborhood and burning it bright on both ends feels, familiar and boring. The one thing this show had going for it was the unique-for-the-Netflix-Marvel-universe lives of Joy and Ward Meachum. Last season, they were the stars of their own comic book version of Succession, HBO’s current prestige drama fictionalizing the real live power struggles in the Murdoch and Redstone families. Here in the second season, they’ve been brought down to Danny’s level, flipping roles even, with Ward now the well-meaning hero and Joy the vengeance-seeking villain conspiring with the similarly slighted season 1 side character Davos.

Credit to harifism at TVTime.com

Based upon the social media reactions I’ve seen, most regard this is a turn for the better, and my boredom with it likely reflects my lack of exposure to any actual Iron Fist comic books. That I didn’t squeal with joy when a flashback revealed Danny and Davos fighting while each wearing the classic Iron Fist costume is probably a delegitimizing moment for whether my opinion here really matters.

Ultimately, Iron Fist began as a show saved by its co-stars and it remains a show carried by its co-stars. The infusion of energy brought to the proceedings once Misty Knight shows up, for example, and gives Colleen a different set of emotions to play is a reminder that, sadly, the worst part of Iron Fist remains Danny. However, the new showrunner has taken the action out of corporate American and down to the streets, more in line with the comics and the Netflix Marvel DNA. The result, for me, is something even less interesting. After the reaction to the first season, a change was inevitable, but as always I’m mostly hanging around for Ward and Joy.

What about you? Let me know in the comments.

Favorite Scene So Far

Danny and Colleen’s super awkward dinner date with Davos and Joy in the third episode. Kudos to Colleen for trying to cut through the bullshit and have everyone lay everything out there. Having Joy and Davos just own up to their baggage but dispaly their inability to move on is far more interesting to me than Davos conducting some weird ancient ritual with the help of three tattoo artists.

Least Favorite Scene(s) So Far

Anything to do with the parlays between the rival gangs. I’m just over this kind of stuff in the Netflix Marvel universe.

Would Be Okay With…

Like a thousand more scenes of Danny and Ward just busting each other’s balls.

Have they always…

Made so many “Your fist lights up? Well, that’s stupid” jokes?

Is it just me or…

Wasn’t the reduced episode order supposed to solve the Netflix bloat, force them to hurry up with their storytelling and not have so many purely transitional episodes? Because it doesn’t seem as if the pacing has actually improved much.

Bold Prediction

Danny and Colleen aren’t together anymore by the end of the season. Second seasons of Marvel shows have a tendency to break couples up and we’re starting to see signs of friction. That being said, their bond seems stronger than most in this subarm of the MCU, and I’ve heard nothing about Jessica Henwick maybe wanting out the same way Rosario Dawson did en route to successfully securing a reduced role in Luke Cage’s second season.

One Final Thing

Have Alice Eve, Rachael Taylor (Trish on Jessica Jones), and Erin Richards (Barbara on Gotham) ever been photographed in the same room? Because they might, in fact, be the same person. On the plus side, if Eve’s Walker/Mary survives the season they could set her up as Trish’s long-lost sister, comic book continuity be damned.

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4 comments

  1. Having already seen the whole thing and having been VERY nervous about them doing another “gang breaks up” ending beforehand I will reveal to you, that I quite like the ending. In fact, I think the last five minutes or so were my favourite part of the whole season, because they finally delivered the batshit-crazy stuff I enjoyed so much in the first season.

    So, yeah, I agree with you. They improved on so many levels, better editing, better fight scenes, a story which flows way better (the pacing picks up in the second half), but now the show is lacking nearly everything which made the first season special and different from Daredevil and Luke Cage. I like what they did with Davos (you’ll see what I mean what you have seen all of it), I really enjoy all the characters but, well, one of my favourite moments are always when Danny turns up in a rich people setting and isn’t acting like a rich guy at all. Or when he is nice to his employees. So, yes, I am really missing the board room stuff too, but I am not surprised that they did away with it, considering how much the so called fans complained about it, despite it being among the best stuff in the first season imho.

    In the end, Season 2 feels a little bit like a transition. Like the new Show runner has a vision for the show BUT first needs to deal with what was dumbed on his doorstep, so he new has to move the characters and the show itself to a place he likes. And yet, the show I actually want to see is what will happen between season 2 and 3 (again, you’ll get what I mean when you see it whole).

    I initially agreed regarding the crime family stuff, but in the end, Iron Fist did something quite interesting with it, so while I was first annoyed by it, I quite liked it in hindsight.

  2. I had never heard of Iron Fist prior to Netlfix, but when I read up on the character, I was super excited. After the jaw dropping fight scenes in Dare Devil (and story telling in season 1), I was super stoked to see a show with a real martial arts expert (character). How much better would the fight scenes be when your hero is a mystically trained martial artist?

    I was so sadly disappointed. The actor playing Danny can’t act and can’t fight. What were they thinking. In season 1, he admitted that he was learning many of the fight choreography 15 minutes before shooting. Yeah, that would explain it.

    So, I was cautiously hopeful season 2 would fix that by having the lead get some decent training in — and having a show runner who knows and loves the character.

    So, Friday night, I bought a bunch of junk food to binge IF2 with my son. After the first episode, he said he was tired and was going to bed. I stayed up but watched a movie instead.

    Episode 1 didn’t do anything to make me think season 2 would be any better than season 1.

    I get that Danny is naive in business and feels guilty about his “privilege”, but you have to be pretty dang stupid to sign a hundred page contract without reading it first, let alone having an attorney read it — even if you do trust the other party. So, so stupid.

    The 2 or 3 fight scenes in ep 1 still looked like kids play acting. Not only does the actress playing Colleen give us a much more convincing performance, but Danny’s supposed legendary fighting skills struggle to take down common street thugs. Good grief.

    And the fact that Danny keeps ending fights he should be winning by lighting up his fist is just stupid. When Indiana Jones shot the swordsman with his gun, it was funny. Once. But, it sure wouldn’t be if that’s how he ended every fight. But, that’s what Danny seems to need to do.

    There’s also the massive contradiction of Danny’s words (I’m at peace. Stillness is power.) and his actions. He still fights with anger and even his daily actions don’t come across as a man at peace.

    None of his fight moves have any FEELING to them. It never looks like any actual contact is being made.

    A good martial artist is efficient and smooth and controlled. Danny’s fights never portray this. The closest that came to that was in his first run in with the security guards at Rand Corp in season 1. That’s how all of his fights should be — with common fighters. The more desperate look should be reserved for enemies who’ve had similar training.

    But, Danny’s fights with street thugs don’t look much different than his fights with Davos. So stupid.

    I’ll finish watching it. But, I’m so sad for the show it could have and should have been.

    1. I think Ward said it best this season when he busted Danny’s balls by joking, “I thought you were supposed to be like the best fighter in the world or something.” Yeah….not from what we’ve seen. 🙂

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