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.
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.
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.