Before it even debuted, the Marvel and Netflix series Iron Fist was already engulfed in controversy over cultural appropriation. The controversy could’ve been quelled had the show dealt with these issues head on and maintained some semblance of quality, alas it flopped on both of those fronts. Iron Fist wound up being the worst reviewed and received series in the ongoing Marvel/Netflix union. Having a built-in audience on the streaming giant meant that enough eyeballs binged on Iron Fist that it was granted a second season even though it seemed that nobody particularly wanted it. The pop culture machine marches on with Marvel and Netflix unveiling the second season of Iron Fist this weekend, and it’s safe to say that the show has shown numerous signs of improvement in its sophomore season. However, it’s still not a particularly good show with an un-captivating hero, a bland and generic villain, and quite a bit of time spent on the personal struggles of a decidedly unheroic family.
After the events of the first season and The Defenders, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) has left behind his role at his family company, Rand Enterprises, leaving the day-to-day operations in the hands of Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey), who is in recovery after last season’s descent into drug addiction. At night, Danny patrols the streets of New York City as the Immortal Iron Fist, battling assorted baddie with his all-powerful glowing fist. When he’s not battling bad guys, Danny is settling into a new life with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), who has shuttered her martial arts school and turned her back on vigilantism. Danny’s world gets more complicated when Davos (Sacha Dhawan), his “brother” from K’un-Lun, arrives in New York. Davos teams up with Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup), who has just abandoned her post at Rand Enterprises to start her own company, and the alliance leaves Danny and Ward confused and unsettled.
Elsewhere in the world of Iron Fist, the various triads are jockeying for control in the New York City underworld. With a war on the horizon, Danny and Colleen attempt to quell the tensions but unseen forces in the shadows keep pushing the war factions into deeper conflict. And then off on the fringes is Mary (Alice Eve), a mysterious young woman that Danny meets while roaming the streets during the day. Somehow, all of these unusual events seem to revolve around Davos and the nefarious scheme he’s cooking up with Joy, one that may very well threaten the Immortal Iron Fist.
Raven Metzger takes over showrunner duties from Scott Buck, who departed after the first season. Through the first six episodes of the season that were made available for critics, Metzger does move the show forward in a more positive direction but not enough to overcome the muddled tone of the show established in the first season. The biggest problem facing the show is this version of Danny Rand, who is consistently entitled despite his zen-like attitude which is mostly platitudes. The attempts to draw a bigger internal conflict from within Rand always falls flat on its face. Finn Jones is miscast as Danny Rand and winds up being a charisma void in his time on screen. I feel bad for Jones. He’s a young actor given the starring role in a Marvel series and even though I think he does give a poor performance, he’s got no help on the page.
One area where Iron Fist has shown the most improvement is in the fight sequences. The choreography and direction of the show’s fight scenes has made them more visually coherent and thus much more entertaining. What’s lacking in the fight scenes is a reason to care about the outcome. There’s little suspense or tension behind each flying fist. So while the visual language of the battles is improved, most of the fights are just a more viscerally pleasing form of filler.
Therein lies the problem with all the Marvel and Netflix series – too much filler. Each series is contractually obligated to deliver a 13-episode season and the common trend is for strong starts, middling middles, and decent finales. Having only seen six episodes of Iron Fist’s second season, it’s a so-so start that all feel middling. I’m six hours into the show and have no interest in returning for the final seven hours. I think it’s because the side characters aren’t that compelling that the aspects of the show that are filler are just more noticeable because, for example, Ward and Joy Meachum are not engaging characters in any way.
Davos, meanwhile, is the kind of villain that is simply a mirrored version of the hero. He’s provided depth through numerous flashbacks to his youth with Danny in K’un-Lun. M. Raven Metzger and his team of writers must keep Davos’ motivations secret as to fulfill that 13-episode obligation, meaning the villain’s journey is generously padded. By the time all the layers of deceit have been revealed and you see the master plan of the master villain, the simple reaction is to simply shrug and quietly mutter in a sarcastic tone, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.”
The biggest bright spot in Iron Fist is Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing. She the lone member of the cast that elevates every scene she’s in. Henwick is adept at the physically demanding fight scenes as much as she’s able to find the show’s only emotional core in her struggle to leave behind the world of fighting while living with a determined fighter in Danny Rand. Midway through the series, Misty Knight (Simone Missick) from Luke Cage joins the show in a bit of crossover action. One impressive fight sequence with Misty Knight and Colleen left me wondering why I have to bother with a show featuring the moody and angsty Danny Rand when this duo of kick-ass women would be much more captivating.
Iron Fist made modest strides in improving for its second season, but not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation. The longer the Marvel and Netflix union continues, the less and less that these shows feel necessary for fans to stay up to date on. These 13-episode seasons are far too long to sustain these stories and the shows are being negatively affected by it. Just to put it in perspective, the 13 episodes of Iron Fist take about just as much time as two years of Marvel movies (at the current rate of three per year). While I’m a fan of the Marvel movies, I’m just about the end of my rope with these Netflix shows. Iron Fist can’t sustain any energy from scene to scene let alone episode to episode. I think the only way to salvage the character is to just movie Iron Fist over to Luke Cage and give us a damn Heroes for Hire series already. This Iron Fist ain’t immortal, he’s got a real short shelf life.
- Season 2
Though an improvement on the first season, Iron Fist still remains a wobbly Marvel series with an un-engaging hero and significant pacing issues, though Jessica Henwick shines as Colleen Wing.