Getting through Season 1 of Iron Fist was a chore, it had a lot of inconsistencies in its writing, character work, and worst of all, the action left a lot to be desired. Season 2 was surrounded by trepidation. A new show-runner (Raven Metzner), as well as a top-level fight coordinator (Clayton Barber, Black Panther, Creed) promised better things were in store for season 2… and things have clearly changed. (cue sigh of relief)
Warning: Some spoilers from The Defenders will follow in this spoiler-free review.
Inspired by Matt Murdock’s sacrifice in Midland Circle, Danny Rand/Iron Fist has made it his mission to protect New York. He’s moved in with Colleen Wing, he’s working a blue collar job as a mover and Colleen is working at a local community centre. Little do they know, there’s a power vacuum in the criminal underworld that the triads are trying to fill with the Hand being gone, and Davos and Joy Meachum are up to no good.
Right off the bat, it feels different. The show wisely sets it in Chinatown, which gives it an identity that the last season lacked as the corporate high rise setting didn’t mesh well with the mystical, martial arts aesthetic. It also goes to K’un L’un via flashbacks.
The acting has stepped up considerably. Finn Jones imbues a sense of earnestness and humility to Danny, at times to a fault, he’s not declaring himself to anyone within the sound of his voice (thankfully). His time with some friends* (Luke Cage, in particular) has smoothed out those coarse edges. Jessica Henwick, the breakout star of last season, shines even brighter this time around. She conveys Colleen’s disenchantment with the Hand so much so that she’s hung up her sword for good because of what happened in Midland Circle. Ward Meachum, played by Tom Pelphrey, continues his stellar arc with his struggles with sobriety.
* The Defenders. Go watch it if you haven’t.
Iron Fist also improves in the villain department with Sacha Dwahan’s Davos and Alice Eve’s Mary Walker (better known to hardcore fans as Typhoid Mary). Sacha gives Davos pathos as he feels that being the Iron Fist is his birthright, and he feels that Danny, being an outsider, is undeserving. From an ideological standpoint, they are good foils to one another. Danny’s the optimist, whereas Davos is the hardline realist.
I was on edge every time Alice Eve was on screen. Mary Walker suffers from dissociative identity disorder as she has multiple personalities (alters). The show handles this mental illness surprisingly well with the visual cues that trigger either one of Mary’s personas. When her “Walker” persona surfaces, it’s scary. The potential to use her in other Marvel/Netflix shows is huge. I’d love to see her and Daredevil cross paths one day! Jessica Stroup’s Joy Meachum also served some serious sass, as well.
Put ’em up:
The fight sequences are leaps and bounds more fluid, even elegant at times, than last season. Clayton Barber’s the unsung MVP of this season as he gives Iron Fist‘s action a serious level-up and identity. There’s a kitchen fight sequence that echoes old-school Jackie Chan, the ceremonial fight between Danny and Davos (complete with the iconic yellow mask!) and the Daughters of the Dragon’s tattoo parlour brawl against the Crane Sisters are standouts. Plus, it doesn’t suck that the cast (Finn Jones, especially) did the majority of the fight scenes themselves with little use of stunt doubles and the cinematography makes sure of that.
The show leans into the Daughters of the Dragon full bore, as Misty Knight stops by for an extended visit to give Colleen some motivation. Simone Missick elevates the season as her chemistry with Jessica Henwick is electric. As much as Danny has improved as a character, Misty and Colleen constantly show him up. I’d happily sit through a spin-off with those two any day!
Another bonus is that the pacing has somewhat been solved at a leaner 10 episodes. A common complaint in Marvel’s Netflix shows is that 13 episodes can drag out the story. The show hits the ground running in the first episode. By episode 3, it slowed it down, but it steps on the gas by the tail end.
Overall, Iron Fist season 2 learned from its predecessor’s many mistakes with a much better, polished outing. As the expression goes “fool me once, shame on you…” I’m happy to say that Iron Fist didn’t fool me twice. The glow-up is real.