Iron Fist has a lot going against it in the lead-up to season two. Not only did the show host one of the lowest ratings in the entire MCU, it definitely did not endear audiences to Danny Rand (Finn Jones). In fact, in our review of the first season, we pretty much said the only thing that worked was the show’s female cast.
The major thing working against it was its showrunner: Scott Buck. Our feelings toward him are best represented by the gif below.
Let’s be honest, Marvel put their trust in the wrong person. Scott Buck not only screwed over the character of Danny Rand, he also screwed over The Inhumans as well. While The Defenders definitely helped ease over some of the more irritating traits Buck brought to the forefront in the first season of Iron Fist, Luke Cage pretty much gave us the Danny Rand we always wanted.
Honestly, though, it made me wonder if MCU Danny Rand functions better as a supporting character. Throughout season two of Iron Fist, I can’t help but wonder if new showrunner M. Raven Metzner was thinking the same thing.
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way: Is Iron Fist season two better than season one?
Yes. Yes, it is. The first five minutes of Iron Fist season two had more dynamic action and clever fight choreography than throughout the majority of the first season. (The exception in the first season is Lewis Tan, who is probably Iron Fist in an alternate universe.) It sets the tone through the second season: better fights, bigger action, stakes that feel simultaneously higher and more personal.
Metzner, out of all the MCU showrunners, had one of the toughest jobs I’ve seen in years. He had to take a universally loathed show with a character most people thought was boring and fell into uncomfortable tropes and make it better. It definitely helps that Metzner is a longtime fan of Iron Fist. There’s a sense of history there, an understanding that wasn’t there with Buck.
He also makes the interesting choice of making Iron Fist feel more ensemble than the other shows. It’s not just Danny Rand we’re following, but everyone in his world. Danny functions as a common thread, a common orbit. Sometimes things happen to him to move the story along, but it’s fundamentally more than just his story. That isn’t to say Finn Jones doesn’t do a good job. He proved over on Luke Cage’s second season that he makes an excellent Danny Rand under the right direction and writing.
Metzner’s writers room does a much better job with Danny’s character. As many say, however, there will always be uncomfortable connotations that come from Danny’s creation and world. The white savior narrative doesn’t look good, especially in today’s TV market, it’s a lot more toned down here. But there are still several moments, such as Danny lecturing the Triad leaders, that just don’t… land well.
The returning characters were all elevated in the second season. Jessica Henwick remains one of the MCU’s secret weapons as Colleen Wing, who is trying to figure herself out post-Midland Circle. We’re not spoiling what happens, but how she ends the season? It’s a gamechanger. We honestly can’t wait to see what she does and where she goes. Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum was the picture of someone way in over her head as she struggles walking the line between good and evil. Even Tom Pelphrey’s Ward Meachum got an upgrade, who I pretty much admitted to hating in the first season. He’s still an asshole, but he’s one with a pathos we can start understanding.
Sacha Dhawan returns as a Davos in an expanded role in season two. During the season, he steals Danny’s Iron Fist abilities, feeling that Danny stole his birthright from him. Davos is interesting. It’s hard to really pin him down as a character, his motivations. Rather than an antagonist, he acts more as a foil. He also acts far more privileged and entitled as well. While we do see his reasons, it feels like it could have been fleshed out more. Still he makes for a good counterpoint to Danny and company.
Joining the cast this season are Simone Missick as Misty Knight and Alice Eve as Mary Walker (Typhoid Mary for you comic fans). Misty just makes everything like 60 percent more awesome just by being near it. Missick has just made the role hers in some amazing ways. Her friendship and chemistry with Colleen? It’s perfection. Utter, utter perfection.
Alice Eve as the fractured Mary Walker is an interesting addition to the cast. I like how she can just kind of turn on a dime from fragile, sweet-hearted Mary to icy competent yet direct Walker. The dynamics will definitely be interesting to explore in future seasons. Plus she’s tied to Sokovia in a big way, which folds in the larger MCU in the more intimate Netflix shows. It’s quite deftly handled.
Honestly, by drawing and fleshing out the characters, it makes for a richer story. This season also examines the show’s title: Iron Fist. It’s not a singular character like Daredevil or Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. With those shows, the majority of the action is focused on them because they’re the title character. Iron Fist, however, isn’t called Danny Rand. It means that anyone can hold the power, which is interesting when Davos is in control of it.
(There’s also this weird recurring subplot where the Dragon’s heart is like pushing Danny and Davos to more violent ends. They try expanding on it in a later episode, but we just don’t know much about the Iron Fist abilities to have it land right.)
Still, as we said, Danny Rand seems to function best as a supporting character in the story. With the gamechanger ending that the finale closes on, it’s pretty damn tantalizing to see where the show goes next. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I can’t wait to see the show’s hypothetical third season.
If the show’s first season turned you off, then I recommend giving the second season a chance. If you want a grade for it, then I give it a solid B. Maybe that’s being generous, but considering what we had, I frankly don’t care. Raven Metzner is clearly a witch.