This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Iron Fist.
Superpowers are a complicated thing. The worst case scenario is that they end up in the hands of someone with less than great intentions. In the best, the hero manages to do a little good. But even in the story with a happy ending, those powers typically come with a price. Each superhero narrative chooses a different cost. Often it’s a loss of a loved one. Sometimes it can be a loss of belief or innocence. Others, it's the loss of freedoms they had before their mission overtook their lives.
Astonishingly, Iron Fist season two goes deeper than that. If you were around last year for my review of season one, you know that no one is more surprised by that sentiment than me. The first season was sloppy, convoluted, mildly problematic and overflowing with subpar fight choreography. A new fight choreographer, showrunner, and story direction later, and you have yourself a show that’s not only watchable, but fun.
While Danny’s progress between seasons is impressive, it’s also not portrayed so quickly that it’s unbelievable. He might not be loathsome anymore, but he’s still the reactionary little twerp he’s always been. His actions early in the season land an undercover cop in the hospital, and throw off a bust with potential to take down both factions of the warring Triads they’re dealing with. But all of this serves an actual story purpose rather than simply being used to illustrate how much of a mess the hero is.
Danny’s haste results in the entrance of Misty Knight (Simone Missick), leading to one of the best parts of the show’s second season: The Daughters of the Dragon. Though they’re never mentioned by name, and it’s more of a tease than anything, Misty and Colleen’s “The Dragon Dies at Dawn” episode gave us everything - from the traditional buddy cop formula to touching moments of women supporting women. The fight scene in the Crane Sister’s tattoo parlor ain’t too shabby, either.
Iron Fist season two shines brightest when focused on anyone but Danny Rand, and it blissfully spends the majority of its time doing so. Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) remains the most well-rounded aspect of the show. Her story this year gifts us with the incredible Mary Walker (Alice Eve), and continues to intertwine with the complicated and messy story of Iron Fist’s low-key MVP: her brother, Ward (Tom Pelphrey).
After receiving such miserable reviews for season one, the teams behind Iron Fist pulled out all the stops to improve the show’s second season. This includes going so far as to remove Danny as the Fist entirely, and not just because Davos (Sacha Dhawan) stole it from him.
Danny’s big realization of the season is the fact that he has no purpose. After losing his parents, his purpose was becoming the Iron Fist. When he accomplished that, his purpose became eradicating the Hand. Once that was done, he found himself spinning his wheels and doing whatever he could to use his powers. There was no longer a reason behind his need, only the desire to feel in control.
Addiction is a running theme throughout Iron Fist. We see Ward Meachum coming off of the narcotics he took last year before committing patricide for the second time, Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) is no longer throwing herself into cage matches just to feel something, and Danny’s acknowledgment of his own addiction might just be the turning point for his character.
The lowest point of Iron Fist’s second season occurs as Colleen tells Danny that she cannot train him because it would cost her a part of herself and lead their relationship down a different path. The last living Rand’s selfishness takes over once again as he turns their home back into the dojo it once was, ignoring his girlfriend’s pain and doing what he wants as always. Because of that, you can understand Colleen’s hesitance when Danny requests she become the Iron Fist after he understands his addiction.
Despite initially believing that Danny’s request is rooted in selfishness and fear, Colleen ultimately agrees, just like she ultimately agreed to train him. While we all knew she wouldn’t be the only Iron Fist for long, it was nice to see the acknowledgment that this version of Danny Rand is in no way worthy of the Fist, and too much of a reactionary mess to save lives. But, like his powers, Danny’s self-centered behavior comes with a price. Colleen agreed to train him, and eventually agrees to take on the powers of the Iron Fist, but the two are no longer the happy couple they were at the beginning of the season. There’s still clearly love on both sides, but we’ll have to wait for future seasons to see if the two can mend fences. Particularly after Danny makes the decision to leave Colleen with nothing more than a note and a “see ya!”.
Gotta stay on brand, no matter how much character growth you’ve got going on.
In addition to improving upon numerous first season flaws, Iron Fist brings in strong ties to its comic book roots in season two. There will be some irritated that Colleen Wing canonically never wielded the fist, but it’s now impossible to deny her connection to the Pirate Queen Wu Ao-Shi, the very first female Iron Fist. Along with Wu Ao-Shi’s introduction to the MCU’s lore comes Orson Randall. Good ol’ Randall is the gentleman who provided Davos with the crispy old Iron Fist. Like the Pirate Queen, some liberties will be taken with Randall’s story, but let’s just say that the pistol wielding, dual Iron-Fisted Danny at the very end wasn’t there solely to comfort grumpy fanboys who were worried they’d be stuck with a female Iron Fist in the inevitable season three.
Ten episodes seemed like just the right number for this season’s story. Admittedly, that might have been because the story was actually intriguing this time around, but the length gave them the opportunity to focus on all of the other key players of the show. Davos might have been a bit of a snooze, but Mary Walker made up for that in spades. Her solid representation of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), coupled with two genuinely interesting sides of herself made her a constant joy to watch. The Meachum’s storyline has been one of Iron Fist’s very few constants, and they set the groundwork for a precarious redemption arc between the two as the story continues.
Finally, there is Iron Fist’s take on family. The notion of family being more than just those we’re related to is common among superhero fare, but there’s more to it this season. After the fallout of Ward’s second round of patricide, and several attempts on Danny’s life from everyone he’s considered a sibling, we take a look at the bloody mess of what being a family can mean. Ward and Danny’s arc is by far one of the most charming aspects of the second season, and certainly the moments with the most laughs. Ward and Danny going on walkabout is an ideal close to what was an immeasurably improved season. It’s almost as good as giving the infinitely more deserving Colleen superpowers.
Let’s hear your feelings about this season as well. Head down to the comments to sound off!