Six episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Even if you didn’t catch the first season of Marvel’s Iron Fist when it debuted last year, there’s a good chance you caught wind of its negative reception, or at the very least, its casting decisions. Plenty of fans and critics (myself included) were upset at Marvel and Netflix’s choice to forgo picking an Asian or Asian-American actor to play the lead character. Casting controversies aside, Iron Fist season 1 had a myriad of other problems to contend with. Unfortunately, none of them have been fixed for its sophomore season.
Similar to the both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Iron Fist season 2 picks up after the events of The Defenders. While his crime-fighting allies have left the events of Midland Circle in their rear-view mirrors, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) has taken it upon himself to bring justice to the streets of Chinatown, picking up where Daredevil left off. Danny’s renewed vigilantism has created some friction with his now-girlfriend Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), who’s given up martial arts in favor of volunteering and community activism.
While most of the cast has moved onto a new chapter in their lives, Iron Fist is still steeped in the same problematic writing that plagued the first season. Sure, the dialogue is largely devoid of the pervasive stereotypes from the original comic books, but most minorities/people of color on screen are largely relegated to being gang members, or one-dimensional side characters whose sole purpose is to dole out a few words of wisdom or a snappy one-liner here and there.
Granted, part of the reason the first season fell flat was partly to blame on the non-sensical plot, which mostly served as a (troubling) prologue to The Defenders. Unfortunately, things aren’t that much more exciting the second time around. Recent seasons of Marvel/Netflix shows have suffered from a lack of interesting villains, and Iron Fist Season 2 is no exception. Rather than allowing one threat to take center stage, the writing team is content with splitting the work between a handful of characters.
Following the death of her father, Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) has put Danny in her crosshairs, and much of the first half of the season focuses on her attempts to bring Danny to his knees. In that regard, Joy is as nonsensical as she was in the first season – remember, this is the same person who drugged and institutionalized Danny and was perfectly fine reuniting with her psychopathic father. Watching Joy blame Danny for all of her problems serves as the best example of the series’ absolutely ridiculous characterization. Even if you remotely liked Joy, it won’t be long before you’re praying for her to meet an untimely demise.
As teased at the end of the last season, Joy has decided to team up with Davos (Sacha Dhawan), Danny’s adoptive brother from the mystical kingdom of K’un-Lun. To be fair, Davos has more of a reason to be angry with the Iron Fist, who abandoned his post, which ultimately led to the kingdom’s destruction. Unsurprisingly, though, the show squanders any opportunities to flesh out Davos’ backstory in any meaningful way, opting instead to paint him as a stark-raving lunatic driven by jealousy and a twisted set of morals.
Rounding out the villainous triumvirate is Mary Walker (played by Alice Eve), who befriends Danny at the beginning of the season. While her true intentions are slowly revealed, the show is content with explaining her backstory with a lot of hand-waving and vague details, though it remains to be seen if any of that will be changed in the second half of the season.
If this season’s boring plot, uninteresting villains and absurd characterization aren’t enough, it’ll come as no surprise that the pacing is equally problematic. While recent seasons of Marvel’s TV series haven’t fallen prey to a bloated episode count, Iron Fist season 2 shows all of the telltale signs.
Despite only having watched the first six episodes, its become quite clear that the Netflix side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would strongly benefit from fewer seasons. Even with a reduced total of 10 episodes, the first half of this season is still a bit of a slog. The sluggish progression isn’t aided by Iron Fist’s generally uninspired action, either, which lacks impact and gravitas due to frenetic camera cuts. I imagine part of this stems from Danny’s lack of a costume or mask, which means that a veteran stunt actor or martial artist can’t stand in for Finn Jones during choreographed fight sequences.
Although most of the second season’s been a disappointment, Iron Fist’s single saving grace is the relationship between Colleen Wing and Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick). A handful of scenes from this season showcase the crime-fighting duo front and center, complete with some of the show’s best action scenes (though that’s not saying much). Missick and Henwick’s chemistry is begging for more screen time, and I can only hope that Netflix decides to give these two a proper Daughters of the Dragon-inspired spinoff.
Still, the few precious scenes centered on Collen and Detective Knight aren’t enough to save Iron Fist season 2 from its own ill-fated premise and poorly-written characters. Between Joy’s and Davos’ nonsensical behavior and Danny’s childish, self-centered personality, I find myself hard-pressed to find any reason to check back in for the second half of the season to see how things resolve. There are still plenty of opportunities to expand and grow the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen, but Iron Fist is simply not one of them.
Iron Fist's sophomore season isn't able to right the many wrongs from its first. Don't waste your time on this one.