Iron Fist Season 2 is now the eighth overall season of a Marvel-Netflix collaboration that I have reviewed (for those counting, I didn’t do the last Daredevil or The Punisher), and if you’ve read any of those other articles, you’ll find what follows to be pretty familiar. Iron Fist’s second season falls prey to the same issues as the other Marvel series on Netflix, which stubbornly refuse to change their formula (I care less about episode counts than how the shows tend to those episode counts) or acknowledge the problems that should be fixed. You might be forced an overly long runtime, but there are ways to make it work. That starts with populating that time with more story than these series ever do, cutting down scene length, adding in more dynamic soundtracks and editing, and taking a pause from gritty street-level realism to actually have some fun with, y’know, these superheroes.
Having said that, Iron Fist does actually make a few key adjustments (under a new showrunner, Raven Metzner) that help its cause. And let me also be clear: Iron Fist Season 2 isn’t terrible. It just … exists. And a few things have actually changed for the better. Danny Rand (Finn Jones) fights less, and he’s in a quasi-mask more (at least as of the first six episodes), Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) gets a lot more focus, and Alice Eve’s new character Mary introduces an interesting new dynamic (eventually). Misty Knight also joins the team a few episodes in, and Simone Missick’s presence is always a delight. And the season is only ten episodes instead of thirteen, which suits it much better.
On the not-as-great side, the Meechums are still essentially just well-dressed mannequins, but Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup do what they can with their thin material (Stroup’s Joy, in particular, seems robbed of a good storyline that’s teased early on). And once again, there are a lot of nameless and faceless red shirts of the city’s various gangs that are dispatched of pretty easily and without much interest. So while the Hand’s defeat has created a turf war between the Hatchets and the Triads, but nothing is particularly urgent or compelling about any of it.
Essentially, when Danny’s former-brother-turned-rival Davos (Sacha Dhawan) comes back into his life by making the case that Danny is a terrible Iron Fist, you think, “well … he’s really not wrong.” Davos points out that not only did Danny allow K’un-Lun to be destroyed — literally his one job as the Immortal Iron Fist — but he also doesn’t really wield the fist’s powers judiciously, nor seems to understand what the role requires of him. Davos is jealous, sure, a little bit of a nutcase, and also fueled by the shame his mean mommy heaped upon him growing up, but again, he’s not wrong. There’s the hint of something interesting here, that Danny has to lose the gift of the Iron Fist to really appreciate it, but not enough to justify ten episodes of watching him do it. (And Davos, as essentially a kill-bot, is also not that much of a draw).
All of that brings us to the crux of Iron Fist’s issues, which is that though the show repeats the same mistakes as Marvel’s other Netflix series, those problems are magnified because the show lacks a compelling lead. The reason Jessica Jones works as well as it has is because Krysten Ritter is so dynamic in that role — always moving, always willing you to watch her to see what she does next. She plays Jessica as restless, haunted, and driven. Jones’ Danny is supposed to be a zen master, but that’s not very interesting to watch. It’s why Season 2 allows Colleen to take over more of the story, which includes a decent side-plot early on with her fighting and then quasi-bonding with some street kids. Henwick is also much better with her fight choreography than her co-star, which she gets to show off a lot, though ultimately still plays second fiddle to Danny. And while the dynamic of the two of them crime fighting side-by-side while also in a romantic relationship is something the Netflix universe shows have not really given us before (as we were robbed of a Jessica Jones and Luke Cage relationship), Iron Fist doesn’t really explore it. At least, not yet.
The bottom line is this: following Luke Cage’s trajectory, if you liked the first season of Iron Fist, Season 2 improves upon it. If you didn’t like it, well, there’s not much to recommend to you regarding a return. It’s a show that seems like it might be improved by not bingeing it, but it’s so sleepy that once you walk away from it you may forget to return.
Iron Fist Season 2 premieres September 7th on Netflix.