July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek TV Review: Iron Fist Season 2

Danny Rand returns...but the show got canceled before I could finish up the season, so make of that what you will.

I am very glad I did the AFI Challenge, but it sure did slow down a lot of other things I do around here.  As such, I only just finished season two of Iron Fist just as season three of Daredevil got started.  Plus, Iron Fist was canceled by Netflix.  And then, just as I started to type this up, I learned Luke Cage was also canceled.  Maybe the plan is to make a Heroes for Hire show.  That would probably be a good idea.

But getting back to Iron Fist, I didn’t care much for the first season.  It was weakly written, with dumb plots and characters I couldn’t bring myself to care about.  The only things I thought worth giving a second look to were Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing making a case to be a much more compelling lead character than Finn Jones’ Danny Rand, one or two really well-done crazy martial arts fight scenes, and the pacing worked better over 13 episodes…it was just 13 really dumb episodes.

So, how did Iron Fist go out with only ten episodes and a new showrunner?

Much, much better actually.  Much of what didn’t work was removed, the show moved quicker, and someone realized that unlike the other Netflix Marvel shows, Iron Fist is just inherently ridiculous, so why not make the most of that?  It’s about a guy from a lost, mystical city that can make his fist glow and then hit stuff very hard.   How deep can it be?  Season one presumably tried, but the character resisted and so, well, season two is a vast improvement.  At only ten episodes, the story is economical and not likely to sit still for long.  The crazy martial arts fight scenes come out more often and are much better done.  The ownership of Rand Industries, or indeed almost anything having to do with the company, is nowhere to be seen.  Sure, Ward and Joy Meachum are still hanging around and while both have arguably more interesting character development this time time, they still don’t really bring much to the overall story.

Instead, we get a story set mostly in Chinatown.  Danny is living with Colleen in her former dojo and despite being superwealthy, he’s working as a mover during the day.  Money means nothing to Danny, so he doesn’t care to really have it.  By night, inspired by the spirit of the believed-dead Matt Murdock, Danny fights crime as Iron Fist and tries his best to bring peace to the warring criminal factions in Chinatown.  But there is a problem:  Joy is still angry over what happened to her family in season one and has teamed with Danny’s brother-in-spirit Davos (the anti-Iron Fist Steel Serpent in the comics) to bring a world of pain to both Danny and her brother, and Davos has his own plans since he is still convinced Danny robbed him of his chance to be the current generation’s Iron Fist.

As such, most of the season revolves around a gang war and Danny and Davos’ separate efforts to stop it in their own way, and that’s before longtime Daredevil foe Mary “Typhoid Mary” Walker (Alice Eve) shows up.  Though devoid of her comic book inspired powers, Mary is still a pretty dangerous woman, someone who can give any of the show’s various martial artists a run for their money.

Here’s the thing:  as much as the writing and storytelling for season one were weak at best, what worked is kept and expanded upon here.  Sacha Dhawan is a fairly campy villain, over-the-top in his way, and in a way that really worked for both seasons of the series.  Here we see his fire-breathing bad guy more front and center as opposed to waiting halfway through for him to show up at all.  Henwick continues to shine as Colleen, doing her own thing and not really a damsel in distress.  Simone Missick slides over from Luke Cage to continue her character’s friendship with Colleen, making me wish we got Daughters of the Dragon if nothing else.  She does have better chemistry with Colleen than Danny does.

And therein lies the problem with Iron Fist:  Iron Fist himself.  The character works better in the center of an ensemble, but he still doesn’t work as the lead.  I don’t know if this is the fault of either Finn Jones or the writing, and I am generally reluctant to blame the actor in many cases.  Heck, he was actually rather fun for the one episode of Luke Cage he appeared in, coming across as something of a playful wiseass as opposed to the more serious character he plays on his own show.  Putting Danny and Luke together may pay better dividends than keeping them separate and solo did if Netflix opts to go that way.

And with all that said, Danny does drag things down a bit.  Season two was a huge improvement over season one, but it almost had to be.  I wouldn’t want to see what would have happened if it had gotten worse.  8.5 out of 10 fancy moves with a syringe.

And it is kind of a shame the series ended here.  The show was starting to dig into the really crazy stuff from Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker’s great recent run of the character.