Iron Fist season two reminded me of how we used to make fun of the “Most Improved” award in high-school sports. My friends and I would joke, “Most improved just means that you used to suck.” The first season of Iron Fist was easily the worst show in the Marvel Netflix universe, but the sophomore season is worth watching. It’s not among the best Marvel Netflix shows and it still has the same core problem that the first season had, but numerous improvements have taken Iron Fist from “used to suck” to “reasonably enjoyable.”
Here’s a breakdown of Iron Fist season two in the traditional RPadTV binary style. Be sure to summon your chi and make a spoiler
Martial Arts Mastery (Good): Finn Jones admitted that he only had three weeks of martial arts training prior to filming the debut season of Iron Fist. It showed. For season two, he prepared with months of training and the difference was tremendous. There were less closeups and quick cuts in the action scenes, and Jones is clearly more capable than he was last season. The actor and choreographers should be commended for making Iron Fist — one of the deadliest hand-to-hand combatants in the Marvel Universe — seem more like a master than an awkward apprentice.
That said, Jones wasn’t the best fighter among the show’s leads. Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing) and Sacha Dawan (Davos) were more skilled and had better fight scenes.
Improved Directing and Writing (Good): After an unimpressive and meandering season one, Iron Fist needed a new captain to right the ship. When I heard that M. Raven Metzner would be in charge of the show, I was scared. He cowrote that garbage Elektra movie and I worried that he would infect the Marvel Netflix shows with that crap. It was a pleasant surprise watching his work on Iron Fist season two. It was a much tighter season, with a far more cohesive story. The first season was 13 episodes, with too much time spent in China and Bakuto’s Home for Wayward Children. Season two’s 10 episodes move fairly quickly and logically, with only a bit of drag past the halfway point. The writing was much tighter and the directing choices were much smarter.
Adapting an Excellent Source (Good): Iron Fist season two borrowed several elements from Ed Brubaker’s and Matt Fraction’s fantastic run on The Immortal Iron Fist. The Crane Sisters, Wu Ao-Shi, Orson Randall (more on him later), and more were used in the show. Some of those plot points were drastically altered (Danny and Davos being rivals instead of Wendell and Davos), while others were adapted more faithfully. In most of the cases, using great source material as a base translated into good television. As a fan of those books, I’m hoping that Iron Fist season three will feature the other Immortal Weapons of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. Fat Cobra rules.
It’s Chinatown (Good): One of the best things about Marvel Netflix is how it created distinct neighborhoods in New York City. Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen, Luke Cage’s Harlem, and Iron Fist’s Chinatown feel unique. As someone that grew up in New York and has spent time in all three neighborhoods, I appreciated the distinctions. They make the Marvel Netflix world seem alive. (I’ll excuse Marvel Netflix’s Hell’s Kitchen being nothing like reality and seemingly devoid of lightbulbs.)
Girls Rule, Boys Drool (Good): The women in Iron Fist season two are far more competent than the men. Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, and Sherry Yang are simply more effective people than the men on the show. They’re powerful and capable, with the ability to work past the issues that impede them. Let’s compare that to then men.
- Danny Rand: Iron Fist is still a naive little boy that has temper tantrums and makes idiotic mistakes
- Davos: While he proclaims to have noble intentions, Davos is completely ruled by his jealousy issues and mommy issues
- Ward Meachum: He’s a functioning addict that repels anyone that tries to get close to him
Danny’s actions can be exasperating. Davos gets tiresome. And Ward…well, his character flaws make him charming and fun to watch.
Mary Mary (Good): As a big fan of Alice Eve, I was curious to see how she’d do with the Typhoid Mary character. She was fantastic! Eve did a great job at portraying Typhoid Mary’s dissociative identity disorder. The Mary part was innocent and bubbly, while the Walker part was a stone-cold killer. The show made some changes with that character in order to make her more realistic; the writers exchanged telekinesis and pyrokinesis for military training. This character could have been silly, but the writers and Alice Eve did a fantastic job of making her work and giving her some scene-stealing moments. They even left room for the “Bloody Mary” persona to be used in the future. While some fanboys might be unhappy with the changes, I’m sure that they’ll get a tickle out of the “Monday, Monday” homage.
I Miss Gao (Bad): Sherry Yang was a good character and she’ll make an interesting leader for the Chinatown Triads, but she pales in comparison to Madame Gao. That character and actress are incredible.
One Hell of an Ending (Good): In a shocking twist, Danny Rand doesn’t get the Iron Fist power back from Davos. Instead, Colleen Wing wields the power of Shou-Lou the Undying. That genuinely surprised me. What was more surprising was seeing Colleen and Danny end up using their chi in different ways. Similar to her ancestor, Wu Ao-Shi the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, Colleen channels her chi into her katana, making an IRL lightsaber. While on the hunt for Orson Randall, Danny whips out a pair of pistols and channels his chi into the bullets, using the “gun-fu” style of Orson Randall in the comics.
As a big fan of comics Orson Randall, I’m excited to see where the show goes with the character. In the books, he renounces his duty and becomes a heroin addict in order to hide his unique chi. The end of Iron Fist season two sets him up as an antagonist, but I’m hoping that’s just misdirection. Also, I’d love to watch Incompetent Danny’s and Recovering Addict Ward’s Adventures in Southeast Asia.
Oh Danny Boy (Bad): While Iron Fist season two is a significant improvement over the first season, it still has the same core problem — Finn Jones. After watching the first season, I thought that the show had the same issue as Daredevil, but even worse — the lead is distinctly worse than everyone else around him. Jones’ telegenic martial arts have greatly improved, but his acting has only improved nominally. He’s still stiff and annoyingly whiny, with a scowl that makes you want to slap him. That’s a shame because he seemed to have taken significant strides with the Iron Fist character in The Defenders and Luke Cage season two. In Iron Fist season two, he’s a little bit better, but still much worse than his costars. When the lead character in an action series isn’t the best fighter or the most interesting character, it’s a problem.