This review contains spoilers for Iron Fist season two.
Iron Fist is far from a struggle. There were signs of a better Danny Rand (Finn Jones) in last year’s The Defenders, but Iron Fist season two completely switches things up to deliver a fantastic story about self-discovery. With Raven Metzner replacing Scott Buck as showrunner comes a new direction, one that propels Iron Fist to the top of Marvel’s Netflix slate.
With a more streamlined story at 10 episodes, season two does away from the large, mythological stories of K’un-Lun and gives much-needed focus on its cast of characters. Danny himself is struggling with his sense of duty after The Hand is defeated and Matt Murdock’s leaves a vague final request to protect his city. So Danny spends his nights on the streets of Chinatown, trying to prevent a war between the Triads and the Hatchets, while Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) has shut down her dojo and hung up her katana. Ward (Tom Pelphrey) attends NA meetings and carries on an affair with the meeting facilitator and Joy (Jessica Stroup) teams up with Davos (Sacha Dhawan) to take down Danny.
What Metzner seems to understand is that Danny, from the outset, isn’t particularly interesting. Most of that might be a fault of the narrative direction in season one, which never allowed Danny to feel like an actual person. Danny’s brashness in The Defenders gave a more clear picture of him: he’s a kid desperately wanting to be the hero. But there’s maturity to him in Iron Fist’s second season. His search for who he is a lot more relatable than a tale of survival we never get told. When Danny tells Colleen she should be the one take on the power of the dragon, it’s a genuine moment of that maturity being put into action, as if Danny has actually learned something. He’s not a sidelined character at all — he’s an actual character.
Colleen’s story of figuring out her past seems to stall for a bit in the middle of the season, but it comes full circle so organically and it’s amazing. Colleen suffered from a rash explanation of her back story during season one, her relationship with Bakuto dealt with in a flash, but she travels a similar path to Danny here. As Danny fights on the streets at night to better understand himself, Colleen hides away from the events of The Defenders. Still, she always finds herself fighting by Danny’s side, and the joy on her face as she kicks ass is so clear, it makes her transformation into the Iron Fist even more logical. Danny and Colleen’s relationship is sweet and innocent at times, giving balance to the much more action-packed moments of the series. Their ending only feels natural because it’s not an ending at all. As Danny leaves for Japan with Ward to learn more about the history of the Iron Fist, Colleen finally takes to the streets to protect her city, completely in her element in a way that Danny never was.
Ward, who arguably had the most interesting season one, spends most of his time away from the war being waged in the streets. His is a more personal story, one about recovery and reforming familial ties with Danny and Joy. Ward feels the most grounded. However, Joy is miles more interesting here than in season one. Her team-up with Davos still feels weird, but she doesn’t spend the entire time wavering between her convictions this time around. Instead, her anger is palatable and understandable.
The larger story is a lot easier to grasp as well. Davos, still upset that Danny is the Iron Fist and has lost K’un-Lun by neglecting his duty, works to take Danny’s power away from him. Ultimately, Davos is the perfect example of a teenager not getting what he wants. In a way, he feels like Kylo Ren, throwing tantrums when he’s misunderstood and claiming other people’s destiny as his birth right. But unlike Kylo Ren, Davos’ back story reveals much about his character and provides great context to the personal nature of Danny and Davos’ relationship and, ultimately, their falling out.
Of course, Davos isn’t the only villain this season. Alice Eve takes on the role of Mary Walker, an assassin with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It’s never made clear what her powers are, but she’s an interesting addition to the Iron Fist team. With the discovery of another self, one more dangerous than Mary or Walker, Mary Walker could either be villain or foe at any time.
This season is very character heavy, but the action sequences are exhilarating to watch. The energy Jessica Henwick and Finn Jones bring to these scenes, as well as their chemistry, really gives this show a breath of fresh air. I didn’t think it was possible. In fact, I was dreading watching this season. But season two just flows so well, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever as bad as it was. Compare both season endings: in season one, Colleen and Danny discover K’un-Lun has been destroyed. But for 13 episodes, the show never gave us reason to care about K’un-Lun. Season two’s ending is much more exciting and spells major implications for season three. Danny certainly learns something and this journey is one I’ll happily set out on.