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6 ways Iron Fist reinvents itself for the better, even if it's still Marvel’s most punch-drunk show

Contributed by
Sep 5, 2018

To put it mildly, the first season of Iron Fist was not great. Or good, really. So when Marvel and Netflix announced a second season of the series was in the works, fan reaction was admittedly mixed. But believe it or not, Marvel actually pulled it off and made this series good. Well, almost.

After Iron Fist's critically maligned debut season, Danny Rand's follow-up appearance in Netflix's Defenders miniseries went a long way toward rehabilitating the character. He was less grating and annoying while aligned with Netflix's other street level heroes, and the action was a bit more believable on the second go 'round. So the pressure was more than on for Season 2 to actually justify its existence, and it's clear the new-look creative team (Raven Metzner replaced Scott Buck as showrunner) took this thing down to the studs to try to rebuild it into a show people will actually want to watch.

Thankfully, they do a lot of things right. But, when stacked alongside acclaimed runs like Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, it's clear Iron Fist is still the weak link — glowing fist or not.

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It's a post-Defenders world

It might seem obvious, but the world-building of everything that's come before actually goes a long way to help service the world of Iron Fist’s second season. No longer tasked with trying to introduce this long-lost trust fund kid who's now a karate master, the show can get into actually living in this world where Danny Rand is woven into its fabric. He knows other heroes are out there and occasionally crosses paths with them; he's reconnected with people from his old life; his role at Rand Enterprises is at least loosely defined; Danny has a life he's actually living.

Season 1 struggled mightily by trying to establish this character and this world while telling a compelling story in the process. Year 2 can just get to the meat of playing in this sandbox, and most importantly, Danny actually has a reason to get out there and patrol the streets of New York City: his promise to the missing Daredevil that he'd look after his city when he's gone. Danny has a mission that makes sense in this world, and we actually get to see him struggling to fulfill it. It's obvious drama, sure, but it's still much improved.

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There’s less focus on Iron Fist, overall

Though critics were not kind to Iron Fist, most viewers did find one thing to fall in love with along the way (much like Danny himself): Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing. Some of the supporting cast is arguably more compelling than Finn Jones' work in the lead role, and Season 2 lets the rest of the characters breathe enough that Danny isn't required to be in every scene and moment.

Wisely, Season 2 brings with it a few of the lessons learned during The Defenders — the Iron Fist can work, but much like The Hulk, he works better as an ensemble player. The Danny we find here is far less grating, and at least some of that comes from letting the rest of the cast (including the villains) help shoulder some of that heavy-lifting that was left almost solely to Danny in Year 1.

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Returning cast revamp

Considering how utterly boring and contrived the business drama of Season 1 became (especially in comparison to the stories fans had gotten used to seeing in Marvel's other Netflix shows), it would've been easy to jettison chunks of the original supporting cast and make some wholesale changes this time around. Instead, they kept Tom Pelphrey's Ward Meachum and Jessica Stroup's Joy Meachum on the cast list and actually gave them a story to tell.

The Ward of Season 2 is an uneasy friend and ally to Danny, desperately trying (and sometimes failing) to get his life back on track in the wake of Season 1. Joy has gone even further from her character's original center, falling into some surprising alliances and sometimes realizing she might be in over her head. It didn't show much in Season 1, but it turns out there actually are some interesting characters here to mine. Season 2 at least does as admirable job of trying.

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Daughters of the Dragon

It's the spinoff series fans have been clamoring for, and in Season 2, Iron Fist knows how to please the masses. We get a whole lot of Henwick's Colleen Wing and Simone Missick's Misty Knight teaming up when Danny finds himself sidelined. And it's pretty great. If anything, this season feels like Marvel is testing the waters with a backdoor pilot of sorts to see if Daughters of the Dragon (the comic book duo name of Colleen and Misty) could carry a series. The answer is a resounding yes. The MCU is loaded with strong female characters, but these are two of the strongest. Giving them a chance to team up, hit the streets, and bust a whole lot of heads really is a dream come true.

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The villains are fantastic

The challenge of finding a good villain — it's a problem that’s persisted across the MCU pretty much since it began with Iron Man a decade ago. It was also an issue for the first season of Iron Fist, which recycled some well-known evil ninjas that had become a bit long in the tooth by that point. Thankfully, the big bads get a major revamp in Year 2.

Alice Eve's Mary Walker, aka Typhoid Mary, is one of the most fascinating characters we've met to this point in the MCU. The character walks a tightrope of melding mental illness with the fantastical of a comic book character, and for the most part it works. Not to mention the fact that Eve is one hell of an actress, and goes all in on this character. To round her our, there's also the return of Sacha Dhawan's Davos from Season 1, whose story takes some interesting turns this year that put him at odds with Danny.

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The action is a whole lot better

Ever since Daredevil beat the absolute snot out of a half-dozen guys in a hallway, the bar has been climbing from series-to-series when it comes to MCU action. Season 1 of Iron Fist missed that threshold by a few miles, featuring action that would've looked awful on a CW drama (no offense intended to Arrow there). It's clear the creative team took that criticism to heart when crafting some of the action scenes this season. It doesn't blow the MCU status quo out of the water, but the action here is capable and entertaining — and they keep the set pieces loose and fun in a way that feels like a good fit for this character and world. If nothing else, you at least won't find yourself shaking your head and chuckling at the action nearly as much this time around.

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