Revamping Iron Fist — easily one of Marvel's weakest shows this side of Inhumans (the less said about that one the better) — was a tall order. Despite the challenge, Season 2 managed to do the impossible and actually make the story of Danny Rand a compelling one. Even more, it introduced enough jaw-dropping twists that there's plenty of story on the vine for a few more seasons to come. But how did that perfect storm actually come together?
**Spoiler alert: There are spoilers for Season 2 of Marvel's Iron Fist below!**
Let's begin at the end, because honestly, that's all most anyone is talking about with Season 2. The season finale took some wild twists, the biggest of which was having Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) step into the role of the Immortal Iron Fist, while Danny sets off on a journey to find himself in Asia. New showrunner Raven Metzner, who stepped in to retool the series after its critically panned debut run, told SYFY WIRE one of his biggest goals was to have these characters grow and change by the time the screen went black on Season 2.
There is no soft reset to put the game pieces back to where they started. The creative team wanted real, actual growth. To that end, Colleen stepped up as a co-headliner and made some MCU history in the process ("My dream was to create a version of the Iron Fist where we'd have in the MCU our first female Asian superhero," Metzner said).
"In terms of Colleen, I really wanted her not to be a sidekick or a backup character in service of Danny's story. I wanted her to have her own story, and to have her own arc, and we wanted her to have a story that was strong and empowering, and for her story to blossom and grow," he told SYFY WIRE. "Colleen doesn't take the power because Danny told her to… She puts down her sword at the beginning of the season and has to pick it back up in new way at the end. So I felt the most interesting choice that afforded was if the Iron Fist was in Davos, and they had to get it back, but Danny would not want it back for his own reasons, and Colleen would want it for hers."
Metzner admitted the easy option would've been to simply play out the story in a way most fans expected it to end — with Danny overcoming his doubt and reclaiming his power after the final fight with Davos. But he said that story wasn't nearly as interesting as having the opportunity to explore how Colleen might handle this power, and how Danny would handle realizing he's not ready for it. He also made clear they didn't have last season's criticisms in mind when setting up that surprise ending.
"It wasn't like, 'Oh, well, let's respond to criticism and do this thing,' and I never envisioned that choice for Colleen in response to anyone's criticism," he said. "For me, it was a very organic and interesting way to go with the story. And just for me, it makes me just want to know more about what happens next."
The finale also set Danny on a journey to Asia to try and find himself, though as we learn in the epilogue, he's found a whole lot more in the intervening months (most notably a new set of mysterious, Iron Fist-esque powers). Again, Metzner said it was all about the journey, because as much as fans might want to see the version of the character they know and love in the comics, the Danny in the MCU just isn't that guy. At least, not yet.
"I also really want to see Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, the best kung fu martial artist on the planet, wielding the Iron Fist like never before and wearing one awesome version of the costume made famous by the comics," he said. "But I also know that the character as he was introduced in Episode 1, Season 1 of Iron Fist, for good or for ill, was not that person."
To that end, Metzner said Danny's arc became the story of a young hero who falls short but gains the maturity to realize his shortcomings and moves toward figuring out who he really is with, and without, his fist of fury. We don't get to see that journey play out completely, at least not this season, but it's at least put Danny on the path to becoming that hero fans hope he'll become.
"So for me, this season was a major step in which Danny, after everything he learned in The Defenders, this young guy would set out to do this thing that Matt Murdock told him to do, to protect his city, and he'd give it his all. But he would, like many of us do, he'd get caught up in that and start to lose himself," he said. "We see him grow and mature, and in that he makes a choice that is heart-wrenching for him, in so many ways to say, 'Before I wield this power, let me find a way to know who I am.' I really wanted to evolve him, but not all the way. Then leave him at a place where we go, 'What's next for him? Where's he going next?'"
As for that comic-heavy final scene, where Danny sports some Iron Fist-infused handguns and name-drops a former Iron Fist from the comics (Orson Randall), Metzner said he saw those easter eggs as a way to tip his hat the audience that there's still plenty of amazing comic stories left to mine, and if the show can get an order for a third season, he plans to dig right in.
"I love these stories. I'm interested in finding a way to adapt them and bring them into the world of the Marvel Universe on Netflix," he said. "I feel like this season we evolved the show in a way that wasn't jarring, but we were able to bring in a lot of those elements … To me, bringing up Orson Randall is just a way of saying I'd like to continue exploring that rich mythology, created by some of the greatest minds in comic books, folks like Brubaker, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and the list goes on and on."
'I wanted to just tell an Iron Fist story'
Before taking the reins for Season 2, Metzner said he hadn't paid all that much attention to the superhero series when the first season dropped on Netflix (with a thud, according to most critics). But when given the chance to actually conceive the second season, he binge-watched Season 1, along with The Defenders miniseries, with an eye toward where the story could conceivably go next.
"When I went to Marvel to pitch on the show, I asked them what were they looking for. Did they want to do a hard reset and start from absolute scratch? Like, maybe tell the story of the Iron Fist from 1944? And they were like, 'No, we want to continue the story from the end of Defenders.' Finn [Jones] was already in the works to do the Luke Cage crossover, and they kind of wanted to flow the whole thing forward," Metzner said. "I'd already pitched an idea for the kind of Iron Fist story I wanted to tell. So I went back and watched, and thought, 'What were the things we can move away from, and what are the things we have to deal with?' I don't think it was so much response to criticism (of Season 1) so much as the tone and taste of what we wanted to do next."
After the uneven origin story during Year 1, the character of Danny Rand seemed to work a whole lot better with a strong supporting cast, as shown by his far-less-grating role in The Defenders miniseries. Metzner said he also noticed that Danny's story got lost in all the foundational work required to set up The Defenders during his first season (think Iron Man 2 Syndrome), so he wanted to zero in on the elements that could actually make an Iron Fist story work all its own.
"A lot of the Danny Rand comic book mythology I wanted to see was re-focused into a Hand-centric world in which all of a sudden everything we knew about Danny Rand was mixed in with Daredevil and the Hand and all this other stuff," Metzner said of Season 1. "So for me, I really wanted not to have to do any of that [laughs]. I didn't want to have to set anything up. I wanted to just tell an Iron Fist story, and talk about that mythology in a different way… I really wanted to bring the character to the world of New York City. I mean, the characters live in Chinatown. I wanted to make their conflict, instead of the immortal Hand, I wanted to use mythology but make it real-world and grounded, and street-level. I wanted to see where they lived, and worked, and to see them on the street."
One other element Metzner said he was keen to explore was the fan-favorite team-up of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, a duo known as the Daughters of the Dragon to comic readers. Again, it was a story that had to happen naturally, and Metzner said Season 2 gave them the breathing room to evolve that friendship and let Colleen and Misty develop a true friendship along the way.
"It's funny, everyone talks about Daughters of the Dragon. Those two characters had one conversation in Defenders, where Misty told her that her sword was weird. They meet up for two scenes in Luke Cage Season 2, which I adore, in which they kind of know each other. We can imagine they've talked a few times, but they're not friends yet," he said. "Then, this is the season where they hang out, they eat habanero nuts and talk about their lives and their dreams."
With the twists introduced in Season 2, Metzner made it clear he has plenty of ideas for a third season — though at this point he said he hasn't heard anything yet as to whether Marvel and Netflix plan to bring the show back. But, considering how many threads were left dangling, it'd stand to reason Netflix is at least considering a third season (sibling series Daredevil and Jessica Jones have already received third season orders).
But first things first, Metzner noted. As with any good story worth telling: "You have to get there."
After Season 2, Iron Fist is certainly on its way.