** WARNING: Spoilers below **
MANILA, Philippines — Let’s start with the question most of you are most likely asking: is the second season of Iron Fist better than the first one? It is, but to be honest, anything short of a complete disaster would have been an improvement over the first season.
Still, this season has a stronger sense of urgency that was lacking in the first one. The storytelling is tighter, and the pacing relatively more expedient. At only ten episodes long, Iron Fist is the shortest among the solo Marvel Netflix shows. (And that is something the other four Netflix shows — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher — would also benefit from.)
Even with all that going for it this season, Iron Fist is the least compelling show in the Marvel Netflix roster, and Finn Jones (who plays the show’s titular protagonist) is its least charismatic lead. Iron Fist does its damned best to improve upon the first.
One great thing about these Netflix shows is that it gives the opportunity to explore smaller, more personal stories. Take Iron Fist, for example. The second season of the series is a family drama masquerading as a martial arts piece – and it’s all the better for it. The series is at its best when it takes time off a stirring triad war to explore the relationships of its main characters.
Sibling rivalry plays a big part in Iron Fist. Davos (Sacha Dhawan), Danny’s adoptive brother, is still reeling over the fact that it is Danny, not he, who wields the Iron Fist. Davos believes that the Iron Fist is his birthright, so he hatches a plot with Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) to steal Danny’s powers. The plan involves acquiring ancient artifacts, including the corpse of a previous Iron Fist, and performing a ritual on Danny and Davos which would facilitate the transfer of powers. They hire Mary Walker (Alice Eve), a former soldier with a multiple personality disorder, to track and subdue Danny.
All that happens while Danny and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) are busy trying to de-escalate the war between two rival triad factions - The Hatchets and The Golden Tigers. At times, the gang war feels like a distraction from the more interesting Danny-Davos storyline. Imagine what it would have been like had there been 13 episodes instead of ten.
Death from K’un Lun
We get flashbacks to Danny and Davos’s time in K’un Lun. We also get a bit more insight into Davos’s background and motivations. He had an emotionally absent mother and saw the Iron Fist trials as a way to win his mother’s pride, and hopefully, love. When Davos gets beaten by Danny during one of the tests, his mother claims that the defeat has given her great shame. I’ve heard of tiger moms, but berating your own son after he gets beaten to a pulp is just cold.
Davos eventually leaves K’un Lun to hunt down Danny and get what he thinks is his. Davos, Joy, and Mary eventually subdue Danny. The Crane Sisters — quasi-occult tattoo artists with apparent ties to K’un Lun — begin the ritual. They create a special tattoo ink using the blood of Danny, a piece of the dead Iron Fist, and a Tibetan singing bowl. The procedure is a success, and Davos becomes new Iron Fist.
Davos always considered Danny’s refusal to kill to be a sort of moral failing. When Davos becomes the Iron Fist, he acts using the only instinct he knows — a propensity for violence. It is precisely what you’d expect from a boy who was raised on violence and primed to eventually confront a dragon later on.
He goes on a vigilante rampage, killing members of both The Hatchets and The Golden Tigers. When he rescues a restaurant owner, he presents himself as a defender of the city, but is bitterly disappointed when his beneficiary wants nothing to do with the self-proclaimed savior.
Just as Davos’s relationships (with Joy, with the community, with himself) crumble, Danny’s are rebuilt. Danny repairs his friendship with Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) after they talk about being haunted by their own metaphorical dragons. Ward’s character arc is one of the most satisfying elements of this season; he starts off as a broken, self-obsessed jerk, and later becomes a more sympathetic character.
Things aren’t so peachy between Danny and Colleen, however. Colleen agrees to teach Danny how to fight without his superpowers, but the endeavor takes its toll on their relationship. They eventually assemble the artifacts needed to do the ritual to take back the Iron Fist, but Danny, besieged by self-doubt, wants Colleen to take power back instead of him.
They hunt down Davos, and eventually transfer the power to Colleen (it took them two tries — transferring superpowers must take a lot of psychic bandwidth). Colleen and Danny finally part ways — Colleen, to become the new defender of the city, Danny to search for the source of the dead Iron Fist, which we later learn is Orson Randall. Danny becomes a gun-slinging Iron Fist, which references Randall’s power in the comic.
These developments were not only excellent ways to end the season — they will be excellent starting points for new stories. This season may have been lackluster, but those developments have gotten me excited for the third season. – Rappler.com
Iñigo de Paula is a writer who lives and works in Quezon City. When he isn't talking about himself in the third person, he writes about pop culture and its peripheries.