March 2017 was the month I died. I watched as the life drained away from my body and my soul evaporated into nothingness. For this was the month I suffered through the first season of Iron Fist. A season compacted with horrendous dialogue, bad acting, laughable fight scenes, and a muddled plot. A show so universally disappointing, when season two was announced, the world looked up and shouted, “save us!” as we all expected Marvel to whisper “No…”
As I sat in front of the screen to watch season two, I closed my eyes and waited for Lady Death to greet me. Instead of the mundane voice of Danny Rand proclaiming he is the “Immortal Iron Fist. Protector of K’un-Lun,” Lady Death kissed me gently on the cheek and whispered, “not this time, for Marvel has learned the error of its ways.”
As Lady Death departed, I sat there with an uncontrollable urge to smile. From its opening moments, season two is a breath of fresh air after a losing battle with COPD. Blessed with a new showrunner, Raven Metzner, he has managed to compile together everyone’s complaints about the first season to successfully enact a plan to save this sunken, buried and dead fist including answering a lot of questions from the first season while undoing the mess it left behind.
Now the protector of New York after the assumed death of Daredevil in The Defenders, Rand is struggling with the aftermath of the destruction of K’un-Lun. Often blaming himself, he is left to pick up the pieces of his “undefined role” with Colleen Wing by his broken side. We find Rand and Wing battling local gang members, trying to play Mother and Father Teresa by attempting (and failing) to conduct truces between rival gang members. However, there are more pressing matters involving the Meachum twins, when Joy decides that she wants out of her Rand Enterprises contract so she can freely explore the role of patents, while Ward discovers the joys of Narcotics Anonymous.
Once again, the importance of family is the driving theme of the second season. While in the first season he struggled to find his family, this season he struggles to rebuild those bonds. Rand and Davos, battle resentment, revenge and jealousy which would all make for an intriguing Hamlet-like story if its unfolding wasn’t so predictable. Wing is busy herself with building a relationship with her biological family and friends like Rand, Misty Knight (where Simone Missick is magical on screen with Jessica Henwick) and those at the community center.
If that isn’t enough to fill your happiness meter (it wasn’t for mine) Marvels added a villain who more than makes up for last season’s barefooted backflip over a taxi cab embarrassingly awful moment of 2017. Alice Eve as Mary Walker aka Typhoid Mary single-handily transforms the mundaneness of local street gangs into Marvel’s remake of Single White Female meets Fatal Attraction with writers using the power of insta-love and all the trappings of a rather enjoyable “why don’t you love me, Dan?” Lifetime Movie. Complete with puppy dog eyes’ and an airy voice, Eve is charming and sweet as she randomly meets Rand while getting lost in the Chinatown streets.
While asking for directions, there is an instant connection between the two (more so than Rand and Wing) as they form a rather pleasant friendship. However, not all things are meant to be (especially in New York City) when it’s soon discovered, their newfound friendship is about to take an obsessive turn as the “girl from Oak Creek turns into the terror of Chinatown whose stares are scary enough to make me never want to give a stranger directions. Struggling with dissociative identity disorder with various personalities, Iron Fist focuses on her as a person rather than someone suffering from a disease. She is no one’s victim, Mary is a deadly multifaceted female who is literally trying to find her place in society.
As Typhoid Mary battles others and herself, Marvel has drastically improved its fight scenes from looking like a Zumba class to someone who actually knows martial artists. Rand relies heavily on his fist and moves more fluidly with an actual purpose. While not completely gone, there is less of the ridiculous high-flying Crouching No Talent fight sequences. While this is far from Daredevil’s kung-fu perfection, a kitchen fight scene is beautifully shot as characters use various kitchen appliances to pound, mix, stir and dice each other. As bodies dance across the screen, this is when the cinematography is at its best; highlighting the beauty of each fight scene.
Also stepping their game up is actor Finn Jones, who clearly has spent his time taking acting lessons. Instead of the monotone, lackluster performance of season one and some could argue The Defenders, the now shoes-wearing Rand is personable, charming and doesn’t mumble his words as fellow characters suffer through their scene with him. Thanks to the various screenwriters, emotions are shown instead of told. The audience isn’t beaten down less with blanks stares and scenes of nothingness.
While Iron Fist has vastly improved, it still hasn’t found its place in the Marvel TV universe. Between the mysticism and magic, Iron Fist flounders as Rand is reduced to Chinatown’s Great White Hope for its many nameless and faceless Asian community compared to Jessica Jones’ noir stylings or Luke Cage’s blaxploitation rhymes, who have managed to find their own voice. However, the show is doing its darnedest to find its place. This strong supportive cast offers many surprises and promises of a new and better beginning. With a finale that’ll leave you wanting for more, Iron Fist just may one day be Marvel’s dark horse.