Recurring Cast: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphery, Jessica Stroup, Simone Missick, Sacha Dhawan and Alice Eve
As Netflix’s Marvel shows slowly decline in quality (with the exception of Luke Cage’s second season), you cannot help but pity Iron Fist. The writers have really made a “fist” (LOL) out of making Danny Rand’s chakra-harnessing, earnest warrior a much more interesting and three-dimensional character. In many regards, this is a step up from the first in terms of bare materials. Danny Rand is a hero without a goal or a home, now that the Hand have been defeated and K’un-Lun has been destroyed. Ward Meachum is in rehab, trying to piece his addled life back together. Joy Meachum returns with the goal of unravelling the business they have spent so long building together. And for a long time, the plot of the second season is about forming a peace broker between two deadly Asian triads, harkening to the kind of format that made Luke Cage so endearing. The gangster characters, who aren’t quite as bad as you originally think, are far more appealing than the sermon-preaching cult of the Hand, even if they come with the frustrating ability to all know martial arts when push comes to shove. However, Iron Fist is simply not interesting enough. It will get its views from the Marvel completionists, who need to understand Danny’s narrative to get the most out of the following entries. However, no matter how much the writers try to unlock the characters, it is simply not as fun spending time with entitled rich people or holier-than-thou monks, than it is conflicted PIs or the criminals in Harlem. As a result, Iron Fist starts to drag pretty quickly, as soon as the fresh plot points fade into the background. There are only ten episodes, rather then the stock thirteen, but still Iron Fist feels far too overcooked. Between every interesting fight scene or shock plot point, there are a handful of dialogue-heavy moments, where characters slowly learn about each other or rehash character beats. Certain episodes are painfully slow, as Iron Fist either tries to make us care more for the situation at hand or, more likely, pad out the story. Iron Fist’s second season is a show you really want to like, but deep down, it is just too hard to care for.
The biggest problem with the running time is that, arguably, the characters never break out of their shell. With Luke Cage, for example, while the running time pushed the boundaries of patience, it felt like there were enough surprising character moments that made the sl0w-burning style worth it. The actors took their characters and gave them a bit extra. Alfre Woodard turned the role of the villain on its head, adding enough genuine sorrow, enough hidden nastiness and, perhaps more importantly, not embracing the cool badass too thoroughly. There were moments she was undoubtably human. The same can be said for Jon Bernthal’s unusually touching take on the Punisher. Or D’Onofrio’s complex Kingpin. However, with Iron Fist, no matter how far the characters progress in the story, they still feel like the actors have only really gone off of a few character notes in the margins of their script. Danny Rand is the sensitive peace-loving vigilante, who struggles this season to escape the fact he is so easily satirised after the memes following the last season. Joy Meachum is the vengeful rich girl. Even the new addition of Mary Walker, played against-type by Alice Eve (hands up, impressively), is strangely trapped in the role of mysterious hitwoman. Perhaps worst of all is Sacha Dhawan’s Davos, who is utterly lifeless as a villain. After the flop of a bad guy Iron Fist was faced with, perhaps the real lifeline for the show would have been to have a bad guy that could fuel the narrative. Daredevil was only as good as his villain. Jessica Jones was arguably defined by Kilgrave. Just look at Luke Cage’s inconsistent quality that seems to correspond to the bad guy Cage is pitted against. These shows need an antagonist that we can sink our teeth into. Sadly, the devout K’un-Lun murderous vigilante is not interesting enough. Every scene he is in revolves around ham-fisted preaching and even when satirised by the show, it is not enough to add colour. The only thing he brings to the table is some cool fight scenes, but they can only do so much. There will be some fans who will find the show redeemed by the well-choreographed punch-ups (Jessica Henwick is an outstanding fighter), but the issue is that the punching only thrills in the moment. As soon as the Fist dims, we are trapped in a show we don’t want to be in.
Final Verdict: A few improvements soon fade into the same bloated narrative. Enjoyable, but just not interesting enough.