The good news is, the second season of Iron Fist is a massive improvement over the first 13 episodes that Marvel and Netflix gifted (or cursed) audiences with ahead of 2017’s crossover mini-series, The Defenders. The bad news is, simply saying that “the second season of Iron Fist is a massive improvement” is nowhere near the same thing as saying “Iron Fist season two is a good show.” Because that would be a lie, and lying is bad.
That’s not to say that the creative team behind Iron Fist‘s second season wasn’t aware of the many, many complaints critics had about its predecessor. In fact, one of the most obvious improvements new showrunner Raven Metzner (Heroes Reborn, Falling Skies) made is to the fight sequences. Not only is it clearly evident that more time and planning were put into the fight choreography, but the cinematography team did the same for how they shot each action scene.
Viewers will no longer be left to guess precisely what, if anything, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) — the bearer of the “Immortal Iron Fist” mantle and supposedly the greatest fighter who ever lived — is doing on screen. Metzner and first episode director David Dobkin (Into the Badlands) make sure of this in the very first scene, in which Danny confronts a gang of gun-wielding, knife-throwing thugs after they murder three security guards in order to steal an armored truck.
It looks beautiful, as does a kitchen fight featuring Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) later on in the first episode, and many other action sequences throughout the first half of the season. Though admirable, however, the improved fight choreography and editing feel more like a band-aid applied to a septic wound. The majority of it is cosmetic, a facet that Netflix subtly indicates with two separate featurettes highlighting the stunts of Iron Fist season two.
But what about the lagging story, slow pacing and blocky dialogue that made season one practically unwatchable? Well, this season sees Danny back in New York, patrolling the streets now that other, smaller gangs are trying to claim what’s been left behind by The Hand. He and Colleen are living together, though she chooses not to fight following the events of The Defenders. Meanwhile, Davos (Sacha Dhawan) has returned following a brief expulsion by Danny, and along with Joy Meachum’s (Jessica Stroup) help, is focused entirely on acquiring various ancient trinkets for unknown maledictions.
This probably sounds like a lot to churn through. Though to be fair, the first season’s story of a missing billionaire who returns to the Western world after spending his most formative years in a mythical city training with warrior monks was quite the stretch, even for audiences accustomed to following a blind vigilante, a superpowered P.I., and a bulletproof man in the other Marvel-Netflix shows. To make matters worse, Danny’s grand entrance in season one made no concerted efforts to eschew his privileged background and position, disappearance be damned.
With all the crap that his fellow Defenders gave him in the mini-series (and on social media), however, it seemed some of the more detrimental aspects of Danny’s character might have been corrected by the time Iron Fist‘s sophomore outing came about. This was an especially promising aspect of Jones’ one-episode appearance in Luke Cage season two, which continued the pair’s budding relationship from its earlier meanderings in The Defenders, while also indicating a significant improvement to the actor’s performance.
Unfortunately, the six episodes granted to reviewers do not suggest that Iron Fist‘s second season will adopt what The Defenders and Luke Cage initiated. They also reveal that Metzner and company’s seemingly fight choreography-focused plans for resetting everything may not have been enough to totally salvage the show (and the character) from the complaints that plagued its freshman turn.
The pacing remains largely subservient to the 13-episode length (despite being only 10 episodes this time) meaning that what could have been a much shorter, tightly-written season feels more like a bloated story. Sub-subplots that would have been nothing more than a footnote to a conversation, like Ward Meachum’s (Tom Pelphrey) struggles after murdering his father, are given far more screen time than necessary. These bits of fluff often coalesce into some of the Marvel-Netflix shows’ most ridiculous moments (like a double dinner date scene in episode three).
As for the dialogue issues, Iron Fist season two features such gems as a conversation between Danny and Colleen about the former’s lack of pop cultural awareness and his attempts to fix this problem. (Colleen: “I kind of liked that you don’t know who SpongeBob is,” Danny: “He’s a sponge… named Bob.”) Many of these exchanges are meant to serve as character-building moments, and they’re usually enough to help Iron Fist move on to the next fight, but just barely.
Yet drastically improved action sequences, which result from the beautiful work of stunt coordinator and second unit director Clayton Barber and his team, just aren’t enough to salvage Iron Fist, let alone keep general audiences interested.
All 10 episodes of ‘Iron Fist’ season two will be available to stream this Friday on Netflix.