A little belated, because I must admit the release of another season of Iron Fist did not have me excited. Thus far the character of Danny Rand – across both his first season and the whole of The Defenders – has been shallow, narcissistic, bland, and a whole bunch of other bad adjectives. The story that surrounded him was rather lacklustre, the teeth were pulled out of The Hand, Madame Gao was distinctly underwhelming after both of them had proven enigmatic and powerful in previous parts of the series.
Which begs the question, can the Iron Fist be salvaged? What could possibly make the character likeable after one-and-a-bit series of dross? Well some of the reviewers who have espoused their opinions before I even saw the show seem to think so, and I’m… well let’s talk about it. A Spoiler Alert is in effect.
In The Still Kinda Self Centred Corner – Danny Rand
Yeah, I’m sticking with the “In the that corner” format.
So, it’s an improvement! There’s definitely that, but here’s a challenge for you: The series picks up with the relationship between Danny and Colleen settling into a stride of sorts, taking down the local crime lords, eating together, generally being quite couple-y. During the show, look for moments when Danny does something for Colleen, and when he demands something for himself or acts purely out of self interest. Here’s your first spoiler, that is a seriously one-sided relationship, staggeringly so!
He’s less self obsessed for sure, there’s less of the “I am the Immortal Iron Fist” every few seconds, and there’s certainly a sense that efforts have been made to make him more likeable. He seems to have mostly embraced the task put to him by Matt Murdock, protecting New York in favour of K’un L’un, because as the Iron Fist he did a bang-up job as sole warden. Much like Luke Cage, he’s taking a tour of the main gang leaders, in this case the Triads, and attempting to broker a peace between them to minimise the collateral harm, although weirdly enough it seems like the Triads are all game to keep the city safe. Odd for criminal gangs to show such compassion.
Still, what we do have is a way better combination of both martial arts and superheroism across the series, and Danny takes the classic character arc of being over reliant on power, losing said power, and recovering it on a voyage of self discovery that sees him overcome his enemy – a close personal friend – along the way. It’s testament to the idea that tried and true narratives can be a safety net when you’re falling, because this is a far more satisfying series, due in no small part to aforementioned villains.
In The Mentally Ill Corner, Davos and Mary
We all saw Davos coming, in season one he was about as subtle a sequel set up as the Joker card at the end of Batman Begins, or Sinestro (because the guy called Sinestro is clearly going to be a trusted friend and mentor for life). Kudos for being a particularly well crafted villain, genuinely believing himself to be the man on the righteous path and taking every dark step along the way, betrayal, blackmail, larceny, chaos, general murdering. I can’t decide whether I appreciate how unlikable he is, especially as the flashbacks to his and Danny’s youth is seemingly an attempt to throw doubt onto Danny and make Davos seem the one who’s been hard done by.
Now, for a likeable villain, direct your attention to the other major player, minor spoilers here Walker, the former special ops agent turned bounty hunter and PI with dissociative identity disorder. The alter, Mary, is a sweetheart with an eye for drawing and a kind of nervous affection, a harsh contrast to the cool malevolence of Walker. Now, Walker is a somewhat malevolent woman, although while there is a common goal on the table she is loyal, honest, and a little caring herself, traits that – throughout the story cause her and her alter to reach out to one another. It’s an incomplete redemption arc with a third act still on the table. I find myself wondering if we’ll see Typhoid Mary pop up again against the Punisher.
Crane Sisters, Dragon Daughters
The best characters by far: Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, Marvel comic’s Daughters of the Dragon. They’re a team up we all saw hinted at once or twice, two kick-ass dames who scream of seventies buddy-cop action films. It helps that there’s a healthy dose of chemistry between the actors, Simone Missick and Jessica Henwick, but it’s a team up that has had far more development than any of the Defenders did before their combined effort, and maybe a Daughters of the Dragon mini-series should be on the cards, even a four episode case would be something to watch, especially now that… ah, let’s sit on that one.
Best fight scene in the show is between Colleen, Misty, and the Crane Sisters, in this case adapted into tattoo artists shady enough to do whatever dark and twisted thing they’re paid to do, health and safety be damned. No superpowers, and not all about the martial arts either.
Colleen makes a better hero in this series than Danny, no questions there. Charitable work, every effort made not to enter into a fight, and hints dropped about her legacy and backstory, another incomplete thread in the form of a black box, and the family crest found on the medallion embedded into its lid and into the hilt of her father’s sword.
The Future of the Defenders
Ok, let’s add up a few threads here, we have Mary, Colleen’s mother, the slowly turning Luke Cage – whose current dark plot gets a nod from Misty – and of course the awakened Daredevil, fair to assume that there are no plans to cancel the Marvel content of Netflix for the foreseeable future. It has been a very mixed bag. They’ve braved a few things that comic book adaptions have been reluctant about, going into the dirtier side of crime, the damage done to families, the personal effects of drugs, rape (Jessica Jones), the corruption in politics and police. It’s nice to see that they’re willing to embrace a few tried and tested methods too.
Last time around it felt like Iron Fist took the edge out of all of those things, and there’s still a hint of the softer side here – pretty sure the Triads aren’t as concerned with community projects as the show makes out. And while a lot of the old issues with Iron Fist season one still linger, season two feels almost worth the subscription fee. Hell, it almost feels as good as early Daredevil at times. Speaking of…
Did you guys hear they’re planning on dropping Daredevil season three this October? Rather glad of that one, let’s see what comes up next. Some word has come down regarding Moon Knight, so I guess we’ll see what comes of that…