Netflix recently dropped season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist, a show with an overwhelmingly panned first season. As the fourth series to round out “The Defenders” hero group of New York, the first season failed to do much except set up plot for The Defenders itself. Its main hero was annoying, parts of it were boring, and it quickly became known as the worst Marvel series to exist.
But what about season 2?
We’re going to start with the shocking hot take: Iron Fist season 2 was cinematically fantastic. Terribly, though, the writers did a poor job in showing viewers that. What comes from that mix is a brilliantly imperfect mess of an almost revelation. But, perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start off easy, with the objectively good:
- Danny Rand realizes he’s got weak character and literally is going on a life journey to redefine himself
- Ward Meachum persists in being one of the most interesting characters in a sea of superheroes and expert fighters. And the man is just a troubled businessman with daddy issues
- Mary Walker, AKA Typhoid Mary, was a refreshing, strong, complex character. Even better, it’s one of the first depictions of DID that didn’t feel as cheap or used DID as a tool to villain a person. Instead, it was just a piece of a troubled woman’s life
- Colleen taking the Iron Fist was a great way to acknowledge a character who rightly deserved to be a hero
- The Misty/Colleen combo is effortlessly effective and the two actresses work so well off one another
- Decreasing the Marvel episode average from 13 to 10 helped tighten up the episodes and decrease weird filler time
And, conversely, getting the objectively bad out of the way:
- Joy was a general mess with unfocused motives
- The logic of none of these gangs using guns was ridiculous and unbelievable
- Danny’s wealth is a deus ex machina to sometimes solve problems, but otherwise is ignored to solve any other problems it would be useful in. Example? The money could have been pretty useful in wearing more protective gear while fighting the streets than a ratty hoodie. Danny would have less stabby problems
- The low effort ritual that takes away a high effort honor in the blink of an eye. True, the bowl is one of a kind, but its still absurd
- The dialogue could get pretty bland and/or cheesy
- The plot was fairly basic, at least in its development and elements (EX: revenge plot, hero loses power plot, villain thinks he’s good but goes power hungry plot, etc.)
With those out of the way, we can get on to the most fascinating part of Iron Fist season 2: its glorious cinematography that failed its general audiences.
Since its release, Iron Fist season 2 has been getting semi-boggling reviews. Some people thought the Meachums were boring. Others thought they were the best part. Or, there have been talk of the character motivations not making sense. Disagreeing parties argue that, of course they make sense, you’re just missing it!
How could a show garner so much confusion over how people feel about it? Generally, the reception has been mixed at best. The only thing people seem to be able to agree on is that thank god it was better than the first season.
This confusing, muddled dialogue stems from the season’s best points doing a piss-poor job of translating to the average viewer. Somehow, despite truly impressive film-work, other aspects of Iron Fist leave the series unbalanced and make important developments easy to miss.
Overall, Iron Fist season 2 can be defined by two words: underappreciated and blurry. Never thought two words like those would ever mix together. Yet, here we are.
For those with any film training, Iron Fist season 2 did a lot of brilliant things. The framing of shots showed a lot of the character developments without saying a word and foreshadowed plot growth. However, it didn’t throw many lines to viewers unfamiliar with the art of framing.
So many times the show would frame Colleen and Danny talking across from each other, one in light, the other in dark. Slowly, the framing changed from Danny in light to dark, Colleen taking his place. This subtly shows Danny losing himself in the Iron Fist and Colleen’s progression into being a pure hero. While beautiful framing, the dialogue and plot didn’t help the average person see that. So when Danny talks about Yin and Yang when it comes to their relationship, it makes less sense. The metaphor was consistent in framing, but nearly invisible in dialogue. The writers and directors tried so hard to not be heavy-handed and “show not tell” that they didn’t tell much at all about the intricate character developments going on under the surface.
Similarly, the situations and framing spent all season showing characters why Colleen would be a much better Iron Fist and why all other characters are far more flawed. This is all shown through relationships. Ward defines himself by relationship to Joy, and vice versa. Same with Danny, Davos, and their relationship to the fist. They are defined by it and each other. Even Walker is defined by her relationship with Mary, her alter. Colleen, on the other hand, already destroyed the toxic relationship in her life that she once defined herself by. Free from relying on others to define herself, she spends the season finding what defines her. No matter where she turns, it always comes back to protecting others, making her a purer hero than any of them.
These are only two examples, but this is what Iron Fist season 2 excels at. It has its flaws, but it uses the camera to show the growth of its characters. This tactic works brilliantly, but only if everyone gets it. And since the writers shied away from using dialogue or the like to at least touch on these, it became harder to decipher.
Fans only happened to latch onto whichever growth thread they understood most. That’s how some people can see Ward’s growth away from self-destruction and abandonment, but not from defining himself by others. Others see Colleen’s growth from fearing her own abilities to being brave enough to choose her desire to help others. A few others caught Danny’s power addiction and how it was eating at him to find a purpose for it to feel like he was a hero, not a junkie. And then, from there, realize his mistakes and reject the “gift” that was eating him from the inside out.
Anyone at all interested in the way shows are filmed, I fully recommend watching Iron Fist season 2 and watch how much goodness they jam pack in looks, shots, and the like. But anyone un-interested in working that hard, I get it. Personally, it’s heartbreaking how much the writers failed the average watcher because they had some really good things in there.
Conclusively, Iron Fist season 2 had some real greatness to it. It made some powerful improvements, it was cleverly shot, and it worked to right some wrongs and some troubled characters. However, ultimately, its dialogue was fairly stale and failed to help convey its messages to its audience. If only it did, what a season it could have been.
Guess we’ll have to see if Iron Fist season 3 finally pulls it all together.