The first season of Iron Fist was not the greatest. In fact, it is consistently ranked as one of the worst of the Marvel-based series on Netflix (there is some debate as to whether or not Defenders was worse, but consider that Iron Fist got a second season and we still don’t know if Defenders will).
However, as I wrote at the time, there were some bright spots. The biggest of them was how completely Ward Meachum was written as a character. After watching the Marvel series, I finally realized that they all shared their biggest strength – building supporting characters.
Danny Rand is still one of the weaker elements in the show, but he has been greatly improved in the second season. Ward gets yet another complete story, and Colleen Wing (Danny’s girlfriend) becomes more than just a girlfriend, but a mentor character and skilled investigator. Misty Knight, the detective from both of Luke Cage‘s seasons, has a big role in this season of Iron Fist, and the dynamic between her and Wing allows for successful diversions from Danny’s often-conflicted storylines.
The real success of Iron Fist in this season isn’t the action that these characters get to see, however. The treasure of this season is the focus on addiction, from the obvious recovery issues of Ward to the not-so-subtle revelation that Danny is also an addict – addicted to the power of the dragon that flows within him. He feeds off his own rage and vents his anger by lighting his fist up and beating the hell out of inanimate objects.
Joy Meachum and Davos – Ward’s sister and Danny’s adoptive brother, respectively – are addicted to vengeance. Joy, clearly conflicted in what she is allowing to be done to Danny (and, to a lesser extent, her own brother), tries to redeem herself, but gets caught up in things that are way over her head. Davos shows no outward conflict, but the idea of becoming the Iron Fist and beating Danny in every conceivable way proves to be his downfall.
Colleen, meanwhile, relapses in her recovery from the vigilante life and is soon dragged into the conflict between warring Chinese gangs.
There is something to be said for metaphorical writing like this. When it is done just right, and not so heavy-handed that it smothers you, it makes for a compelling narrative. That is the case for Iron Fist‘s second season. It isn’t so subtle that you can’t see it, but it isn’t lingering over every scene in an after-school-special sort of way. It flows.
That’s what made this season so much more compelling than the first, and while Danny hasn’t been a great character up to this point (his cameo in Luke Cage‘s second season notwithstanding because that was a great episode), he has been given a chance to grow into something more complete. Iron Fist isn’t going to be the best second season of the Marvel shows (Daredevil has all of them beat by a mile), the narrative was enough to make me believe the character hasn’t completely been ruined.