Last November, Danny Rand, AKA the Iron Fist, was finally introduced on screen and in the MCU when the first season of his series aired on Netflix. It was one of the most highly-anticipated releases of the year for many. The Iron Fist mythos is a deep one, and one that fans, including myself, have been waiting to see adapted for quite a while. Unfortunately, upon its release, the series was met with mostly negative reviews. These reviews were targeted towards the boring acting, an unfocused story, repetitive action, and accompanied controversy as to whether or not the character was whitewashed. Danny Rand in the comics is a white character, but audiences believed that this was a missed opportunity for a Marvel hero of Asian descent to make their debut. Agree or disagree, the series’ failings certainly didn’t help quell the controversy at all. Despite all of this however, this past July, Season 2 was announced to the world at Comic-Con, much to the surprise of most. And although I didn’t care for the first season, I will say a second season isn’t unwelcome, but it will have to do quite a bit in order to redeem the series in the eyes of the many that were let down by the first.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Even if you’ve been as big of a fan of the Marvel Netflix shows as I have been, we were all skeptical with how Iron Fist was going to turn out from the moment it was announced. Not that we thought it would fail as much as it did, but the story of Danny Rand is something that I think we were all expecting to be shown on the big screen rather than a Netflix series. His origin story alone is already pretty big budget; surviving a plane crash, being raised in a mystical city, and to become the hero he’s destined to be, he must fight and kill a dragon. All of us were anxious to see how this would be translated into the Netflix series, and to the dismay of many, the majority of it was never really shown.
In Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, we were treated with extensive flashbacks that gave us a thorough understanding of how these people got their powers and became the heroes we know and love. And while we get flashbacks revealing some of Iron Fist’s backstory, the problem is that what we really never see what we need to see. And that’s Danny defeating the dragon, Shou-Lao. Why is it so important that we see this? Because whenever Danny tells this story, he seems completely insane to the other characters. This isn’t something smaller like Daredevil or Jessica’s chemical accidents, or Luke’s experimentation in prison. This is a man who’s been missing for years coming back out of nowhere, saying that he fought and killed a DRAGON. We only know he’s not lying because he’s the main character. But if this were any other character, why on earth should we believe them? Almost everyone Danny tells this story to immediately assumes he’s lying, and to be honest, he’s not even giving the viewer much reason to believe he’s not. So the only remedies here are to either retcon the origin to get rid of Shou-Lao entirely, or actually use the show’s budget to at least give us a glimpse of the beast in a flashback. This isn’t just so he doesn’t seem as crazy, but once you have a better understanding of where Danny’s coming from and what he’s actually been through, then the audience in turn will be more invested in the character. Right now though, he’s just a crazy, messy, rich guy in his twenties who knows martial arts.
One of the weakest points in Season 1 of the show was the villain, or villains rather. You had the Meachums, Madame Gao, Bakuto, and Davos. While there’s nothing wrong with multiple villains (Luke Cage handled it’s four antagonists just fine), the problem is there’s never a big, focused villain here. People remember Kingpin from Daredevil, Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, or Cottonmouth from Luke Cage. None of the villains in this series ever really reach the level of intimidation or memorability that the others did. Was it their performances? Was it their respective screentimes? Was it just how their character was written and directed? Honestly, I think it’s a combination of all three. The Meachums and Bakuto are boring, and Madame Gao is underwhelming after her being hyped up in Daredevil. To be fair with Davos however, I did like Sacha Dhawan’s performance of the character, and do understand that he was meant to be built up more as a future villain rather than as a villain for this season.
Regardless, when it comes to a villain, Iron Fist Season 2 can’t make the same mistake. It needs to give Danny a clear target, someone only he and he alone can truly understand and stop. The clear choice here is of course to finally turn Davos into the Steel Serpent. The motivation, history, and tension between the two characters is definitely there. Whether Season 2 will make this decision, and if they do, whether their story built around it works, has yet to be seen. His meeting up with Joy Meachum at the end of Season 1 leaves the door open for her to serve as the primary antagonist for the first half of the season, while Davos reveals himself as the Steel Serpent in the second half. Again though, this will all depend on whether or not the show decides to go this route. It seems like the most obvious course of action, but it’s also not totally necessary. All that is necessary is a villain that will stick with you, and one that will end up being the highlight of each episode they’re in, just like the villains in the other series.
So we’ve gotten out of the way two of the most important things I think Iron Fist needs to fix in order for Season 2 to succeed. But there’s one more thing that the series must do to redeem itself, and if it doesn’t do this one thing, the entire season will fall flat, regardless of what else it does well. What is this utterly important task?
Fix Danny Rand.
Honestly, the most frustrating thing about the series was Danny Rand himself. I don’t believe Finn Jones is a bad actor, or even a bad choice for Iron Fist. But his direction and writing in Season 1 did not result in the Iron Fist we should have gotten. It gave us a whiny, jittery, annoying, ignorant rich kid with superpowers. Danny Rand in Season 1 is like if you took Anakin Skywalker from Attack of the Clones and gave him the wealth of Bruce Wayne. Whether we are finally shown his past and struggle, whether we’re finally given a good villain, none of this will matter if the series doesn’t first fix it’s biggest problem, and that’s the main character. Even if he wasn’t completely annoying to you, I have yet to meet anyone who saw the show and praised his portrayal. The reaction to Finn Jones as Danny Rand, from what I’ve seen, has always been indifferent to negative.
So how do you fix it? Well, the short and sweet answer is better direction and writing. But what kind of direction should be given? How should he be written? Danny can be lighthearted, yes. And it’s perfectly understandable to write him as someone who’s new to being a hero. But he’s not clueless or arrogant. Danny is patient, confident, humble, and precise. Finding that balance is all it takes to make the character what he’s meant to be, and what people were hoping to see when they started watching the show. While at K’un L’un, Danny was training both his body and mind. And in the first season, he may have the body and skill set of a warrior, but it’s obvious he still has the mind and demeanor of a reckless, spoiled kid. And that’s not who Iron Fist is.
The showrunner for Iron Fist was Scott Buck, the same man who is also at the helm of the upcoming Inhumans series. And judging by the looks of that show, I’ll have a lot to say about it as well when it’s released. However at Comic-Con, it was announced that Raven Metzner (Sleepy Hollow) will be taking control for Season 2. Though I’m not familiar with his past work, I remain optimistic that he’ll learn from his predecessor’s mistakes and deliver a season that will reflect that. In the end, the biggest thing the Iron Fist series needs is what the Iron Fist himself excels at, and that’s focus. Once they have that focus, I’m confident that they can finally, faithfully give us the show we’ve been waiting for since these series’ were all announced back in 2013.