Spoilers for IRON FIST Season 2 --
IRON FIST's second season is getting mixed reviews. The highest praise it's received is that it's not as much a disaster as the first season. Even the worst reviews noted that Season 2 was less boring than Season 1 and demonstrated basic competence.
My view: the show suffers from its inability to explore the mythology of the Iron Fist. All the Netflix shows are street level crimefighting stories, but DARDEVIL has courtroom drama mixed with crime noir, JESSICA JONES has female empowerment, LUKE CAGE has reappropriated blaxploitation, PUNISHER is militaristic -- IRON FIST should have dragon-punching mystic spectacle, but it can't afford it on a Netflix budget. As a result, IRON FIST lacks a distinct identity to justify its existence.
I still really enjoyed Season 2, but I confess -- I enjoyed it more as a writing exercise in repairing a troubled series. IRON FIST's first season had a ton of problems. It had Danny Rand as the heroic Iron Fist, sworn enemy of the Hand, protector of the city of K'un Lun.
However, his foster brother, Davos, declared that Danny, in returning to New York, had abandoned his post, stolen the Iron Fist power and left the city defenseless. Danny protested that (a) as the Iron Fist, it was up to him to define the role and (b) Davos was only upset that Danny left their friendship and that protecting K'un Lun was not an issue. This didn't address the accusation that Danny had robbed K'un Lun of its heritage and protection.
Another conflict: Danny spent Season 1 regaining control of the Rand corporation. At no point did Danny articulate any intentions for his company beyond regaining his identity. This claim on the company, while valid, suggested his winning the Iron Fist and taking it to New York City was the same sense of entitlement. The show's only real response was to show Danny was an incompetent businessman before dismissing the plot.
This left the show's moral position confused: was Davos correct to call Danny a thief or was it Danny's right to leave K'un Lun? Davos was written to be violent, petty and cruel towards innocent people, effectively dismissing his criticisms. Yet, the ending of Season 1 showed K'un Lun destroyed, indicating that Davos was correct and that Danny had no right to take the Iron Fist and return to New York.
But the immediate follow-up was DEFENDERS which didn't explore the issue, switching the focus to defeating the Hand. The show couldn't seem to articulate any position, offering conflict but unwilling to commit to any defense or criticism of Danny's choices.
Showrunner Scott Buck would later take his clumsy grasp of moral judgment to INHUMANS (which is about a brutal monarchy of slavers as the heroes and their slaves as the villains and I don't even want to imagine how Buck would handle that one).
Anyway. IRON FIST's Season 2 had a new showrunner, M. Raven Metzner, who had inherited quite a mess. The premiere makes a number of immediate shifts: Danny has exited the corporate world and works as a mover, no longer using the Rand Corporation's money. This effectively declares that he only pursued his company as part of regaining his identity.
In this premiere, Davos confronts Danny over K'un Lun being left unprotected and now destroyed. Danny doesn't dispute this but notes that the Iron Fist is also sworn to fight the Hand which he helped destroy in DEFENDERS. Davos declares Danny unworthy of the Iron Fist and where Danny in Season 1 dismissed this, Danny is now deeply shaken.
Season 2 also shows some flashbacks to K'un Lun where Danny and Davos were regularly tortured to prepare them to compete for the Iron Fist. It shows that their final competition was rigged: both are evenly matched with Davos initially superior, Danny getting the upper hand at which point the judges (one of whom is Davos' father) declare Danny the winner when they could just have easily ruled in Davos' favour earlier or waited for the fight to turn Davos' way again.
This doesn't exonerate Danny from taking the Iron Fist from the city it was meant to defend. But it was the Iron Fist judges who steered a traumatized and dislocated orphan into a violently abusive competition and then rigged the match to assign him their most powerful weapon. It was the judges who abused Danny and then gave him the job of defending their home despite knowing he'd try to get home the first chance he got.
Season 2 also shows: Danny didn't 'win' the Iron Fist for being the best fighter; Davos was beating him. Davos' father saw Davos' psychopathy and preferred the Fist go to the weaker candidate, someone less volatile and supposedly easier to control.
Where Scott Buck introduced ambiguity that was confusing and frustrating, M. Raven Metzner offers clear definition. Danny Rand concedes the truth: Davos is too unstable to wield the Iron Fist, but Danny only pursued it for the power and prestige it held in K'un Lun. There is only one person in IRON FIST thus far who has shown the compassion, responsibility and commitment needed to bear the Iron Fist and wield it well. It isn't Danny. It isn't Davos. It's Colleen Wing.
Colleen is a teacher, not a soldier. Colleen seeks to protect, not to fight. Colleen had the strength to realize her commitment to the Hand was based on a lie and to turn against them. Colleen is worthy. And when Danny comes to this realization, IRON FIST shows Danny to be a hero in the true Marvel position where his strength is not in wielding power, but in his willingness to give it up.
It's strong writing. It doesn't come off as strong writing. IRON FIST in Season 1 was terrible. Season 2 is so focused on repairing Season 1 that the terrible and excellent collide to produce a Season 2 that is extremely average. Season 2 is so busy retrofitting itself into the show it wants to be – Colleen Wing as the Immortal Iron Fist – that by the time the job is done, Season 2 is over.
At the same time, deciding to replace your leading man is an extremely difficult proposition. It has to be earned over time and Season 2 is quite determined to earn it over its 10 episodes.