Iron Fist's second season has transformed Marvel's worst show into one of its best. Although season 2 isn't flawless, it's tremendously enjoyable and fixes many of the core issues found in the first season.
Scott Buck's first season of Iron Fist was undeniably a popular and critical failure, disappointing fans and earning a paltry 19 percent on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of the show's failings, though, viewing figures were above average, suggesting it was one of the best-performing Marvel series on Netflix. As a result, nobody was particularly surprised when Marvel renewed Iron Fist for a second season.
The redemption of Iron Fist began with The Defenders, with showrunners Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez taking the risky decision to make Danny Rand the focus of the narrative. This allowed actor Finn Jones to play to his strengths, as he interacted well with the other Marvel Netflix stars. Jones' cameo in Luke Cage season 2 gave Marvel the chance to directly address the weaknesses viewers saw in Iron Fist's first solo series, presenting a character who was still recognizable and yet had dealt with a lot of his inner demons and found the central place that should have been his from the beginning. It was a tremendous setup, and it prepared the way for Iron Fist's new showrunner, Raven Metzner, to complete the challenge and turn Iron Fist into one of Marvel Netflix's best shows to date. Here's how he did it.
- This Page: Iron Fist Season 2 Fixes Marvel Netflix's Pacing Problem
- Page 2: Iron Fist's Horrible Action Is Fixed In Season 2
- Page 3: Iron Fist Season 2 Improves Every Character
The Plot and Pacing of Iron Fist Season 2 Fixes Netflix Problems
On a very basic level, the story of Iron Fist season 2 is a remarkable improvement on what's come before, even when compared to other Marvel Netflix series like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage. Metzner actually seems to have dealt with the trademark Marvel Netflix pacing problem.
In the age of binge-watching, episode-to-episode pacing is one of the biggest challenges a TV series faces. The best showrunners vary the pace subtly, with action sequences interspersed with slower, character- and plot-defining moments. Every series has its own balance, shaped by the kind of story it wants to tell, the genre it operates in, and the character dynamics in play. When a show gets it right, the pacing creates real and enduring tension, ensuring both slower- and faster-paced scenes resonate with audiences - and allowing viewers to watch at whatever pace they choose. Almost every Marvel Netflix show to date has been heavily criticized for leaden pacing, so much so that many viewers started to believe a shorter episode count was necessary in order to cut out the dead wood.
The real problem is much more subtle than that; rather, it's to do with the writing itself. Take the example of Jessica Jones season 2; that show lacked a clear antagonist, and as such failed to find a concrete direction. An intrusive 53-minute flashback sequence interrupted the entire ongoing narrative, and subplots failed to join up. All those different issues conspired to create a sense that the show was found lacking in terms of pacing. As for Iron Fist, the show is shorter than any standalone Marvel Netflix series to date (its ten episodes is only beaten by the eight-episode The Defenders), but that's not the reason the series is better paced. Rather, the writing is tight and focused, and every character's arc builds to the denouement. No time is wasted. Even the somehow-obligatory Marvel Netflix sex scenes are cut short, with the showrunner less interested in titillating his audience than in telling his story.
The quality of the storytelling displays itself in the intelligent themes developed over the course of Iron Fist season 2. One of the more fascinating is the idea that the Iron Fist is an addiction; that turns Ward's battle to deal with his own demon into a reflection of Danny's own struggles. In one telling scene, Danny talks about the sense of power he feels whenever he uses the Iron Fist, and Ward tells him that he can relate. By the end of the season, Danny has chosen not to regain the Iron Fist - and yet still can't help himself, dreaming of a time when he will have become the man who truly deserves to wield it once again. There are even hints that this addiction affects Colleen too; in the "months later" scene, she charges her blade with Chi in a moment where she doesn't really need to. Sometimes the theme is overt, sometimes it's implied, but it's ever-present and runs through so many character arcs. And this is only one of the show's themes, demonstrating how effectively Iron Fist season 2 is written.