A delightful cameo in Luke Cage season 2 was just what Marvel needed in order to fix the character of Danny Rand, a.k.a. the immortal Iron Fist. The first season of Iron Fist wasn't exactly a critical and popular success; although the show was a hit in terms of viewing figures, it was slated for poor fight choreography, a slow and unsatisfying narrative, and unconvincing characterization. Marvel immediately set to work attempting to fix the hero, in preparation for a second season.
That began in The Defenders, with showrunners Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez deciding to make Iron Fist the center of their show. The relationship between Finn Jones's Danny Rand and the rest of the Defenders was core to the series' narrative, allowing Jones an opportunity to develop his character.
Then came Luke Cage season 2, with its tenth episode - "The Main Ingredient" - featuring a guest appearance by Iron Fist. The two heroes are best friends in the comics, teaming up as "Power Man and Iron Fist," and this was a moment fans had been waiting for. It was Marvel's big chance to fix the character - and they didn't disappoint.
Examining Danny Rand's Portrayal in Luke Cage Season 2
The episode began with Danny Rand making his way to Luke's barber shop, and from the onset we saw a very different Iron Fist. This was a man with "swagger," a little more self-aware of his faults and foibles, able to laugh at himself. The dynamic between Jones and Mike Colter was tremendous, with the two actors playing off one another perfectly. It wasn't quite the version of Danny Rand we're familiar with from the comics; but it was certainly a much better portrayal, and the character was both entertaining and far more relatable.
"You seem different," Luke told Danny in one scene. "You seem settled." That's a perfect description of the Danny Rand we saw in Luke Cage season 2: a man who had tamed his inner anger, who had found his peace. "Power comes from stillness," Iron Fist told Luke. He pushes his philosophy on Luke, insisting on taking him to a view of the city where he can meditate and regain his focus. Danny's perspective is a fascinating one, and this time round it truly seemed influenced by his time training as a Buddhist warrior-monk. His stillness and philosophy was crucial to Luke's pursuit of Bushmaster; he deduced that the villain was injured, and then explained the impact of Nightshade on Bushmaster's body.
One of the best moments in the episode is when Luke and Danny enter Harlem's Paradise. Danny is blissfully unaware of who he is to the world; he can't understand why Mariah's goons aren't set to attack, and is annoyed when Luke explains it's because he'd "just walked in here with a billion dollars." This is a man who grew up never understanding the value of possessions, and Danny's expression when Luke tells him that "money is power" is tremendously entertaining. It also differentiates Danny from Oliver Queen in Arrow - another billionaire superhero who returned to civilization after years training.
Related: Iron Fist Season 2 Easter Eggs
Naturally, it all came down to some action sequences, with Danny and Luke raiding a grow-house producing Nightshade. The fight scenes were a marked improvement, with Jones taking full advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate the fact he's spent months training in martial arts ahead of reprising the role. The episode goes to great lengths to show that Danny is now truly master of the Iron Fist; he triggers its power effortlessly, a marked contrast with Iron Fist season 1. The "pattycake" scene - in which he strikes Luke's hand with the Iron Fist, causing a devastating blast of energy - is tremendous.
Luke Cage season 2 was Marvel's big chance to prove that they could make Finn Jones work as Iron Fist. They succeeded, and have whetted viewers' appetites for Iron Fist season 2. But will the fix last? We'll find out on September 7.
Iron Fist season 2 streams on Netflix on September 7.