Friday, September 7, 2018

REVIEW: Netflix's 'Iron Fist' Still Has a Finn Jones Problem But Is More Watchable in Season 2

Netflix's Iron Fist debuted its entire 10-episode second season on Friday, September 7. This post will feature brief reviews of each episode of the season.

The drama stars Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, Sacha Dhawan, Simone Missick and Alice Eve.

201. "The Fury of Iron Fist"
Written by M. Raven Metzner and directed by David Dobkin

This premiere needed to be accessible to the viewers who didn't stick with the show through its entire first season. Danny has continued to appear in the Netflix-Marvel series though - first in The Defenders and then in one episode of Luke Cage's second season. Now, he still doesn't come across as interesting and compelling as the other heroes toplining their own shows on the streaming platform. And yet, this episode does a good enough job addressing the awkwardness of the past while also redirecting the focus for the future. Sure, it still brings back a number of characters who were more annoying and lame from the first season. Ward having outbursts at his sister and sleeping with his sponsor is going to grow tiring very quickly. Meanwhile, Davos' motivation seems to be out of pure jealousy. He believes the Iron Fist was his birthright. Danny stole it from him by cheating only to then abandon his responsibilities for some trivial matters in New York. Danny can counter with the claim that he did ultimately fulfill the mission of defeating The Hand. But now, that has created a power vacuum in the city. Danny is choosing to defend the city as the promise he made to Matt Murdock at the conclusion of The Defenders. The outcome of that miniseries does have an impact on the story here. But it's also just redirecting the character to make him seem more grounded and humble. Sure, Danny is still dealing with a lot of rage. He is still arguing with people because they simply don't understand his actions. He has no awareness for his own perception in the world. That is still a significant problem. And yet, it also feels like the show is moving briskly enough with its main narrative. Davos and Joy are teaming up in order to destroy Danny's life. Davos teases that he potentially has a way to take the powers of the Iron Fist away from Danny. He also notes that there is more one can do with the power than simply having an indestructible and powerful fist. That should also be a promising development. Meanwhile, Coleen's story is mostly just getting her back into the life of chaos by needing to fight in order to get answers. It seems connected to her family history. So, that's bound to get complicated soon. Of course, the relationship melodrama between Danny and Colleen could be forced too considering the two of them seem very genuinely good for each other here before everything starts happening. B-

202. "The City's Not for Burning"
Written by Jon Worley and directed by Rachel Talalay

Three central stories have emerged so far this season - Davos and Joy teaming up together to take down Danny, Danny trying to stop a gang war in Chinatown, and Mary stalking Danny's life. There still isn't a whole lot known about Mary and how she fits into all of this. It's clear that it's not a coincidence that Danny keeps running into her. She presents as someone sweet and wholesome. But there's something much dark lurking under the surface that is only being teased so far. Meanwhile, the other two stories have their points of convergence. Danny trying to stop this gang war leads to Davos being unable to get his shipment on time. As such, Davos is presented as a morally corrupt person who believes that he honors a code. That's a fascinating character dichotomy. He is so against what Joy is asking him to do in order to get this bowl. He doesn't like seducing and blackmailing a person. And yet, he's more than comfortable killing a person for standing in his way. That's absolutely despicable and shows that the elders of K'un-L'un were right to take the Iron Fist away from him. Of course, it's clear that fight still torments Danny as well. This hour incorporates flashbacks to highlight just how brutal that conflict was and why Davos believes he was cheated out of his birthright. It was an agonizing and graphic fight that took so much energy out of both of them in the hopes of winning. Davos didn't die or yield. As such, he believes Danny unfairly won and then abandoned all of his principles as soon as he got the Iron Fist. It's incredibly petty and shows just how dangerous and reckless a character he can be. He doesn't care about the impact of his actions. He is destroying the tenuous peace that Danny and Colleen are able to negotiate without fighting. They believe they are the saviors of Chinatown. And yet, this conflict is about to get much more lethal because that's the direction these Netflix-Marvel shows always go in. It was noble that Danny is trying to prioritize negotiations over rampant violence. But it's also clear that he has anger issues that he has absolutely no control over. That is messing with his head especially once his hand starts glowing when he didn't wish to activate his powers. That creates a sense of uncertainty that could propel the story forward. Right now though, the show is still primarily in setup mode. B-

203. "This Deadly Secret"
Written by Tatiana Suarez-Pico and directed by Toa Fraser

Danny is not all that good at diplomacy. He wants to establish peace in his neighborhood and his family. And yet, he really doesn't know what he's doing. He is driving himself crazy by just blindly going out at night trying to stop the violence. He doesn't really have a firm understanding of the situation though. When he and Colleen are called upon as a show of force for the parlay, he just immediately assumes that the other side is going against their word and trying to take out their competition. He doesn't suspect that it could be a third party entirely - possibly the street kids who have also been trying to make a name for themselves. Colleen has been getting close to one of them after all. That would make it easy to kill him off in order to escalate the tension further. So, Danny may have ruined peace because he is impetuous. Moreover, Danny and Ward are plotting a way to trick Joy into forgiving them. That's absolutely despicable. They have to be genuinely sorry for the actions that led to their current estrangement. In fact, it's easy to feel empathy for Joy throughout this story because she is confronting Danny about the lies he told her despite how destructive they became for her life. He has the cliche response of saying he lied in order to protect her. But that doesn't justify his behavior at all. Now, Joy's escalation to the point of working with Davos in the hopes of destroying Ward and Danny may not be healthy either. And yet, it's a character evolution that makes sense here. She is already working so much further ahead than anyone else. She worries that Danny and Ward are starting to get suspicious. However, neither of them are close at all to figuring out what she's planning with Davos. In fact, Ward is distracted by his own addiction struggles which aren't all that compelling on their own. This all leads to the revelation that Mary has been hired by Joy and Davos to spy on Danny and Colleen. Of course, there is more complications to her as well. She warns Danny and Colleen that someone is spying on them. That person goes under the name "Walker." And then, it turns out that Mary is actually Walker. So is this all one big long con by her in order to turn the sides against each other? Or is it some kind of internal conflict where she has differing sides she genuinely wants to help? C+

204. "Target: Iron Fist"
Written by Jenny Lynn and directed by MJ Bassett

This episode has a very disorienting beginning. At first, I wondered if the screeners were listed correctly. And yet, it does open with Walker defeating Danny in battle even though the last we saw of Danny he was trying to protect Mrs. Yang from the parlay gone wrong. It seemed like Danny, Colleen and company would be trapped in that building to deal with whatever threat was outside. But instead, that moment continues to highlight how Danny really doesn't think before he acts. That is such a consistent character trait with him. And yet, it's not getting any more palatable the longer the audience spends with him. He wants to be the protector of the city. He believes that he's the only one who can defeat the threats. He is only now starting to realize just how dangerous Davos can be. Before now, he just conveniently didn't know that his brother was perfect fine with murder. That ignorance allows Danny to get captured while Davos is performing a ceremony to take the power of the Iron Fist away from him. That's what he has been after all along. And now, it is coming to fruition for him. It puts Danny at his absolute lowest point. Of course, things were already depressing before then because he was refusing to accept help from the people in his life. He wasn't slowing down to talk things out with Colleen and Misty before he sprung into action. He just sees a problem that he alone can fix. That's very narcissistic. As such, it's somewhat rewarding to see him get beat up by Walker. It further highlights how he only uses the Iron Fist to throw a punch. He likes to punch the ground a lot knowing the sonic waves that then creates. He doesn't experiment to see how far his limits can go. That leaves him vulnerable to attack by someone who has been studying him for awhile. Of course, the reveal with what's going on with Mary is somewhat lackluster because it has been dragged out for far too long. She has multiple personalities. Walker appears to be the primary one. She's the one hired by Joy for this job. Meanwhile, Mary is the identity Danny has been interacting with who is trying to save him from disaster. But at the end of the day, Walker prevails and also shows off her strength as someone who is able to go toe-to-toe with Danny and Davos. As such, that should keep her a very interesting threat moving forward. She has completed her job for Joy and Davos. So, who is she going to help next? B

205. "Heart of the Dragon"
Written by Declan de Barra and directed by Mairzee Almas

Who is a superhero without their powers? Are their powers the only things that make them special and able to do incredible things in the world? These are questions that have been well mined in this genre before. It still makes a compelling story though. Danny talks to Ward about the Iron Fist being more than just a part of him. It was his entire identity. When he was trained at K'un-L'un, the masters beat him into acceptance that the Iron Fist needed to be chaste in all areas of life. He needed to rise above everything else and just surrender himself to the powers and responsibilities. Danny was still learning how to use his powers. And now, they have been taken from him. It's very chilling to watch as Davos takes on the mantle of Iron Fist and believes that he makes more progress in a day than Danny ever has. Again, the characters are left to wonder the value of this title with K'un-L'un and The Hand destroyed. Is the responsibility now solely to protect the world from the criminals who wish it harm? Davos was trained that the best way to defeat one's enemies is to kill them. That was the only way that the Iron Fist could protect the magical home. Danny's compassion was deemed irresponsible and the reason why he would never defeat the dragon. And yet, he still prevailed. He absorbed the power. Moreover, he was able to get the anger and rage of the dragon. That seems absolutely insane. And yet, it explains the depths of the anger he has experienced over the course of the series so far. Now, he is forced to reckon with no longer being special. Even his money isn't enough to get him out of dire situations. Instead, he has to rely on his friends. Misty and Colleen are really the heroes of this hour. They are able to save Danny before the Rhinos are able to hurt him. And then, they are able to arrest Mary Walker for her role in helping Davos while also getting Joy to confess to her own complicity. Those are big plot developments. Joy is realizing that Davos is much more dangerous than she expected and isn't done with his plans just yet. He will continue to terrorize the city cleansing it of all that is wrong. He believes that to be his mission. He will succeed through violence. He doesn't have the clarity or willingness to understand another person's point of view. That makes him very dangerous. He will become the target of so many people over the second half of the season. Danny will still feel responsible for stopping him as he is the only person in the world who understands him. But will he still feel heroic despite the lost of the Iron Fist? B+

206. "The Dragon Dies at Dawn"
Written by Matthew White and directed by Philip John

The spark between Colleen and Misty is just so electric and wonderful to watch. It's fascinating just watching them as they continue to get dragged into all of these mystical events thanks to the respective men in their lives. They appreciate Danny even though they don't always understand everything that's going on. And it's more vital when they are talking about their own respective futures. Now, it's inevitable that Misty takes the promotion for captain. That's the position she needs to be in for the start of Luke Cage Season 3. So, the ambiguity over it all doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But Colleen's future is up in the air. She feels the need to help Danny when needed despite her hanging up her katana for good. She feels the calling and Misty wants her to think about a career in law enforcement. Moreover, Misty is telling her that she doesn't have to feel responsible for Danny's actions. He is a grown man who has to accept the consequences for what he does. If he pushes people away, he can't just easily be forgiven. He is once again concocting a plan without telling the supportive and powerful women in his life. He takes Walker to have a conversation with Davos. He hopes that he can get through to his brother to get him to see the error of his ways. And yet, Davos is too far gone. Everyone around Danny can see that. The show doesn't even want things to be ambiguous because the flashbacks have always highlighted just how reckless Davos would become with the Iron Fist. Of course, he's also able to unlock powers that Danny couldn't. As such, he is able to surprise Walker by being able to have two glowing fists. He still gets knocked out though. But that's when things start to become complicated for the sole sake of stretching the plot out for ten episodes of story. Once again, it seems like the conclusion is happening too quickly. And so, Walker shifts back to Mary while Danny is carried away in an ambulance. That means neither of them can ensure that Davos remains unconscious and unable to fight back when the power of the Iron Fist is returned to Danny. That means he'll still be on the prowl looking to cleanse the city of all of its criminals. But he has no compassion on that mission either. He is already looking at the Rhinos as potential targets that will need to be eliminated soon even though they are children. That's absolutely horrifying. And now, they'll be put in danger because Danny didn't want to run the plan by anyone besides Ward. B

207. "Morning of the Mindstorm"
Written by Rebecca Dameron and directed by Stephen Surjik

The previous episode ended in such a climatic way with Davos surprising Danny and Walker while also smashing Danny's knee. And yet, it also felt like a plot complication just to keep the main narrative spinning for a full more episodes. That means the show is now fully in wheel-spinning mode. Danny is injured. Now, this type of injury should naturally take him out of crime fighting for a long time. But the show is already stretching reality by saying that he just has some anonymous technology that allows him to heal more quickly. It's the same kind of development that happened after Misty lost her arm. She was able to quickly learn how to use the prosthetic. But that highlights the difference between the characters. With Misty, the audience wanted to see her back in the action. With Danny, it only further highlights the burden he places on the other characters. He draws all of them in on this crazy and mystical journey. Misty is helping not because she understands or believes in all of this but because she needs to protect her friends. Meanwhile, Colleen genuinely loves Danny. She's there at the hospital while the screws are being drilled into him. She is there when he wakes up and for his physical therapy. And yet, he is immediately demanding her to train him even though she has left that life behind. She has a very valid reason for doing so. She gives a piece of herself to those she teaches. She can't bear losing anyone else in this fight. And so, she will have to completely break away from Danny in order to train him. It's such a satisfying moment when she keeps beating him over and over again. It feels like more than her caving in because her reasons are too silly for her to stay mad. In fact, it highlights how Colleen deserves someone much better than Danny. He always values how much she understands him. And yet, he doesn't extend the same courtesy to her. His mission is always more important than her reasons. As such, this separation could ultimately be a good thing. It at least makes sense. Meanwhile, Joy continues to go back-and-forth on whether she is working with Misty or Davos. She tells Misty what she needs to know about the bowl. And then, she goes to Davos wanting to help him cleanse and reinvent the city. That plot point proves that he has some greater agenda. It's just mostly being told in a way that makes him more monotonous as a villain. C

208. "Citadel on the Edge of Vengeance"
Written by Melissa Glenn and directed by Julian Holmes

Self-reflection has become such an important part of this season's story. Everyone is starting to realize that the power and obsession over the Iron Fist is really quite corrosive. Danny and Davos were trained to covet this prize. Even after Danny won, Davos refused to accept it. He lived his entire life trying to find a way to steal this power. Now, he has and is becoming even more angry. He is full of rage. He simply doesn't understand why people are terrified of him. He is killing people to make the world a better place. He sees that as good. And yet, everyone is right to fear him. It's enough to make him kill because people don't just blindly obey him. That's absolutely terrifying and nauseating. As such, Danny and Colleen have to make quick progress with his training to ensure that Davos is stopped. And yet, it's important for the show to point out that Danny is physically ready for this battle but not mentally prepared. His emotions are still getting the best of him. Plus, he's realizing that he's not really fighting for anything. He is off center and not able to control himself because he's just flinging around trying to find that thing that he cares about. He loves Colleen. But he's also demanding their relationship be more than her as his trainer. He can't accept that she doesn't want to impart this wisdom on someone who may die because of it. She knows how to provoke him in order to get an emotional response. And yet, the final realization may be one of the more inspired teases of the season so far. Danny accepts that he was just given a mission to focus on instead of genuinely wanting it for himself. He was forced into desiring the Iron Fist because the elders told him to. However, he's not using it for any good. He's just trying to blindly keep a promise that he doesn't even believe in. He's not really a hero with a mission. He doesn't have that balance and understanding in his life. He believes that Colleen truly deserves to wield the Iron Fist. She is the one trying to teach Danny these things in order to control his temper. She has the balance necessary to tame the anger that comes from the spirit of the dragon. That's a very tempting idea that the show should feel free to explore. Would the power of the Iron Fist be just as corrosive to Colleen? Or would she actually use it the right way? She still has that mystery regarding that box that is still yet to be resolved. Will the season have enough time to properly address that though? B

209. "War Without End"
Written by Daniel Shattuck and directed by Sanford Bookstaver

This is a very climatic episode that explores whether or not Colleen actually wants the Iron Fist. Everyone believes that she would wield it better than Danny or Davos. They are always tempted by the power that it brings. It consumes them to the point where they feel the need to use it no matter who is on the receiving end of the punch. Davos doesn't care that he is attacking a community center. He believes the innocent people including children there are guilty by association. The show is definitely trying to articulate the idea that the leaders need to do right by their communities even if they are in charge of organized crime. Mrs. Yang has to step up and do the right thing to save innocent lives. Sure, this is still a lethal conflict. BB dies because he foolishly believes that he can reason with his former friends. Instead, his death is used to motivate Colleen into action. She listens to Misty when she says that she can't save everyone. And yet, Colleen has the opportunity to step up and do more. She is a natural hero. She understands that it doesn't take having powers in order to do good in the world. She is afraid of the power she may wield. She doesn't want to lose control. She doesn't want to lose sight of her own identity. She is already left spinning from the revelation that her mother is probably alive and living in New York somewhere. That leads her to believe that so much of her life has been a lie. And yet, she has clarity when she is with Danny and Misty. Yes, the big moment of action comes when Danny and Davos are fighting. Danny succeeds in being able to push Davos to the point that he is emotionally reacting instead of driving the fight. As such, he is now the wielder of the Iron Fist who is sedated so this transfer of power ceremony can be done. This time though it is Colleen who is accepting the power. She is ready to take it not knowing how it will change her. She believes she is strong and balanced enough in order to figure it all out. Of course, there's then that big moment of uncertainty at the end with Davos waking up in the middle of the transfer. He is able to use the Iron Fist to break free from his chains. He sends Danny and Colleen flying across the room. He may be too powerful. And yet, enough of the transfer apparently worked because Colleen now has a glowing fist as well. So, this fight is going to have one exciting and unexpected conclusion during the finale. B+

210. "A Duel of Iron"
Written by M. Raven Metzner and directed by Jonas Pate

In this season of searching for identity, Colleen walks away with the most clarity. She and Davos are linked in this battle for survival. Their fates are intwined until one surrenders the heart of the dragon. If neither does, they both will die. Those are high stakes. But the show doesn't try to uphold them throughout the entire finale. In fact, the most climatic moments happen right away. Colleen and Davos fight while Danny and Misty are battling Walker who has her own agenda in all of this. Colleen gets the Iron Fist and Davos is arrested. That's a welcome change of pace because so often in these Netflix-Marvel shows the antagonists are killed by the end of the season simply because there's no other way to eliminate the threat. Here, the source of Davos' power is the Iron Fist. He may believe that he has ignited a message that is resonating throughout the community. And yet, he really hasn't. He may have led with conviction and certainty over his life but that only led him down a dark path. And now, Colleen is standing up in the light to ensure that Chinatown actually has a guardian and protector worth talking about. She still has no answers about her mother. In fact, there is the big reveal that her ancestry may also connect to K'un-L'un. As such, it's not crazy that she now wields the Iron Fist. In fact, she is able to use it in ways that neither Danny nor Davos thought about. It's so cool to see the katana light up too. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters are all in a perpetual state of limbo where they are still questioning who they want to be. Walker realizes that there is a third personality within her who is even more monstrous. She has been laying dormant for a long time but she is full of rage. As such, her continuing her relationship with Joy is bound to be complicated. And Joy survives all of her injuries once again. This time though it won't send her on a dark path of revenge. Elsewhere, Misty is still conflicted about being promoted to captain knowing just how effective she is on the streets. She doesn't want to be stuck behind a desk. The show doesn't really give any clarity about her which is most likely to preserve the dynamic for the next season of Luke Cage. And lastly, Danny and Ward go off to Asia together in search of answers regarding the history of the Iron Fist. K'un-L'un revered its power so much but was also very secretive about the lineage. Some stories were passed down. That allows Danny to offer some clarity on Colleen's own parentage. However, he is mostly doing this in search of answers for what he wants his life to be. The season then ends with the tease that his life will inevitably lead back to the Iron Fist. This time he has two glowing hands and guns that do cool tricks. That's unexpected and shows that he and Ward have made progress on this journey. I'm just curious if Danny will remain the lead of the show in another season or if he and Colleen will be the co-leads now that they both seem to be the Iron Fist. B+