WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel's Iron Fist Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
The Defenders ended with Matt Murdock presumed dead, Jessica Jones Season 2 with the surly Jessica trying to embrace a normal life, and Luke Cage Season 2 with the Hero of Harlem establishing himself as the neighborhood's new "sheriff." However, none of those finales upended a series' status quo quite like the last two episodes of Iron Fist's second season, which, literally, changes the title character.
In its leaner, 10-episode sophomore outing, the Netflix drama focuses its primary storyline on a revenge plot by unlikely allies Davos (Sacha Dhawan) and Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) to strip Danny Rand (Finn Jones) of the Iron Fist and transfer that power into Davos, who believes it was stolen from him in the first place. Running parallel are subplots about Danny's struggle to control his emotions and identify what he's fighting for, and Colleen's search for clues about a mysterious antique hair brush box bearing her family crest. There are other threads, of course, involving a brewing gang war, the Meachum siblings, and the backstory of Mary Walker (Alice Eve), but the twist -- as you might expect -- hinges on Davos, Danny and Colleen.
With Davos in possession of the "Heart of the Dragon," through an arcane ritual involving an ancient bowl, the mummified corpse of an Iron Fist and some tattoo work, he cuts a bloody swath through Lower Manhattan's criminal underworld. His shattered leg held together by steel pins and Rand technology, Danny nevertheless is determined to stop his adoptive brother and reclaim the Iron Fist by reenacting the ritual. To prepare, he turns to Colleen (Jessica Henwick) to train him, but in the closing moments of Episode 8, "Citadel on the Edge of Vengeance," Danny realizes he shouldn't wield the power, for fear of becoming consumed by instead. Instead, Colleen should become Iron Fist.
Legacy is built into the very concept of Iron Fist, with the mantle passed down through the centuries, and superhero comics have a long history of "replacement heroes"; multiple people have used the names Iron Man, Captain America, Batman and even Thor. But it's a bold idea for a television drama like this -- so bold that surely something will prevent Colleen from taking on the power. But, surprisingly, it doesn't.
Having spent much of the season turning her back on vigilantism following the events of The Defenders, Colleen bristles at the very thought of becoming the Iron Fist. "Danny, you trained for years, you fought your friends, you fought a freakin' mythical beast," she says. "You have problems controlling it, but who wouldn't? You can't just pawn it off on me because you don't want it anymore."
Although Danny and Misty each makes a case for her assuming the mantle, it's ultimately the death of B.B., a kindhearted street kid whose crew became Davos' students, that spurs Colleen, in her own words, to "step up." With the key elements assembled -- the Tibetan singing bowl, a piece of Danny skin, the tattooing talents of the Crane Sisters, and a Davos doped up on ketamine -- they reenact the ritual to transfer the Heart of the Dragon from Davos. But of course it's not so easy as that, as Davos awakes before the ceremony is complete leaving the power split between him and Colleen, with a newly acquired white glowing fist. However, it's a painful, untenable state that threatens to kill them both.
Most television shows, and most superhero comics, preserve the status quo, affecting only the illusion of change, and it's certainly possible that, come the end of Season 3 -- if there is a Season 3 -- Danny Rand will be the one and only Iron Fist. But by the middle of the Season 2 finale, Danny and Colleen have defeated Davos, who pleads for death but ends up in police custody, and she is in possession of the Iron Fist. When last we see her, some months after the events of the season, she's stopping an armed robbery, her signature katana glowing white in her hand.
That raises a few questions, not the least of which is how she can possess the Iron Fist. While Colleen is an undeniably skilled fighter, she didn't train from childhood in mystical K'un-Lun or defeat the immortal Shou-Lao. How can her body even contain the Heart of the Dragon, when Danny struggled with it? The answer may lie in a bedtime story.
With the help of Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Colleen at last comes face to face with the crotchety furniture shop owner who last owned the antique box bearing a silver medallion emblazoned with her family crest. Working with the Golden Tigers gang, he sold counterfeit papers to undocumented immigrants, and received the box as payment from a woman who sold him on a story about a princess who fell in love with a fisherman, whom she saves from a pirate. Colleen recognizes it as "The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay," a story made up by her mother. To Colleen, that means her long-dead mother had been in New York.
But it has another meaning to Marvel Comics fans, who may recognize the story of Wu Ao-Shi, from 2006's The Immortal Iron Fist #7, the first woman to become to defeat Shou-Lao the Undying and become the Iron Fist. The princess is familiar to Danny as well, as a tale he was told as a child in K'un-Lun. He doesn't fully piece together the puzzle until later, though, while cleaning up the Chikara Dojo in the aftermath of an attack by Davos. Finding the smashed box, he's finally able to inspect the back of the medallion, inscribed with the dragon of the Iron Fist.
Deciding to set off in search of information about the legacy of Iron Fist, Danny leaves behind a letter for Colleen, explaining his discovery, and the significance of the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, whom, he theorizes, may be her ancestor. He sees the hand of fate at play, guiding him into the path of a karate instructor hanging fliers in a New York City park.
"It may be that the destiny I believed was mine," he writes, "was always hers -- always yours -- from the start."
Available now on Netflix, Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 2 stars Finn Jones as Danny Rand, Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, Sacha Dhawan as Davos, Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum, Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum, Simone Missick as Misty Knight and Alice Eve as Mary Walker.