WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Marvel's Iron Fist Season 2, arriving Friday, Sept. 7, on Netflix.
Marvel's The Defenders and Luke Cage Season 2 made great strides in reforming Danny Rand, whose introduction last year in his own series failed to win over audiences. Arriving Friday on Netflix, the leaner second season of Iron Fist largely learns from the mistakes of the first, with vastly improved fight sequences, flashbacks that serve the main narrative, and clearly defined primary antagonists.
And yet, at times during the six episodes provided for review, it doesn't feel so much like the second season of Iron Fist as it does the first season of Steel Serpent or Daughters of the Dragon, with Danny Rand as a supporting player.
Finn Jones' title character, the billionaire orphan turned guardian of K'un-Lun turned vigilante, spent hit debut season at the mercy of virtually everyone else, pinballing from one antagonist's scheme to the next, never in control of his own destiny. But here, in the wake of The Defenders finale, that's changed: He's seemingly given up his quest to reopen the gate to the mystical city, and has instead embraced his promise to Matt Murdock to protect New York. He's settled into a spacious Chinatown apartment -- the former Chikara Dojo -- with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and taken a day job as a mover, while spending his nights watching over Lower Manhattan. He even dons a mask (but not that one). Colleen, meanwhile, has hung up her katana, shaken not by her killing of former mentor Bakuto, but by her failure to better judge his character. She instead devotes her time to volunteering at a community center, resisting Danny's invitations to join him on patrol.
But even before that can be firmly established as the new status quo, it's upended first by the growing conflict between the Golden Tigers and the Hatchet, rival gangs seeking to fill the vacuum left by the defeat of The Hand, and then by the scheming of Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) and Davos (Sacha Dhawan), whose unlikely alliance was teased in the final moments of Season 1. Their motivations are straightforward, even if their scheme, at least initially, isn't. They believe they've been wronged by Danny, and they want him to pay.
As improbable as their partnership may seem, it's nothing compared to the key to their plan, Mary Walker (Alice Eve), better known to Marvel Comics readers as Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary. Suffering from dissociative identity disorder, she emerges, at turns, as a formidable enemy and an unpredictable ally for Iron Fist. Eve effectively plays two characters on Iron Fist, and her transformation from one to the other is remarkable, reflected not only through voice and actions, but also in posture; her onscreen presence completely changes.