WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
Fans have clamored for a Heroes for Hire series, pairing the classic comic book duo of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, virtually since Marvel's partnership with Netflix was announced in 2013. While last year's The Defenders brought together actors Mike Colter and Finn Jones, giving viewers a taste of their onscreen chemistry, that miniseries had the misfortune of following quickly on the heels of Iron Fist's much-maligned debut season, the first outright bomb in that corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker was well aware of both of those factors -- the demand of Heroes for Hire and the disdain for this version of Danny Rand -- when he set out to produce Season 2, and decided to bring Iron Fist to Harlem anyway. That decision, which some might consider a gamble, pays off with Episode 10, "The Main Ingredient," in which Jones' character stops by Pop's Barber Shop to check in on his friend after a pair of very public defeats by Bushmaster. Coker saw it as a challenge to introduce viewers to an Iron Fist who's different from the one they met, and largely didn't like, in his own series.
"I didn’t care that people had such negative connotations about Iron Fist, and that they didn’t want Iron Fist associated with Luke Cage," Coker told CBR. "My attitude was like, we haven’t worked with him yet, we haven't done what we would do with it yet. Ultimately, we had something to prove, because there was so much fear, there was so much, backlash with Iron Fist: 'Why don’t we just act like he doesn’t exit, or that they weren’t really the dynamic duo?' My attitude was like, fuck that, let’s do it right, let’s do it for real, on our terms."
Mind you, the Danny Rand who shows up in Episode 10 isn't a complete departure from the one in Iron First or The Defenders. He takes his shoes off when he enters Pop's, insists to Luke's young associate D.W. Griffith (Jeremiah Richard Craft) that he defeated an actual dragon, and urges Luke to meditate. But he has a sense of humor, about Luke, about his own wealth, and about himself; he even purchases, and wears, a green-and-yellow hoodie from D.W. that reads "Sweet XMas." (D.W., always the hustler, coins the phrase "Power Man and Iron Fist"; he should probably trademark that.)
"I always felt that Iron Fist within Luke Cage would be different than he’s appeared in any of the other shows, and – fingers crossed – I think that we pulled it off," Coker said. "I think that even the people who were nay-saying Iron Fist are gonna see Iron Fist in Luke Cage and be like, ‘Yo, that was dope, that was fun.’ I think the new showrunner that they have, Raven Metzner, I’m really excited about what he’s going to do with the character. I just wanted to basically say, even though this version of Iron Fist is following the comic book canon, there was something within the comic book done in our show, it works extremely well."
"There are no mistakes," he continued. "You really do try to line everything up. You can’t just throw Wu Tang at a scene, and say, ‘OK, there’s Wu Tang, so it’s gonna work, right?’ No, it has to be the right Wu Tang song, and so that was one of the things in terms of making sure we had that perfect moment for that fight, you know? I love that fight. I love how it moves, I love the feel of it; I’m really excited for people to see it. I hope their reaction is that they want to see more."
Asked whether that 10th episode, bringing Luke Cage and Iron Fist together for the better part of an hour, will finally quiet the demand for a Heroes for Hire series or merely fan the flames, Coker said, "It’s not going to quiet it at all. If anything, it’s going to set it off. And that was the point."
Streaming now on Netflix, Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2 stars Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Mustafa Shakir, Gabrielle Dennis, Rosario Dawson and Reg E. Cathey.