“Marvel’s Iron Fist” – Season Two (Netflix)
Created by Scott Buck
Season One of “Iron Fist” is certainly in the discussion of worst series in streaming history. You can read my review of that show here to see just how bad, but, truly, everything about it was awful.
That said, and I can’t really believe I’m about to write this, Season Two is actually…uh…good? Yeah, let’s go with good. It moves at a pretty good clip, it brings back the best of the minor characters from the first, introduces us to a terrific new villain/hero, Mary “Typhoid Mary” Walker (played brilliantly by Alice Eve), and, most importantly, HAS FIGHT SCENES – actual, top-notch, well-choreographed, fight scenes that last longer than 45 seconds! And it doesn’t hurt that Finn Jones is asked to do MUCH less emotionally. He’s simply a brutal actor. BRUTAL!
Technically, season two far surpasses the first. Not sure if someone got in Scott Buck’s ear, or if the worldwide disdain shown for the first season woke him up, but he’s built some actual worlds here. Each location feels real, interesting and of its character’s persona. The photography by Neils Alpert is much less dark…or rather…just as dark, but lit much more precisely, which gives us mood instead of “I CAN’T SEE WHAT’S GOING ON!” Tim Brinker edits the hell out of this season. The first season could have been an hour long for all I cared. This season lasts a mere ten episodes, and feels just about right (as opposed to the thirteen in the first, which felt like a prison sentence). And while I’m not a fan of Robert Lydecker’s music overall, at least it feels like it belongs now.
But the biggest reason for the vast improvement is the acting. As stated, Finn Jones is still just as awful. If only there was a GoT Wildfire button on my remote for me to press every time he sighs before speaking – which occurs on, oh, EVERY SINGLE LINE! But everyone else gets a story to play now, instead of standing around and waiting for Jones to stop emoting like a privileged high school drama club member, performing the glass-scraping monologue from “Runaways”. Chief among them is the aforementioned Alice Eve who finally gets to show what she’s got, rather than simply being the pretty face in the crowd. I won’t say too much about her character, as that would be a spoiler, but suffice to say she handles each scene with a full life underneath and with total unpredictability… something the show never had in the first season. The other welcome addition is Simone Missick’s Misty Knight (who is apparently the new Rosario Dawson, magically showing up in each show). She’s the most at ease, human and awesome ally in most of these shows now and she brings a calm to the scene-work that is MUCH needed. And, since neither character is bogged down by the Netflix Marvel’s new obsession with family of origin dynamics, they can simply BE.
The other leads, our antagonists and allies, are sadly stuck in the same “I love you, I hate you” loop plaguing the second seasons of both ‘Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”. How I long for the good old days of an actual Black Hat character, like David Tennant’s Kilgrave, D’Onofrio’s brilliant Wilson Fisk, or even Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth…each from the first seasons of JJ, DD and LC, respectively. Luckily, “Fist” actors have been given enough time and purpose to overcome this. Sacha Dhawan simmers a little too often to be believed, but for the most part he keeps you invested in the overarching plotline. And Jessica Henwick, while not a very good actor, is at least utterly earnest and, as such, lessens the hatred for Jones when they’re onscreen together. But the real work, the growth, sizzle and emotion belong to Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey, who put the stake in sibling rivalry. Pelphrey comes closer to burning up some scenery than Ms. Stroup, but I’d still be much happier watching a show about them than anything Jones touches.
So is it good enough to invest time in? Well, yes, EXCEPT the only way to have any idea what’s going on at the beginning of Season Two is to suffer through the interminable Season One, and, seriously, a colonoscopy would be more fun and feel less invasive.
(The trailer has nothing to do with the show I saw, but it does illustrate how much more active this season is)
Written on 10/10/2018