Note: This piece was originally published on May 30, 2017, but in light of The Defenders hitting Netflix this Friday, we thought it had some thoughts worth reiterating.
Marvel and Netflix have created something truly special with their four superhero shows: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. They've established a unique, ongoing, and shared universe that not only respects each character's source material, but also builds upon and expands their lore. Fans have clearly responded, as many media outlets report that these are some of the most-popular shows on Netflix.
Daredevil is heading into its third season, while Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are each preparing for their second, but what about the fate of Iron Fist? According to SuperBroMovies, Danny Rand himself, actor Finn Jones, will soon issue a Season 2 announcement. While that's certainly welcome news for the whole Marvel/Netflix enterprise, it's probably safe to say that Iron Fist was the most flawed of the four series and in dire need of fine-tuning.
I think many Iron Fist fans were expecting Season 1 to feel like a modern take on old school Kung Fu movies from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. Iron Fist was created by Marvel in 1974, the year following Lee's legendary Enter the Dragon, and this was the tone and the spirit those early comics exuded. Another thing that the Lee, Chan, and Li films had in common, and Season 1 was lacking: great fighting and tremendous senses of humor. Instead, what we got was a disjointed fish-out-of-water meets corporate espionage story.
Assuming that a second season of Iron Fist is imminent, what do we want to see and how might the show be improved?
Put on the Damned Costume
Iron Fist, much like Daredevil, has a very distinctive costume, but unlike the Devil of Hell's Kitchen we didn't see anything close to Rand's comic book appearance. Rand did wear his monk's robes during several flashback scenes, and while his attire in these scenes conveyed the proper palette they missed the mark on fan expectations by a pretty wide margin.
It's safe to say that getting Rand into the traditional green and yellow suit and the mask is a minimum, mandatory expectation in Season 2. Fortunately, there have been many, many iterations of the costume, so the showrunners definitely have a great opportunity to experiment and innovate.
Execute Better Fight Choreography
There were definitely a few standout battles during Iron Fist's first season, particularly the Bruce Lee Game of Death-inspired battles against Madame Gao's master warriors, the Zhou Cheng "Drunken Master" fight, and the hallway brawl with the Chinese Triad, as seen above.
The core problems with most of the martial arts encounters in Iron Fist comes down to Jones' lack of technique, questionable editing choices, and a general failure to embrace Chinese fighting styles. Basically, Rand's movements really don't resemble Kung Fu, which is a style marked by flowing, circular, and oblique-angled punches and kicks.
I've studied the martial arts most of my life, and Iron Fist's fighting styles are all over the place. The hand-to-hand combat here seems more of an eclectic hybrid, similar to Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, which is perfectly fine, except that Iron Fist should ideally be defined by a distinct fighting system that is apart from Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil.
The following fight is from Jet Li's classic Fist of Legend, which itself is a remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection). This fight demonstrates how a clash of differing styles can create something absolutely mesmerizing:
Explore More Backstory
What exactly happened to Rand in K'un Lun? What made him depart so suddenly? Why is he unable to control his anger? Who was the previous Iron Fist (see above image)? These are but a few of the questions that were raised by Rand's frequent flashbacks, but barely explained. Rand is a bit of a cypher in Season 1, we see him act and react often without clear reason, which could be illuminated via more explanation of his time in K'un Lun. The CW's Arrow, for example, has employed flashbacks as exposition (for good and bad) over its entire five-year run.
Bottom line, we need to know more about Rand's time in K'un Lun to help explain who he is and why he acts as he does. Frankly, I would have preferred replacing the entire Meachum storyline with an exploration of his time as a monk, and perhaps this is where we'll go in Season 2.
Define an Iconic Villain with Legit Fighting Skills
Everyone remembers the great martial arts scenes from the movies of Lee, Chan, and Li. These masters tested themselves against an incredible array of fighters, styles, and situations. Iron Fist Season 1 had a few inspired moments against qualified masters, but they somehow lacked the magic of the Ip Man films, for example, wherein Donnie Yen employed his Chinese Wing Chun style against all comers, including even Mike Tyson!
The major storyline and conflicts in Iron Fist Season 1 involved the Rand Enterprises corporate shenanigans of the Meachum family, and to a lesser extent the exploration of the various factions of The Hand, belonging to Madame Gao and Bakuto. Neither narrative was particularly engaging (for one thing, I have no idea what Harold Meachum was doing and The Hand without ninjas doesn't make for compelling bad guys).
Here's a bonus clip from Ip Man 3 versus a Muay Thai fighter in an elevator that illustrates how two masters can create tension, drama, and excitement in the most unlikely of circumstances:
Somehow Make Danny Rand Likeable
It's hard to root for a protagonist that pouts, acts rashly, and can't control his anger. Rand seemed to get increasingly more unhinged and annoying as the season wore on. As a follower of Buddha, Rand lacked focus and inner strength -- core concepts for any martial artist to adhere. Rand's off-kilter behavior resulted in a strange vibe all season long.
Another issue was the generally somber and depressing mood -- how many times was the audience was reminded of the tragic death of Rand's parents? The airplane crash came up in nearly every episode, which was kind of a downer and absolutely pumped the brakes on whatever fun or energy a given episode had created.
Another key element in the other Marvel/Netflix shows has been humor. I don't think anyone wants or expects Iron Fist Season 2 to roll out slapstick comedy bits, but humor arising from situations and characters who are not afraid to laugh at themselves are much-needed elements to explore in Season 2. Again, go back to those 70s martial arts films: aside from the awesome fighting, these films exuded an atmosphere of fun and unabashed spectacle.
The incredible ladder fight from Jackie Chan's First Strike is one of his more inspired battles (and that's saying something):
What do you want to see changed or added in Iron Fist Season 2? Let us know in the comments down below!