7:30 pm EDT, September 11, 2018

‘Iron Fist’ season 2 lets its female characters control their own narratives

Iron Fist hasn’t exactly been a shining beacon in storytelling, but there are quite a few things season 2 did right. Allowing its female characters to be in charge of their stories is one of them.

I’m going to be honest: I was pleasantly surprised by Iron Fist season 2. Granted, the bar was set so low it was practically buried six feet under, but it managed to bring the story of the Immortal Iron Fist back to life, nonetheless. A rotten smell may still hang in the air, but it has reintegrated into society with very little risk of contaminating the populace.

You can thank Iron Fist’s women for that.

Danny Rand is an unfortunate character. We’ve talked extensively about the cultural appropriation and white privilege that’s inherent in Danny’s story, and it seems that the show has finally started to check itself. Iron Fist season 2 makes a point of sidelining Danny as much as possible, allowing the other characters to step into the spotlight.

And, in many cases, they handle the spotlight much, much better than Danny ever could.

Colleen may be the best example we have to prove this point, but she’s certainly not the only one. Of the seven main characters, four of them are women, and each one managed to find a way to keep both hands on the wheel, regardless of — and sometimes in spite of — what the men in their lives were doing.

There are major Iron Fist season 2 spoilers ahead, so be sure to proceed at your own risk.

Misty Knight

I’d love to see anyone try to kick Misty out of the driver’s seat of her own life. The subsequent smack-down would be entertaining, to say the least.

Still, Misty has had a hard road getting to where she is now. In Luke Cage, she had to war with her superior to prove her instincts were on point. She had the monumental task of keeping Harlem safe as an officer of the law even while a person with powers was walking the streets. There’s a constant balancing act of letting Luke be the hero while simultaneously checking him to make sure he never crosses a line. And then there was that little incident with her arm and a sword.

There are a lot of balls to juggle back in Harlem, but on Iron Fist, Misty found a way to help her friends, hold her own, and save the day — and she did it all while only being in six out of the 10 episodes.

This isn’t to downplay her role on Luke Cage, where she continues to be paramount to the plot of the show. Instead, I want to point out that Iron Fist isn’t meant to be Misty’s playground, and yet she makes it feel like home as soon as she walks back into Colleen and Danny’s lives.

Instead of taking a back seat, she helps drive the investigation forward. She puts plenty of pieces of the puzzle together on her own, and where she can’t, she works on equal terms with Danny and Colleen to finish what they started. When she hits a roadblock with a fellow officer, she successfully goes over his head and helps her friends take down Davos and the two warring gangs. When it comes to deciding whether or not she wants the Captain position, no one needs to persuade her one way or the other; she realizes on her own that she loves the detective work and couldn’t possibly give it up.

Misty Knight is more than just an asset in Iron Fist season 2. She’s a major player.

Joy Meachum

I was afraid Joy was going to be the weak link this season. I liked her well enough last year, but considering she starts off as a prominent antagonist in season 2, I was ready to write her off completely.

That would’ve been a bad idea.

I still don’t love Joy, and I certainly don’t agree with what she did to Danny. But rather than wallowing in self-pity like her brother, Joy has a plan. She removes herself from Rand Enterprises, creates her own company, and works toward becoming her own person. She doesn’t want to stand in the shadow of her father, her brother, or Danny, so she packs up and leaves.

Joy’s relationship with Ward was tested heavily this season, and she stood her ground despite his interference, his begging, and his anger. Joy felt betrayed by his actions, and though Ward expected that his groveling would repair their relationship, Joy told him in no uncertain terms that she needed space. She didn’t let anyone but herself control her narrative.

Even her relationship with Davos is strictly business and on equal terms. They’re working together toward the same goal, with each person providing their own talents in equal measure. Davos has the ancient knowledge and the martial arts expertise; Joy has the money and the influence. They need each other, and it never feels like the power shifts in one direction or the other for very long. In the end, they come back to the middle, where they are once again equal.

Of course, at the end of the day, Davos still has the power to seriously injure Joy. But even in this case, Joy ultimately had the upper hand. She’s the reason why Colleen and Danny get the bowl to complete the ritual. She was playing a very dangerous game with Davos in the end, knowing it could be the death of her. She went from someone who reacted poorly to a betrayal to someone who acted righteously despite a betrayal. Not only is that personal growth, it’s a decision she made by herself and for herself.

Joy ended up walking away from the situation, albeit bloodied and broken, and finally allowed the people around her to lend a hand. But it was still on her terms, and after she had done what she felt was the right thing to do.

Mary Walker

Mary is an interesting case because she is often removed from the main part of the story, only to be introduced when someone needs her help. There’s no issue of whether or not she’s controlling her own narrative; there is only a question of which version is controlling it.

Mary’s persona may be a bit more meek and mild, but she’s still a defense mechanism that’s enacted when Walker is afraid. Her purpose is to be unassuming, weak, and personable in order to survive her current circumstances. Walker is constantly at odds with Mary because they don’t quite see eye to eye. Mary believes Walker to be dangerous, while Walker finds Mary’s fragility distasteful.

Despite these warring personalities, Walker is nearly always the most powerful person in the room. The only one who could potentially contest this is Davos, and even then the fight could swing one way or another. Though her mental illness often leads to various setbacks, Walker has found a way to live a life she could be happy with. It’s this notion that drives her story up until the final episode.

At this point, we learn there is possibly a third, much more dangerous persona lurking under the surface of Walker’s mind. This persona, which I liken to the Beast in Split, is the reason Walker escaped her prison across enemy lines and survived long enough for her allies to find her. She’s determined to find out what triggers this third persona and even puts off retreating to her cottage in the woods in order to learn more about what happened that night.

But, again, this decision is wholly her own. No one tries to convince her to stay or seek help. She does this for herself, and herself alone.

Colleen Wing

I could write a whole article on how incredible Colleen was in Iron Fist season 2, so I’ll stick to the basics here. When we’re first reintroduced to Colleen and Danny, they’re living together and everything seems pretty peachy. Colleen has hung up her sword and refuses to join Danny at night as he roams the streets of their neighborhood.

But rather than let Danny convince her she’s wasting her talent, she finds another way to give back to her community. By working at the center, she provides food, clothes, and support for people in need. She constantly puts herself in danger to help a group of kids she knows is one wrong move away from a permanent problem. She is by no means wallowing in self-pity or wasting her life.

When the box with her family’s symbol shows up at the center, Colleen takes it upon herself to track down the previous owner. Danny acknowledges the box and offers to help, but he stays out of her way. This is her mission, in a way, and something she needs to do on her own. It’s her family history and her mystery to unravel. Danny never pushes too hard, and Colleen feels confident in tracking down her leads on her own.

I expected Colleen to be a secondary character like she was in Iron Fist season 1 (despite her billing as a main character), and was pleasantly surprised when she was given an arc all her own.

It only got better from there. Later, we learned the significance of the box was much greater than initially anticipated, and it ended up tying back into the main part of the story. Colleen Wing is a descendant of the first female Immortal Iron Fist. Her sword is her legacy in more ways than one, and when we see her take it up in the finale, it’s clear that this is the destiny for which she’s always been fated.

Not only did Iron Fist show us that Danny may not be the best person for the job, but it gave that job to someone who deserves it a hundred times over. I don’t think there’s any mistake in that Davos’ fists were red (corrupt), Danny’s was yellow (tainted), and Colleen’s was pure (white).

And this isn’t just Colleen’s history; it’s her calling. She refused the Iron Fist when Danny initially brought it up because she didn’t want to take on that responsibility. Though he pushed, she stood firm until BB’s death. It was only after this point, and on her terms, that she agreed to take up the mantle. And once she did, she proved to be a much more proficient Iron Fist than Danny in a much shorter amount of time.

Iron Fist season 1 was not a good show, and season 2 is trapped by many of the ground rules it laid down. However, season 2 proves that Marvel and Netflix have listened to their fans and are making drastic changes to fix what they got wrong last year. Iron Fist will never be my favorite show, but with the treatment of its female characters in season 2, I feel much better about supporting the series. I genuinely look forward to what’s coming next.

What did you think of ‘Iron Fist’ season 2?

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