‘Luke Cage‘ Season 2 does the impossible and makes Iron Fist kind of awesome

Warning! This article contains spoilers for Luke Cage Season 2.

When the news dropped that Finn Jones would reprise his role as Danny Rand, A.K.A Iron Fist in Luke Cage Season 2, the internet was less than enthused. 

Jones’s solo show was the of all of Marvel’s Netflix offerings after its premiere in 2017, and the character’s co-starring appearance in The Defenders did little to endear him to audiences that preferred fan favorites like Jessica Jones and Daredevil. Why, asked the Marvel-loving masses, why does Danny Rand need to show up in Luke Cage? The answer, surprisingly enough, is to make one final argument that Danny Rand is a likable character. And amazingly…it works. 

The answer is to make one final argument that Danny Rand is a likable character. And amazingly…it works. 

It works by giving Iron Fist a reason to exist in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, half of that reason is to get by people who are cooler than him, but other other half is to use his previously annoying K’un-Lun mysticism to help the characteristically broken, messed up heroes of Marvel’s New York.

When Danny shows up in Luke Cage, Luke is at his lowest moment. Harlem has turned on him, his girlfriend has hecked off to…wherever Claire went this season, and he’s lost the trail of his greatest enemy. Danny waltzes unexpectedly back into his fellow Defender’s life ostensibly to lend an iron hand but winds up offering something better than extra muscle — he sets Luke’s soul straight by encouraging him to make peace with his anger instead of letting it tear him apart. That healing comes with a healthy dose of chatter about chi and Luke being skeptical at every turn, but the renewal of Luke‘s hope and fighting spirit propels him through the final episodes of the season. That‘s nothing to sneeze at. 

Even Danny’s constant referencing of K’un-Lun and his monastic upbringing plays better in Luke Cage, with poor Danny getting some hilariously underwhelming responses when he tries to bring up the monk who made herbal remedies, or that time he fought a dragon, or the monk who taught him the value of meditation, or that time he fought a goddamn dragon. Danny’s name-dropping is played for laughs and the freedom to find this #spiritual white kid funny as opposed to being asked to take him seriously gives his character the charming vibe of Luke’s hippie little cousin who doesn’t know when to stop talking. It’s clear that Danny thinks the world of Luke and desperately wants to be liked, but even that plays as ingratiating and relatable. Who wouldn’t want to be Luke Cage’s best friend?

In addition to Iron Fist taking on the role of funny, competent sidekick to Luke Cage’s smooth operator, Danny is redeemed in the episode by finally confronting the glaring reality that he’s a billionaire and that matters. In the beginning of the episode, he responds flippantly to Luke’s assertion that Danny’s presence is itself a shield from some bad guys with guns: “Why do you always make things about my money,” he asks, as if Luke is being somehow impolite by pointing out that a white billionaire is much safer in the world than a black man. 

By the end of his time on Luke Cage, Danny accepts that money is its own form of power, tacitly acknowledging the social gap between himself and his less wealthy friends. There’s nothing interesting about a bratty billionaire who pretends like money doesn’t matter, and Danny’s whininess about being called out for being rich was holding the character back. It’s gratifying to see him acknowledge some of his privilege, even in a small way. 

There are so many adorable buddy-buddy touches in Danny Rand’s appearance that to spoil all of them would be to take some of the joy out of watching him. Suffice it to say that seeing Danny enthusiastically don a “Sweet Christmas” sweatshirt (because real friends buy their friend’s swag even if it’s overpriced) and get excited over a dragon-shaped weed pipe is exactly as cute as it sounds. The Iron Fist has come a long way from his upsetting haircuts and deeply embarrassing shirtless tai chi/sex workouts, and now that he’s established as the single emotionally stable person in the Defenders universe, it might not be so bad to again.