Netflix recently dropped the second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage, which succeeded in delivering a more balanced and consistent narrative than the first season did. Gone was the dropoff in enjoyably well-developed villainy that we saw previously when Diamondback replaced Cottonmouth. Instead, we saw the steady decline of Mariah Dillard (“Stokes. Mariah Stokes.”) as she abandoned sanity for power – classic villain move! – and gave us some truly chilling moments. Mariah’s actions were enough to make us forget some of the downright brutal antics Bushmaster pulls throughout the 13-episode sophomore effort. And despite the quality villaining we get, as well as the Michael Corleone-type transformation that Luke ends the season on, in the days following its release the most popular topic of conversation among fans centered on Danny Rand.
Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and writer Akela Cooper have clearly figured out how best to use the Immortal Iron Fist. Danny only appeared in one episode, but the combination of how he was written, Finn Jones becoming more comfortable in the role, and the direction of Andy Goddard culminated in the perfect storm for the character. The episode – titled “The Main Ingredient” – is the highest rated episode of the show by a decent margin based on IMDb’s scaled voting system. It’s one of four episodes that was written by Cooper (two in the first season, two in the second), and one of only two that was directed by Goddard. The other episode Goddard directed – “Manifest” – came in 2016’s first season, and was coincidentally voted the best episode of that first campaign, and wouldn’t you know it, was also one of Cooper’s four writing credits on the show. Perhaps we should pair those two more often, but we’re not here to talk about the pairing of Cooper and Goddard, but of Cage and Rand.
For fans of the show who don’t have an extensive background with the comics, Luke and Danny might seem an odd pairing, but for those of us who grew up with stacks of Marvel and DC books strewn all over our rooms, this is something we’ve been waiting for since the first time a Luke Cage show was rumored to be happening. Life experience probably informs us that “Angry Black Man, Wrongfully Imprisoned” and “Billionaire White Boy Ninja Orphan” isn’t the most common or obvious pairing for a deeply meaningful friendship to blossom. And those viewers who were not overly familiar with the characters prior to the Netflix stuff probably didn’t immediately foresee a friendship sprouting early on. But inside the Marvel universe, Luke and Danny have been best-friending it up for the last four decades.
Power Man and Iron Fist became partners in 1978 when their respective books were combined, and the pair have been odd-coupling it ever since. And while they often butt heads, the pairing gives each of them something positive. Especially in their current series, which launched in 2016, and sees Danny written more light-hearted and comedic, while Luke continues to play the straight man. This is a tried and true formula, not unlike the relationship of Geralt and Dandelion in Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of books about The Witcher and the subsequent video games. From the outside, many people don’t fully understand the pairing, with such different personalities seeming to be so often at odds. But when it works, it really works, and it benefits both characters.
In this instance, following the minuscule amount of fan-love the first season of Iron Fist got, and the luke-warm reception afforded to The Defenders, there isn’t another character who was more in need of a turnaround like we just saw with Danny Rand. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker was asked by Christina Radish over at Collider what he wanted to do with the pairing’s dynamic that we hadn’t seen yet:
What we, as a writing staff, wanted was that, if we were going to have Iron Fist, it was gonna be different than The Defenders and his own show. We were gonna do it our way. We were lucky enough that both Marvel and Netflix allowed us to play a little bit because I wanted to give him a different swagger. Conventional wisdom was like, because Iron Fist Season 1 had so much against it, in terms of critics, we shouldn’t want to have him in our show. I was like, “No, f–k that!” My attitude and arrogance as a showrunner is like, “Just because this player didn’t run your offense, it doesn’t mean that he can’t come on our team and fit perfectly.” In Akela’s episode, he did. In that moment, for that warehouse fight, I think people are gonna look at that and be like, “Wow, holy shit! This is fun!” Knock on wood, and I’m probably gonna get in trouble for saying this, but I would love to do a Power Man and Iron Fist spin-off. I think that would be a lot fun. It’s something that reflects their friendship. They have a 48 Hours with superpowers friendship, and I think that would be cool.
These are characters that simply work better together, when they are allowed to play off of one another, and the people behind the camera have a solid understanding of the relationship. And clearly, Coker gets it. I for one am all for a Power Man and Iron Fist spinoff – or better yet a Heroes for Hire series with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing along for the ride – but we’ll have to see what happens in the second season of IF before we make any plans…
Iron Fist season two is expected out before the end of 2018, and Luke Cage S2 is streaming currently on Netflix.
Images: Disney XD, Marvel Comics, Netflix, Entertainment Weekly