It has now been a few weeks since Marvel’s The Defenders was released. I thought I would take a look back over every season of the Marvel and Netflix collaborations; Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders to rank them.
6) Iron Fist Season 1 – Oh boy Marvel and Netflix had been on such a hot streak, and then came Iron Fist. After 4 great seasons of television they managed to deliver a complete misstep. There are a few major problems with Iron Fist, but first and foremost is that it is just boring. The whole season lacks good direction, and Finn Jones in the main roles completely unbelievable. He plays the Danny Rand aspect of the character ok enough, although does at times come across too bratty and a touch unlikable, but as soon as he has to do martial arts as the Iron Fist it goes wrong. Put simply, he can’t. The plot is dull, and the first 4 or 5 episodes really drag. It does pick up a little, and there are two or three really cool moments, but it never really comes together. The RZA directed episode Immortal Emerges from Cave and Lewis Tan’s appearance as Zhou Chang in The Blessing of Many Fractures are definitely the season’s high points. It is a real shame that the season was such a mess, although that can be fixed going forward. Harder to fix though is Finn Jones as Danny Rand. He just doesn’t fit in the character, and it’s a big problem in Iron Fist.
5) The Defenders Season 1 – The first big Avengers esq coming together of all four of the major character in The Defenders ends up falling somewhere between the great first three shows that Marvel and Netflix released, and the poor and underwhelming Iron Fist. Where The Defenders excels is almost always when the main characters come together and interact. It takes a little while for that to happen, and as such feels a little so to come together. Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, and even Finn Jones all have good chemistry together, and the episode Royal Dragon where the four take shelter in a Chinese restaurant is the clear highlight of the season. The Defenders benefits from being only 8 episodes, as there just isn’t the huge amount of filler that most of the other shows suffer from, although the strong focus on Danny Rand and the Iron Fist story does hold it back. The addition of Sigourney Weaver was cool, and she does a good job as one of the leaders of The Hand, but it is Élodie Yung as Elektra who become the main villain, something that is great given her performance in Daredevil, and the way this brings Matt Murdock to the fore really helps The Defenders. It does include most of the various show’s supporting characters, although outside of Claire, Misty, Colleen, and Stick they have virtually nothing to do, and even some of these four feel a little like baggage in the story. The Defenders is a decent series, and it is great to see these characters interact, but it doesn’t feel as special as it could do.
4) Daredevil Season 1 – The first season of Daredevil laid some brilliant groundwork for the whole Marvel world on Netflix. However looking back at it, the story doesn’t hold up anywhere near the three seasons that followed it. Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk is one of the iconic television antagonist roles from recent years, although matched by David Tennant and Jon Bernthal in Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season 2. The problem with Fisk is that his plan is completely incomprehensible. His main goal seems to be gentrifying Hell’s Kitchen, and it isn’t until Matt persecuted him and Vanessa that he becomes the Kingpin of crime in the final episode or two. The first season also struggled with how to use some of its supporting characters, particularly Foggy and Karen effectively at all, not to mention having some of the worst examples of filler in the entire series (Matt spends a whole episode lying on the couch). That said Daredevil Season 1 established the tone and style for all the series going forward, and introduced us to Charlie Cox as Daredevil, who is simply phenomenal in the role. I think that most of the problems in Daredevil Season 1 were sorted out in the Season 2, but it offered a nice base for what came after to spring from.
3) Jessica Jones Season 1 – Coming off the back of the brilliant establishing work that Daredevil Season 1 did there was a lot of pressure on Jessica Jones to follow it up. And thankfully it did not disappoint. Some of the dark places that it goes to and the themes of abuse, rape, and PTSD that it covers can be extremely heavy, but in the case of Jessica Jones they are handled extremely well by showrunner Melissa Rosenberg. One of the biggest surprises in Jessica Jones was Krysten Ritter’s performance as the titular character. She makes Jessica one of the richest characters on TV and really goes to the dark places that are required of her. David Tennant’s performance as Kilgrave is absolutely incredible as well. He is completely loathsome and creepy, and yet charming, and at times relatable. The rest of the supporting cast was great as well, particularly Mike Colter who was introduced as Luke Cage for the first time, but Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, and Carrie-Anne Moss are also good as Jessica’s support network and friends. Like Daredevil there is a bit too much filler, but overall Jessica Jones was a great second release from Marvel and Netflix.
2) Luke Cage Season 1 – There really isn’t a lot between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones for me, in the end I’ve just nudged Luke Cage ahead, and that’s probably because I’ve seen it more recently. It breaks away from the more traditional formulas that were laid down in Daredevil and Jessica Jones‘ first seasons, by not being purely a protagonist vs. antagonist story. Instead Luke Cage is fighting against the corruption that is blighting Harlem. The Diamondback part of the story is easily the weakest. It felt like an entirely different story to the one that was being told, and probably should have been something explored in a later series of Luke Cage. For a lot of people the death of Cottonmouth was where the season lost its way, however the emergence of Mariah Dillard, brilliant played by Alfre Woodard was outstandingly done. It was a shame that Mahershala Ali couldn’t have stuck around longer, as he is one of the most talented actors working today, but the season managed to cope with his loss admirably. Finally the music in Luke Cage was outstanding. It was just one of the many ways that Luke Cage properly sold the major idea of the season, Luke’s relationship with Harlem.
1) Daredevil Season 2 – The second season of Daredevil is still easily the high bar of the Marvel/Netflix collaboration. From the themes of the season to the character’s journeys it is by far the most thought out and complete. It also introduced a couple of key comic characters, The Punisher and Elektra, both perfectly cast with Jon Bernthal and Élodie Yung. The overarching theme of the series is Matt’s struggle with holding back the likes of Punisher and Elektra, whilst questioning how far he should go himself. The first four episodes that focus on Matt’s struggles to stop Frank Castle are for most people the best of the season, and it is easy to see why. Bernthal and Cox are outstanding, and the climax of this story in Penny and Dime is incredible, and really allows both of them to show their incredible range as actors. But these four episodes, and his experience with Frank are what drive Matt to try and save Elektra from becoming the killer that The Hand wants her to be. The way that it all comes to a head in .380 for Matt and Frank, where Matt considers crossing that line, only for Frank to be the one to tell him there’s no such thing as just one time. There are so many amazing moments, and brilliant character arcs in Daredevil Season 2, that for me it easily stands alone as the best collaboration between Marvel and Netflix to date.
So those are my thoughts on the Netflix Marvel shows thus far. Let me know what you think of my list, and which of the shows are your favourites in the comments.