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At last, the wait is over. The first phase of Marvel Netflix is now complete, and we couldn't be more excited to see what's next in store for our heroes. Each has come to occupy a dark, bloody corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one where Wilson Fisk can go on a brutal rampage, or Luke Cage can take a shotgun blast to the head. But how do the different Marvel Netflix shows compare? It's time to rank the Defenders...
6. Iron Fist Season 1
#IronFist has proved to be the most divisive of Marvel's #Netflix shows to date, prompting the Internet to launch into a vocal debate on the casting of Finn Jones. Some critics argued that Marvel should have drastically rewritten the character, and Jones unwisely stumbled into the debate:
Sadly, Jones struggles to portray the charisma needed for the role, and he most certainly doesn't demonstrate the martial arts skills; I can forgive poorly-choreographed fight scenes in most TV shows, but not in Iron Fist. The script doesn't help, with poor pacing and some very strangely-constructed dialogue.
At the same time, though, I can fully understand why Iron Fist has divided critics and fans. While many aspects of the show are poorly handled, I actually found Iron Fist to be a fun ride overall, helped by Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing and Rosario Dawson's return as Claire Temple. There's also a twist in the penultimate episode that thankfully comes close to subverting the 'White Savior' trope, and the final confrontation is well-executed. All in all, though, I'm left more interested in a Daughters of the Dragon spin-off series than I am in the idea of Iron Fist Season 2, which is clearly set up at the end.
5. Luke Cage Season 1
One of Marvel's boldest moves, #LukeCage is a fantastically-executed show that provides a unique cultural insight. In Luke Cage, the main character is actually the district of Harlem — and the show doesn't pull any punching in exploring issues of race.
We were originally introduced to Mike Colter's Luke Cage back in Jessica Jones Season 1, but this was our first chance to really get to know his character, and it's been an absolute pleasure. What's more, the supporting cast are electric — Rosario Dawson shines as ever, but Simone Missick is the real scene-stealer here as detective Misty Knight.
That said, Luke Cage isn't a perfect show. The third Defender's debut season includes Marvel's typical pacing problems on Netflix, and the second act switches villains in a way that jars the viewer unexpectedly. Mahershala Ali's Cottonmouth is a far more interesting character than Erik LaRay Harvey's Diamondback, and his death undoubtedly affected the quality of the show. That said, Alfre Woodard's Mariah is another fascinating character, a true villain who promises a major role going forward.
4. Daredevil Season 2
A firm fan-favorite, #Daredevil Season 2 introduces us to two major new characters: Jon Bernthal's Punisher, and Elodie Yung's Elektra. The fight scenes are stunningly choreographed, with each character demonstrating a subtly different fighting style — from the Punisher's bull-in-a-china-shop routine, to Elektra's sleek and skillful approach, and Daredevil's intriguing mix of martial arts and boxing.
Every character has a strong, well-defined arc; I particularly enjoyed the interaction between Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page and Frank Castle, which shines a light on the Punisher's morality and helps to keep the series grounded. Daredevil Season 2 really does sit among some of Marvel's best to date.
That said, I have to confess that the series isn't perfect. In this case, the fundamental problem is a tonal and thematic mismatch between the Punisher and Elektra arcs; the switch in focus is slightly disorienting, and I can't help but think that these two arcs should have been the focus for their own separate seasons instead.
3. The Defenders Season 1
Perhaps the most challenging of all Marvel's Netflix shows, The Defenders unites the four heroes in battle against the Hand. This team-up represents the culmination of everything that's come before, and the good news is that it's an unparalleled success. The four stars bounce off one another with ease, and the show even manages to redeem Finn Jones's Iron Fist. All in all, The Defenders is a stunning tour de force, a delightful series that plays to every character's strengths.
The Defenders is perhaps best compared to a game of chess, as the first three episodes are all about moving the pieces into place. Unfortunately, the fact that it takes so long to achieve this highlights the lack of forward-planning on Marvel's part, forcing showrunner Marco Ramirez to move all of the heroes into place in order to tell his story. When he's finally able to bring the heroes together, though, the series becomes far bolder. It's a strong show, and really benefits from the shortened (eight-episode) length.
2. Daredevil Season 1
This, of course, was the series that started it all. Daredevil Season 1 shocked the world with how good it was, reminding fans that Marvel can do dark just as easily as it can do light. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the show, though, was the dynamic between Charlie Cox's Daredevil and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin.
Daredevil's debut season thrust the villain into the spotlight just as much as the hero. Fortunately, both actors were perfectly cast and even each secondary character has their own fascinating arc — from Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page to Elden Henson's Foggy. The death of Vondie Curtis-Hall's Ben Urich is absolutely heart-rending.
The action in Daredevil Season 1 is masterfully choreographed, blowing away fans and casual viewers alike. The 'hallway scene' won particular praise, and has since been reinvented in every #Marvel Netflix series. Saying that, Daredevil's first season coNtains a few weaknesses — you can see the first hint of Marvel's pacing problems, although they're not too severe here. Overall, Season 1 of Daredevil is easily one of Marvel's strongest series to date.
1. Jessica Jones Season 1
In my view, #JessicaJones is an absolute masterpiece. Krysten Ritter and David Tennant are perfectly cast as Jessica and Kilgrave, playing off each other with an electric chemistry. The series itself is based on one of the darkest comic book arcs in Marvel Comics history, and it doesn't try to tone it down at all. Fans see everything, from the infamous sex scene with Luke Cage to the creepy implications of just how far Kilgrave went.
Tennant's Kilgrave is one of the most disturbing super villains of all time, with an ability to manipulate others and a childish self-absorption that makes him nigh-on irredeemable. And yet, I love that Jessica Jones dares to toy with questions of redemption. At one point Jessica moves in to live with her foe, hoping to guide him into using his powers for good. Naturally, it doesn't take.
All in all, Jessica Jones is almost flawless. Season 1 shines a deeply disturbing light on the superhero world, asking tantalizing questions about what people would actually do with super-powers. The show subverts our expectations, challenging us with some truly sinister moments, and proves itself to be an immersive experience throughout.
So there you have it! Marvel's world on Netflix is a dark, beautifully choreographed one. The stories have now come to a head in The Defenders, but Marvel's already hard at work on the next shows. The Punisher is expected to stream in November, and next year, we'll see Jessica Jones Season 2, Luke Cage Season 2, and Daredevil Season 3. Incredibly, there's even a chance we'll get Iron Fist Season 2 next year as well, as the show's planned to start filming this year. After the success of their first phase on Netflix, Marvel intend to waste no time...