Ranking the Netflix Marvel TV shows from worst to best
Marvel and Netflix have just begun raining Daredevil season 3 down upon us like they were Mount Vesuvius and we were Pompeii. While I haven’t exactly rushed to my Netflix account to start taking it all in, I thought as we all collectively strapped on our red tights and reached for diabetes inducing snacks we could spend a moment looking over Netflix’s Marvel catalog and stroke our chins discussing the elements that make a good comic book television series, a GREAT comic book television series and the things that make bottom of the barrel TV viewing.
So let’s rank the Marvel Netflix TV shows from worst to best.
10. Iron Fist [Season 1]
I defended this program violently when it was first released; oddly I liked Finn Jones as Danny Rand, much to the dismay of literally every other single person in the world that isn’t Finn Jones. Weirdly I found the pace of the first few episodes somewhat charming. You’re probably raising eyebrows at this point and brandishing a variety of rotten fruit to begin hurling in my direction, but, the light airy nature of it all was a stark contrast to Daredevil, Luke Cage and DEFINITELY Jessica Jones. But it’s probably around episode 4 or 5 that I commence the eating of humble pie; for a start, ugghh, can we move on from The Hand now please? Also, if they set about to make the characters of Joy and Ward Meachum instantly hateable as soon as they opened their mouth, mission accomplished. I can’t think of a brother and sister combo outside of the Kardashians that I hated more than these two. Add to this piss poor fight scenes and a shitty dragon tattoo and that pretty much did it for me. Seriously, every time Danny Rand takes his shirt off, with that tattoo and his scrawny little body it looks like he’s about to slam down a monster energy drink, watch a kickboxing movie and do donuts in a shittily modified Japanese car from the 1990’s. Oh and don’t even get me started on Danny and Colleen’s trip to “China”; I put parentheses around the word China because it was clearly a backlot somewhere on Staten Island, populated with Chinese homeless people that could, wait for it, all speak English.
09. Iron Fist [Season 2]
While we were promised a new director, new writers and a new approach to Iron Fist season 2, what were given instead was a sparkly new miniature tuxedo that sat over the top of the same turd that stunk the place out in season 1. While some things were improved, it still proved to be a massive slog to finish. As of writing this I haven’t actually finished the final episode, mainly because I judged actual good programming like The Haunting of Hill House and a re-watch of The Good Place as being far better candidates of my precious time. I couldn’t give a toss about Davos, I had zero empathy for the street urchins and spent the vast majority of the series staring at Jessica Henwicks backside. In brutal fairness, her portrayal of Colleen was the saving grace of this series. She’s definitely no acting noob and knocks it out the park in everything she does, but either she didn’t get enough time to shine in season 1 or the writing was so poor she felt off kilter, but she definitely stepped up her game for season 2. I felt genuine empathy for the character of Colleen and the “I’m starting to get over this shit” attitude towards her relationship with Danny hit an amazing tone. But there’s only so much of her we can cram into a camera lens before we crave something else of substance.
08. Luke Cage [Season 1]
For people playing at home devising their own list, Luke Cage season 1 probably sits higher on the list. As a guy that sits in the middle of an amazing (If I say so myself) Venn diagram between “hip hop lover” and “Simpsons comic book guy” this show really should have been a home run. For the most part it was, but the terrible elements of this series sadly outweighed the truly awesome (and I mean AWESOME) components that had me snapping my fingers in delight. Brrraaaap.
I can’t say I’ve ever truly seen a TV show where an iconic comic book character enters a room and goes buckwild tearing the place to shreds to a soundtrack of Shimmy Shimmy Ya. It’s glorious. I loved the black messaging, I loved that Luke is the hero of Harlem and don’t even get my started on Method Man’s “Bulletproof love” radio spot. Perfection. However, like a large grey sheet of flesh that’s just walked into your peripheral vision, we have to talk about the elephant in the room: Antagonists, or should I say, lack of them. Everyone that isn’t closely related to Luke Cage’s personal orbit was instantly hateable and seemed absolutely terrible at whatever they were doing at the time. Mahershala Ali played a great Cottonmouth, but was as ferocious a bad guy as an Otter playing with a Hello Kitty chew toy in an inflatable pool. Shades was laughable, Alre Woodard as Mariah is really not suited to playing a villain and whatever the hell Diamondback is can go and take a proverbial flying. No doubt I’m being way too harsh, but at every turn it felt like my fur was being rubbed the wrong way and after 13 episodes of fur rubbing it starts to mellow your buzz.
07. Jessica Jones [Season 2]
This was gum in the works for me regarding the quality of Netlix’s once unbreakable Marvel machine. What was once a collection of television programs that were essentially linear narratives that unfolded piece by piece in front of us, soon became soap operas that convinced themselves we genuinely cared about the intimate details of our main characters. This new way of thinking carried itself over into Luke Cage season 2, Iron Fist and I pray NOT into Daredevil season 3. While I recognize that a lot of time and energy went into crafting the story for Jessica Jones season 2, it serves as a lesson that sometimes we don’t need to bog ourselves down in creating the mise-en-scene for comic book TV shows, something that AMC’s Preacher season one was very guilty of. We already know the basic elements of comic books – they should act like rollercoasters, bringing us up AND down equally. A rollercoaster that spends the majority of its time slowly winching itself up into place building suspense isn’t a rollercoaster, it’s an elevator. If that makes sense. In the end I didn’t even finish the season, one of the many reasons why I can’t truly critique it properly and why it sits so low on the list. After 4 episodes I kind of got the idea that something FINALLY happened, I think, and then when I realized it didn’t I knew it was going to be a long haul; ultimately one that I didn’t want to take.
06. The Defenders
Just when you thought you were over talking about The Hand, you’re not. To be fair I have to just give this particular program its props purely for existing. While it definitely wasn’t the great Avengers style meeting of heroes that we anticipated, the almost Suicide Squad-esque feel to how our heroes came together had a kind of charm in of itself. While they certainly could have brought everyone together by putting them in a room with a cordial shaking of hands, instead they decided to bring together our hapless New York City heroes through circumstance and necessity. Writer and producer of the series Marco Ramirez put it best when he described their relationship as "people who were on the same bus when it got in an accident", which is a great analogy. For this reason The Defenders doesn’t feel like a proper series, instead it feels like a bridge that spans a gulf of loose ends. The plan of The Hand is finally brought into the light and the ninja storyline (thankfully) comes to an end in a somewhat semi-dramatic fashion. In anime terms it feels like a OVA series, a small number of episodes that can act as a narrative in of itself, or can support another storyline of a larger franchise. And let’s face it, OVA’s are rad, we can get in and watch a cool story unfold really quickly without affecting our love and appreciation of an affiliated series as a whole. To summarize, it’s not amazing, but it’s not terrible like others that exist further down the list. It comfortably sits at number 6 with little debate.
05. Luke Cage [Season 2]
Like Iron Fist season 2, it feels like producers set about to right a few wrongs of the first season; they focussed on ONE bad ass antagonist (Bushmaster), they reduced Shades and Mariah to ancillary characters and they gave Misty the gnarly prosthetic arm that we were all waiting for and that she desperately needed to become a powerful protagonist. There was one major flaw however that constantly popped up throughout the season – if everyone knows Luke Cage and they know that he is bulletproof, why bother to use guns? It felt like the series had a budget just for weapons alone and so they felt justified in using it. Because of this, the ‘action’ of the series was reduced to small groups of goons and henchmen firing machine guns at Luke with no effect, before he slowly walked towards them and punched them into oblivion. After the 33rd time this happened you start to wonder aloud, “Why bother to have this scene at all? We know exactly what’s going to happen. So do they. What were they thinking? Everyone else’s bullets didn’t work, but MINE will.”
04. The Punisher
I toyed with this sitting higher in the list, but like choosing a favourite child I lament in its number 4 spot. The Punisher series managed to show what Daredevil season 2 couldn’t quite land effectively; the agony of PTSD and the internal mechanisms that drove Frank Castle (played amazingly by Jon Bernthal) to become a murderous vigilante. Traditionally Castle’s metamorphosis into anti-hero was always driven by revenge, but channelling iconic comic moments like Punisher: Intruder or those early 90’s storylines that delved into his time at war, the character begins to open up in ways we were never quite expecting. We never quite imagined that Frank could reinsert himself back into society and we always believed that while evil persisted he was never going to be far from his body armor and extensive collection of automatic firearms. Alas however, we saw something quite different to what we imagined. But don’t let this fool you. The Punisher series is brutal, it takes no prisoners and is a stark reminder that what makes a great series isn’t just reinforcing the overarching morality of its protagonists, it’s also the series of low points that lead our characters there in the first place. Frank Castle, like Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, is broken. And we all love watching a car crash.
03. Daredevil [Season 2]
I’m going to be brutally honest here; half of this series I didn’t care for. I understand that The Hand are still on the loose and that we’re building to something bigger (an Avengers style alien invasion moment), but anytime The Punisher was on screen that’s instantly where my attention was diverted. They hit a home run with the character of Frank Castle on Netflix, so it seemed silly to take the audience back and forth between a really great story and a parallel narrative that never felt as equally dramatic. In contrast to intertwining storylines, everything else felt great – we got another great hallway fight scene, The Punisher felt right at home being hunted by Matt Murdock and we were still treated to the same dark overtones that we came to adore from the first season.
02. Jessica Jones [Season 1]
If you wanted to write a handbook on stalkers, the first season of Jessica Jones would potentially make up the bulk of the book’s references. In all it’s a collection of a seriously creepy bad buy, a truly broken and downtrodden hero and some of my favorite moments in all of Netflix’s Marvel collective universe. Lest we forget about Jessica Jones walking into a cop station filled with officers and detectives ready to blow each other’s brains out. Marvelous.
Plus, David Tennant. Nuff said.
01. Daredevil [Season 1]
How about that hallway scene? Amiright? Ay? Wow. C’maaaaaaarn.
- Andrew Archer