With Disney seemingly ending its tenuous relationship with Netflix and launching its own streaming service, Disney+, it's likely that there may not be any new Marvel shows on the popular streaming service very soon. After the cancelations of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and most surprisingly of all, Daredevil, it was looking like Disney wanted their properties for themselves.
With the approaching third season of Jessica Jones on the way, now would be a great time to look back on which seasons of these groundbreaking shows stand up to scrutiny and which ones let down fans of these classic characters. While these shows always had their imperfections, there were also plenty of great scenes, character beats, and storylines in each one.
By the time Iron Fist premiered on Netflix, audiences had come to expect more from their Marvel shows. Jessica Jones had shown that a superhero series could get raw and real about trauma, and Daredevil had demonstrated that a series could still pack a ton of amazing action into a single hour.
Iron Fist managed to disappoint on all fronts: the fight choreography was weak, which was a huge strike against a show so based in martial arts. Not only that, but Danny Rand made for a truly awful lead character. There were also at least a few culturally insensitive moments, which did nothing to help this already weak show.
The second season of Iron Fist didn't do much better in terms of improving on the first, but it did score some points for cutting three episodes from its run and having a more compelling villain (Alice Eve's Mary Walker). The fight choreography still left much to be desired, but it had improved slightly.
However, the biggest problem with the series remained: Danny Rand. Despite the fact that the character had now appeared in the show's first season and Defenders, Rand had shown little to no growth and still failed to be a compelling protagonist in any way. Almost no one was upset or surprised by this show's cancellation.
It's more than safe to say that Jessica Jones hit the sophomore slump pretty hard. After a first season loaded with excellent performances and plenty of subtext, the show struggled to find a direction to take in its second season. The origin of Jessica's powers was explored more closely, but it didn't quite do much to add to the show's mythology
Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor both did great furthering the relationship between Jessica and Trish, although it was disappointing to see them turning against each other. The final tease of Trish developing some powers of her own was not quite enough to build more anticipation for the third season
In its first season, Luke Cage managed to do something that all of the other Netflix shows had struggled to do before it (with the possible exception of Jessica Jones): have a unique personality. The season was not perfect by any measure, but setting in the vibrant neighborhoods of Harlem and using its story to talk about real issues worked incredibly well.
What also made the season so great was the larger role given to Rosario Dawson, who had played a supporting role in the other series, but finally got to really shine alongside Mike Colter. The season also starred Oscar winner Mahershala Ali in a role that, unfortunately, was cut way too short.
The second season of The Punisher had some big expectations to live up to. Was it able to meet those expectations? Not entirely, although it did at least continue to build on the world of Frank Castle. It also added a little more color and variety to his opponents, giving the season a more comic book vibe than the previous one.
However, this did not always work in its favor. the first season shone precisely because it felt like it did not need to emulate the comics where Frank originated. The second season suffered from a glut of story, as these series often do, and it did not help things that Frank, a man who is known for working alone, was given a teenage sidekick.
The second season of Daredevil was highly anticipated for only one real reason: the introduction of Jon Bernthal as the Punisher. Fans had been waiting for a proper representation of the character on screen for years, and they were finally about to get it. It's just a shame that the season continued past its stellar first four episodes.
After all but wrapping up the Punisher storyline in those initial outings, Daredevil really started to lose its way, narratively speaking. The addition of Elektra and the Hand made an already overstuffed season feel like it could burst at any second, and letting Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk take so much of a backseat didn't do it any favors either.
Daredevil did manage to pick itself up and brush off the dust of both its previous season and Defenders with its third season, which put the focus back on Wilson Fisk while adding one of Daredevil's most enduring enemies to the cast: Bullseye. While it still wasn't perfect, Daredevil's third season had a lot to offer.
First of all, the fight scene in the office building between Matt and Bullseye stands up with some of the best fight scenes in the series, with Bullseye utilizing everything he can get his hands on as a perfectly aimed projectile. The story also got some invigoration from its great cast of supporting players, including Elden Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, and Peter McRobbie.
Building on the momentum of the first season, Luke Cage managed to expand its storyline without losing any of its signature feel or personality. It also managed to introduce a more compelling villain this time around (though the absence of Mahershala Ali is still felt and acts as a detriment to the show).
However, Alfre Woodard still does fantastic as Mariah, the real criminal mastermind behind everything. This time out, it really feels like Luke has an even match in Bushmaster, and with expanded roles being given to Simone Missick's Misty (who got to team up with Colleen Wing) and Rosario Dawson, the show was at its best. Unfortunately, this came right before its cancelation.
The Defenders was essentially going to be the Avengers of the small-screen: a highly anticipated team-up effort where viewers would finally get to see how all of their favorite street-level superheroes would play off of each other. Again, the series was imperfect, but it did provide some great character moments and featured a great villain in the form of Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra.
The show still stumbled in some sections, but it was greatly aided by the fact that it only had to tell a story over eight episodes instead of the usual 13. Still, audiences had to deal with Danny Rand almost ruining everything because of his childishness, which could have brought the whole thing down, if not for great turns from Mike Colter, Krysten Ritter, and Charlie Cox.
Daredevil was the show that started everything, and its first season still stands as its absolute best. The storytelling was lean and hadn't yet been bogged down with complications by involving the Hand. This was simply a story of one man trying to do right in Hell's Kitchen, and facing off against an opponent he didn't fully understand (Vincent D'Onofrio's incredible turn as Kingpin).
Charlie Cox did a great job making Matt Murdock a down-to-earth character who also had incredible abilities. He was able to give Daredevil a sense of vulnerability, which was what D'Onofrio was also able to do with Fisk. This hero got hurt, sometimes really bad, but he could still deliver great hits of his own, as evidenced in the hallway fight that started it all in the second episode.
After his introduction in the second season of Daredevil, it was clear that Jon Bernthal's Punisher was the breakout star of the Marvel Netflix shows. The Punisher was the first of all these shows that felt like it could exist solely on its own without being weighed down by the backstory of the entire MCU where it takes place.
Bernthal plays Frank Castle with such conviction that you almost forget the character is relatively one-note in the comics. The season also takes an opportunity to not only revel in the violence of Frank's work but shed a light on PTSD, male friendship, and the treatment of veterans who return from war without any real safety net.
If there was only one season of Netflix Marvel's shows that approaches perfection, it has to be Jessica Jones's stellar first season. By breaking away from some of the more typical superhero narratives in order to focus on trauma, addiction, and toxic relationships, Jessica Jones set itself apart from the pack.
The show smartly utilized a noir tone and set Jessica up as an imperfect hero (one who wouldn't even want to use that word to describe herself). Of course, the show wouldn't have been as successful as it was without some amazing performances by both Krysten Ritter and David Tennant, whose menacing Kilgrave quickly became one of the best on-screen Marvel villains ever.