The internet may be rife with rumors swirling of cancellations and shows changing platforms, but it’s hard to argue against the general success that Marvel’s TV adventures have seen. For fans, it’s been great to see a variety of characters get the serialized treatment over a one-off, two-hour movie every few years. Between cable, Netflix, and Hulu, there are lots of options before the House of Mouse moves everything to Disney+. Here is our ranking of the best Marvel TV shows.
10. Iron Fist
How can the main character be the lamest person in an action TV series? Ask the creators of Iron Fist. Season one presented itself as just another dull superhero origin story that didn’t even reach the superhero part. Season two was better, but it’s been hard to shake the energy from the previous season. Here’s hoping the show gets revived on Disney+ and can take season three to new heights.
9. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sometimes it takes a couple of seasons to fall into what a show needs to be, versus what producers want a show to be. The first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was bad - trying to be all things to everyone, it became nothing of substance. Season two arrived with the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and it was a godsend. S.H.I.E.L.D. was thrust into chaos as Hydra took over and the show finally became interesting. With each season, they have correctly distanced themselves from the events of the MCU, thus making the show interesting beyond its ability to tie into the current movie.
8. The Defenders
By the time The Defenders hit Netflix, we had already been able to see all four of these heroes in action. It was fun watching them finally come into contact for long stretches of time, and to see their personalities clash. Danny Rand was suddenly so much more bearable with Jessica Jones around to shut him down every time he opened his mouth. It also turned Iron Fist into a legitimate superhero - something his own show couldn’t accomplish in its first season. Sigourney Weaver played a fantastic villain, and the short episode count meant there weren’t a lot of slow spots.
7. The Gifted
The Gifted is the X-Men show we deserve, even if it’s not the one we need right now. It has everything we want from an X-Men series. From government figures hunting down those born a certain way to villains that share the opinions of the heroes, but are just a little too extreme. As the audience, we root for the non-violent “heroes,” but it’s not hard to see the villains’ point. This show is packed with both well-known and deep cut characters from the comics, and the special effects used to create their powers look great. The X-Men are gone and the mutants have gone underground to survive and escape the Sentinels. You don’t get much more X-Men than that.
6. Luke Cage
A confident, attention-grabbing Harlem soundtrack was a breath of fresh air when Luke Cage debuted. However, producers knew that a bulletproof black man in a hoodie was powerful and timely, but it also stopped short of actually using it to take any sort of stance. Season two changed that while also bringing in a formidable villain. The series may pose the question, but we feel Luke Cage is certainly capable of wielding the power he has.
5. Marvel's Agent Carter
The struggle of some other shows on this list came from feeling the need to adhere to film events and continuity, but Agent Carter didn’t have that concern. A period piece set just after World War II, it was able to tell its own story from the start. Peggy Carter was easily the most capable agent in New York, but it was still the 1940s and she had to pretend to be the person that society expected her to be, doing clerical work while helping Howard Stark save the world on the side. The Secret Empire storyline was so much fun, and the set, the costumes, the prop design, the sharp dialog, and the amazing cast make this one short but sweet series.
4. Jessica Jones
This protagonist is probably the most relatable character in the MCU, dealing with the exceptionally poor hand life deals her the way most of us would: with sarcasm and whiskey. This show explores the trauma that people, not just superheroes, routinely face and how it affects a person. And in a #MeToo world, it also doesn’t shy away from talking about abuse. David Tennant is electric as the first season’s villain, who isn’t just scary because of his power to control people, but also in how much he is just an abusive boyfriend. He’s he’s emotionally (and supernaturally) manipulative and refuses to take no for an answer. He’s male entitlement personified. That’s what makes him so terrifying, and why it’s so satisfying when Jessica snaps his neck after he tells her to smile.
The show that started it all. It’s easy to argue that if season one was a flop, it may have doomed the other shows on this list. Thankfully, Daredevil was a vast improvement over the last time someone tried to adapt the character. His anger, his faith and the real reasons he put on a mask and beat people up in Hell’s Kitchen every night were explored fully. This series set a high bar for fight scenes too, letting the camera linger on the action, making sure we didn’t miss one brutal, uncomfortable moment. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk managed to be both terrifying and sympathetic at the same time. You felt for him and understood why he ended up the way he did. Plus the show also brought us our next entry...
2. The Punisher
Jon Bernthal is the definitive live-action Punisher. From his debut in Daredevil season two to his own series, he is the adaptation of the character fans have wanted since the 2004 Thomas Jane movie. It’s a little weird in 2017 to have a hero whose superpower is how well he can shoot a lot of guns, but the show handled the character well. You understood why this was the person he had to turn into. This version of Frank Castle was fully realized, conflicted and human. The show also did a decent job at addressing gun violence and PTSD, though given the timing of its release, it maybe should have gone farther. Perhaps we’ll get some more commentary when season two drops on January 18, 2019.
Legion took a look at other superhero shows and said, “that’s exactly what I don’t want to do.” What battles there are take place inside the mind, and the show takes every chance it has to get weird and abstract with them. From dance battles to text adventures to oddly beautiful logic puzzles, Legion is incredibly good at putting you inside the mind of David Haller, whose powerful telepathic abilities were misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. But finding out he’s actually a mutant doesn’t make everything better. He’s still confused and overwhelmed, dealing with serious trauma that isn’t going to just go away. As season two reminds fans of the comics, David Haller isn’t actually a hero. While season two fell for the “sexual abuse as a plot device” trope, we have high hopes for season three.