Although fans get plenty of high-budget, visually-impressive experiences with the MCU movies, sometimes it's important to provide some smaller-scale entertainment that's more personal and real. That's where Marvel's Netflix shows come into play. Small-scale (but not unimportant) stories involving heroes that face relatable struggle-filled lives and villains that were created by the world around them.
The shows have found success for many reasons, including the heavily serious tone, strong acting, and deliberate characterization and storytelling. Starting with the first season of Daredevil, this Netflix universe started with a bang. Unfortunately, after that initial season, things just were never quite the same. Jessica Jones was a very good addition to the universe, but starting with Daredevil season 2, each subsequent season mostly disappointed.
Whether it was the decision to remove a considerably-great villain early on in Luke Cage, most of the creative choices in Iron Fist, or the decision to have The Defenders where the heroes don’t actually meet up all too often, Marvel’s latest Netflix offerings just haven’t been on-par with what fans saw in S1 DD. It’s tough because there’s a lot of good in each show, but it’s important to acknowledge the flaws. That way, there’s some hope that the showrunners can look at their upcoming seasons and decide what they can do to make them great. Audiences know what the MNU (Marvel Netflix Universe) shows can be capable of, but to get back to greatness, it’s time to reflect on some harsh truths.
15 Too Many Total Shows
When it started with just Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the total amount of shows seemed perfectly controlled. Then as more characters were introduced and spinoffs started coming in, then an issue came up. Similarly to how the MCU averages approximately 3 movies a year, Netflix had three separate Marvel shows in 2017. The concern comes with issues of franchise fatigue that could come with all these shows releasing so close together.
Something that really made these shows special was how they'd effectively contrast with the movies and offered a different viewing experience (in moderation). If there are three full seasons to check out for three different shows every year, then it loses that special appeal it had before when there was only DD and JJ. While it isn't likely that Marvel will cut out any of its current shows, perhaps a more spaced-out release schedule could help with viewer engagement.
14 Quality isn't always consistent
Like any other show that extends across a "universe" of characters, not every episode is going to be terrific. However, it's difficult to ignore how for every great episode, there are one or two that are either too slow without enough engaging characters or plot to fill the runtime. Most of the time, this issue comes from an unwillingness to settle a particular storyline in favor of stretching across multiple episodes.
Because of this intentional delaying of story, the episodes usually put in lesser sub-plots or character scenes that are just not interesting enough to fill the runtime. In turn, each show goes through peaks and valleys on a regular basis with its episodes. Certain shows definitely are a bit more extreme with the consistency of their high and low moments, but every one of them has the same kind of struggle.
13 Spinoff shows don't work as well as central series
There seems to be a consistent trend with the spinoff shows involving the overall quality in comparison to the "parent" shows. Each of the spinoff and team-up series (Luke Cage, The Punisher, The Defenders) lacked the same strength of universe that DD and JJ had. Those two established prominent main characters (and vital side personalities) in their respective series and did so quite effectively.
The spinoffs attempt something similar, but the characters that they bring in are usually limited to appearances solely in the standalones that they originated in. This may be because their existence is only relevant to that particular character or they aren't memorable enough to warrant increased appearances. Overall, it just seems that while the spinoff shows offer something different from the mainstage stuff, they just can't match their same level of influence and quality.
12 Jessica Jones would work best as a standalone
It's difficult not feeling like Jessica Jones would be far more effective as a single-season type experience. After the final showdown with Kilgrave, doesn't it feel like her story is mostly finished? Sure, Jessica still has some inner demons to combat, but her in-life combatant and abuser was effectively taken care of. Wouldn't ending the story there be far more effective than continuing onwards with far less obstacles to overcome?
Maybe this comes more from the writers not sequel-baiting in the finale, but the lack of potential future conflicts is worrisome (outside of Will Simpson). Besides, how is anything they introduce this next season going to compare to that back-and-forth with David Tennant's Kilgrave? Little is known about S2, but it feels like the primary promising component is the possible inclusion of Wildcat and the potential villain. Beyond that, it just doesn't seem like there's enough there to warrant another 13 episodes.
11 Luke Cage and Iron Fist work best as a team-up
As seen in The Defenders, Luke Cage brings out the best in Iron Fist. The two go together very well and fans were able to get a glimpse of that in TD. However, with the two having their own separate series, they likely won't have much time to share the screen together. After all, these characters have personal arcs and problems they've got to deal with, so they likely won't have too much time to hang out.
Thankfully, they've confirmed that Danny Rand will be showing up on Luke Cage S2 at least for a little while. Yet, it still won't be enough and, at best, will just make fans want to see a full team-up series. They have some growing to do before getting a full series together, but a team-up could do wonders. It’d do wonders for Danny, who, at this moment, is the least-liked Defender.
On that note...
10 There's no "fixing" Iron Fist
With all due respect to Finn Jones and his efforts, he just doesn't seem like a good fit for the Iron Fist character. To be fair, the writing for him hasn't been too strong either as he's relegated to being rather whiny and unlikable too often. His constant insistence of "I am the Iron Fist" feels less like the character saying it and more like the writer trying to convince the viewer. Unfortunately, it's just not working.
It's unclear how showrunners can really handle this situation. The issue is both that of miscasting AND writing, with one issue being far easier to deal with than the other. With Season 2 of Iron Fist already filming, Marvel still seems gung-ho about the people involved with the show's initial season. A new showrunner in Raven Metzner could bring welcome change and hopefully he can form Finn Jones into a proper Danny Rand.
9 They're not REALLY a part of the MCU
As much as we'd like to see Daredevil and Captain America together, it's not going to happen. It's something that would be great to see, but just seems like something that Marvel heads don't want to commit to. The moment that the MCU completely acknowledges the Netflix shows, then they'll be forced to accept all the events that have occurred in those shows (and their future seasons).
Not only that, but the tone of the shows is too different from the Marvel movies to fit together. That grounded grittiness from the Netflix shows would have to be reduced in favor of blending in with the MCU's lighter tone, leading to a watered-down product overall. And without Netflix’s dark tone, there’s little variety between the movies and shows. For the foreseeable future, the only acknowledgement of a shared universe will come solely in the form of background Easter Eggs and passing comments.
8 Side Characters Tend To Be Underdeveloped
While the protagonists and antagonists receive most of the attention development-wise, the remain side characters take what's left. Even though there's a strong amount of overall screentime for these side personalities, there are usually too many of them, leading to uneven distribution of development.
This means that the people that are typically placed in dangerous situations are the ones you only mildly care about. Even with a great actress like Carrie-Anne Moss playing Geri or Elden Henson's prominently-featured Foggy, these are personalities that feel too one-note. It feels like there should be more to talk about with them. It's not like they don't do justice to the roles or waste screen time, but more should be done with characters like these. If not, they'll be recognized by attentive viewers in future seasons, but not much more than that.
7 The Action Is (typically) underwhelming
Man, that one-take hallway fight in Daredevil S1 was great. And how about when The Defenders teamed up and fought The Hand in that great hallway sequence, or basically anything involving Frank Castle (when he's Punishing it up)? These are all great moments where the fight choreographers, stunt-people, and actors/actresses deserve praise.
That said, these sequences aren't the norm. In fact, much of the action scenes are, unfortunately, rather forgettable. A lot of it comes from characters like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage being super strong, but not the flashiest fighters (like Daredevil or Iron Fist). In turn, their scenes usually involve minimal fight choreography for the heroes themselves, forcing their in-scene opponents to pick up the slack. This kind of action is fine and suitable for the grounded tone of the shows, but it’s hard not missing those hallway sequences when watching the numerous uninspired fist fights.
6 They've had a villain problem post-Jessica Jones
The MNU and MCU share a common struggle in regard to their villains. It's likely because there hasn't been that same mix of strong writing AND proper handling of these antagonists like there was for Fisk and Kilgrave. Those two had time to develop and establish themselves across the whole season. The rest of the villains seen so far just didn't have what was necessary to really thrive.
Take Cottonmouth from Luke Cage for example. He was a great character made even better by an excellent actor, yet they decide to kill him off halfway through the first season. He's then replaced by the characters Diamondback and Mariah Dillard. While they're decent threats, Cottonmouth was far more interesting and added far more to the show. Iron Fist's Harold Meachum and The Defenders' Alexandra had the performances, but never had the material to work with. Hopefully Daredevil S3 breaks this trend.
5 The Defenders was supposed to be Netflix's Avengers, and it failed
It was rather surprising how The Defenders wasn't as hyped up as it could've been. This was basically the MNU's Avengers and it didn't seem like it was treated as such. Once it came out, it was kind of understandable why there wasn't as much hype as would be expected. Throughout the 8-episode series, the team weren't actually together all that often, the pacing still dragged, and The Hand served as a disappointing villain overall.
Everyone in front of the camera seemed game, but the writing limited exactly how much they could provide to this team-up's entertainment value. Even though they limited the amount of episodes to counteract the usual bloat felt by the other shows, TD still suffered from the same issues that plague the other standalones.
4 Pacing regularly drags
With those spread-out storylines, the episodes still need to fill the runtime somehow. This writing decision, mixed with the 13 episode seasons, means that there are many periods of time where nothing really happens. In turn, episodes tend to be pretty poorly paced as a result.
Long stretches of characters going from place-to-place or small talking about somewhat inconsequential things are what typically makes up these scenes. These aren't wrongly placed or always poorly used, but there are simply too many of them that feel unnecessary. As a result, these scenes feel like padding. While there needs to be some breathing room between major action and main story scenes, these go beyond the acceptable range. This makes episodes seriously drag and their entertainment value dwindle. While the 50-60 minute runtime is the standard, perhaps it should be reduced if the extra time only hurts the episode’s overall quality.
3 Too many episodes
A problem that seems to plague most comic-book shows is the overabundance of episodes for each season. While more content is usually a good thing, it mostly only hurts the overall season. With 13 episodes being the standard, the actual depth of the story and character arcs have no effect on the total amount of time available to explore them.
Regardless of whether it's a somewhat straightforward story or something more complex, it's 13 episodes. That's approximately thirteen hours that the showrunners and writers must fill, even if they don't have enough content. Not only is this unfair to the creators, but also pigeonholes each season's story into something that's always overstuffed in some way. It’s understandable that the Marvel execs want to give fans as much content as they’d like with each full season, but those viewers likely would prefer a carefully-structured, well-paced season than an overstuffed one.
2 Peaked After Daredevil Season 1
Marvel's Netflix universe started off so strongly with Daredevil's initial season, didn't it? Powered by great action, Charlie Cox's spot-on portrayal of Matt Murdock and Vincent D'Onofrio's thoroughly-engaging performance as Wilson Fisk, it was a surprisingly-excellent start. However, the unfortunate truth to recognize is that none of the other shows (including DD's second season) have been able to reach the height of DD S1's quality.
Each show has its own issues that limit it from reaching the same level, but it almost seems like it's an impossible task. Season 1 was a shocking success that worked far better than anyone expected, so now there are high expectations for each subsequent addition to the Marvel Netflix library. While fans don't expect every season of each show to be on the same level, it's difficult to ignore how out-of-reach the bar appears to be.
1 They have little room to grow
Even though each of The Defenders has an extra season for their respective standalones, it doesn't seem like there's much left to do with them. Following the thoroughly engaging psychological battle between Jessica and Kilgrave, what could JJ Season 2 offer that would even compare? Following Luke Cage's conquering of Diamondback and his newfound popularity in Harlem, what's left to do?
This question plagues most of the Netflix shows as they seem to have already put their best foot forward. Where could they hope to go but down? Iron Fist is basically the only show that can improve in any substantial way as its first season underwhelmed. Everyone else is forced to come up with worthy follow-up storylines from the comics or through the showrunners themselves. If they can't figure it out, then the shows will just push onwards, even if they should've ended long beforehand.
Which of these do you think is the worst issue? Let us know!
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