In 2015, Marvel added Netflix to the family as they debuted 13 episodes of the hit series, Daredevil. Since then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to include another season of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. If there’s one thing they have in common, it’s that the production quality appears to be a cut above traditional network television. Fans and critics alike love the addition of Netflix as a platform to get their Marvel fix.
Without the constraints of network television, the violence can be more explosive, the action can be bigger, the special effects team has more time to get things right, and more scenes can be filmed on location instead of on a soundstage. That all adds up to fans getting a mini movie in every episode - without any advertisements to break up the fun. Fans are free to binge watch to their heart's’ content as well, since every episode of a season is released at once.
That doesn’t mean every one of the 65 produced episodes to date is outstanding, though. As easy as it is to forget that they aren’t perfect, there definitely are a few that lag behind the rest. We’re taking a look at the 20 Worst MCU Netflix Episodes.
Note: If you’re not caught up on Marvel’s Netflix offerings just yet, there will be SPOILERS!
20 Daredevil 2x06 “Regrets Only”
Daredevil had a nearly perfect season during its debut on Netflix, but when season two rolled around, fans and reviews were just a bit more critical of it, thanks in part to the show diverging from the main storyline introduced in the season premiere of Frank Castle creating havoc in Hell’s Kitchen.
“Regrets Only” diverts the series into the Matt and Elektra show as the two start investigating what they think are Yakuza, though it’s really the alway-present-Marvel-group, The Hand. Since this was only the third season of Marvel on Netflix, some audience members might have been fooled by the Yakuza-Hand bait and switch by the writers, but comic book fans definitely weren’t, making the twists unnecessary. While it’s fun to watch the former flames work together, it takes time away from Frank Castle’s impending trial and the mystery of what really happened to his family, and for a lot of the audience, it was the birth of the Punisher that was the main draw for the season.
19 Jessica Jones 1x02 “AKA Crush Syndrome”
As the second episode of Jessica Jones, “Crush Syndrome” is the first to delve into story details and tease some answers for the audience. The answers that it reveals just aren’t all that unexpected - like Jessica having been previously controlled by Kilgrave.
The episode is too slow to build after the explosive final act of the series premiere. With the final moments of the previous episode pulling the audience in, the second episode should live up to that burst of adrenaline. Instead, it meanders through a few leads as Jessica tries to figure out what happened to Kilgrave when she left him for dead, though it does have one very good thing going for it, and that’s Luke Cage.
If there were MCU fans tuning in who weren’t familiar with Luke Cage from the comics, this is the episode that gave them the first taste of what he could do. The man with unbreakable skin and super strength is unleashed on a group of goons who foolishly attack him, setting up not only his relationship with Jessica, but also what would come in his own series.
18 Daredevil 1x03 “Rabbit In A Snowstorm”
Since Daredevil was so close to having a perfect season when it premiered, it might be surprising to see this particular episode make the list. Really, on its own, “Rabbit In A Snowstorm” isn’t a bad hour of television. Quite the opposite. When you stack it up against the rest of the season, however, it becomes obvious that this is one that is all set-up for future story.
“Rabbit In A Snowstorm” provides the audience with the first branching out of the Union Allied conspiracy of the first season of the show, and it also provides us with the first real glimpse at Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock learning that he might be Hell’s Kitchen’s new Kingpin. But that’s all this episode does - stack up hint after hint so that later episodes can provide bigger payoffs. It’s little more than a bridge from the premiere to the solution to the mystery, a (somewhat dry) means to an end.
17 Luke Cage 1x06 “Suckas Need Bodyguards”
One of the great aspects of this episode is that we get more of Claire Temple. In the other Netflix series, Rosario Dawson’s character is used as a grounding force against the craziness of the world of powered people, but with Luke Cage, she’s in the thick of the story instead. It’s nice to see her as a character that fits into the world of the show instead of being used by the writers for the sake of connecting the story to another character in the upcoming Defenders series. (Why hello there, Iron Fist. Don't worry, we'll get to you in a moment.)
This episode does, however, mark the turning point of the season where Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes is on his way out. The one-two-punch of Cornell and Mariah made for some of the greatest villains Marvel has offered up to audiences so far. It’s a shame that the series made the shift away from Cornell and toward Diamondback as the show went on. The old trope of a corrupt cop seeing the light is what sends Cottonmouth on his way as Scarfe pays the price with his life instead of having to deal with the choices he made as well.
16 Iron Fist 1x10 “Black Tiger Steals Heart”
Iron Fist was not the most well-received of the Netflix shows, so expect to see quite a few more episodes from the latest Netflix series as we continue on down this list. Iron Fist was also almost doomed from the start, since a lot of the audience went in with preconceived notions of what they were getting themselves into.
“Black Tiger Steals Heart” wasn’t quite the worst of the Iron Fist debut season, but it definitely left an impression as it turned Danny and Colleen’s burgeoning relationship into the stuff of soap operas, as Colleen is revealed to be a member of The Hand, and is therefore, suddenly, Danny’s sworn enemy. On the plus side, it gave some insight into how The Hand operated and just what Colleen had gotten herself into when she signed up. It also introduced Danny’s friend Davos and brought a fun fight scene.
15 Daredevil 1x12 “The Ones We Leave Behind”
The penultimate episode of Daredevil’s first season, “The Ones We Left Behind” was a chance to begin tying up loose story threads, but more questions than answers were posed thanks to Madame Gao and her heroin trade. While Madame Gao was one piece of the puzzle when it came to Wilson Fisk’s attempt to take over Hell’s Kitchen, she wasn’t quite as large of one as fans had hoped.
There was no explanation for why Madame Gao chose the symbol of the Steel Serpent for her heroin packets, and no mention of where she was really from, though those teases were always meant to whet fans’ appetites for Iron Fist, anyway. This episode actually provides a bit of a continuity issue, as she reveals that she only got into the heroin trade because it was convenient, not because she wanted to, but then spends the Iron Fist premiere season trying to keep her hold on heroin being sold out of the Rand building.
This episode also didn’t do itself any favors by leading off with the aftermath of Karen Page shooting Wesley. She cries, drinks herself into a stupor, and then has a nightmare about Fisk. The first season of the show piled a lot of guilt on Karen without letting her get out from under it.
14 Iron Fist 1x04 “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm”
The one fault of many of Marvel’s Netflix series is trying to do too much, too soon, causing the season to become bloated. That’s the case for Iron Fist as well, as “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm” not only brings The Hand conflict with Danny into play, but also puts the family business back on the table and reveals that someone he thought was dead had actually faked their death.
This results in Danny’s fish out of water dealings with Rand Enterprises, where he makes business decisions based on his feelings rather than the bottom line, turning nearly everyone in the company against him. It also means that Danny becomes even more naive than he was in the first episode, as he believes he and the Meachums are on the same side, not realizing that Howard is playing them like the world's easiest-to-play-fiddle in every single conversation they have. In a world where almost everyone else is able to pick out lies and betrayal around them, Danny just doesn’t measure up in this storyline, and his childish perspectives rear their ugly head.
The bright side to this episode? Colleen Wing in a cage match! Fans got to see her go all out long before she got mixed up in Danny Rand’s drama.
13 Jessica Jones 1x11 “AKA I’ve Got The Blues”
Though much of the season was full of slow moving episodes focused on psychological conflict instead of physical conflict, “AKA I’ve Got The Blues” did give audiences a big brawl to watch, though not with Kilgrave. Instead, Jessica and Trish had to go up against Will Simpson, who was too messed up on his red, white, and blue pills to realize how dangerous he’d become.
On the plus side, Trish got to put all that training she’d been doing to good use, and we got to see a possible tease for her comic book alter ego Hellcat, as she “died” for a moment after using Simpson’s pills to go up against him in a fight. Her comic book character died, went to Hell, and came back to tell the tale as a superhero. If this episode turns out to be her origin story, fans might like it a lot more than they do now, as it currently stands as a bump in the road to Kilgrave.
This wasn’t the only episode to have Jessica getting sidetracked from her quest to make Kilgrave pay for the things he’d done, of course...
12 Jessica Jones 1x04 “AKA 99 Friends”
This was another episode of Jessica Jones that took a slight detour from her obsession with Kilgrave as we went on a journey of an everyday case for the title character. The case was tenuously connected to the rest of the season, as Jessica believed the woman who hired her (who said she thought her husband was having an affair) was actually connected to Kilgrave in some way. That connection was pretty clearly out the window as soon as the investigation began, though, so it was really just a ploy to keep the audience watching on the off chance that Jessica was right.
Instead, this woman and her husband targeted Jessica because they knew she was “one of them,” meaning someone with more than human abilities. The story did provide audience members familiar with Jessica from the comics with her “If you shoot that gun at me, I’ll pull that bullet out of my ruined jacket…” speech as a fun nod to the source material, but it wasn’t really a necessary break from the mystery of the season. The audience already knew that people with powers weren’t exactly lauded thanks to the way characters talked about “the incident” and the man whose car Jessica lifted off the ground in the first episode.
11 Luke Cage 1x08 “Blowin Up The Spot”
As if Luke Cage didn’t already have enough problems in his life during the first half of the season, “Blowin Up The Spot” brings comic book character Diamondback officially into the mix and creates a whole new set of issues for Luke. Instead of just dealing with neighborhood cleanup and corrupt politicians, the series adds in family drama and someone out to kill him.
While Luke Cage gets major points for its depiction of black culture in a superhero show, halfway through the season, the show began to get bloated with more plot lines than necessary. Everyone wants a piece of Luke when Luke just wants a chance to do the right thing. Adding Diamondback to the mix might have been better saved for the second season, so the show could stick with the neighborhood politics that it did so well in the first half. It didn't help that Erik LaRay Harvey's Diamondback paled in comparison to Mahershala Ali's Cottonmouth, of course.
10 Iron Fist 1x05 Under Leaf Pluck Lotus
If you were an audience member waiting for Iron Fist to officially make its link to the rest of the Netflix shows, this is the episode where that happened. Not only was Daredevil’s Madame Gao revealed as the leader of the faction of The Hand selling a new kind of heroin, but Claire Temple also made her debut as Colleen’s newest student. Those were great selling points for the episode, as was Danny and Colleen teaming up to take on The Hand.
The downside comes courtesy of the Meachum family, as we watch Ward Meachum start circling the drain. He’s so tense from his own secretly-alive-father spying on him that he starts using drugs to cope, and then, he overdoses, only for his little sister to find him. The dramatic family troubles of the Meachums are worse than any prime-time soap opera, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the audience who was remotely interested.
9 Daredevil 2x05 “Kinbaku”
“Kinbaku” provided audiences with their first look at Elodie Yung's MCU version of Elektra, which was (thankfully) very different than the version Jennifer Garner played with the character rights were held by Fox. While Elektra proves to be morally gray and a bit of an adrenaline junkie, as well as an all around fun character to watch, she isn’t exactly as stoic or stealthy as her comic book counterpart, creating a very different interpretation that might have left some comic book fans worried about where the character would go next.
This episode also causes the show to branch out in too many directions. While season one had a common throughline - figuring out the conspiracy behind Wilson Fisk’s actions - season two split its focus between Elektra, Frank Castle, and the burgeoning conflict amongst the members of the Nelson & Murdock law firm. The first two may have contributed to the third, but the trio of storylines created an overstuffed season from this point forward.
8 Luke Cage 1x13 “You Know My Steez”
The final episode of Luke Cage’s debut season did give us teases for the future - most involving Claire Temple. Claire not only promises to get Luke a good lawyer (since she hits the audience over the head with the fact that she knows Daredevil throughout the season), but she also grabs a flyer for self-defense classes that open the door for her to appear in Iron Fist. The audience also gets their first look at Misty Knight in an outfit that most resembles her comic book attire, as she goes undercover on her own, teasing what might be next for her character.
Those teases are all great. Not so great? The final confrontation between Luke and Willis. While the live-action version of Misty’s comic book look works great on camera, Diamondback’s is.... dated, to say the least. Yes, he’s in a sort of armor made to give him “unbreakable skin” like Luke, but he looks ridiculous, and it makes the fight between them clunky instead of as fun, as their other throwdowns were.
7 Jessica Jones 1x01 “AKA Ladies Night”
If there’s one thing audience members didn’t like about Jessica Jones, it was the slow burn nature of the series. Marvel fans, especially when it comes to the MCU, are used to fast-paced, kinetic action. Jessica Jones opened its series with an episode that involved a lot of getting inside Jessica’s head as the audience was given brief introductions to the people close to her and a glimpse of her past trauma. It had a few standout moments, but the story sure took its time to get to them.
What prevents this episode from being ranked any higher on the list is that twist in the end. Jessica thinks she’s saved Hope from the torture of a life with Kilgrave, only to discover that she’s still under his control in a particularly gruesome way: Hope murders her parents in an elevator, as Kilgrave has willed her to. It’s a twist the audience doesn’t see coming until it’s too late, and one even Jessica isn’t prepared for, giving the episode a much-needed shot in the arm and forcing viewers to immediately head into episode two. Without those final two minutes, however, the series' debut was a pretty dry one.
6 Luke Cage 1x10 “Take It Personal”
Comic book fans have a lot to be happy about in “Take It Personal,” since the show delves into a lot of backstory and shows off a ton of Easter eggs. The series took cues from Luke’s original outfit in the comics for file names and Luke’s stolen clothing when he escapes prison, but it also has its own spin on his comic book origin story, flashing back to Seagate Prison and showing the audience just who Carl Lucas was.
The downside here is that this episode -- tasked with packing in a ton of backstory while Luke Cage is getting shrapnel removed from him and the police are looking for him in Harlem -- moves incredibly slowly and is just way too dense. There’s so much going on that the pacing doesn’t match the amount of story being told, making for one of the most uneven episodes of the season, despite the fact that it features the most comic book nuggets for fans!
5 Iron Fist 1x09 “The Mistress of All Agonies”
Several pieces of the Iron Fist story finally start to come together in “The Mistress of All Agonies.” It’s a good thing too, since there are only four episodes to follow in the first season. The problem here is that many of those story pieces coming together turn out to be lies (maybe).
Colleen and Danny spend much of this episode interrogating Madame Gao, thanks to some truth serum that Rand Industries developed. It’s Gao who starts to provide the audience with clues to Danny’s past while under the influence of that serum… and then it turns out she’s lying about everything (possibly). It’s unclear just how much she’s lied about and how many truths she tells, making everything in this episode, except for Colleen being poisoned and Harold coming back to life again, more confusing than anything else.
On the plus side, Danny learns how to use a new ability as he uses the Iron Fist to heal Colleen and the cliffhanger of Colleen, Bakuto, and some ninjas carting off Danny and Gao is a nice hook to get to episode ten. Still, this episode screamed "filler."
4 Iron Fist 1x13 “Dragon Plays With Fire”
On the bright side, this episode does a lot of teasing at what’s to come when Danny Rand returns to his little patch of New York. Not only does Joy now hate Danny for his part in tearing her family apart (apparently? she went from hot to cold on that one real quick), but she’s seen meeting with Davos at the end of the episode, who is also nursing some Danny Rand hatred, while Madame Gao listens to them talk. All the possible antagonists are in one place while Danny and Colleen discover K'un-Lun is missing, setting up an interesting mystery for season 2.
The downside? The bulk of this episode is comprised of a convoluted plan to get to Harold and fights scenes that are difficult to see, not to mention ones that aren’t all that smooth considering the heavy use of martial arts for the series. The biggest set piece involves Danny and company on the roof of the company headquarters, but it’s so chaotic that it’s hard to enjoy what’s actually happening in the sequence.
3 Luke Cage 1x09 “DWYCK”
Again a victim of trying to do too much at one time, “DWYCK” combined the stories of political corruption, neighborhood drama, and family issues in a way that made the story bloated and unfocused. Add that to Luke trying to find a way to get shrapnel out of his body and its unbreakable skin, and there are way too many plot points that needed to be focused on with only four episodes left to close them out.
This episode also placed the focus largely on Willis and his own desire to get back at Carl Lucas by way of the Judas bullet. While the sibling rivalry and the betrayal between the two would make for a compelling story on its own, here, it’s shoehorned into the story of Harlem politics, shortchanging the story that was led by Mariah and Cornell up until this point. Willis is much more like the typical villain you’d find in a superhero show/movie, which makes him the kind of baddie the writers on the show’s staff could probably tackle with their eyes closed. Cornell and Mariah, on the other hand, had the potential to parallel modern life in the real world, but were pushed back into the shadow of Diamondback’s underwhelming presence.
2 Iron Fist 1x07 “Felling Tree With Roots”
While “Felling Tree With Roots” does a great job at tying Danny’s family business into the mystical organization of The Hand with Madame Gao operating her drug organization out of one of its empty floors, doing so does provide a strange continuity error for the show and slows down the pacing of the series significantly.
In Daredevil’s first season, Gao left the show after admitting that she wasn’t really all that crazy about the heroin trade, just that it was convenient, as mentioned before. Here though, she’s all in on the new version of heroin. She’s got a sophisticated setup that looks like it must have taken years to perfect, complete with women who look like they’re peddling cosmetics doling out drugs. She’s got her own secret floor in a legitimate business building and everything. It seems like a lot of effort for someone who favors convenience.
That being said, Danny’s investigation into Gao is incredibly slow moving, considering just how much he finds out in the episode. Even the corporate politics as Joy, Ward, and Danny are removed from the board isn’t unexpected, leaving most watchers just waiting to get to the next episode.
1 Iron Fist 1x08 “The Blessing of Many Fractures”
On paper, “The Blessing of Many Fractures” sounds like a great idea for an episode: get Danny, Claire, and Colleen out of New York and on Gao’s trail, showing the audience what this team-up can do. And what is that exactly? Not...all that much.
Claire is always entertaining, but she feels like an unnecessary add when the trio is actually in action. She doesn’t have the fighting experience to go up against trained ninjas, even if she has dealt with The Hand before. Seeing her try to hold her own as Danny and Colleen go up against Gao’s forces at this point in the season is outright ridiculous, and the fact that she made it through this bumbling adventure (not that we weren't rooting for her to survive) makes little to no sense.
This episode also shows the audience just what could have been as Lewis Tan takes on the role of Zhou Cheng. In the comics, Zhou spends 75 years defeating those who become the Iron Fist. In the MCU, he gets to show off his skills in the “drunken master” trope of kung fu movies, and his moves are the finest this series has to offer. He’s also funny, magnetic, and a true standout in the episode. Tan also auditioned for Danny Rand, but was offered the role of Zhou, who was transformed into a Hand henchman. Ultimately, this episode proved to be little more than an infuriating look at what could have been.
What do you think? Did we get the worst of the worst? Or are there other episodes on the journey to The Defenders that deserve a spot in our list? Tell us which episodes of the MCU’s Netflix series you think should be on here in the comments!
Catch all of the heroes unite in The Defenders when it lands on the streaming service on August 8, where we’re sure to be in for some of the best episodes of the Netflix corner of the MCU.
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