The Best Marvel Shows and Seasons on Netflix – Fall 2018
Coming at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had hit its stride following the release of “Ant-Man” and prior to “Captain America: Winter Soldier”, Netflix and Marvel decided to join forces and produce something epic. Born of this collaboration, we’ve been able to enjoy a new brand of Marvel magic. One with a much grittier, human feel to it. From the likes of Daredevil, the Punisher, and Iron Fist, we’ve been given an all-access pass into a different side of the Marvel lineup yet to be Disney-fied. Believe me when I say that it’s been one hell of a ride.
“That’s nice. So which seasons are the best so I can get to binging?”
I was getting there, I promise.
Be warned! This article will more than likely contain both spoilers and personal opinion. Both of which you may not want to hear (read?). For any disagreements or opinions that you may have, please convey them in a civil manner in the comments section below.
So without further ado…
Netflix' flagship Marvel series is nothing short of spectacular. Packed with brutal fight sequences, a solid narrative, and impeccable casting, Netflix proves that they can deliver a must-see experience worthy of the Marvel brand.
Daredevil is an origin story that brings much-needed depth to the title character but without shoving it heavy-handedly down our throats. Instead, the showrunners decided to present it to us in a well-paced and interesting way throughout the 13 episode season delivering a much more engaging experience for the audience.
Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson are determined to champion the underdogs of Hell's Kitchen, opening up a legal firm right there in Manhattan. Unknown to Foggy, Matt doubles as a vigilante wandering the streets at night fighting crime eager to dole out justice on his own terms. The kicker is that Matt lost his sight at an early age but gained extrasensory abilities that aid him in taking down those who would plague the city.
The series' timeline takes place a few years after the events of the first "Avengers" film and is treated more as a backdrop rather than any direct connection to the movie. Hell's Kitchen is wracked with crime, corruption, and those citizens who pray for it to end. Daredevil aims to crack down on the evils inhabiting the city on two fronts. A lawyer by day, ready to represent the citizens considered lost causes, turned away and forgotten; at night, as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. The latter ultimately leads to the inevitable showdown between himself and Wilson Fisk, who Marvel fans will recognize as the Kingpin of Crime.
All in all, Daredevil season 1 is a must watch for those who love superhero flicks and want to see a darker take on the MCU. It should also be your first stop if you intend on watching each of the Netflix Marvel shows in chronological order.
After Jon Bernthal’s take on the character during Daredevil’s sophomore season, I was immediately hooked and salivating at the possibility of a Punisher spinoff series. Bernthal is the Frank Castle that we’ve all been waiting for. He is methodical in his approach though also unrelenting, unhinged, and undeniably deadly. Jon’s portrayal of The Punisher is, in my opinion, a perfect representation of a comic book to screen conversion. How Hugh Jackman was born to play the Wolverine, Bernthal was meant to be The Punisher.
They seemed to take a few liberties with Frank’s backstory on how he eventually becomes the ruthless vigilante we know and love. Frank, is depicted in the comics as an ex-marine turned family-man whose wife and two children are brutally gunned down in a gangland-style shooting while enjoying a day in Central Park.
In the series, we see Castle on a mission in Kandahar, committing a war crime at the behest of a rogue CIA agent, seemingly embroiled in a terrorist cell plot. Castle's unease and general disdain towards the agent are what would eventually see his family killed in a similar fashion to that of the comics.
During his stint in Daredevil season 2, Frank is under the assumption that organized crime is to blame, becoming a one-man army in an attempt to punish those who are responsible. Carving a path of blood through the city leads him to uncover a conspiracy that the rabbit hole goes a bit deeper, giving us the plot for his debut standalone series.
The narrative often takes us on a ride through Frank’s turmoil and psyche, manifesting his demons on screen for all to see, and allowing us to share in the sorrow he feels at the loss of those he loves. Every single one of the 13 episodes offered up plenty of action, grit, and raw emotion as expected from an anti-hero of the Punisher's caliber. However, that’s not to say the series didn’t have its share of faults.
As awesome as the journey was, it did tend to spin its wheels at times and the villains weren’t exactly captivating. Neither CIA agent William Rawlins, played by actor Paul Schultze, nor Ben Barnes’ portrayal of Billy Russo (Jigsaw) was as captivating as Daredevil’s Kingpin or Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave. This, on top of a rocky start, is probably the only reason it didn’t receive as much critical acclaim as I think it deserved. Regardless, we’ll all be graced by Punisher’s second season in 2019 and I, for one, cannot be more excited.
Beginning with a sprint but stumbling halfway through, Daredevil's second season fails to evolve, instead leaning heavily on what worked during the show's premiere season without offering anything new to viewers expecting more. The fight sequences are technically better than in season one but are ultimately just more of the same. Though, there are a couple of scenes that do stand out. Namely the staircase brawl in episode 3 ("New York's Finest") and the bloody prison massacre of episode 9 ("Seven Minutes in Heaven") the latter of which involves, Frank Castle.
The contrast of Daredevil's version of justice to that of Castle's is one of the few saving graces of the season. It's a simple conflict that boils down to Frank kills people, Daredevil doesn't, but it works. The poignant exchange on the rooftop, where Frank has Daredevil chained (after getting his ass handed to him) is a bit cornball, but still impactful, detailing exactly how both view the world and their actions in it.
Matt's strained relationship with both Foggy and Karen is splashed about with silly dialog and little substance. Elektra, though a badass character, seemed to be more of a plot device than anything worthy of note. Her link to The Hand, the big bads of season 2, seemed to be the only thing that the show saw apt to use her for other than a love interest for Matt. Rather underwhelming use of the cast but still came out as a decent season leaving anticipation for a followup.
Far better than the previous installment, Luke Cage season two delivers where the original failed. A hefty increase in character development, a villain that ranks among the best in any of the series', and a hell of a lot more depth make this season well worth a watch.
Luke, is confronted with a new villain in Bushmaster, a growing pain in that of Mariah and Shades, finally accepting his schtick as a hero-for-hire, and navigating both his romantic relationship with Claire (Rosario Dawson) and broken relationship with his father, James (the late Reg E. Cathey).
Bushmaster is quite frankly an amazing on and off again villain. More stylish and charismatic than Cottonmouth from season one with ten times the muscle and focus. I rank him at number two only behind the Kingpin, he's that good. The way the story is woven between the Stokes' (Mariah Dillard's maiden name) and McIver's (Bushmaster's family name) is pretty genius. Bushmaster claims Harlem is his birthright, attempts to destroy Mariah and her organization in revenge for the treatment of his family, and despises Luke because he seems to have captured the hearts of the people.
Misty Knight's side-story is only slightly interesting. She's trying to cope with returning to work after losing an arm in The Defenders mini-series. After a cameo from Colleen Wing (Iron Fist 1&2), she's gifted with a new robotically engineered arm courtesy of Rand Enterprises.
There is actually quite a lot we can go into about this season but I think it'd be best for you to just set aside a day and take it all in at once.
The small-screen Avengers crossover we'd been waiting for. Or so we had hoped. Not a bad series by any means but still not on par with expectations. Defenders saw our heroes, who initially have never met (aside from Jones and Cage), teaming up to stop The Hand from destroying the city and unleashing a new evil on the world.
I love how Danny's zen-like attitude contrasts with Luke and Jessica's "No time for BS" demeanor. It plays very well on screen and provides a good amount of witty and at times comical dialog. The fight sequences are better than what we received in Iron Fist and Luke Cage season one and, if you've been following the seasons from the jump, all of the cast are very familiar. All but the newest villain that is.
Sigourney Weaver stars as Alexandra, one of the five fingers and leader of The Hand. A sophisticated and dangerous intellectual apparently far older than appearances let on, she acts as a sort of mentor or motherly figure to Elektra, attempting to mold her into a protegé. Both compelling and mysterious, Alexandra exhibits a quiet authority over the other members of The Hand, but ultimately only serves as a plot device for Elektra's story arc.
Though possessing less screen time, I feel that Elektra was far better utilized in this series as opposed to Daredevil season two and her character portrayal was more in line with the comics. Her turn from naive student to sadistic killer was rather well done and I honestly hope we see her return.
Anyone who has been enjoying what Marvel and Netflix have been providing us with so far, won't want to miss out on The Defenders.
Definitely a step up, Iron Fist 2 takes over where Defenders left off with Danny honoring Matt's (Daredevil's) wishes of defending the city in his absence. This season attempts to steer clear of the glaring weaknesses of season one and instead spreads the love around to the characters worthy of it.
Coleen Wing gets a lot more screen time, teaming up with Misty Knight (Luke Cage alum) who graces the season with a multi-episode cameo. Well received in my humble opinion. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that the on-screen chemistry between Coleen and Misty far outweighs that of Coleen and Danny.
The villains are a hell of a lot more interesting this go around (I think Luke Cage Season two was the turning point) and I was especially impressed with the way they handled Mary Walker (Typhoid Mary). Her dissociative personality disorder was top-notch and I'm looking forward to what becomes of her character in future installments. Davos, Danny's K'un-lun brother in arms, was a bit over the top in some areas but still seemed to fit snugly into the narrative.
Danny spends most of the time fighting himself rather than the actual bad guys but it was better to watch him lost from within as opposed to wandering aimlessly around the city. I actually enjoyed this installment of Iron Fist and feel it can only get better from here.
Jessica Jones is a snarky, usually intoxicated, private investigator "gifted" with super strength and an absurd jumping ability. In the comics, the character can fly but in the series, she's quoted as saying "it's more like guided falling." She suffers from PTSD (referred to as anxiety in the series) stemming from a few psychologically detrimental experiences while enthralled by a mind-controlling, sociopath named Kilgrave. This particular angle is threaded heavily throughout the series often time taking center stage in a few episodes as flashbacks.
I'm going to start this off by saying that I honestly could not get into this series. Going against the critic scores as shown on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, getting through Jessica Jones' debut season was quite a slog. It took me 4 separate attempts until I could finally get passed the 4th episode of the series. For the sake of this article, I was determined to push on, and once I got through the boredom of those initial viewings, I was treated to 9 more episodes of mediocrity.
The cliché plot of "damaged female fighting back against her former abuser" gets a pass due to the superpowered spin by both protagonist and antagonist. Kilgrave, played by David Tennant was the least disappointing aspect of the whole thing and played his role of the villain rather well. I liked that both characters suffered from separate mental disorders. It garnered a bit of interest in what seemed like a relative snoozer. The problem for me lied in the awkward, slow pacing. I found a large portion of each episode to be too much of a bore which soured my expectations for a second season.
Luke Cage, is the indestructible man, a fugitive in hiding attempting to rebuild his life. After the events of Jessica Jones season one, Luke decides to head back to Harlem and lay low to avoid unwanted attention. It isn't until his friend and mentor, Pop, is killed that Luke decides to don the mantle of hero.
Luke's standalone debut suffers similarly to Daredevil's second season, in that it begins with a bang but quickly fizzles off into obscurity. I found the best part of the whole series to be the music and supporting cast. It also didn't help that the initially introduced villain completely overshadowed the midseason entrant.
Cottonmouth portrayed a villain of poise, bravado, and swagger, delivering equal charm to match his ruthlessness. Whereas on the other end of the spectrum, Diamondback possessed zero charisma and came off as a watered down, vengeance-seeking crybaby, who was supposed to be the bigger threat.
Though this series started a bit rough, it did help in steering the direction toward a more interesting narrative for Luke in season two. Maria Dillard's descent into villainy alongside her accomplice Shades was well-written and getting to see the character of Misty Knight develop is enough to make season one, at the very least, binge-worthy.
The premise goes as follows: Danny and his family are on a plane when it goes down over the Himalayans. Both parents are killed and Danny is presumed dead. Much to the dismay of those running things in the Rands' absence, Danny shows up attempting to reconnect, claiming to have spent his missing years' learning martial arts and fighting a dragon in a mystical city known as K'un-lun.
It honestly sounds pretty cool when read out loud. Sadly, the execution was far less so. The show spends far too much time on Danny as a lost, disconnected weirdo trying to get people to believe him about what happened. The muddied plot is only more hindered by the terrible action sequences and poor side characters. The only thing worth watching in this convoluted mess of a season is Coleen Wing, who steals every scene in the show.
The only people who should watch Iron Fist's premiere season are completionists or the "Netflix and chill" crowd. Thank god for season two fixing the issues or else this series would have remained pretty forgettable.
So what comes next for the Marvel/Netflix collaboration? I am currently going back and making an attempt at watching Jessica Jones' second season. So far it's less of a snoozefest but pretty bland. Oh well, can't please everyone.
On a more positive note...
According to sources, we should be seeing a new season of Daredevil in less than a month and Punisher's sophomore season as early as next year. Both series are definitely something I'm excited for. How about you? Tell me all about it in the comments.