The Marvel Netflix Universe is complicated. Some love these shows, others don’t. For anyone that is looking to start watching them, a forewarning: they can be hard to endure. There are times when these shows are great, such as when they feature engaging action and compelling storylines, but there are other times when these shows just trudge along through inattentive storytelling and clumsy choreography.
As this universe continues to expand with Season 2 of Luke Cage releasing this Friday, I wonder if it’s worth it for this universe to continue. Yes, sometimes these shows can be incredibly entertaining and they highlight some fan-favorite heroes, but they can also sometimes feel long, arduous, and pointless. This guide will help distinguish which Marvel Netflix shows are actually worth watching.
The show that started it all, the proverbial Iron Man of the Marvel Netflix Universe. Daredevil is fantastic. The show is generally regarded as the best of this universe because of its story consistency, incredible hand-to-hand action, down-to-earth story, and well-rounded characters. It doesn’t struggle with the same issues of season length or awkward action as the other shows, leading to a more concise and enjoyable series. Daredevil is simply fun to watch and it brings added depth and substance to the beloved character. Its incredibly choreographed action will keep you engaged throughout, and it’s a great place to start watching these shows.
This is where things get a little split. The first season of Jessica Jones is phenomenal. There are a few things from Season 1 that stand out: the depth and despair that Krysten Ritter brings to the character, David Tennant’s unsettling performance as the villain Kilgrave, and the fearless approach of deep and dark issues like mental health, addiction, and sexual assault. Season 1 of Jessica Jones is compelling, engaging, and well-acted, but the same can’t be said about the sophomore season. Season 2 of Jessica Jones is simply unremarkable. Forget about the complaint that these shows can be too long, the second season of Jessica Jones is flat out unnecessary. It does nothing for the character and feels superficial and inauthentic compared to the first season.
Okay, maybe I am being a little too harsh. Season 2 isn’t completely horrible. There is some to enjoy, but it definitely disappoints because it misses some avenues of depth and complexity to be taken with this character. Is Jessica Jones a necessary watch? Yes and no. Come for its initial depth, but leave when it gets superficial.
The one season of Luke Cage is a necessary watch, not necessarily for the content it presents, but for the culture it celebrates. Luke Cage is an interesting show for me. I enjoyed about half of the first season. The first half of the show is focused with its main strength centered around the clear dichotomy between the hero and villain. However, after a few story arcs halfway through, the dichotomy changes, leading the whole show to feel lost and unorganized. Does this mean Luke Cage loses all of its merits? No, but the best part of the show, the conflict between characters, changes and these changes do nothing but detract from Luke Cage’s story.
What the show does incredibly well is celebrate modern black culture, showing audiences what life is like for an African American living in Harlem. We need more stories like Luke Cage that celebrate divergent cultures and communities, so here’s hoping that Season 2 strays away from the mistakes made in the first season to provide a more comprehensive experience. Luke Cage is probably worth the watch because of its potential to grow and improve in Season 2. Just know that parts of Season 1 can be tough to endure.
Iron Fist is just the worst. The main character is unlikable, the story is boring and unfocused, and the action pales in comparison to that of Daredevil and The Punisher. The show adds no substance to the character — if anything, it detracts, making him an unlikable, entitled brat. There’s nothing good about this show. There’s no clear villain, the hero has no genuine virtue, and the action just isn’t fun.
That said, the story presented in Iron Fist leads into the plot for The Defenders, but there’s honestly enough exposition in that show to figure out what’s going on without watching Iron Fist. And there’s really not much to enjoy here to bother if you don’t have to. Iron Fist is a hard pass.
The Defenders is another mixed bag. The culmination of the Marvel Netflix Universe, the show has some awesome superhero moments and action, but there’s an overall feeling of dissatisfaction because it seemingly acts as a setup for another main event. While there’s a lot of fun to be had with The Defenders, this marked the beginning of fatigue for this universe, with Variety reporting that its viewership declined rapidly within its first month of release.
Look, if you’re going to invest time in these characters and navigate this guide to this point, then The Defenders is well worth watching. There are some incredible fight scenes throughout, including one where The Defenders collectively beat down on Iron Fist, and the story is just compelling enough to entertain. Just remember that The Defenders may leave you wanting more than what it has to give.
Jon Bernthal alone is enough reason to watch The Punisher. He is fantastic in everything he does, and in The Punisher he brings a visceral, broken performance perfectly suited for the character. Overall, there’s a lot of fun in The Punisher, but it’s also narratively sloppy. It plays like an ultra-violent espionage series, but it follows too many storylines and focuses on too many things that don’t matter. If you enjoy realistic, violent action, then you’ll probably have fun with this one. Just know that there’s a lot of fluff to navigate through.