(Updated 6/19/18) The Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches far and wide, with Netflix having its own mini-universe of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Punisher. But what order should you watch the Marvel Netflix series?
Here’s a list to guide you, as well as which shows you could skip if you are really short on time.
Daredevil, Season 1
First up in the Marvel Netflix series of shows is Daredevil. Matt Murdock, played by Charlie Cox, is a blind lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen with super ninja fighting skills and heightened senses (especially hearing). A practicing attorney by day and vigilante by night, Matt tries to keep his two lives separate.
Dark, edgy, and fully captivating, Daredevil has a nice mix of villains, vigilantism, and vengeance. The hero is an engaging character with an alter-ego that you can’t help rooting for.
I most enjoy the depth of Daredevil’s story line. It’s villain, Wilson Fisk, played superbly by Vincent D’Onorfio, is connected to a more deeply-rooted evil that develops through both seasons and into Defenders. And there are other villains, who maybe aren’t villains, that provide a wonderful complexity to the characters and plot.
Jessica Jones, Season 1
Jessica Jones is my favorite of the six Marvel Netflix series. Her story is riveting, the villain is outstanding, and the show features several characters that are well-developed and compelling. Unlike some of the other Marvel Netflix shows, I was never once tempted to pick up my phone and scroll through Facebook during any episode of Jessica Jones.
Jessica, played by Krysten Ritter, is a self-destructive private investigator who’s had more than her fair share of tragedies in life. Her super power is strength, but she also has the ability to fly (or jump really hard and far).
I love Jessica’s sarcasm, dry wit, and strength of character. And her show definitely has the best villain in the Netflix Marvel universe – Kilgrave, played by David Tennant of Dr. Who fame. It was so suspenseful to watch Kilgrave’s powers and wonder how Jessica would escape them and save the world from his brand of evil. You even think she might save him.
The supporting characters in Jessica Jones, including her friend Trish, neighbor Malcom, and Luke Cage, are all given a lot of room for development and integrated really well into the series.
Daredevil, Season 2
I really enjoyed the realistic relationship progression between Matt and Karen, and Matt and Foggy, in season two of Daredevil. We also get to meet Matt’s ex-lover Elektra. Elektra’s a bad-ass in her own right and plays a crucial part in The Defenders.
Season two of Daredevil is better than season one simply because of the addition of Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, played by Jon Bernthal. The Punisher is truly fantastic and if you don’t have time to watch all the Marvel Netflix series, I’d advising going right to The Punisher after Daredevil. The other series don’t contribute much to The Punisher’s story, so go ahead and skip them if you don’t have time. You can always go back. And The Punisher is so worth it.
Luke Cage, Season 1
Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, has impenetrable skin. He’s bullet-proof, he can’t be stabbed, and he’s super strong. He wants to live a quiet life and keep to himself, but trouble – and heroism – seems to find him. Such is the problem all superheroes face.
A good villain is important in any series. Luke gets mixed up in a Harlem crime lord ring and finds himself face to face with an enemy from his past. There’s also the element of political corruption. This makes Luke’s story more relatable than fighting, say, super ninjas.
Luke is like a big teddy bear, if you ask me – humble and lovable. But beneath his sexy/tough exterior is a broken man struggling with a tragic past. He develops a relationship with Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson, a nurse who seems attracted to people with “abilities.” Claire appears in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but she plays a bigger part in Luke Cage.
Iron Fist, Season 1
Iron Fist is my least favorite of the Marvel Netflix series and I happen to think you could completely skip it and really not miss much. You’ll lose a little context in The Defenders, but I couldn’t even finish Iron Fist and I had no problem.
Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) died at age 10 with his parents in a plane crash over the Himalayas… except that he didn’t. He was actually rescued and raised by monks who taught him to focus his chi into an all-powerful fist. And now he is the chosen one to defeat the evil organization known as The Hand.
My main issue with this show is that I simply don’t love the Danny Rand character. I don’t find him believable, empathetic, or even particularly likable.
Watching Iron Fist feels like watching a cartoon at times. It wants to be dark and gritty like its contemporaries, but ultimately it is disjointed and even silly at times. And after Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, the “reluctant hero” narrative is getting a little bit tired to me.
A lot of people had issues with the casting of Finn Jones as Iron Fist, but I don’t have a big problem with the actor. I think he played the character as he was supposed to. I just don’t think people want to see a naive, whiny, often clueless, and sometimes annoying superhero.
Defenders, Season 1
We’ve learned the back stories of Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny. We’ve met their friends, lovers, sidekicks and nemeses. And now they’ve come together to fight an evil organization called The Hand.
Meh. It’s fun seeing these characters interact and play off one another, but this series is slow to get going. The second half picks up, but it’s still not the best of the Marvel Netflix series by far.
I wanted it to be good. I was looking forward to the excitement of finally seeing Netflix’s four Marvel superheroes come together in The Defenders! But the story moves too slow. And the four heroes continue to struggle with their respective personal issues, when it seems like they really should be getting over them by now.
There were a some high points in The Defenders though. Everyone has to admit that watching the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen fight the Iron Fist was super awesome. And I loved the interaction between our heroes. Jessica and Luke’s banter, Daredevil and Iron Fist’s fight scenes, and Jessica’s constant eye-rolling kept me entertained. They play off each other with lots of dry sarcasm – which is a delight in such a dark series.
Besides our heroes, my favorite character in The Defenders is Elektra, played by Elodie Yung. Her character, her fight scenes and her struggle are believable and sympathetic. And I love seeing her cape fly around while she battles the Iron Fist.
The Punisher, Season 1
I did say that Jessica Jones was my favorite Marvel Netflix series, but it is actually a tie with The Punisher. I love Jon Bernthal (who played Shane in The Walking Dead), and this character is complex, intense, and brutally emotional.
Former US Marine Frank Castle had seen a lot of death and corruption. One day, his knowledge of said corruption leads to his family being gunned down. Tormented by the death of his wife and kids, Frank becomes The Punisher and sets out for revenge.
The thing is, Frank is really a good guy. We are treated to several fleeting moments that show his endearing side, while watching him brutally beat people the next moment. It’s a roller coaster of a show as we watch Frank’s layers peel away like an onion.
As I mentioned above, you do get a bit of an introduction to The Punisher in season two of Daredevil. But if you only want to watch one of these show, and you love a gritty, emotional series, watch The Punisher.
Jessica Jones, Season 2
The second season of Jessica Jones was not quite as good as the first. This season finds Jessica reunited with someone from her past and we get quite a bit of backstory. I thought season two lacked a good villain – I really miss Kilgrave. But we still get plenty of classic Jessica sarcasm and cynicism.
Meanwhile, Trish is on a quest to become her own superhero, which results in some shocking events. Malcolm is still around (and he’s a doll!) and Jessica gets a new, hot love interest. But the most intriguing secondary story line is Jeri Hogarth’s, played by the awesome Carrie-Anne Moss. Hogarth’s arc in season two is both powerful and heartbreaking.
Luke Cage, Season 2, available June 22, 2018
And that brings us to the present, and the soon-to-be-released season two of Luke Cage! After that, we can expect season three of Daredevil, probably in late 2018. And if you want to discuss any of these shows, join my Movie & TV Discussion group on Facebook!
Can you watch any of these shows on their own? Sure. I know it’s tough to fit in all this binge-watching time, so here are a couple short-cuts I recommend for watching the Marvel Netflix series:
- Don’t watch The Defenders without watching all four of the other series first. You won’t get it.
- You can watch The Punisher a la carte, but it’s a bit better if you watch both seasons of Daredevil first.
- Jessica Jones is also ok a la carte, but I advise going back to Daredevil when you have time.
- Don’t bother with Iron Fist. Seriously, don’t waste your time.
- You definitely need to see Jessica Jones before Luke Cage.
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