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Defenders just debuted on Netflix on August 18, but the next new Marvel TV show is already right around the corner, with Inhumans making its IMAX debut this evening.
With the number of TV shows set in the MCU reaching eight (and a slew of new Marvel shows to come), Newsarama decided to look back at the previous MCU shows, ranking them in order from seven to one.
We have an early review of Inhumans two-part premiere already out there, but we're reserving total judgement until we watch the entire first season.
7. Iron Fist2 of 9
Fighting is all about knowing about your opponent and knowing the battleground. Iron Fist is a character particularly adept at fighting, but Marvel's Iron Fist wasn't that well equipped for the battle it faced.
Born out of the 1970s popularity of martial arts with TV shows like Kung Fu, if Iron Fist would have come out back then it would have been lauded. But instead, it came out in 2017 - with an earnest attempt to stay true to the origin but as unfamiliar with the modern world as Finn Jones' Danny Rand is with New York City.
As a long-time Iron Fist fan myself (Chris Arrant, Newsarama editor here), watching Iron Fist made me realize even more why later comic series like the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja and Andrews' run did much to update and transpose the concept to modern reality - and why this TV series erred in not rising above its 40+ year inspirations the way Marvel had done previously with Iron Man, Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, and other tangential stories.
The bright spot in Iron Fist however is its supporting cast, led by Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing. The Meachum siblings (played by Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey) work well as pseudo-antagonists and a tie back to Rand's childhood, having convincing arcs of their own.
6. Agent Carter3 of 9
Agent Carter took a supporting character, little known before her appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, and made her the first leading lady of the MCU.
Peggy Carter had everything a good TV protagonist needs - espionage skills, fighting prowess, and dashing style - and combined them with stories that took a deep dive into Marvel Comics lore, bringing elements to the MCU that never would have made it in, otherwise.
Agent Carter only lasted two seasons, but the fan outcry when the show was cancelled was palpable. There's still demand for a revival - which goes to show just how magnetic star Hayley Atwell was in the title role.
5. Defenders4 of 9
Disparate Marvel superheroes coming together after solo adventures for a unified front against an adversary they couldn't stop on their own. For 2012's Avengers film the sum was much more than its various parts, but in Defenders it added up into nothing that surprising.
That's not to say it wasn't good, but Defenders played itself rather conservatively and missed out on matching the exuberant critical highs reached in Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, and Finn Jones delivered on bringing their unique characters into this doubled-up Marvel Two-In-One style story, no doubt. And the concise eight-episode run helped avoid any of the dreaded Netflix "slow burn" syndrome. But the chemistry - between each other and with the antagonists - didn't provoke any reactions (chemical, emotional, or otherwise) compared to what the four previous solo series were able to accomplish.
4. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.5 of 9
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first MCU show - and with it came the unattainable expectation for it to match the story and substance of the Iron Man and Avengers movies.
Carried by the straight man Clark Gregg (as Agent Phil Coulson) and the plucky hacker chique of Chloe Bennett (Skye/Daisy Johnson), AoS started on uneven footing where its reach exceeded its grasp - for the show's producers, and also the over-promised fanbase.
Four seasons in now however, and they've found that balance with the story and special effects catching up to the always-stellar acting of Gregg, Bennett, Ming-Na Wen, and very notably Elizabeth Henstridge. AoS melds the proven formula of shows like NCIS with tinges of a superhuman world beyond it. Marvel Comics' once framed itself as representing "The would outside your window," and AoS does that - but with network tv budgetary restraints and MCU logistics preventing it from being the idealized MCU show fans of the movie may want.
Despite the proverbial window pane separation from the larger MCU, AoS has become a solid network series in its own right.
3. Daredevil6 of 9
To say Daredevil struck a chord with viewers would be an understatement. The first of Marvel’s Netflix offerings, the gritty crime drama (with just enough superheroics) set the perfect tone for what viewers would come to expect from the Defenders TV shows.
Centered on defining performances from Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, Daredevil also boasts an almost unassailable supporting cast and a visual identity that makes the setting of Hell’s Kitchen feel not just like a living, breathing environment, but also a completely separate world from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, connected to the world of the Avengers but beneath their notice.
Some of the other Defenders shows have surpassed Dardevil in the years since the first season debuted, but Daredevil set the stage – and the bar – for superhero dramas.
2. Jessica Jones7 of 9
Though it followed remarkably different themes, Jessica Jones took the ball set up by Daredevil and ran with it, crafting an intense psychological horror tale wrapped in the veneer of low-key superheroics.
Jessica Jones gave us Krysten Ritter’s cool but cranky performance as the title character, a super-powered private eye, anchoring the show with a take on the character that truly showcased not just Jessica’s abrasive exterior, but her internal struggles and her relationship with unspeakable trauma in a way that spoke directly to viewers and survivors.
And we haven’t even talked yet about David Tennant’s Kilgrave – Marvel’s most vicious TV villain, and one of the MCU’s best bad guys overall. And of course, Jessica Jones also introduced Luke Cage, the baddest dude in Hell’s Kitchen – and the other half of one of the most compelling, complex relationships ever portrayed in a superhero show.
1. Luke Cage8 of 9
Luke Cage didn’t just break ground for superhero TV shows, it broke ground for superheroes in general with characters and a narrative that drew directly from urban culture – created by people with their fingers directly on the pulse of realities that are rarely reflected on TV in an accurate way.
Watching Mike Colter tear through corrupt politicians, gangbangers, and super criminals in a bullet-ridden hoodie to the throbbing sounds of the Wu-Tang Clan, Gangstarr, Jidenna, and more iconic and up-and-coming hip-hop artists wasn’t just powerful – it was downright spiritual. And we even got (however briefly) a good look at that classic tiara and blouse combo.
Luke Cage managed to seamlessly blend the big action and moody setpieces of Daredevil with the cohesive, authentic personal journey of Jessica Jones, making it clear once and for all who the true heart and soul of Marvel’s Netflix universe really is.
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