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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Marvel Reviews: MCU Netflix Shows

Soon after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted, Netflix got the rights to do their own Marvel hero shows. But as I mentioned at the start of the reviews for the broadcast TV shows, there’s a distinct difference in quality and approach between the ABC shows and the Netflix shows. Still, some of them are worth watching at least a couple seasons, so I’ll review them.

Full explanation of my ranking system is here. Summary: C is average, A/B is recommended, D is badly made, F is something to avoid.


Rating: B-

One thing you are going to notice about the Netflix shows is that they are very “punchy”. OK, that’s not entirely true… there’s a lot of kicking, too, and even some knives and guns. The enemies are almost all just ordinary criminals. It gives the Netflix shows a much more mundane feel than even the Captain America movies.

Daredevil is probably the punchiest and kickiest of them all. Yes, even including Iron Fist. It’s not that bad in the first season, though, so you might want to consider watching just that. If you findo out you enjoy it and decide to continue, you will probably want to watch The Defenders before watching Season 3 of Daredevil, although you can get by without watching anything else.

One other thing to note about the Netflix shows is that for some reason Netflix said “We really want to be part of this huge MCU craze, but we don’t want our heroes and their world to interact with the rest of the MCU very much, if at all.” There are casual mentions of a couple things that happen in the movies, but really nothing in the movies impacts what happens in any Netflix series, although they do interact with each other.

A lot of people are going to blame the death of the Netflix branch on the quality of specific shows, or Netflix’s typical lack of commitment beyond two or three seasons, or on Marvel’s behind-the-scenes changes. But really, shouldn’t the primary blame be that one, really dumb decision right at the beginning?

Jessica Jones

Rating: B+

This series is probably the best of the Netflix shows simply because of its attitude. Jessica Jones is so different from any other MCU hero because she’s so bitter and just plain ticked off about everything and really doesn’t like the fact she has powers, but she keeps using them anyways. The first season villain is also the most interesting of all the Netflix villains, although Kingpin from Daredevil is well done, too.

Later seasons of Jessica Jones aren’t as good, although they may still be worth it for a couple bright moments.

Luke Cage

Rating: B+

The first season of Luke Cage is probably my second favorite, after Season 1 of Jessica Jones. Again, it’s because of attitude. Neither Jessica nor Luke use an alias or hide their identity, but Luke also doesn’t hide much of what he’s doing. Everyone in Harlem knows who he is, where he is, and what he’s doing by at least Episode 4, but they keep the cops and anyone outside of Harlem out of it, either because they want to deal with Luke themselves or approve of what he’s doing.

After the first season, though, the show loses some of its specialness. I don’t think they really had a good idea what to do with the character after that, other than have him suffer angst. The storytelling suffered from that point on.

Iron Fist

Rating: C

Lots of people complain about Danny being a whiner. I suppose he whines a bit after the first episode, although I think the dull story is a bigger reason to dislike this show more than the others.

But the biggest problem with Iron Fist, as well as the other Netflix shows, is the fact that it’s designed like a Netflix show. Netflix knows people like to binge watch, so their “originals” are designed to maximize bingeing, by which I mean that the plot is strrrrrrretched out enormously. Everything moves horribly slowly, and most episodes are basically one to three good moments padded out with a lot of dullness. Daredevil gets away with this a bit because he has a really well-done internal conflict. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage get away with it because they have entertaining characters. But Danny isn’t very deep – ironic, considering all the mystical martial arts trappings – and he’s not entertaining. You don’t enjoy watching him react to what’s going on in the world, so you start to notice how dull the plot seems.

The Defenders

Rating: C

When I first heard the Defenders was going to be in the MCU, I thought “Great! That means they are also going to bring in Valkyrie! And Doctor Strange will have more than just one movie!”

Some of you are going “Hunh?” But others can see what the problem is going to be.

The first Defenders comic was about a loose team of heroes and/or supermisfits, mostly supernatural-themed like Son of Satan or Doctor Strange, but with other outcast heroes that didn’t fit in elsewhere, like occasionally the Hulk (post Avengers) or Valkyrie. I had an issue as a kid. I bought it because it had The Thing as a guest star and Doc Strange on the cover. I never learned much about them, but liked it and wanted to see more.

Apparently there was another Defenders team later that was just an all-punchy, gritty crimefighting team. And this is what they were actually planning: a crossover series for their punchiest, grittiest heroes.

It’s really not that interesting a story, but not terrible, either. Just average. Only one thing of any importance happens, which is why you probably don’t want to watch this before you’ve watched two seasons of Daredevil and the first season of each of the other shows listed above.

The Punisher

Rating: C

I really don’t like the Punisher. Haven’t since I first saw him in some Spider-Man crossover with… Moon-Knight? Daredevil? I don’t even remember. I just remember the comic had the blurb “And PUNISHER Makes Three!”

Obviously, part of my dislike is because he’s a more action-oriented character, with no powers, fighting other people with no powers. He’s not even a hero, he’s an anti-hero. The dark and brooding, violent loner, back before that archetype was everywhere in action hero and superhero country. I’ve suggested before that I have problems with some of the implications of superheroes, and The Punisher basically takes those implications and makes them explicit. He’s a guy who murders anyone he thinks is bad, and we’re supposed to admire him for some reason.

Still, although I didn’t see anything special about Season 1 of the streaming series, I didn’t find anything bad about it, either, other than the usual Netflix dull, draggy presentation style. It’s average. I never watched Season 2, because I figured it was just going to be more of the same: I already didn’t like the character, didn’t enjoy his story so far, and didn’t like the way Netflix designs shows for bingeing instead of savoring, so why would I put myself through more of that?

My recommendation is that if you like shooty, broody, anti-heroes, try out Daredevil Season 2 to find out if you like their version of Frank Castle, then try Season 1 of The Punisher, and proceed on to Season 2 if you feel satisfied. But if you’re just looking for Marvel material, you can probably skip this.

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