What are the best Marvel TV shows? In 2013, Marvel Television launched the first TV series set in the MCU, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It proved to be the first of many, with Marvel striking a deal that brought a number of streetwise heroes to Netflix, and more recently launching young-adult shows on Freeform and Hulu. Third-party analytics have suggested the Marvel Television brand is a strong one, with their series among the most in-demand TV shows around.
When Marvel Television started out, their shows were intimately connected to the big-screen MCU; they starred characters like Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson or Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, and featured cameos from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Jaime Alexander. As the years have passed, though, they’ve become increasingly distant. Although this has sometimes frustrated both the viewers and the stars, it’s given Marvel TV a lot of flexibility to do their own thing. The various series are each building their own mythology, establishing their own unique identity on the small screen.
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Of course, not every Marvel TV series is a success. In general, though, the quality of the various MCU shows is high, with some numbering among the best of modern superhero TV. Here, we celebrate Marvel’s success by ranking every Marvel series – from the worst to the best.
11. Inhumans (1 Season)
Marvel’s Inhumans should have been good. Marvel Television was utterly committed to the project, launching a revolutionary deal with IMAX that saw the series filmed with top-quality cameras and the first two episodes released at IMAX cinemas worldwide. They were even confident enough to strike a deal with the State of Hawaii for years of production. And then Inhumans flopped.
The first problem was a lackluster marketing campaign, with Marvel forced on the defensive before a single episode aired. The second was the budget, with then-Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter reportedly pushing for a cheap series that just didn’t look right – especially when filmed with IMAX cameras. And the final nail was showrunner Scott Buck himself, who simply failed to realize the potential of the Inhumans franchise. The result of all this was easily the weakest Marvel Television show to date, one that only ever hinted at what it could have been. It came as no real surprise when ABC passed on the option of renewing Inhumans for a second season.
Related: Marvel Can Just Ignore The Inhumans Now
10. Iron Fist (2 Seasons)
Iron Fist is another of Marvel TV’s major misfires, made even weaker when compared to the rest of the popular and beloved Marvel Netflix slate. Scott Buck’s first season was a popular and critical failure, disappointing fans and earning a paltry 19 percent on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. The plot was unconvincing and the quality of the acting was poor. Worse still, a TV show featuring Marvel’s premiere martial artist had the worst fight choreography of any Marvel show to date.
Marvel spent the next two years attempting to redeem Finn Jones’ Iron Fist, and they were mostly successful; Raven Metzner ultimately produced an abbreviated Iron Fist season 2 that was infinitely better. Jones and co-star Jessica Henwick spent months training, and this time were given sufficient time to learn the fight choreography before shooting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save Iron Fist from cancellation, believed to be a result of poor viewing figures.
Related: Netflix Made A Big Mistake Cancelling Iron Fist
9. The Defenders (1 Season)
2017’s The Defenders miniseries was intended to be the crowning glory of the Marvel Netflix partnership, the TV equivalent of 2012’s The Avengers; an “event series” that united all the heroes from the Marvel Netflix slate. Unfortunately, although The Defenders was only eight episodes in length, it still suffered from the traditional Netflix pacing problems; the first three episodes were largely spent getting all the characters in place for the main story.
Marvel made some pretty bold decisions with The Defenders, with a plot that focused both on Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Finn Jones’ Iron Fist. While Cox was universally praised for his portrayal of the Man Without Fear, Jones had come in for heavy criticism and the show was essentially an attempt to “sell” the character to viewers. It gave Jones a chance to act alongside all the other Marvel Netflix stars, demonstrating to audiences just why he’d been cast for the role. Sadly, though, viewers just didn’t tune in. With the benefit of hindsight, The Defenders was the beginning of the end for the partnership between Marvel and Netflix.
Related: All The MCU Team-Ups We’ll Never See Because Marvel Keeps TV Separate
8. Luke Cage (2 Seasons)
In quality terms, there’s a steep jump from the previous few shows in this ranking to Luke Cage – which testifies to just how good Marvel Television really is. Starring Mike Colter as the titular hero, Luke Cage is wonderfully atmospheric with a profound sense of place; Harlem is as much a character as anybody else. Simone Missick is also perfectly cast as Misty Knight, Luke’s lover/ally.
Luke Cage is, however, knocked down the rankings substantially for the traditional Marvel Netflix pacing problems, accompanied by some pretty odd storytelling decisions. The plot of season 1, for example, pivoted halfway through by killing Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth as the main villain and substituting him with the far less interesting Erik LaRay Harvey’s Diamondback. A complex and sophisticated first season thus ended in a brawl in the street. Season 2 was stronger, with some wiser storytelling decisions, but ended with a cliffhanger that will never be resolved; Luke Cage was canceled by Netflix, who were unable to reach an agreement with Marvel on the show’s future direction.
Related: What Luke Cage & Iron Fist Seasons 3 Would Have Been About
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