The combination of Marvel and Netflix released their fifth season overall and the first for newcomer Iron Fist on March 17th. Some of you may have finished the show before you take the time to read this and that’s fine because I am only comparing the first three shows today. I know many of you will argue in favor of Daredevil for its action or Luke Cage for its level of fun but I believe Jessica Jones is at the top overall. I would rank the 4 seasons as Jessica Jones (JJ), Luke Cage (LC), Daredevil season two (DD2) and Daredevil season one (DD1). I ranked the shows on the strength of the hero, the quality of its villain or villains and plot. In a month or so after most of you have had time to get through some if not all of Iron Fist I will release my updated ranks and explain where Iron Fist falls and why. Hero: 1st: JJ 2nd: DD 1 and 2 3rd: LC
JJ: Unlike the other two, we are left wondering if Jessica will be able to escape her past, not how it led us here. She is extremely damaged by what Kilgrave did to her and what she has been doing to herself ever since. She has a Luke Cage style shell around her heart; she doesn’t want to let anyone in she just wants to exist working as a P.I. to get money for booze to help her forget. The toughness is mostly an act as we see her; get attached to Luke, reconnect with her sister Trish, look after her junky neighbor Malcolm, and do everything she can to help Hope after her run in with Kilgrave. I think that the layers of guilt, anger, and love make Jessica an extremely complex character who isn’t above putting herself first but usually does the right thing.
DD 1 and 2: Matt Murdock doesn’t grow as much as Jessica but we do get to see him struggle with himself almost nonstop over his first two seasons. Can he balance his life as a friend, romantic partner, top-notch lawyer, and masked vigilante? The end of season two answered that question with a resounding no, even though it’s only temporary until he finds himself and wins his friends back. Charlie Cox does an amazing job with making you believe he is actually blind but the writing for the character lets him down from time to time. Matt’s pure stubbornness and superiority complex mean he isn’t even my favorite character in his own show, that would be Foggy. After two seasons it is also time to hire a new fight choreographer because his moves are becoming a little stale, I think he did a barrel roll punch or kick in almost every fight in season 2.
LC: I recently rewatched Jessica Jones and I was reminded of how much better Luke was on that show than he was on his own. When I watched Luke Cage for the first time I chalked it up to Mike Colter not being the strongest actor and now I’m thinking a majority of it was just average writing, delivered by an average actor. It's not bad, but it is not something that you’ll tell your friends about. Luke is also the first character to suffer from some timeline issues. In Luke Cage, it seemed like they had been in town a matter of months before Reva died and then he started working at Pop’s shop. However, in Jessica Jones, he owned a bar, with regulars that knew him and respected him, something that wouldn’t happen overnight. Luke is the most likable of the three leads but he is also the blandest.
Villain: Tie for 1st: JJ and LC 3rd: DD2 4th: DD1
JJ and LC: Kilgrave was the best villain that persisted throughout the entire season; Cottonmouth was the best and most charismatic villain to be in any portion of a season. If it had been Cottonmouth and Shades all season, LC would have run away with this category. However, the inclusion of the extremely one note Diamondback, the universe’s worst bad person the best the show could hope for is a tie. It’s a matter of personal preference do you prefer powerful and psychotic or charismatic and hungry for respect. I think Kilgrave was slightly better written, his obsession with Jessica is a driving force stronger than anything Cottonmouth had pushing him towards his goals. I think we could have seen something better from him if Miranda hadn’t been even more damaged by their childhood than he was. DD2: The Punisher was so good that he is getting his own show and Elektra/The Hand was also a formidable villain, but this season suffered from villain overload. Essentially splitting the season between The Punisher and Elektra/The Hand was a mistake. Each one of those storylines could have easily filled out a full season on their own; it felt like overcrowding solely to push the Defenders storyline forward. The Kingpin also made an appearance this season and was better here than in any moment in season 1. DD1: The Kingpin was the second worst villain the universe has to offer. He is a mix of autism, idiot savant and someone suffering from stunted development. He is a massive man-child whose physical tantrums result in multiple deaths and then he puts himself in time out. D’onofrio is a great actor who could have could have given so much more if they let him. The best thing is that since he was so much more in control in season 2 I am still excited to see where he goes and if he will team up with the Hand to take on the Defenders. Plot: 1st: JJ 2nd: LC 3rd: DD2 4th: DD1
JJ: Her journey to overcome her guilt and establish some connections while hunting down that man who tortured her for over a year is the best story from episode 1-13. The mix of characters was well balanced and they had a depth that made me want to see more of them. The twisted maniac Kilgrave is a great example of someone corrupted by power from childhood. He never did anything bad because you smiled through it; he never killed anyone, because someone else did it or they committed suicide. His portrayal of a man who has never been refused being denied the thing he wants the most is compelling.
LC: If Cottonmouth wasn’t replaced halfway through the season and they dropped a couple of episodes, Luke Cage would have been hands down the best show of the three. It had some strong acting and compelling characters; it had a great mix of fun and violence but suffered from too many times where the plot stalled out. It also gets bonus points for that amazing Family Matter inspired intro a fan made. I am curious what led to the slight change in personality from his role is Jessica Jones to his own show but I feel his reluctance and inaction hurt the show.
DD2: This season had several strong moments that featured Daredevil and the Punisher and some for Foggy as he came into his own. Karen had strong moments but frankly, her character doesn’t make sense. Yes, Matt is better looking but she chose him over Foggy even though he constantly lies and is unreliable. Poor dating choices aside, she is somehow a great employee for her old company, which led to her uncovering the embezzlement, and then she is a great law assistant, a great detective and a great reporter. That’s too many things for one person to be great at, and it bothered me all season. I know some of it was in response to the poor decision to kill Ben Urich prematurely. That action is why DD1 ranks lower than season 2 in the overall plot, but the tried to fix it with another mistake.
DD1: Other than the beheading via car door, the hallway scene and the impulsive death of Ben, I remember almost nothing about this season. It wasn’t bad it was highly entertaining when I was in it and it was well done overall, but all of these were well done so we have to split hairs.
Since we are splitting hairs, I won’t hold it against anyone whose list is dramatically different from mine because I will likely agree with many of your arguments. However, of the things I want out of a TV show, I got more of them consistently out of Jessica Jones than the rest of the seasons. It is the only show I have watched more than once. I may watch Luke Cage again, but I know that I am not going to go back to either season of Daredevil. There are too many options for me to sit there and be annoyed with the main character or his villain again. Despite the initial reports, I am very excited for Iron Fist and beyond excited for the Defenders. With the same budget and five fewer episodes, I think we are going to see some amazing action and plenty of Claire and Foggy as go-betweens for our four heroes. I hope you will comment here or in the fan group about what your line up is and why you may not agree with me.