The Marvel Characters That Netflix Left Behind
What Will Happen to the Defenders?by Renata Martin on Oct 05, 2021
The Netflix-Marvel affair was quite an era, filled up with binge-worthy content and a tremendously interesting exploration of the Marvel comics characters that were hiding in the shadows for so long. With a more adult, explicit, and mature approach, Netflix led the way in portraying Stan Lee’s heroes in a manner that was never seen before. The main characters were flawed, the villains were complex, and the secondary actors were absolute scene stealers: from Kingpin, Karen Page, and Foggy Nelson to Claire Temple, Killgrave, Hogarth, and Colleen Wing. And, of course, a phenomenal Frank Castle portrayed by Jon Bernthal that even got his own show. In a nutshell, what a great casting Netflix did. Some of the best in Marvel’s TV history.
However, there was a clear downside to it all. I personally felt that, as time went through, Netflix and Marvel were overall less involved in their joint productions. That could explain why Daredevil (2015, 8.6 out of 10 on IMDb) was such a strong show, but Iron Fist (2017, 6.4 out of 10 on IMDb) and The Defenders (2017, 7.3 out of 10 on IMDb) didn’t share the same luck. In between, there was a 2015’ Jessica Jones (7.9 out of 10 on IMDb), a 2016’ Luke Cage (7.3 out of 10 on IMDb), and a 2017’ The Punisher (8.5 out of 10 on IMDb).
Needless to say, some characters didn’t live up to the expectations set by the rest of them. And let me say this upfront: it was not the acting, at all. It’s hard to choose just one aspect to blame since it was more like a lack of cohesiveness between different production departments. In consequence, there was a largely inconsistent quality across the different series. They were neither equal nor unique, they didn’t follow a straight style line and didn’t have an identity of their own (except, maybe, for Luke Cage… I’ll explain later).
All in all, despite the inconsistencies, there were some great things about these shows that got us caught up in the middle of their cancellations, so it’s hard not to think about a reboot now that Disney can use the rights of the characters to its favor.
Before jumping to any conclusions, let’s go through the ups, the downs, the possibilities, and the rumors surrounding each of our esteemed Defenders.
Altogether: Why didn’t The Defenders work?
Let’s start with the most recent of them all and a bucket of cold, cold water. The show that presented all these superheroes as a group wasn’t as good as each of the individual series. When it comes to chemistry, it could only be found between Luke Cage and Danny Rand, or Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. That’s about it.
It was just obvious that they didn’t belong together – even though they all live in the forgotten side of New York, something was off. It could have been the fact that their powers and abilities are really similar, so it felt like trying to put up a band with a bunch of guitarists only (and a hippie bass player with a golden fist, maybe). So no, unfortunately, it was not nearly as good as other superhero groups.
I’m not sure if Disney would be interested in bringing this crew together again. At least not with the exact same cast, and definitely not in the short term. It would require a brand-new story and reintroducing each of them… yes, I mean pretending The Defenders never happened.
The worst part is, I think we could all agree to do that without any objections.
The burden of the Iron Fist
You didn’t hear it from me, but from the majority of the MCU fans on review sites, social media, and the comments sections on a variety of blogs and vlogs: this was the weakest one of all the individual series. For some, it was even duller than The Defenders. The first season was fairly entertaining but there isn’t much more to say. The second one is all over the place, despite Danny and Luke’s great chemistry; and to be honest, what makes it more frustrating is the potential that just laid there, unexploited.
The Iron Fist could have been the best fit for the future of Marvel out of all the Defenders due to the nature of their power, but the unfinished series was such a hot, polemic mess that it is really hard to imagine that the franchise would want to pick that one up.
Maybe they could do it by handing down the torch to Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing (even if the failure and polemic wasn’t Finn Jones’ fault after all), picking up right where Netflix left it. However, a total restart seems imminent – if they do decide to bring the Iron Fist back – given that Netflix is no longer in the equation and the competitor is in charge.
Luke Cage and his dead-end fate
(Not so) hot take: this show’s soundtrack is the most outstanding one out of any other Marvel production. It is unique, and it is core to the identity of the series, the characters, and their context. The story could not have been told without the music. Remember I said I would explain why Luke Cage is the only one out of all these shows with an identity of its own? Well, this is why. And it’s so utterly distinctive that, for moments, you would forget that you were watching a Marvel production – which has been almost impossible for most of them.
Kudos as well to Mahershala Ali, who is one of the best actors of his generation and, therefore, not surprisingly makes the creepiest villain. His delivery of the Cottonmouth role is, in my humble opinion, one of the best of Marvel. I don’t want to leave out Alfre Woodard and Theo Rossi, who nailed it as well as Black Mariah and Shades respectively. This evil trifecta was, for me, the best thing about this show. They made the first season something so dark, yet so immersive it was hard to look away. On the other hand and for various reasons, the story in the second season fell short despite great acting.
Taking all this into account, I don’t really see how Mike Colter’s Luke Cage would fit long-term in the MCU, since he was supposed to be the protagonist but ended up far behind his secondaries in his own show.
His identity is, again, very special, but his superpowers can’t compare to those of the rest of our already established superheroes. Maybe he could have a cameo somewhere sometime if Harlem comes back as the stage for these stories to unfold.
Relive the Defender's Best Moments, on DVD or Blue-Ray!
Jessica Jones has a chance
I do have to admit the writers were inconsistent in her character’s treats, but I think that’s – maybe accidentally – what makes her so relatable. Jessica doesn’t have absolutely anything figured out, and can we blame her?
As far as I read across the internet, the first season of Jessica Jones was the favorite of many. It wasn’t as praised as Daredevil (we’ll get there), but still, it was a beloved show. The second and third seasons didn’t get as much hype, but I have to say I enjoyed all of them. The third one is my personal favorite because it gave her closure. It was canceled before they finished filming, which was good and fair for such a strong character that could have a huge potential in the MCU.
Krysten Ritter understood the assignment like no one else could have, so it’s hard to picture anyone else playing this role. I think she would be a great female lead for new generations of superheroines – Jessica is not a natural leader, of course, and she would truly hate it. But that’s exactly what would make her such a perfect fit for the job.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Fans’ theories on social media speculate that she will appear on She-Hulk. Nothing has been confirmed or even mentioned by official sources, but just knowing there are people talking about it makes JJ’s fans hopeful that this could be a possibility.
Daredevil, the king of Hell’s Kitchen
Or at least, the king in our hearts. The favorite, the character that suits the actor and the actor that suits the character. It’s like every single aspect of this series was meant to be: great sidekicks, great villains, and a fabulous introduction to The Punisher.
Daredevil achieved something that I don’t think many shows have in the whole history of television: airing three seasons that were each better than the previous one.
Of course, everyone would love to have him back – if you don’t remember, there was a huge campaign going on after the show’s cancellation widely known as #SaveDaredevil, so no doubt there is a large group of supporters that have the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’s back. The theory lurking around since 2020 about him coming back on the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home is also a thing. And then, the trailer of this movie came out only for the public to speculate that Charlie Cox was on it – all because of the arms of a lawyer that was later revealed to be someone else thanks to the IMAX aspect ratio.
He also denied appearing on the trailer on an interview for ComicBook.com, although in the same conversation he also gave confusing signals in which he leaves an open window for fans' hopes, stating: "I wouldn't want to ruin something either way (...) it makes me a little anxious in that regard, you know, because it's a difficult thing to talk about. You know all I would say, I guess everyone, myself included, is just gonna have to wait and see what happens".
What-did-he-say? Is it just me, or does it sound like he was trying a little too hard not to spill some beans? I guess, as Charlie said, we’re gonna have to wait and see what happens.
The Punisher, more a hero than an antihero
I’ll be honest: I saved this one for last because he is not a Defender per se, but also because I could gush with praise all day long.
Jon Bernthal was born to play this role. Also, The Punisher gathers everything: top-notch acting, amazing script, great fighting scenes, good villain background story, believable plot, and intriguing sequences. Hands down, one of the best materials Marvel has ever produced.
Yes, the slower rhythm compared to what Marvel got us used to and the explicit violence mean it’s not the easiest thing to watch, but from a filmmaking POV, this show is a masterpiece. I understand the critics don’t like to look at superhero productions, but c’mon! So many people involved in this show deserved an award: from Bernthal to Barnes, to the special effects crew, the make-up artists, and the production design team.
That been said, although I would love to see him again behind the skull vest, one part of me preferred to just remember it as it was. I wasn’t sure what would be of him if Disney took such an aggressive character into their family-friendly superhero club. But then I found some vague rumors about a renewed The Punisher being set to become Marvel’s first-ever R-rated TV production. Of course, the internet voices say it would be planned to air on Hulu instead of the platform of Disney+, but this could be false as far as we know.
One thing we are certain of, and it’s that Bernthal is open to making a comeback, as he stated for Entertainment Weekly: “Frank Castle is 100% in my bones and in my heart”
– as well in ours Jon, as well in ours.
So… is it happening? Is it worth it? Which ones are worth it?
To be honest, I can picture this happening for some of our heroes. People talk, and what the forums, blogs, and comments are rumoring is that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Kingpin, and The Punisher are part of Disney plans. But, if they do join the MCU, it will be all from scratch – only in a scenario where the Netflix productions would no longer be relevant for the future of these characters.
I have to say that, if this happens to be true, it would be a bittersweet pill for me to swallow. On one hand, it is exciting to see them again brought to life by such a talented group of actors. On the other, Netflix did a terrific job, especially with these particular characters that are allegedly set to come back. Sometimes, good things end and it’s better to respect and enjoy their full cycle.
One thing is unquestionable: even if they do come back with brand new stories, Netflix’s efforts to deliver quality superhero content will not be forgotten.
Disney, this will be undoubtedly a challenge for you. Netflix set a high, complex, and relatable superhero bar. Good luck with that!
About The Author
Monterrey Institute of Technology
Bachelor's Degree in Communication and Digital Media
with certificates in Film Studies, Directing and Film Production