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Dive Into ‘The Defenders’ With the Ultimate Watch Guide

Screenshot from Marvel's The Defenders miniseries, from left to right Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Finn Jones as Danny Rand, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, and Mike Colter as Luke Cage

With more of the Netflix Marvel cast making their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it may be time to revisit The Defenders saga, or—if you’re late to the series—watch it unfold for the first time. Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Jon Bernthal have all been confirmed to appear in the MCU further down the line, with Daredevil: Born Again slated for release in 2024, and more exciting casting news could be on the way.

After all, who could better portray Jessica Jones than Krysten Ritter, or Luke Cage than Mike Colter? The MCU would be hard-pressed to find anyone more suited to these roles. The Netflix shows hit the nail on the head when it came to casting (for the most part, at least).

Whether Daredevil: Born Again is a full reboot or not is still unclear, and it may contain totally new iterations, or variants, of these characters. Whatever the case may be, The Defenders saga is still worth a look. Like the rest of the MCU, it has its ups and downs, but it contains some of Marvel Entertainment’s most thrilling, nail-biting, gruesome, and memorable storytelling to date.

Thankfully, the order of release for The Defenders saga is also the order in which to watch the shows, which are all available to stream on Disney+. Sometimes it’s nice when they make it so easy for us. Still, if you’re new to the series or looking for a quick recap before Daredevil returns, you’ve come to the right place.

Daredevil season 1

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil season 1 poster

This is where it all began. Charlie Cox stole our hearts as Matt Murdock, lawyer by day, parkouring superhero by night. Daredevil season 1 is an exemplary piece of grounded superhero storytelling, with Vincent D’Onofrio absolutely smashing it as villain Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin. Daredevil season 1 set the bar high for the rest of the Netflix Marvel saga. A must-watch.

Jessica Jones season 1

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones in Jessica Jones season 1

Jessica Jones season 1 absolutely rose to meet the challenge issued by Daredevil. Krysten Ritter is fantastic in the titular role, and season 1’s villain, played by David Tennant with a terrifying tenacity, is the true stuff of nightmares. Jessica Jones season 1 doesn’t hold back on the ugliness of trauma, but balances it beautifully with the power of female friendship.

Daredevil season 2

Charlie Cox as Daredevil in Daredevil seaosn 2 poster

Daredevil season 2 proved a little more divisive with fans, as half of its storyline was very obviously the core setup for the upcoming Defenders miniseries. And yet, Daredevil season 2 also gave us Jon Bernthal’s interpretation of Frank Castle/the Punisher, a character that became so popular he was given his own solo series. No matter how many times I watch that scene in the cemetery, it still makes me cry.

Luke Cage season 1

Mike Colter as Luke Cage in a bullet-riddled hoodie in Luke Cage season 1

Some of Marvel’s best performances of all time can be found in Luke Cage season 1. Mahershala Ali as villain Cottonmouth, Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, Simone Missick as Misty Knight, and of course, Mike Colter as Luke Cage. The talent on display was truly off the charts. Though the second half of this season is a bit more wobbly than the first, Luke Cage is absolutely worth a look.

Iron Fist season 1

Finn Jones in 'Iron Fist' season 1 on Netflix

Iron Fist season 1 was unfortunately not as well-received as its predecessors. Many challenged the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand, as well as his superhero origin. But Iron Fist still has some highlights, most notably Jessica Henwick’s portrayal of the katana-wielding Colleen Wing. Watching it will also definitely help make sense of The Defenders‘ magical mysteries.

The Defenders miniseries

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Finn Jones as Danny Rand and Mike Colter as Luke Cage in The Defenders

All of those shows were leading to this: The Defenders. There were memorable character moments aplenty—especially between Jessica and Matt—and the story, though slightly implausible, was still highly watchable. The legendary Sigourney Weaver also shines in the series, though she arguably should have been used more. The Defenders was, above all, a fun and necessary crossover event for the Marvel Netflix universe.

The Punisher season 1

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle in The Punisher season 1

Jon Bernthal returns! Though Netflix teased Frank Castle’s involvement in The Defenders (something which sadly never came to fruition), his own solo series more than made up for his absence. In the first season of The Punisher, Castle uncovers a bigger conspiracy surrounding the death of his family—and who doesn’t love watching Ben Barnes as another strikingly handsome villain?

Jessica Jones season 2

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones in Jessica Jones season 2

Though not as punchy as Jessica Jones season 1 (perhaps due to a lack of David Tennant), season 2 isn’t afraid to delve into Jessica’s psyche and the fallout from her time spent with her fellow Defenders. The second season also further develops its supporting characters and brings closure to one of the most harrowing chapters of Jessica’s life.

Luke Cage season 2

Mike Colter as Luke Cage in Luke Cage season 2

In season 2, following his heroic efforts in The Defenders, Luke Cage has become something of a celebrity in Harlem. But that attracts a new villain, Bushmaster (played by Mustafa Shakir), and Woodard’s Mariah Dillard returns for the ride as well. Luke Cage season 2 even features a fun partnership episode with Finn Jones’ Danny Rand, teasing a future Power Man and Iron Fist crossover to come, though, sadly, this was never developed further.

Iron Fist season 2

Finn Jones as Danny Rand and Sacha Dhawan as Davos in Iron Fist season 2

It’s honestly a shame that the entire Marvel Netflix saga was canceled in 2019, because Iron Fist season 2 finally tapped into the series’ real potential. A much more dynamic and fun outing than the first, it gives both Danny Rand and Colleen Wing more interesting roles and concludes with a rather compelling cliffhanger—one that could technically still be resolved in the MCU.

Daredevil season 3

Charlie Cox in Daredevil costume in Daredevil season 3

How was Daredevil ever supposed to top season 1 and season 2? Somehow, Daredevil season 3 managed to do so. Everything is dialed up to 11, but it’s masterfully executed. One scene in a newspaper office was so tense I had to turn off my TV and recover for the rest of the day. Wilson Bethel was a fantastic inclusion as the villain Bullseye, and both Vincent D’Onofrio and Charlie Cox prove once and for all why they’ve been recruited for the MCU.

The Punisher season 2

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle and Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle in The Punisher season 2

The Punisher season 2 continues the storyline and vendetta between Frank and Billy Russo, and it introduces some new and surprising characters for Castle to interact with. If you loved the dynamic between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us, you’ll likely find something to enjoy here as well. As usual, Bernthal is excellent in the role, and we can’t wait to see him return in Daredevil: Born Again.

Jessica Jones season 3

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones and Jeremy Bobb as Gregory Sallinger in Jessica Jones season 3

Season 3 of Jessica Jones takes an even darker turn, as Jessica is forced to deal with a stalker and serial killer who views her and others with superpowers as “frauds.” A nail-bitingly tense final season, Jessica Jones season 3 was a fitting end to a saga that embraces the importance of grounded, mature storytelling and impeccable character work.

(featured image: Marvel)

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El (she/her) has been working as a freelance writer for various entertainment websites for over a year, ever since she successfully completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including franchises like Marvel and Pokémon, but she is happy to pitch in with gaming content once in a while if it concerns one of the few video games she actually knows anything about. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.