Marvel Studios became by far the largest, most lucrative cinematic production globally, mostly thanks to the spectacular success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, that’s not nearly everything Marvel offers for the big (or small) screen.
Apart from the MCU and the Sony/Marvel Spider-Man rogue gallery movies, many great (and not-so-great) shows based on Marvel characters run on Netflix for years. As of March 16, 2022, all former Marvel Netflix shows can be streamed on Disney+.
With five different shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Defenders) and multiple seasons for each, it is crucial to watch them in a specific order. Without further ado, here’s the complete Marvel Defenders Series watch order.
Marvel Netflix (Defenders) Series Order At A Glance
Marvel shows on Netflix created somewhat of a mini-universe that started in 2015 with the first season of Daredevil. The best way to watch all the Marvel Netflix Series is to watch every season of every show separately, according to their release date, as follows:
- Daredevil Season 1 (Apr 10, 2015)
- Jessica Jones Season 1 (Nov 20, 2015)
- Daredevil Season 2 (Mar 18, 2016)
- Luke Cage Season 1 (Sep 30, 2016)
- Iron Fist Season 1 (Mar 17, 2017)
- The Defenders Limited Series (Aug 18, 2017)
- The Punisher Season 1 (Nov 17, 2017)
- Jessica Jones Season 2 (Mar 8, 2018)
- Luke Cage Season 2 (Jun 22, 2018)
- Iron Fist Season 2 (Sep 7, 2018)
- Daredevil Season 3 (Oct 19, 2018)
- The Punisher Season 2 (Jan 18, 2019)
- Jessica Jones Season 3 (Jun 14, 2019)
Netflix releases every show’s full season at once instead of weekly episodes, making everything even easier to follow.
Marvel Netflix (Defenders) Series In Order: Fully Explained
1. Daredevil Season 1 (Apr 10, 2015)
The first Marvel Netflix series came out with a bang, with the fan-favorite Matthew Murdock returning to live-action after not-so-successful Ben Affleck film back in 2003.
The show’s first season follows Matt, a blind lawyer who spends his days protecting his city from criminals inside a courtroom, and his nights as a vigilante dressed in a devilish red suit.
Murdock wasn’t born blind – a radioactive substance blinded him when he was still a child, but in “return,” all his other senses were incredibly amplified. He grew up in an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in New York well-known for incredibly high crime rates.
His strong moral compass, religious beliefs, and his father’s tragic death made Murdock want to fight crime any way he could. So, he became one of the best lawyers in the city while secretly training martial arts, using his amplified four senses to become the vigilante known as Daredevil.
The main antagonist of the season is Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, a sinister crime lord that doesn’t shy away from any means of achieving what he wants. On the other hand, Matt tries to avoid killing anybody while using his powers – his only goal is to stop them and then get them in front of the face of the law. However, the Kingpin tests him every step of the way.
2. Jessica Jones Season 1 (Nov 20, 2015)
Jessica Jones was a normal girl before an accident that killed her entire family have her superhuman abilities, most notable, incredible strength. Jessica tried to be a superhero, but everything fell apart after encountering Kilgrave, a villainous guy who made things go south, almost destroying Jessica mentally.
Fast forward 20-ish years, and we get to the start of the Jessica Jones TV series. Jones is a PTSD-ridden alcoholic who tries to balance her troubled life and past with running a PI agency.
One of her investigations leads her right back into a collision course with Kilgrave, igniting the demons of her past again, forcing Jessica to face them.
Krysten Ritter is one of my favorite actresses ever since her short but powerful role as Jane Margolis in Breaking Bad, and she didn’t disappoint as Jessica Jones. Krysten is brilliant, and her chemistry on-screen with David Tennant – who plays Kilgrave – had me pumped from start to finish.
3. Daredevil Season 2 (Mar 18, 2016)
Matt Murdock returned for the second season of Daredevil before we got any new Marvel show on Netflix. The events of season one continued in season two, as his doings from the first season turned around to bite him. Also, the Hand – a Hell’s Kitchen criminal organization Matt is trying to fight – amplifies their business activities.
This time, Daredevil gets an unsuspecting helper in Frank Castle, the Punisher. Castle, portrayed by Jon Bernthal, who was absolutely epic in the role – is the complete opposite of Daredevil. While Murdock tries to keep his every move casualty-free, the Punisher doesn’t care who he kills – if they cross his path and interfere with his goal, they’ll get a bullet without remorse.
We also get to meet Elektra, who becomes Matt’s love interest, and he tries to balance between being a lawyer, being Daredevil, and keeping everything a secret from Elektra. I think the story focused too much on their relationship instead of the plot, but it was a great season overall.
Rumor has it that the Punisher series was never planned, but Bernthal’s Frank Castle was so well-acclaimed that Netflix and Marvel decided to make it happen.
4. Luke Cage Season 1 (Sep 30, 2016)
Luke Cage was a nice surprise for me when I first saw it. I didn’t have any expectations whatsoever, and the initial reviews weren’t that brilliant, but in the end, I enjoyed this first season.
Cage is a former cop that underwent an experiment, granting him invulnerability. After being framed for murder, Luke returns to Harlem, his home neighborhood, where he just wants to live peacefully and enjoy life in retirement. However, things take a turn for the worse quickly.
Coppermouth, a crime lord magnificently portrayed by the two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, crosses paths with Luke Cage, prompting the ex-cop to use his powers and try to rid the streets of Harlem of the criminal influence of Coppermouth.
I won’t go into details, but it was a nice season of action. Perhaps Ali’s brilliance made the rest of the cast look somewhat bleak, especially Mike Colter, who plays Cage, but when you isolate his role and look at it objectively, he’s done a nice job with the given material. It’s not as good of a show as Jessica Jones or Daredevil, but it’s good nonetheless.
5. Iron Fist Season 1 (Mar 17, 2017)
Iron Fist was the first great disappointment among the Marvel Netflix shows, both among the critics and the audience. Luke Cage was considered weaker than Jessica Jones or Daredevil but still garnered a 90% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Iron Fist is at 20%, which is horrible for a show on that production level.
The story follows Danny Rand, who survived a plane crash when he was ten years old in which he lost his entire family. The monks of a temple/sanctuary called K’un-Lun took little Danny in and trained him for about ten years. He gained incredible mythical skills and abilities, eventually becoming the bearer of a mystical force called the Iron Fist.
After a while, Danny returns home to New York to reclaim the multi-billion dollar business that belonged to his family, only to see his father’s business partner took over like the Rands never existed. Danny’s return causes turmoil, and New York’s criminal underground gets shaken up with the Iron Fist trying to be the hero his skills allow him to be.
Overall, the entire show’s first season was just plain bad. The writing was weak, the character development almost non-existent, and they turned Iron Fist into a laughing stock, whereas in the comic, he’s a beloved, fan-favorite superhero.
The only bright spot of the show was the connection made with the Hand, which ultimately connected Iron Fist with the previous Marvel Netflix shows, but it feels like it was forced just so that The Defenders would make sense.
6. The Defenders Limited Series (Aug 18, 2017)
The first crossover series that connected all the main heroes from the before-mentioned Marvel Netflix shows was The Defenders. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Danny Rand, and Matt Murdock team up to fight New York’s crime scene and the Hand’s chief, Alexandra Reid, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver.
I’m not sure how I feel about the Defenders because I only watched it once. I was so bitter from the horrible Iron Fist season before it that I probably watched it assuming it would be bad before giving it a shot.
When I look at it objectively, it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t that bad. There were some great moments and awesome action, and Weaver was great as the main antagonist.
Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox dominated among the main cast, but Iron Fist had some cool moments when you compare the character from his stand-alone show. Overall, it’s not that bad – I’d call it a poor man’s Avengers flick.
7. The Punisher Season 1 (Nov 17, 2017)
After The Defenders ended, it marked the end of the first part of the story that the Marvel Netflix shows were telling. The Punisher marked a fresh start, and it was somewhat disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that bad, but I expected more after Frank Castle’s first appearance in Daredevil.
Jon Bernthal was brilliant again, but the plot was too focused on him going “boom-boom” on everybody and everything instead of the writers fleshing out the story.
In the show, Castle finds the ones responsible for his wife’s death and avenges her. However, it reveals a huge conspiracy, and Frank decides to punish (pun intended) everyone involved – even if it meant crossing paths with an old friend.
Not bad, not great. The 67% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes sums up the first season’s impression on me. I’m happy I didn’t give up here, though, as the show only got better in the later seasons.
8. Jessica Jones Season 2 (Mar 8, 2018)
Daredevil was my favorite show of the bunch so far, and Jessica Jones was a close second. That didn’t change after Jessica Jones season 2 – it was a great show, but not as captivating for me as Daredevil.
After The Defenders, Jessica is conflicted between wanting a normal life and being a superhero. She decides to learn more about the source of her superpowers, the accident, and her past in general. Be careful what you wish for, though – digging up the past puts her on a collision course with some people from that period of her life that ultimately become the main antagonist(s).
I liked the first season of Jessica Jones because it wasn’t your classic, quirky, happy-ending superhero story. It’s more down to Earth, even tragic and depressing at times, but it hit the spot for me when it comes to depicting the hard reality of being a superhero and the price that comes with it.
The second season followed up in the same tone, and Krysten Ritter was amazing again, but the plot and the main villains were weaker than in season 1, so perhaps that’s why some fans found season 2 disappointing.
9. Luke Cage Season 2 (Jun 22, 2018)
Shortly after Jessica Jones, Luke Cage returned to Netflix for season 2. Many fans won’t agree with me, but it’s the only Marvel Netflix show other than The Punisher (and Iron Fist, but it wasn’t hard to top the horrible first season) that I enjoyed more in season 2 than season 1.
Perhaps the main villain, Bushmaster, portrayed by Mustafa Shakir, gave the show some much-needed refreshment. The entire thing felt more energetic and developed than the first season. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even great, but it was a good show that I swallowed in two days without straining my brain too much.
Cage is admired and praised as a hero in this season, but Bushmaster thinks otherwise. He makes Luke’s life much harder and more bitter, using the things from Luke Cage’s past and season 1 to haunt the invulnerable Harlem superhero.
Luke Cage season 2 won’t blow you away, but it’s worth watching.
10. Iron Fist Season 2 (Sep 7, 2018)
Do you remember I enjoyed Iron Fist season 2 more than season 1? Well, that’s true, but not because season 2 was great, but because it wasn’t a total disaster like the first. We get better storytelling, more character depth for Danny Rand, and a nicer ten-episode action that didn’t feel as watered-down as the first 13-episode season.
Still, it was nowhere near what the character as awesome as Iron Fist deserves. It ended in somewhat of a cliffhanger, but season 3 never materialized, partially because of the poor audience reception and partially because all the Marvel Netflix shows were canceled after Marvel Television folded into Marvel Studios, and Disney planned the launch of Disney+.
11. Daredevil Season 3 (Oct 19, 2018)
I was so mad when I heard the show is being canceled because season 3 of Daredevil was the best in the entire series, and we’re left thirsty for more. Some fans argue that season one was better, but I disagree.
We see Matt Murdock and his moral high ground being pushed to the limits as much as possible. The character development and the conflicting sides of Murdock’s personality were brilliantly written and even more brilliantly portrayed by Charlie Cox.
As Matt Murdock is recovering from nearly dying in The Defenders, Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, his arch-nemesis so far in the series, manipulated his way out of prison.
That means everything Daredevil went through was in vain and pushes him into a state of rage we haven’t seen him in before. Matt Murdock’s morals and faith don’t allow him to kill, but rather put criminals before the face of justice, but he vows to kill the Kingpin and break his code.
Not going to spoil how it all unravels, but it was just epic to me, and I couldn’t be happier we’ve seen cameos for both Fisk and Murdock appearing in the main MCU.
12. The Punisher Season 2 (Jan 18, 2019)
After the first season of The Punisher didn’t quite live up to the expectations, the second season was a huge improvement, at least for the fans of the bloody, violent nature of the character himself. Bernthal cast vengeance in an even more twisted fashion, and some of the returning characters from season 1 got their well-deserved moments of pure character development bliss.
After their collision in season one, Frank Castle battles Jigsaw in the second season again. Along the way, new threats emerge, but the Punisher ruthlessly deals with everything thrown at him, or anything crossing his path to vengeance, for that matter.
It was odd that the viewership numbers for season 2 dropped significantly from season 1, even though many fans found it much better. That played a huge role in the show getting canceled, which is a pity, considering it ended in a somewhat vague, unfinished fashion.
If we ever get season 3 – or any Frank Caste return at all – it certainly won’t be on Netflix.
13. Jessica Jones Season 3 (Jun 13, 2019)
Last but not least, Jessica Jones season 3 marked the final chapter of the Marvel Netflix TV shows. All the shows got canceled after that despite none of them being truly finished.
Some of it happened because of poor viewership numbers, but in the end, having Netflix profit from Marvel shows while the Disney+ platform is launched would be like hitting yourself in the face in a boxing match against your biggest rival. It was only logical that Marvel and Disney would pull the plug.
The third season of Jessica Jones was the weakest of the three, but still quite good. It opens up past emotional rollercoasters with her sister Trish (who killed Jones’ mother at the end of season 2), returning to the conflict with Greg Sallinger, who Trish later murdered as well, and much more.
The ending was left open, with Jessica aiming to leave New York, only to hear Kilgrave’s voice in her head, turning around and heading for the streets of the Big Apple once again.
Virtually every show from the Marvel Netflix collaboration finished with an opened ending that leaves a lot of possibilities for a new season, but in the end, all the shows were canceled.
We now know that Daredevil’s probably returning to the MCU just like his arch-nemesis, Wilson Fisk, so who knows? Maybe Jessica, Luke, Danny, and Frank will come back at some point, too.