Roughly three years have elapsed since Jessica Jones Season 1 debuted on Netflix. At the time, the show’s inaugural season came with some lofty expectations. It was, after all, the first Marvel/Netflix show to debut after Daredevil launched the streamer's superhero cinematic universe, putting the Man Without Fear back on the map after an abysmal cinematic outing back in 2003. Not only that, but Jessica Jones had the difficult task of working into its Season 1 run a plot that deftly dealt with themes of sexual assault and predatory obsession, all while providing the groundwork for Luke Cage’s revised backstory and keeping the action ground-level.
The season is widely, and understandably, considered one of the most solid products of the partnership between Marvel and Netflix. Lately, though, that partnership has seemingly started to fray in the wake of colossal failures like Iron Fist and The Defenders. Similarly, The Punisher, while a decent entry in the Marvel/Netflix canon, couldn’t outrun the gun control controversy regardless of how many times it pushed its debut back. The Marvel/Netflix slate of superhero shows will undoubtedly solider on for the foreseeable future, but the question remains: Are audiences ready to dip back into the cinematic universe after a rash of dismal, immersion-breaking showings? The answer might depend on Jessica Jones, one of the cinematic universe’s most beloved shows that’s slated to make its comeback soon.
Okay, But Have The Recent Series Really Been That Bad?
One of the most common complaints lobbed at the Marvel/Netflix shows up until Iron Fist was that the series tended to peter out over time. A show would start strong, get bogged down in the middle and then eventually conclude with a whimper, rather than a bang.
Luke Cage is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The show’s first season starts off by showing Luke’s growth into an enthusiastic, proactive hero who wants nothing more than to wrest control of his neighborhood from the criminal powers secretly in control. Interesting villains are introduced in the form of Mahershala Ali as Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes and Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, cousins and uneasy allies who inherited a criminal empire. All of that is predictably dashed away at the mid-season point in favor of a surprise twist and the introduction of Erik LaRay Harvey’s Diamondback, a villain with a forced backstory and a demeanor closer in tone to a DCTV monster-of-the-week. The final fight between Luke and Diamondback in the middle of a crowded street is perhaps one of the most anticlimactic resolutions to a Marvel/Netflix show.
Series like Iron Fist and The Defenders couldn’t even muster that kind of criticism, though. Iron Fist, in particular, started off slow and advanced at a trudge, never really giving its hero a definitive, relatable cause to pull viewers through to its meager ending. The Defenders suffered the crimes of Iron Fist in its ratings. At the time of the limited series’ release, it was estimated (Netflix doesn’t widely release its viewership data) that the show was one of the most-binged watched series on Netflix, but that it was also one of the least-watched Marvel/Netflix shows of the bunch. For being The Avengers equivalent of the streaming service’s cinematic universe, that’s a startling claim.