Having finished Iron Fist, I decided to rank the characters of the four main Marvel Defenders titles on Netflix. As I have thoroughly enjoyed these characters and these shows I felt it appropriate to rank the characters. I almost went for a top 25 but as it was simply two characters outside of 20, I felt 20 was appropriate.
Here are my criteria for ranking these characters:
Defining Moment/s- What are the moments that endear these characters to us, what made us truly value them as characters whether for evil or good
Weak Moment/s- What about this character is not a great trait? What moves them down in the ranking? What makes them less than perfect?
Comic Book Aversion/Similarities - Is the character an accurate representation of source material or a modern updating for the better?
Overall Impact - How does this character affect the show and the story of the Defenders as a whole?
As such *SPOILERS* are to be expected
Honorable Mentions: Nuke/Simpson, Stick, and Bakuto
While I enjoy the possibilities of Nuke, I felt his character was flat within the show. I did enjoy the concept of his pill taking and how they adjust his abilities and I that there was more to his backstory, it did not fully take with me in the show and I wish I could've seen more of it. As such, he's a victim of being a side character rather than a prominent villain or hero, which a couple of my entries suffer from.
Bakuto is yet another side character who isn't the main villain or hero who doesn't quite fit in with the story. He comes out of nowhere to give the Hand some personality, but he also doesn't have the best actor a times. However, his fight scenes aren't too bad especially those with Colleen Wing. We will probably be able to see more of Bakuto, but for now he wasn't enough until he shot Joy to really leave an impact.
Stick is certainly important to Daredevil's development and Scott Glenn is a great actor, but Stick stays unhappy. Plus his inclusion into Season 2 didn't land as well as Season 1. He and Elektra pulled Matt in different directions in Season 2, but Stick is too much of an asshole to root for. He constantly is a thorn in Daredevil's side without always fully explaining himself. Also his scenes young Matt aren't always the best. He is a side character who is important to the backstory of Daredevil, Elektra and the Hand, but he doesn't outshine any of them. Still he's got a great sword and his fight in the apartment with Matt is an entertaining one.
#20 Karen Page
Karen Page is hard for me because as important as I feel she is to Daredevil, I feel that the writers have difficulty with her. Her banter with Ben in the first season is pretty compelling as her move against Wesley. But right after her character is weakened and wracked with remorse after killing someone. Furthermore, while it is fun to see her headlines in the news in Season 2, Ben was the more intriguing character overall. Her banter with Punisher is good too, but that's more on him. Bottom line, the writers never know quite what to do with her and I personally am not big on blondes in general, though you'll find another on this list I find a much better rendering of a badass blonde.
#19 Ward Meachum
Overall, the Meachums didn't work well for me, but I ended up liking Ward by the end of the series from his overall arc and his struggles with several of the characters on the show. He starts off of being a jerkass of epic proportions which would've never made me put him on this list. Still, his struggles with his family, addictions and job are the most down to earth elements of all of Iron Fist. Ward is believable. He handles his own issues, he tries to protect his sister and obey his deranged father, but gets caught up in addictions and the mythos of Danny Rand and the Hand. While many fans would argue that his father should be on my list, Ward has the best arc and writing of the show which wasn't as strong as it could've been throughout.
#18 Jeri Hogarth
If I remember reading correctly the LGBT community had mixed feelings on Hogarth because of her cheating, divorce and general mishaps. I personally saw this as a great way to have a prominent Lesbian character who went through issues like everyone else did, was stern and generally heroic, but at times as messed up as Jessica could get herself in. Furthermore, she was an outstanding lawyer and Carrie Anne Moss does a great job with her performances in Jessica Jones and Iron Fist. While I think there are more consistent and better characters than Hogarth in terms of importance to the plot, I think she offers a lot more to explore than the already rocky start we've seen with her divorce. I'm here for more of her, which may move her ranking up come Season 2.
#17 Foggy Nelson
I'll be honest I like Foggy and he adds so much humor to the grim Daredevil storylines. He is also a great friend to Matt Murdock regardless of the disrespect he gets in return. However, I also don't find him the most compelling character and I rarely turn to the next episode for him. He is not a superhero, doesn't have a drastic arc or struggle except for liking Karen and Matt too much. He is a great friend and much more of the viewer surrogate man who's main battles are in the court room. While those moments are nearly as good as his humor, Daredevil and Netflix Marvel for that matter has much more entertaining characters keeping him from rising higher.
Elektra is one of the more difficult characters to place on this list. On the one hand, she pushes Matt Murdock's character in unexpected ways, gives him some college backstory, and allows for some pretty great fight scenes to compliment Daredevil. On the other hand, the unexpected turns for Matt don't always translate well and undermine his belief system rather than complicate it. Furthermore, her character arc is not consistent as sometimes she is skilled partner for Matt (when she investigates the executive floors with Matt) and other times she is a weak damsel in distress. As such, this is the issue with how Elektra is written in Daredevil; she is wildly inconsistent in her manners and motivations which prevents her from being the most memorable character.
While Shades's character arc is not completely different than his comic counterpart, his mystery is what puts him above a few others on his list. From his swagger to his manipulation, Shades is the epitome of cool and his actor, Theo Rossi, plays it well. What sets Shades apart is that you're never sure where his allegiances lie and how he ends up using everyone on the villain side of Luke Cage so that he can be on top. He is not a main villain in the show, but he ends up playing the long game well enough to be standing in the end. While he may not have as much development, as a character like Cottonmouth, it will be exciting to see what later seasons bring to his character.
#14 Madame Gao
Madame Gao's largest issue is that we don't get to know more about her. Wai Ching Ho does an excellent job with her tranquil intensity in Daredevil and Iron Fist, but we don't get to see more of her villainy and her past. Gao is almost a myth in Daredevil, but in Iron Fist she becomes a fully realized character who we see use deadly poison, discuss past lives, and even use some of her chi skills. Thus, she remains fascinating to the story and we wonder about her hidden depths and how well she can control the Hand and Danny Rand for that matter. The unfortunate issue is that the writing in Iron Fist isn't that strong which prevents us from seeing more of the sinister world of her past and all that should could be capable of doing to the protagonists.
#13 Luke Cage
Luke Cage places an odd spot on my list, primarily due to how different he is from his supporting cast. Luke himself isn't acted the best by Mike Colter compared to his over the top antics in the comics, but his symbolism and all out Blackness endears him to me and many fans. His one-liners, brutal defensive-style fighting and his sense of justice for his community make him a great character for the world of Harlem and all that he represents. He is also a complex character from his prison background, struggles with his ex-wife, and how he wants Harlem to be. Much of this is due to how he and his character interactions are written. Cage, is a rare example where what he represents is stronger than the character himself.
I'm a big fan of Trish and her actress, Rachael Taylor, and she easily climbed the ranks when I started analyzing her character. While I know she was initially slated to be similar to Ms. Marvel in connection with Jessica Jones in the comics, but that was downplayed in order to work more on her bond with Jessica and her own character development. As such, Trish becomes a fully realized character who tries extremely hard to not be a damsel in distress ever for anyone including Jessica. She knows martial arts, has a high security apartment, goes for the jugular on her talk show, and dives in against Nuke. While many series would've made Trish a weak character at the strength of Jessica, but her fortitude and support of Jessica is often much stronger than Jessica Jones resolve. With all that one might wonder why she is so low. The reason for this is simple as many of the next characters have complexity or stronger actors as they are simply characters I prefer.
#11 Ben Urich
I find Ben's character arc in the show to be one of the biggest unfortunate losses of Kingpin's destruction. Ben, much in part due to his actor-Vondie Curtis-Hall-are always compelling in how he begins to unravel the truths of crime in Hell's Kitchen and aid Karen Page on her rise to news reporter. What is great is that his character is a surrogate for the audience, instead he's brings in his own POV while moving their narrative forward at his own pace. Furthermore, Vondie is such a captivating actor that it is a shame that he is killed in the first season as I felt he could have been used for a few more plots and would've remained compelling.
#10 Colleen Wing
Colleen's place on this list is primarily because she salvages Iron Fist enough to make it watchable. Her actress, Jessica Henwick, not only can act better than the lead, but also can perform martial arts better than the lead. Her scenes and plight are far more intriguing than many of the plots on the show. I honestly would probably not have her higher if she was one of the other Defender shows; however, she is easily the best part of Iron Fist. She is also compelling and entertaining enough in her varied fight scenes to put her in leagues with some of the best characters from the other shows. I look forward to seeing more from her.
#9 Misty Knight
Misty is a wonderful character and with the exception of some of her powers in the comics, her TV show counterpart is wonderful. Not only is she acted well by the lovely Simone Missick, but her character is entertaining when she holds her own with the men of the show and stays having a great cast of female police officers around her. It is this sense of Black Female pride that maintains her strength throughout the length of the series. This strength never wavers and while she does gain some backstory it is not on the level of the other characters in Luke Cage, which holds her back slightly.
#8 Black Mariah
While her appearance is completely different than her comic appearance, the change is welcome as it would have been distracting to the character's drive and manipulations. With one exception, Alfre Woodard, is the best actor/actress on the show and makes her villainous character take spotlight in nearly every scene she is in. What is also interesting is that she is written with her own arc, issues, backstory in relation to the other characters, and personality that is at first political villainy that turns in to something far more pernicious. Her crowning moment is the big twist in the middle of series in killing Cottonmouth. Many say this distracts from the series as a whole. Still, the moment is huge and moves the spotlight to Black Mariah and eventually Diamondback as the antagonists without losing all of it's power.
#7 Jessica Jones
Easily one of the best of the four Defenders, primarily due to her conflicted heroism. Krystin Witter gives a range of emotions in showcasing how yes Jessica Jones wants to do what is right, but she is significantly flawed with lies, alcoholism, selfishness, and stubbornness. Her backstory gives a lot of reasoning for these causes, but nevertheless she is the least righteous of the Defenders and reluctantly helps people. Much of the success of her character comes from her interactions with Kilgrave and her pure feminism. Kilgrave and her run through nearly every relationship: friend, foe, lovers, bitter enemies, friendly nemesis, and it never gets old. She doesn't miss a beat and continues to want to do good for women and the ordeals that not only Kilgrave but men as a whole have to deal with. However, her drawbacks make her human and a fully realized character in the show.
#6 Claire Temple
Claire is a unique character in the canon of the Netflix series. She ends up in all four series at different levels of importance. In the Daredevil series she is temporary lover and Night Nurse for assistance with Daredevil and against The Hand. This highlights her medical skills and her persistence to help superheroes. Her cameo in Jessica Jones is temporary but helpful. Meanwhile her roles in Luke Cage and Iron Fist are much larger. In Luke Cage she is a lover and assistant to the all-star Black cast. In Iron Fist, she certainly helps the acting necessities of the show and even learns how to fight. All of these qualities give us a lot of exposure to Claire and she certainly remains a consistent and fun character to see. This all the more supported of course by Rosario Dawson's excellent acting he interacts in a myriad of ways with the other characters.
#5 Daredevil/Matt Murdock
As far as heroes go, Matt has the most depth in his backstory, character development and struggles. His conflicts with his moral center and Christian faith, his past with Elektra, Foggy, Stick and his father, his handicap (or often advantage), and the ways in which his heart is uncertain about what to do with the people that surround him. Thus, Matt will be even greater to see in how he interacts with the other Defenders and his difficulties surrounding them. His actor, Charlie Cox, is a delight in the range of emotions and depth he gives to Daredevil. Furthermore, his show is one is one of the most engaging as the forerunner and he adds a lot to they mythos of his comic book character. Daredevil remains an excellent character with great action/fighting sequences throughout. I'm excited to see where he goes next and how much further will his inner turmoil continue.
#4 Kilgrave/Purple Man
Kilgrave is an excellent villain and by far the most compelling character on Jessica Jones. David Tennant plays his pathos up brilliantly as a disturbing villain for every character in Jessica Jones. In a sense, he is the ultimate misogynist becomes he removes free will from people and in particular Jessica Jones, which would make him a paragon of patriarchy. Thus, his essential mind raping of many actors is a more heinous act than the more criminal acts the other villains commit. Add on a backstory filled with parental abuse and he becomes by far one of the most disturbing individuals of marvel. However, you can't stop watching his carnage in mind control and how it shapes people's minds. It's satisfying to see him go, but the lengths at which he takes Jessica are hellish to think about for many a superhero.
#3 Kingpin/Wilson Fisk
Vincent D'Onofrio puts in a stunning and tortured performance for one of the strongest villains in the Netflix MCU. Learning about his past and his own forms of OCD give us a nuanced understanding of him and what he is trying to do. It's why we get happy for him and Vanessa, it's why we admire his respect for Madame Gao, and it's why we're pleased to see him running the show in prison. A behemoth of a man, Kingpin's grasp of Hell's Kitchen is vast in how well he owns henchmen, makes deals with contractors and terrorizes many other characters. We constantly see him make his form of justice fulfillment with disregard to those in his way. We also see his tortured soul in how he fights his own battles both mental and physical. It is also great to see that he is not going anywhere from Daredevil anytime soon as he tries to deal with the Punisher and Daredevil from behind bars.
Rounding out my main villain set of the MCU Netflix series, is the menacing Cottonmouth. Compared to the other characters, most of what Cottonmouth does is on a much smaller scale; however, Mahershala Ali is just that damn good to the point where you want him to be the main villain. The only reason why he is not is a surprising plot twist, that works from a plot standpoint, but not the show as a whole as Mahershala is easily the best actor in the show. Watching him interact with villains great and small, run his nightclub, chase after Luke Cage, and deal with the people he knows from his past create a fully realized character. Even his last episode, the writers thankfully focused on his backstory to make him into one of the strongest characters in all of the Defenders' series. It's a testament to his character in how much the show shifted after his "retirement."
Jon Bernthal's take on the Punisher is an man of anguish and testosterone rolled into one. His backstory of how his family died is a sorrowful tale discovered in parts by Karen Page (the best moments of her in Daredevil Season 2) and by his personal pain in dealing with the gang lords who killed his family. His discussions with Daredevil and their moral differences is also well done since he is a vigilante who doesn't mind killing while Daredevil refuses to kill. This creates a variety of debates as even their action sequences are different in the Daredevil going for the knockout while Punisher goes in for the kill. All parts of his character and Bernthal's performance make a welcome addition to the MCU and you end up cheering for someone who tows the line of grey morality, thus admiring for someone who doesn't fall under the rules of villain or hero. Wherever the MCU takes the Punisher it will be great to see and I can't wait until it is fully realized.
Well there's the list and it was project to make. Let me know what you think. See someone that should be higher or lower in the ranking? See a favorite I didn't put? Let me know and let's keep the discussion going.