Ranking Marvel TV: The Best and Worst Shows In MCU Canon Limbo

Long before Marvel Studios started creating series set in the MCU for Disney+, there was Marvel Television. Marvel Television is now under the Marvel Studios banner, and the effects of that have been pretty clear. The Disney+ series, such as WandaVision and Loki, have been wholeheartedly welcomed into the greater MCU family. It only emphasizes how the previous Marvel TV’s connection to the universe is definitely unclear.

Marvel Studios had consistently steered clear of establishing television series outside of Disney+ originals as canon, the recent news that a “new” but “continued” Daredevil series is in the works at the streaming service. The often bitter debate about which or whether Marvel TV shows are canon is likely only about to get more heated. The easy answer is to enjoy the shows you like (if you like any), consider them headcanon if you want (or ignore them completely), and move on with your life until Marvel Studios ever wants to make it more clear.

But since many will still wake up every day and choose violence on Twitter instead, here are the Marvel TV shows ranked from best to worst. Marvel Studios can make any of these canon at any time (yes, I can hear those of you already yelling that some are), but will they? This list does not include the few shows originally made as part of the old Fox X-Men universe, nor the animated M.O.D.O.K. or Hit Monkey series.

1. Daredevil

Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ (2015)

It is no surprise that Netflix’s Daredevil tops this list. The #SaveDaredevil crowd is celebrating the announcement of a Disney+ series for Matt Murdock. It certainly seems like canon territory for the original series, but it really is yet to be seen how the upcoming show might actually adapt the previous one so as to be formally part of the MCU.

But the fact that Daredevil is the first “revival” of old Marvel TV on Disney+ is a testament to the quality of the series. While never entirely consistent across its three seasons, the show features exciting action, violence that generally surpasses that in the MCU, solid performances by Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, and a gritty emotional layer that films struggle to achieve.

2. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones was made with the type of quality that Daredevil brought to the table. Krysten Ritter’s Jones was one of the first leading women in Marvel TV (Agent Carter premiered months before) and would have been one of the first in the MCU as well by years. She was not forced, and her struggles and traumas related to David Tennant’s chilling antagonist hit a tone that many were afraid to explore—especially at the time. The series also had plenty of upbeat notes with Jones’ personality, and the street-level detective work was a fresh addition to the Netflix Defendersverse.

3. Luke Cage

Luke Cage may not go down in history for nailing all of its storytelling elements, but the action-packed and star-studded show is a solid watch. But the series truly excels at putting the spotlight on Black experience and culture through both its subject matter and in the way the show was made, especially with music. One thing that Marvel TV was able to accomplish before the greater MCU was pushing boundaries of representation and actually developing a character within that perspective.

4. Agent Carter

Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’

Yes, Agent Carter was canceled after two seasons on ABC due to low viewership. And the show was not particularly phenomenal. But where it did succeed is that it made sense as a piece of the MCU puzzle. It has been by creators more recently that the show was made specifically to be canon to the MCU, while others like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may not have necessarily had that same attention. But the series kept Captain America: The First Avenger’s 1940s story going. It was fine. It had its charm and it stayed consistent. It never tried to do too much, which is a major problem with some other series on this list.

5. Runaways

As noted above, Runaways definitely felt like it was trying to do too much at times. The Hulu show came at a time when MCU fans started to get a bit tired of keeping up with shows that were beginning to feel less and less relevant to the film universe. But Runaways also felt like it was exploring a corner of the comics that Marvel TV and the MCU had not touched, and the focus on younger heroes certainly gave it a fresh perspective. Like other shows on this list, it pushed representation boundaries—particularly with LGBTQ+. The whole series might not be the most enjoyable experience, but the first season or so isn’t too bad.

6. Defenders

Something about the story and writing in Defenders really felt like a flop, but plenty enjoy Marvel TV’s first crossover event. It definitely came across as the Avengers of television, but it was nowhere near as cool. In any event, now that Daredevil is eyeing Disney+, that just begs the inevitable question of whether the Defendersverse as a whole is headed there with it.

7. The Punisher

I’m sure many would argue that The Punisher should be higher on the list. Marvel TV got arguably its darkest and most violent here, and it brought a very popular character to the screen. Plenty were not fully satisfied with the portrayal of Frank Castle, but some really appreciated the character development the show afforded him. But the show overall felt like a drudge through a relatively one-note anger fest with lots of guns. While maybe the point of the show, it could still be much better.

8. Cloak & Dagger

Cloak & Dagger has some meaningful moments filled with heart amongst a pretty forgettable series overall. Where it shined, it did well, but at the end of the day, it felt like another victim of ABC mediocrity, albeit on Freeform.

9. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

I will start by saying that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a dedicated fanbase that loves the show. I am very happy for them, enjoying stuff is fun. But listen, as someone who has watched the show due to the fact that it was the first Marvel TV show that half-promised it was in the MCU, it is so bad.

Of course, some moments across the bloated 7 seasons are naturally better than others. But watching this show was work. It fell prey to the ABC network television level of “meh” before the writing and story made it so nonsensical and ridiculous to the point where it is extremely difficult to understand how someone would like it. Considering where the series took itself, the likelihood of the show itself being canon to the MCU is so incredibly low. But if it is, I like the MCU less.

But there is no strong reason to think that none of the AoS characters or actors will make actual MCU debuts. The fanbase is odd but strong, so the MCU would naturally get some boost of morale if someone like Chloe Bennet’s Quake got a firm reboot somewhere.

10. Iron Fist

Iron Fist basically failed before it even tried to fail. But at no point did the series feel like it was trying to succeed. Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing managed to feel like a positive at the end of the day, but overall this show is known as one of the worst across the board. Still, it exists within Netflix’s Defendersverse, so it has some staying power.

11. Inhumans

Marvel’s ‘Inhumans’

Inhumans is Marvel’s most infamous failure. From premiering the first bad episodes in IMAX theaters to releasing the rest of the horrible episodes on television was just absolutely unredeemable. But Anson Mount’s Black Bolt made a multiversal cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, so the series is getting some renewed attention it does not need.

12. Helstrom

Honestly, does anyone know about this show? Apparently, the Hulu show suffered from a severe lack of marketing as well as not being good. It definitely debuted in that awkward space of late 2020 when Marvel Studios was gearing up to premiere its Disney+ slate. Marvel Studios took over Marvel Television while Helstrom was filming, meaning it was the last cry of Marvel TV that was too late to stop.

Only time will tell how Marvel Studios intends to use (or not) these shows, and Daredevil‘s “continued” series will be quite the eye opener as to how these properties could be formally integrated into the MCU.

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