The Best Moments From Marvel’s Defenders Universe

Now that the Marvel Netflix shows are coming to DIsney+, we look back at some of our favorite moments from the small-screen Defenders series.

With the arrival of Disney+, Marvel Television took a decidedly more mainstream turn. Gone were the more offbeat, second-tier, or downright bizarre offerings centered on characters that would likely never find their way to a big-screen feature film. (See also: Legion, Marvel’s Runaways, Helstrom). Instead, we suddenly got series like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki, which not only focused on established figures from the MCU but also frequently tied directly back to the adventures taking place at the local multiplex. 

This isn’t an entirely bad thing—after all, WandaVision was one of the best shows we saw on television last year—but it has meant we’ve had to say goodbye to many familiar properties in order to get there. Or, have we? With the news that the Netflix suite of street-level Marvel TV properties (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, team-up series The Defenders, and ancillary spin-off The Punisher) are all moving to Disney+ this month, fans will get another chance to experience some of the best shows Marvel has ever produced. And given the recent reappearances of both Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the MCU proper, it seems highly likely we’ll see some of these faces again, so a rewatch of all these series with fresh eyes is probably in everyone’s best interest. 

Here are some of our favorite moments from across the Marvel Netflix universe, which are all worth revisiting as the series arrive on Disney+.

Daredevil: The First Hallway Fight

Though the idea of a “hallway fight” eventually became so synonymous with Marvel’s Netflix universe that it was something of a joke by the time the four series leads teamed up for The Defenders, there’s still nothing quite like the one that started it all. 

Ad – content continues below

The extended fight sequence in which Matt takes down a gang of thugs holding a young boy hostage during “Cut Man,” the second episode of Daredevil Season 1 is brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, and like absolutely nothing else Marvel had done onscreen before. Full of badass stunt work and impressive cinematography, it set the standard for everything else that was to come in this universe. 

Daredevil: Wilson Fisk’s Tortured Backstory

Look, it’s not a secret that Marvel has long struggled in the villain department, often defaulting to one-note Big Bads who simply wanted to take over the world or kill Tony Stark. Enter Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk, an uber-violent crime lord with a surprisingly tortured soul. From his awkward, socially anxious demeanor to his genuine desire to improve Hell’s Kitchen and his love for art dealer Vanessa, Fisk is the sort of extremely human villain you can somehow almost see yourself rooting for in the right circumstances. (Even though he’s also completely capable of calmly beheading a guy with a car door.) 

And nowhere is that more apparent than in Season 1’s “Shadows in the Glass,” an entirely Fisk-focused hour that recounted not just how he killed his father when he was a boy, but how he is still haunted and shaped by the emotional scars from doing so. Vincent D’Onofrio deserved an Emmy for this episode, and it’s still one of the best hours any Marvel series has produced. 

Daredevil: The Introduction of The Punisher

Your mileage may vary when it comes to how you feel about the overall quality of The Punisher Netflix series, but Frank Castle’s introduction was certainly a highlight of Daredevil Season 2. In fact, the perfect, comics accurate scene in which he trusses Matt up on a building roof in “New York’s Finest” proceeds to have a lengthy philosophical debate with him about morality and justice is one of the most memorable of the entire series. (Followed closely by Frank’s murderous prison rampage several episodes later in “Seven Minutes in “Heaven”.)

Daredevil: Matt Murdock’s Catholic Faith

Religion is a tough subject for any television series to tackle in a nuanced way, let alone a comic book show that involves mysterious ninjas who call themselves The Hand. But Matt Murdock’s Catholic faith is a huge part of his identity—and his calling as a hero—so it’s natural that Daredevil includes it. The pleasant surprise is that it does it so well

The show takes Matt’s faith seriously (a rare thing in and of itself) and does far more than just give lip service to his Catholic beliefs, structuring much of the series’ third season around the crisis of faith he experiences following the events of The Defenders. The question of whether he can be both a good Catholic and a good superhero forces Matt to confront his own ideas of justice and violence, and the end result is both fascinating and unlike anything else on TV. (Even his theological debates with his parish priest are interesting!)

Ad – content continues below

Jessica Jones: Marvel’s Most Thoughtful Depiction of Trauma

The first season of Jessica Jones is one of the best things the Marvel universe has yet produced, and that’s largely due to the deft, thoughtful way the series depicts trauma and mental health. A survivor of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of the monstrous Kilgrave, who used his ability to control minds to force her to have sex with him and commit various crimes (that included killing Luke Cage’s wife), Jessica suffers from acute PTSD which continues to affect almost every aspect of her life. 

It’s rare that any television series (let alone a superhero one!) is so careful and deliberate in depicting the realities of life as a survivor, but Jessica Jones is truly exceptional. From its very first episode, the series shows us Jessica’s flashbacks and panic attacks as forthrightly as it does her undercover PI investigations. Yet, she is not defined by the terrible thing that happened to her—either as a woman or as a hero—and much of her series is about how she reclaims her own power.

Jessica Jones: Kilgrave is Marvel’s Most Terrifying Villain

Say what you want about Wilson Fisk’s occasionally (extremely) violent tendencies, when it comes to being a terrifying Big Bad he’s got nothing on Jessica Jones’s Kilgrave. An unrepentant monster who uses his mind control powers to rape, rob, and force others to kill in his name, the character is literal nightmare fuel. (That he’s played by the ubiquitously charming David Tennant adds an extra layer of uncomfortable awfulness to everything.)

Jessica Jones: Female Friendship Finally Takes Center Stage

No matter how you feel about Trish Walker’s eventual unrepentant turn to the dark side in the final season of Jessica Jones—and I’m firmly of the opinion this show did her extremely dirty by the time, say, Season 3’s “Hellcat” rolled around—the fact that the central relationship of the show wasn’t a romance, but a soul-deep friendship between two women was something worthy of serious applause. (It’s also something Marvel would do well to try and replicate in some other corner of its universe, just saying!)

Over the course of Jessica Jones’ three seasons, the two go from sisters to full-on enemies and while the ultimate abandonment of this relationship stings, its loss wouldn’t hurt so much if it hadn’t been so important to begin with.

Luke Cage: The Crispus Attucks Raid

Marvel seems to do its best to stay out of politics but Luke Cage wore its beliefs on its proverbial sleeve, fully embracing the cultural significance of releasing a show about a bulletproof Black man during a time of heightened discourse about police brutality and institutional violence. 

Ad – content continues below

This is perhaps the most evident in the Season 1 episode “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?,” which sees Luke raid the Crispus Attucks Building in a black hoodie covered with bullet holes, taking out an army of goons with little more than the door he ripped off a car and some random household objects, all set to the sound of the Wu-Tang Clan. The imagery makes for a stark and powerful statement, of a sort that Luke Cage would continue to embrace throughout its run. (See also: The inclusion of the Method Man track “Bulletproof Love”, which was written with the show specifically in mind.) 

Luke Cage: Misty Knight’s Mission

Not all heroes wear capes, and though detective Misty Knight eventually gets a superpowered boost from a bionic arm, her story is primarily about a young woman who could have done anything but chose to return home to Harlem and fight to make her community a better place. Her explanation of why she chose to become a police officer—the brutal rape and murder of a cousin— during a required session with a psychologist in “DWYCK” is harrowing, thoughtful stuff. 

Luke Cage/Iron Fist: Heroes for Hire

Though a lot of us have our fair share of issues with Iron Fist, the awkward besties dynamic between Luke Cage and Danny Rand was one of the things that particular corner of the Marvel Netflix universe got perfectly right. Finn Jones’ guest appearance in Luke Cage Season 2 episode “The Main Ingredient” shows us that the powers that be realized Danny works best as a comic foil to Luke’s straight man, and he and Mike Colter definitely had the kind of BFF chemistry that could have more than carried a “Heroes for Hire” series. (Which probably would have been better than the second season of either’s individual show!)

Iron Fist: Daughters of the Dragon

While there are a lot of issues in Marvel’s Iron Fist the introduction of Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing is almost enough to make up for them. Though we never really saw her get the chance to properly become the Iron Fist in her own right, her origin story was a compelling one and her friendship with Luke Cage’s Misty Knight repeatedly hinted that a female team-up Daughters of the Dragon spinoff was in their future. And that is surely a show I would have liked to see.

The Defenders: The Group Hallway Fight 

Though The Defenders has its fair share of problems as a series—it wastes Sigourney Weaver, Elektra’s motivations make little sense, its climax revolves around a dark and senseless underground ninja fight in the skeleton of a literal dragon and I only wish I was kidding—it’s worth it for the first time we get the chance to see The Defenders truly team up and fight together in “Worst Behavior”. With more of the fantastic stunt choreography, we’ve come to expect from all these Netflix series and a real determination to show us everyone’s different fighting styles, it’s a wildly satisfying sequence to watch. 

The Punisher: Frank’s Tragic Past

While much of The Punisher focuses on Frank Castle’s rage-fueled desire for revenge, the penultimate episode of Season 1, “Home,” finally shows us the things he lost along the way. A rare look at the Punisher’s more vulnerable side, the hour features scenes from his previous happy family life that illustrate the true extent of former Billy Russo’s betrayal and the emotional hole those losses have left him with. All of which makes the inevitable epic bloodbath of vengeance that occurs by the episode’s end feel like something more personal and inevitable than anything that’s come before.

Ad – content continues below