Marvel’s The Defenders Saga in Order Chronologically and by Release Date

There was an idea to bring together a group of Marvel heroes on television during the dawn of the streaming era that could push the boundaries that the films never could. This is the story of The Defenders Saga. Marvel Television took a similar tactic to the MCU films, where they would introduce each hero in their separate series before teaming them up together. The original plan included the heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, who would unite to join a team called The Defenders. Along the way, other characters were introduced to the supporting cast, like Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and Elektra. The Punisher, who was introduced in Daredevil season 2, was given his spin-off series.

Originally airing on Netflix to great commercial and critical success, after Disney announced they would be launching their streaming service, Netflix began canceling all the series, with the last two, The Punisher season 2 and Jessica Jones season 3, airing in 2019. Then, in 2022, the series was removed from Netflix and brought over to Disney+, where they were rebranded as The Defenders Saga. Disney+ added parental controls (and some controversial scrubs and edits) with the addition of the more mature-rated series, and now viewers could watch the entire Defenders Saga alongside the main entries of the MCU.

For years, the canonicity of these Netflix shows has been debated by fans, but after all this time, it’s finally been put to rest. Marvel Studios’ Head of Streaming Brad Winderbaum has outright said that Daredevil is canon to the MCU. If that wasn’t enough, the appearance of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock (or Daredevil) in both Spider-Man: No Way Home and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, as well as Vincent D’Onoforio as The Kingpin in Hawkeye and a role in the recently released Echo proves that these series and characters are more connected to the MCU than ever before. Recently Disney+ added the series to the MCU timeline order on the streaming service, establishing them as part of the sacred timeline.

With the announcement that Daredevil: Born Again will premiere on Disney+ sometime next year and will continue the story of the Netflix series, audiences may want to catch up with his story and fellow Defenders. If audiences somehow missed these series while they were airing, now is a great time to catch up. Yet, with six combined series that makeup 13 seasons of television with a total of 161 episodes, there certainly is a lot to tackle. Look at how to watch all the Defenders series in chronological order and order of release.

Updated January 10, 2024: This article has been updated with new up-to-date information following the release of Echo and the announcement that all the Netflix shows are MCU canon.

Marvel’s Defenders Saga in Chronological & Release Order

Unlike other complicated timelines, The Defenders Saga is very easy to follow along with. The chronological order of each season is the same as the release order. While each season includes individual episodes that feature flashbacks to earlier in the timeline, the viewing order of the series is still the same as its release. It’s important to watch the shows this way, as the characters often cross over with each other, and their appearances reflect what they were doing in their own series. This order has recently been confirmed by Disney themselves, as all of these shows have been added to the official MCU timeline on Disney+.

Series Title

Release Date

Daredevil (Season 1)

April 10, 2015

Jessica Jones (Season 1)

November 20, 2015

Daredevil (Season 2)

March 18, 2016

Luke Cage (Season 1)

September 30, 2016

Iron Fist (Season 1)

March 17, 2017

The Defenders

August 18, 2017

The Punisher (Season 1)

November 17, 2017

Jessica Jones (Season 2)

March 8, 2018

Luke Cage (Season 2)

June 22, 2018

Iron Fist (Season 2)

September 7, 2018

Daredevil (Season 3)

October 19, 2018

The Punisher (Season 2)

January 18, 2019

Jessica Jones (Season 3)

June 14, 2019

Daredevil – Season 1

Netflix / Disney

The first series to kick off a new era of stores in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil season 1 introduced audiences to Matt Murdock and his supporting characters Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, Ben Ulrich, and the villains of Hell’s Kitchen, including the rise of Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin. Released and taking place before Avengers: Age of Ultron, Daredevil is established to occur after The Avengers, and it was the battle of New York that allowed the Kingpin to amass as much power.

The series acts as a 13-episode origin story for Matt Murdock’s early career as a crime fighter, with him getting his signature red suit and his conflict with his arch enemy, Kingpin. Known for its brutal violence, long-take fight scenes, and fantastic character work, Daredevil brought the Man Without Fear into the MCU with arguably the best superhero adaptation. By the end of the series, Daredevil is a fully formed costumed crime-fighter whom the people of Hell’s Kitchen know and criminals fear. Importantly, Daredevil meets Claire (Rosario Dawson), who will connect the various Defenders.

Jessica Jones – Season 1

Jessica Jones Season One
Netflix / Disney

The second installment in the Defenders Saga was also the last MCU entry of 2015, released after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, but taking place before their events in the timeline. The series introduces Jessica Jones and establishes her early history, having gained powers after being experimented on as a child. Later on in life, she was emotionally and sexually manipulated by the villainous Kilgrave. With his ability to force people to do whatever he says, Kilgrave tortured and manipulated those around him, including Jessica, giving her immense trauma and ruining her life. The show takes place after Jessica escapes him and works as a private investigator.

The series introduces audiences to Luke Cage, who will spin off into his own series building up to The Defenders, who is Jessica’s partner at the time. It also introduces Trish Walker, Jessica’s adoptive sister, who will become a major player in the character’s story to become a tragic villain. Jessica Jones received rave reviews for its depiction of trauma and sexual assault and showed a more mature side of the MCU. It’s perhaps the darkest project Marvel has ever released and a true character study about Jessica. According to the MCU timeline, Jessica Jones season 1 takes place after Daredevil season 1 but before Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Daredevil – Season 2

Daredevil Season 2-1
Netflix / Disney

Similar to Iron Man 2 being made to cash in on the success of the first entry and fit into the build for the team-up, Daredevil season 2 was quickly greenlit after the massive hit of the first season. The season is split into two distinct halves, with the first half focusing on Daredevil’s conflict with Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. While The Punisher still factors throughout the series, the character becomes more a part of Karen Page’s story, while Daredevil becomes preoccupied with the return of his old flame, Elektra. The second half with Elektra is meant to help lay the groundwork for the then-upcoming The Defenders, as she re-enters his life looking for help in the war against The Hand.

Related: Will Marvel’s Netflix Shows Become Canon as They Arrive on Disney+?

The season has its highs and lows, but when it gets going, it’s excellent. The Punisher portion of the season is the highlight with Matt and Frank’s unique perspectives on killing playing a huge role. The series continues to raise the bar with action, but a weaker second half holds it back from being truly special. By the end of the season, the Punisher is freed and goes off to star in his own spin-off, while Matt has retired from being Daredevil, as he lost Elektra and his two closest friends.

In terms of timeline placement, it is safe to say it happens sometime, either around the same time or shortly after the first Ant-Man. Season 1 takes place around six months after the first season.

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Luke Cage – Season 1

Luke Cage Season One-1
Netflix / Disney

Essentially a spin-off to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage follows the title character and explores his origin more and his relationship with his half-brother, as well as setting up his relationship with cop Misty Knight and Claire Temple from the previous series. The series also takes place after the events of Ant-Man in the MCU timeline. Luke Cage was so anticipated that Netflix crashed when the series premiered, and the series was noted for exploring race and politics. Its premiere in 2016 happened right as the Black Lives Matter movement was becoming a more global and household concept and the powerful image of seeing a bulletproof Black man was one that could not be understated.

The series is notable for featuring two performers who would play separate characters in the MCU. The first is Alfre Woodard, who in the series plays Mariah Dillard, after being in Captain America: Civil War as Miriam Sharpe. The second is Mahershala Ali, who stars in Luke Cage as Mariah’s cousin, the villainous Cottonmouth, and a few months later would win an Academy Award for appearing in Moonlight. After winning his second Academy Award for Green Book, Ali reportedly called Marvel Studios and is set to play Blade in an upcoming film, and has already lent a voice cameo at the end of Eternals whose solo film is set for release on November 7, 2025.

Iron Fist – Season 1

Iron Fist Season One
Netflix / Disney

The final member of The Defenders, Iron Fist introduced audiences to Danny Rand, a rich kid who was involved in a plane crash that killed his parents and stranded him in the Himalayas. He was then raised in the ancient lost city of K’un-Lun to be the ultimate warrior, becoming the Iron Fist and learning humility. Iron Fist was the series most heavily focused on setting up The Defenders, as the series explained more of the lore of the franchise with the villainous organization The Hand.

While certain characters like Colleen Wing received positive reviews, Iron Fist was the first true misfire for Marvel, with many finding the series the weakest of the Defenders lineup. It seemed cheap compared to the other offerings, and many of the most interesting elements of Iron Fist’s mythology were left out or destroyed by the end. With a character whose entire brand was being a martial arts master, the choreography was weak and didn’t do the character justice. Instead, it decided to focus on a story about corporate sabotage and hardly let Danny use his titular iron fist. Thankfully, future appearances will fix the character and set things right. In terms of its’ timeline placement, it can be said to be taking place shortly after the events of Luke Cage and in between Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War.

The Defenders

The Defenders
Netflix / Disney

Two years after Daredevil kickstarted the franchise and after five separate seasons, The Defenders finally united the various heroes of New York to fight The Hand, under the control of Alexandria (Sigourney Weaver) and a resurrected Elektra. The Hand’s goal was to use the Iron Fist to open the gates underneath New York City in order to gain more of their resurrection elixir at the cost of leveling the city. The series events take place right before the events of Captain America: Civil War, so while the Avengers are fighting each other, a superhero team-up is happening in New York.

While many had issues with the series’ overall story and villains, the highlight of the series was the character interactions. Seeing these characters finally working together was a dream come true, and each individual dynamic between them all worked really well. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage already had an established relationship dynamic, but the series had fun with the other various pairings. Similar to their Heroes for Hire comics, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have a winning rapport, and Jessica Jones and Daredevil have an initial distrust of one another that grows into mutual respect. Even the supporting characters, like Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, get a chance to shine together.

After The Defenders, the characters break off and go their separate ways, and while there will be a few minor team-ups, this is the last time all four are together. The series was the lowest watched of the bunch, leading Netflix to not make season 2, leaving it as a miniseries. While there are still many more seasons to come after this, the low viewership on their most anticipated team-up is the first nail in the coffin for the Marvel Netflix shows, as no matter the quality, Netflix prioritizes viewership above all else.

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The Punisher – Season 1

The Punisher Season One
Netflix / Disney

While not officially a member of The Defenders, The Punisher series very much occupies a part of the street-level world the Defenders Saga was creating. Spinning off from Daredevil season 2, The Punisher was a slight palette cleanser to focus on a different hero and one that expanded Frank Castle’s backstory from what audiences were told in Daredevil season 2. Taking place after Spider-Man: Homecoming in the MCU timeline, it’s very standalone as Frank operates in his own little world and gets to dive deeper into Marvel’s most complicated anti-hero.

While many incarnations of the Punisher have focused on the man going after criminals, The Punisher focuses on the character’s military background and the PTSD he and other veterans suffer from. Reworking the character’s origin story to where his family was murdered as part of a military conspiracy reworks his entire war on crime, to something much larger. Frank is on a quest to avenge his family at all costs and kill anyone responsible for their death. Interestingly, the series ends with Castle having brought justice, and had the series not continued it would have made a fitting end for the character of the Punisher having found peace.

Jessica Jones – Season 2

Jessica Jones Season Two
Netflix / Disney

In 2018, Marvel and Netflix released seasons focusing on all four of the Defenders, acting as a sequel to the series showcasing where the characters were. The first up was Jessica Jones season 2, released on March 8 (in honor of International Women’s Day), almost three whole years after the premiere season. Jessica Jones season 2 reveals that the main character’s mother is still alive and has been given superpowers herself, pulling Jessica between the biological family she can reclaim and the adoptive family she made with Trish Walker.

Related: Jessica Jones: Krysten Ritter’s 8 Best Moments as the Marvel Superhero, Ranked

It’s not as polished as the first season but it still manages to tell a compelling story that services Jessica’s character arc very well. The season ends with Jessica Jones and her mother almost finding happiness before Trish kills Jessica’s mother in an attempt to be a hero, as she’s become addicted to that idea. This forms a rift between the two that will grow into the next and final season. While this one does not have a concrete timeline placement, it and the following series released in 2018 can be assumed to be taking place between around the time of Doctor Strange and likely Thor: Ragnarok as well.

Luke Cage – Season 2

Luke Cage Season Two
Netflix / Disney

Released in the summer of 2018, Luke Cage season 2 has the character’s status as the Hero of Harlem thrown for a loop when a new villain appears on the scene that manages to hurt him, while also dealing with the continuous threat of Mariah Dillard. Luke has become famous as the Hero of Harlem, but soon, the villainous Bushmaster shows up and rocks Luke’s world. The series ends with Luke Cage taking over the criminal organization with the idea of reforming it as the Sheriff of Harlem, but the implication is that Cage could become corrupted by his new power.

The series also picks up from The Defenders, seeing Misty Knight adjusting to her new cybernetic arm after hers was cut off in the team-up series. Both Iron Fist and Colleen Wing show up, establishing the ties that were formed in that series. The Luke Cage and Iron Fist team-up episode is a nice callback to the character’s comic book history and helps to fix Danny’s character, turning him into the classic zen Iron Fist from the comics. Misty and Colleen’s pairing is a reference to their working relationship in the comics where they are dubbed the Daughters of Dragon, and at one point, were planned to get their own spin-off that didn’t end up happening.

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Iron Fist – Season 2

Iron Fist Season Two
Netflix / Disney

After the disappointing reaction to Iron Fist season 1, the series underwent a slight overhaul in season 2 with a shortened episode order. It’s a vast improvement on the first and a genuinely enjoyable watch that embraces the best parts of the Iron Fist mythology. Following Matt Murdock’s supposed death at the end of The Defenders, Danny Rand is inspired to become a vigilante to fill the hole left in Daredevil’s absence. The series adds two new major threats: ‘Typhoid’ Mary Walker (Alice Eve) and Davos (Sacha Dhawan).

Mary Walker is a special-ops agent whose dissociative identity disorder was triggered when her squad was attacked in the fictional MCU country of Sokovia ‘Mary’ being a kind sweet personality, ‘Walker’ the fighter, and a mysterious third, who is a serial killer. Davos seeks revenge on Danny for becoming the Iron Fist instead of him, and by the end of the series, is taken into custody aboard the Raft while Colleen Wing becomes the new protector of New York City while Danny goes to travel the world alongside Ward to try and figure out who he is.

Daredevil – Season 3

Daredevil Season Three
Netflix / Disney

Daredevil’s season three sees Matt Murdock recovering after the events of The Defenders, being taken care of by nuns, to discover one of them is his long-lost mother. When Wilson Fisk is released from prison and begins operating his criminal empire under house arrest, he even hires a disturbed FBI agent named Ben Pointdexter to wear the Daredevil costume to tarnish the character’s legacy. Matt must decide to have a normal life, or become a crime fighter once more and bring balance to the city. The season digs deeper into Matt and Karen’s history together and has some of the best character work in the MCU.

Season three of Daredevil is the height of the Netflix Marvel shows, with a near-perfect season that highlights what makes the character so great. Matt is at the lowest point in his life as he’s lost his faith and purpose in life, but he cannot rest until Kingpin has been defeated for good. It culminates in a brutal and emotional battle between Daredevil, Kingpin and Dex, which is a phenomenal action scene to cap off the series with. The series ends with Matt, Foggy, and Karen all reunited and working together, with Daredevil continuing his war on crime. Meanwhile, Dex undergoes experimental surgery to fix his spine, and as he opens his eyes, a hint as to his future as Bullseye is revealed.

Shortly after the series premiered, Netflix canceled it, and many thought it would be the end of Daredevil. Yet Charlie Cox reprised his role as Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021 and in 2022, suited back up as Daredevil in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Most recently, he made a short cameo in the new Marvel Studios series Echo before the Man Without Fear returns in his Disney+ series, Daredevil: Born Again.

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The Punisher – Season 2

The Punisher Season Two
Netflix / Disney

Picking up after the last season ended, The Punisher season 2 finds Frank Castle trying to adjust to life after having killed everyone responsible for his family’s murder. The series moves Frank out of New York as he wanders the mid-west and finds himself protecting a young girl from being murdered. The series digs deep into the idea of if Frank Castle can go on not being The Punisher; if he can’t, can the symbol of lethal force still do good? The series ends with The Punisher as a character that could continue for years, finally embracing his role as the executioner in the criminal underworld.

While the second season strays away from the classic Punisher stories, it’s still an enjoyable watch. The father-daughter relationship between Frank and Amy helps to give him closure in that part of his life. It frees him to move on and return to a city that needs him tipping the scales of justice back in his favor. Like Daredevil, it seemed like Punisher would be left behind as Netflix canceled the series after this season. When it was announced that Daredevil: Born Again would go into production, people wondered if there was space for the Punisher’s return alongside the man himself. It was finally confirmed that Jon Bernthal would return in the role in a substantial role in the series.

Jessica Jones – Season 3

Jessica Jones Season Three
Netflix / Disney

The final piece of the Defenders Saga, Jessica Jones season 3, premiered after it was already confirmed by Netflix that it would be the final season. The series finds a serial killer after Jessica, who must team up with her adoptive sister Trish, who has finally gained the powers she craved. However, Trish has become unhinged, and after brutally murdering someone, it draws her and Jessica into conflict with one another. In the final episode, Luke Cage visits Jessica, offering the two one final reunion after how close they have become, hinting that one day they may find their way back to each other like in the comics.

Trish Walker finds herself being taken to the supervillain prison the Raft, which also includes Luke Cage’s half-brother Diamondback and Iron Fist’s adoptive brother Davos. With how many sibling-type relationships define the series (and the MCU), it is fitting for Jessica Jones and this corner of the Marvel Universe to end on a personal conflict where sisters are turned against one another. Due to the number of people in New York, one assumes this storyline is unfolding right before the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Thanos snaps half the population.

After four years, The Defenders Saga came to a close, but the door remains open. Daredevil, Kingpin, and Punisher’s return to the MCU gives hope that the rest of the Defenders will make their grand return sometime in the future. Echo appears to be carrying the storyline forward and with the series ending implying Kingpin could become a major threat to the heroes of New York City it might be time for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Punisher to return to take him down.

Return to Marvel’s Defenders Saga in Chronological and Release Order


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