The Marvel Netflix shows offer the very best superhero content on any screen – big or small. Part of what makes these shows shine is their wealth of exceptional female characters. With this year’s Iron Fist and The Punisher, that list has grown – new women have come into the fold, some of whom outshine the old.
With the year closing out, it’s the perfect time to take stock of these lethal ladies. We’ve ranked all the crucial ladies across these shows, from the least best to our shared favourite. To make this list fair, we collated personal ranking first, then merged these into one, final list.
It’s worth noting that this list only includes female characters who have appeared in more than one show, or those who shone in this year’s new shows and will probably cross shows, going forward. This is why characters like Joy and Alexandra are omitted.
Expect some small spoilers.
10] Madame Gao
Not many people have the ability to push the Kingpin around like a pawn, which is just what Madame Gao did to Wilson Fisk in the first season of Daredevil.
Even with as much as we’ve seen of Gao in multiple series, she remains a beguiling figure. Every time we learn something new about her, a thousand more questions take form. Much more than just a drug dealer, Gao is fluent in multiple languages and has global influence. She has survived for centuries through more trials than anyone can tell. A masterful manipulator, Gao has incredible speed, strength, and is a master of Tai Chi.
The little old lady from K’un-Lun is no one to be trifled with. She continues to be an elusive target for several of the heroes in Hell’s Kitchen. Gao receives deference and respect among her villainous peers, but since she has outlasted them all it would appear that she has none.
9] Jeri Hogarth
The first season of Jessica Jones gave us a gender-swapped version of the character Jeryn Hogarth by casting the electrifying Carrie-Anne Moss as the senior partner at the Manhattan law firm of Hogarth, Chao, and Benowitz.
She is ruthless in court and business, and will stop at nothing, not even the law, to protect her impeccable reputation. An ugly divorce revealed that Jeri has paid off and stacked juries to keep her flawless litigation record. And she even foolishly enlisted Kilgrave to put a muzzle on her bitter ex-wife so she could keep her reputation and her assets in tact.
We saw a slightly less nasty side of Hogarth in Iron Fist as she helped Danny get back in the board room at Rand Enterprises, but that was just Jeri doing her job. Jeri loves her work more than anything or anyone, except maybe herself. The hardened and cool headed lawyer is all ego, and while it isn’t an admirable trait, it is certainly a treat to watch a woman (especially Ms. Moss) in the role of the worst kind of man.
8] Elektra Natchios
With the casting of Elektra, Netflix had a towering task on their plate – just like with Daredevil himself, there had been a version of a Elektra before (Jennifer Garner), who no one much liked. But just like their other casting choices, Netflix pulled it off expertly, casting the pitch perfect (then unknown) actress Elodie Yung in the role.
Elodie is what makes this Elektra so great in my eyes – the way that she brings this fan-favourite comic book character to life is thoroughly unique. Her strange, French-leaning accent is heady and is a joy to listen to. And visually, I think her lean, slender, tanned visage is exactly what an exotic assassin should look like.
You could argue that Elektra’s character was worsened after she was turned into Black Sky. Before that transformation she was better – a powerful, beautiful female character who worked alongside Matt Murdock (whom she calls “Matthew,” in that luxurious accent).
But after her Black Sky transformation, there’s still hints of the Elektra we know and love. She managed to rebel against Alexandra after all – shrugging side her influence, killing her and taking her mantle. That’s a great example of the bold willpower that’s always been at the core of this fascinating character.
7] Dinah Madani
The Punisher Season 1 was a stunning piece of television – possibly even Marvel’s best – and with it came the introduction of a brand new female character: Dinah Madani.
An agent for Homeland Security and a war veteran, Dinah is about as tough as our Marvel Netflix ladies come. Throughout the season (spoilers ahead) she survives a deliberate car crash, several gun fights and even being shot in the head.
After any injury, she gets back on the horse with astounding determination – she just wraps a bandage around her chest and she’s ready to fight another day. Even when she’s betrayed by her casual lover – learning he murdered her friend – she goes after him with a vehemence that even Frank Castle admires.
She’s poised, confident, highly intelligent and deeply sexual (in private). She’s not afraid to be outright disrespectful to authority, either, which leads Marion James to call her “a piece of work,” in admiration.
6] Karen Page
Karen is blessed with both brains and beauty. She was integral to the very first Marvel Netflix show, Daredevil Season 1 (which a lot of fans still hail as the best season of any of these shows) and viewers fell in love with her immediately.
Her sharp intellect makes her highly useful in a variety of situations. It also means she’s able to see beyond common conceptions, or PR lies – instead of avoiding Frank Castle for his reputation, she sees the good in him and befriends him.
This friendship is one of the most entrancing and believable companionship’s in any of the Marvel Netflix shows. It was continued recently, to great effect (and without overshadowing the actual plot), in The Punisher Season 1.
5] Claire Temple
Claire began as a kindly nurse who patched up Matt Murdock when he needed discreet medical care and she went on to become the very center of this entire Marvel Netflix universe.
The writers quickly saw the merit in having her cross over into the others shows, so she could lend her medical aid and kind touch to those characters too. Soon it became clear that the writers intended to use her not as a crossover character, but as the crossover character, and she went on to appear in every single Marvel Netflix show and season.
That makes her the rock upon which all of these shows are built. None of them would feel as fluidly connected without her. And her kind, yet smart demeanour is what makes her such a likeable character to see again and again.
The only misstep they made was in Luke Cage, where they had her kicking ass as good as Misty and the others. And that didn’t seem logical, given that Claire has no combat training. But we forgave it.
4] Misty Knight
A dedicated career woman like Detective Misty Knight doesn’t get out very often, but in Marvel’s Luke Cage the lovely Simone Missick stands out in whatever room she happens to be in.
Misty isn’t exactly supernatural, but she does have certain abilities that set her apart from other cops. The Harlem detective can read a picture or a crime scene and put events together as if she were clairvoyant. She knows that she is at her best when she is on the job and takes a lot of pride in her work. She could be called a workaholic, but there’s evidence she plays just as hard on the neighborhood ball court and in her dynamite wardrobe of club wear.
Her ability to smell a liar and an in depth knowledge of her community’s worst members gets the overzealous officer in a lot of trouble, but it’s all just another day at the office for a badass like Misty. She rolls with the punches and the bullets and the samurai blades to fight another day.
The events in the climax of The Defenders left Misty facing a possible end of her career as a cop, which is certain to be a devastating blow for her. But we know that a little thing like loosing her arm won’t stand in the way of a woman like Misty.
3] Jessica Jones
I confess that I didn’t know much about Jessica Jones before she got her own series on Netflix, but within a few minutes of the first episode, she became one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters, for me.
Jessica Jones could be a friend of mine. She’s sassy, smart, cool, and tough as they come, but she’s also deeply flawed. She doesn’t want to talk about it, she just wants you to hand over the booze. Even her super powers are a little less than super, and this fact keeps Jessica and her limited flying ability, grounded.
The deep seeded trauma of being manipulated and used by the narcissistic psychopath, Kilgrave, makes Jessica one of the most empathetic characters for women or anyone who has known abuse. The way she channels her pain into seeking justice for others makes her an inspirational figure, and the fact that she does it all on a steady diet of cheap whiskey and Chinese takeout is impressive.
The best part about Jessica is that she doesn’t give a damn what people might think of her. She’s on a mission for the greater good, and even though she’d never say so, she hopes to find her own sanity and redemption in the process.
2] Trish Walker
We love Trish Walker. Trish wowed audiences in the first season of Jessica Jones with her iron will, candor, and intensity. She and Jessica make a fantastic team, but I confess I’m excited to see her step out on her own and become a hero.
The pistol packing hellcat, Trish Walker, is a paragon of brutal truth. The former child star turned talk show host isn’t the least bit afraid carve out the raw and gritty reality of any situation using her barbed tongue, but what she really wants is a sharp set of claws to rip villains to shreds.
Trish’s desire to be a hero is reflected all around her. She dosn’t hesitate to do whatever is necessary or put her own life on the line to protect herself and the people she cares about. She’s even re-engaging her abusive mother to find the source of her sister’s powers, perhaps to give Jessica some closure, but more likely to submit herself as a Guinea pig and get some super powers of her own.
Trish’s confidence, loyalty, and fiery spirit are easy to appreciate, and make her one of the strongest people (let alone women) of Marvel we’ve met.
1] Colleen Wing
As disliked as Iron Fist was by many, it did give us the very best female Marvel Netflix character of them all – Colleen Wing; the perfect combination of brains, beauty and battle prowess.
She stylishly slid into our lives with her zen dojo and her chilled-out teaching style. Then we learned she had a brutal side, with her forays into underground fighting. And in those fights, she wiped the floor with her opponents, proving herself better than huge, hulking cage fighters and more.
When it was revealed that she held origins and lotyalty to The Hand, it almost ruined her character a little, bit luckily Colleen didn’t know the truth about the man she called “Master.”
Her realisation presented her with a choice – to keep loyally serving a wicked organisation or to work on the side of good. Where other characters might have chosen loyalty above all, Colleen – true to her underdog ways – chose the little man, even though the odds were stacked against them.
Since then it’s been a pleasure to see her pop up in the other shows, crossing paths with the other Marvel Netflix ladies and always remaining the coolest, most lethal and most capable woman in any room.
Having such a diverse cast of resourceful, intelligent, and intriguing women to watch is divinely refreshing. Each of these women shine, and they are only the beginning of how Netflix and Marvel have triumphed in bringing female role models into focus. The new year promises more from the incredible women of Marvel, and I can hardly stand the wait.
Image credits: Marvel, Netflix